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Bleeding Fingers Stretches Its Grasp With ‘Planet Earth II’

Bleeding Fingers Custom Music Shop cut its ribbon three years ago, partnering with Oscar winner Hans Zimmer to mass-produce scores for unscripted, reality, and documentary TV series that include “Survivor” and “Alaskan Bush People.” Its latest and biggest catch is BBC’s upcoming “Planet Earth II.”

The shop’s origins go back to 1982, when Russell Emanuel was working in the mailroom of London music library Bruton Music. He was invited to record an album of sound-alike songs, corresponding to such bands as Duran Duran, and while he spent the next 15 years in the rock world, steady royalty checks from that first album “kept rolling in.”

Entering the music library world, then, “seemed like a good way to get off the tour bus,” so Emanuel formed Extreme Music with a partner in 1997 — catering mostly fresh EDM music to such clients as the BBC and ITV. “Top Gear” was an early adopter.

“There was a real weariness to the old-school way libraries had been turning out copycat music,” Emanuel says. “We were actually committed not to doing that.”

They grew from a two-man operation to a dominant player in the market, with offices around the world and a library containing tracks by such notables as Quincy Jones, George Martin, and Snoop Dogg for 15,000 original copyrights. Emanuel — who sold the company to Sony/ATV for $110 million in 2008, but remains CEO — is proud of that number.

“We’re very surgical about what we put in the catalog,” he says. “Our biggest competition, who we outperform, have a million copyrights.”

Zimmer began contributing to Extreme’s library in the late ’90s, and when the company spread to the U.S. in 2001, it set up shop at his Remote Control Productions campus in Santa Monica.

“I’d like to see us doing a scripted drama. …That’s what we’d really love to do.”
Russell Emanuel

A growing demand for custom music from Extreme’s clients catalyzed the launch of Bleeding Fingers in August 2014.

“It was an organic, natural fit,” Emanuel says of the launch.

The shop occupies a 7,500-sq.-ft. building on Zimmer’s campus, with 11 full-time composers on staff, many of them former Zimmer apprentices.

“You get more bandwidth,” he says. “Our composers all collaborate with each other, all of them have a different strong point, and it’s getting the score to [clients] much quicker.”

Representing one of the shop’s biggest coups, Bleeding Fingers beat out 13 bidding competitors, including three fellow music shops, to score the docu-series “Planet Earth II.” Zimmer wrote the main theme and staff composers Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe wrote the score proper, which was recorded by an 80-piece orchestra — Bleeding Fingers’ biggest band to date — at London’s Air Studios.

The original “Planet Earth,” which won four Emmys, reached a worldwide audience of 100 million people in 2007. Emanuel believes the gig will lend his company extra validity.

“Composers can tune into each other pretty easily, I find,” he says. “If anything, it’s given them much more varied score, but still within the same sound palette.”

There are talks of a concert tour, and Emanuel hopes “Planet Earth II” will open new doors.

“I’d like to see us doing a scripted drama,” he says. “They’re always fun, and they stretch us creatively. That’s what we’d really love to do.”

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