Production music is a $1 billion global industry “hidden in plain sight” that is ready for its close-up, according to Joe Saba, who promises to deliver just that with the fourth annual Production Music Conference, Oct. 4-6 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.
Saba, who is vice chairman of the Production Music Association, notes that this is the first time the trade group has put a value on the production music sector, which supports “tens of thousands of songwriters, composers and musicians” as well as ancillary businesses like recording studios, rights administration and software services.
Loosely defined as pieces primarily composed for visual and marketing media that can be re-used across multiple projects and mediums, production music is today ubiquitous on screens that span in size from Imax to mobile.
In the U.S. alone production music accounts for annual revenue of about $500 million, says Saba, explaining the numbers are based on a proprietary PMA study and includes synch, publishing and other profit centers. He says the internal numbers are “conservative,” citing a February report in Forbes that quantifies production music at $2 billion worldwide.
Given its clout, production music “has yet to get the full respect or recognition it deserves,” Saba opines. “Today, every label now has a substantial commitment to this part of the industry: Warner/Chappell, BMG, Sony and Universal. Then you have mini majors like Ole,” and lots of independents that range from two-person garage startups to well-funded ventures. “It’s a whole ecosystem and with the influx of big players everyone has had to step up their game,” Saba says.
The 2017 PMC kicks off on the evening of Oct. 4 with the third annual Mark Awards, acknowledging work ranging from hip-hop to orchestral, in categories spotlighting everything from trailers and promos to use of production music in a full-length feature film.
The conference itself will have two tracks, with National Music Publisher’s Association CEO David Israelite keynoting the business track and composers Mychael Danna, a 2013 Academy Award-winner for his score for “The Life of Pi,” and his brother, BMI award-winning Jeff Danna, keynoting the creative track.
The PMA quantifies the industry at more than 1,000 production music catalogs encompassing millions of copyrights. Everyone from Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer to fabled Beatles producer George Martin has had their hand in the mix, Saba says, estimating there to be “thousands of composers and songwriters actively working in the field within the United States alone, pushing the creative envelope in everything from epic trailer music to avant-garde sound design.”
Although the PMA turns 20 this year, the annual conference started in 2014 “as a way to bring everybody together in the same room, to ask each other things like how are you dealing with international rights? With metadata?,” says Saba, whose New York-based VideoHelper production music firm was among the founding member companies. The group’s membership today stands at 40 companies with hundreds of affiliated partners.
The 2017 conference promises coverage of up-to-the-minute issues like how Facebook’s announced move into original content could turn the service into a revenue stream (a la YouTube), and ways publishers can take advantage of what the current sellers-market for libraries. PMA chairman Adam Taylor, president of the Sony/ATV-Universal Music Publishing production music joint venture APM music, says this year’s conference will feature the first Guild of Music Supervisors “Demo Derby,” a chance for songwriters to have buyers hear their work.