Music for Screens: Winter 2013

The floodgates have long been opened for those wanting to license film music. But startup Score Revolution is attempting to set itself apart by offering quality over quantity — and sharing the wealth. Launching this month, the service aims to simplify the process of licensing a traditionally convoluted area of music, while teaming with producers and rights holders to generate a profit.

The L.A.-based company has amassed 10,000 tracks of film music, with more than 165 composers represented, including Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Alexandre Desplat, John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith.

Co-founder Ian Hierons, a former executive at soundtrack label Milan Records, observed a trove of valuable assets sitting dormant on the shelves of music owners. And with music supervisors and licensors having long been frustrated by the complexity of obtaining rights — often from multiple parties — the opportunity for a licensing “facilitator” was ripe.

Hierons teamed with Seth Kaplan and Christine Russell, founders of talent agency Evolution Music Partners (who represent primarily film composers), to develop a unique business model — in short, to partner with rights holders, “untangle” the licensing process, and create a simple and elegant interface for a massive catalog of music.

“It’s basically an unbiased film music marketplace,” says Russell.

They set out to curate a discerning collection rather than aggregate everything under the sun. “You go to sites with a lot of instrumental music,” says Russell, “but maybe 2% is stuff people want to license. Every piece of music we take on board is something we evaluated based on our experience in this business.”

Score Revolution has tapped the musical storehouses of Lionsgate, StudioCanal and Lakeshore, in addition to (German) Constantin Film and (Italian) Cattleya, yielding tracks from some of the biggest names in movie music as well as a slew of “new” foreign discoveries. Film music is usually the property of producers and production companies, and any profit-sharing agreements with composers are spelled out in their contract upon hire. Some composers do retain rights ownership of their music, and Score Revolution has brokered deals with a few such individuals.

Licensors looking for music on Score Revolution’s website are aided by a search function that allows them to upload a piece of music and find matches — via acoustic algorithms — in sound or mood. The team worked with Danish company Syntonetic to tailor the technology firm’s popular MoodAgent (used by Spotify and many mobile apps) for their customers. A keyword and filter search allows users to browse the catalog down to the minutest instrument, genre and tempo.

“We looked at this from every perspective and worked out how to deliver an intuitive and streamlined search process,” Hierons says. Potential licensors can search the site from anywhere in the world, download music to sample, and request quotes.

Film music is commonly, and most valuably, licensed for secondary use in advertising and movie trailers, but it is also desired for video games, film and television productions, and websites. Licensing has become the new record business in the pop world, suggests Hierons, and there is a similar demand for movie music. “In a sense we’re taking a record company model,” he says.

Rights (both recording and publishing are needed) to film music can fetch between $40,000-$50,000 — with iconic pieces worth as much as $2 million. Profits are divided between Score Revolution and rights holders based on a fee split and on the amount of music included in each partnership deal.

The existence of a “one-stop shop” for licensing film music is not unprecedented. A similar service was recently launched, Cutting Edge Film Scores, which boasts a bank of 6,000 tracks by such composers as Desplat (“The King’s Speech”) and Cliff Martinez (“Drive”). The approaches differ, however, in that Cutting Edge obtains ownership of the rights to their music (much of their catalog, in fact, comprises scores they helped bankroll).

“We want to empower rights holders to make money,” says Hierons by contrast.

Christoph Becker, music manager of Constantin Film (the “Resident Evil” series), praises Score Revolution for providing an abundance of solutions — from “how to present our score catalog in a contemporary fashion” to “how to get additional marketing muscle behind our score assets … and how to do all this with people who are more than just business partners.”

“Our aim is to become the ubiquitous place to go for film music,” says Kaplan. “And it’s all based on relationships and trust.”

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