Sunday, December 11, 2022

Creating Musical soundtracks during a pandemic

Lots of things have changed with the music theatre development processes lately. It seems like making a soundtrack for a new music theatre work and collaborating remotely have become the new normal. Perhaps, there are just more use cases for our music material these days, but it really doesn't seem that long ago that we'd all gather around the piano with sheet music in hand for our early rehearsals and readings.

Nowadays it seems it's all done online through our favorite web conferencing software. Unfortunately, online latency issues between computers really prohibits audio from multiple sources in real-time so we use small in-home studios with audio software to record and deliver our tracks remotely. This too can be a bit troublesome, since everyone seems to use a different DAW and organizing all the files for your project can be a nightmare.

Recently, we participated in a webinar with the development team for the The Violet Hour (the Musical), based on the play The Violet Hour by Richard Greenberg and they presented their methodology for producing the soundtrack for the show. The speakers were Eric Price (book and lyricist), Will Reynolds (composer) and Andy Einhorn (music supervisor and conductor). The session was organized by the Dramatist Guild of America and Emmanuel Wilson was the moderator. Their process used the traditional method for recording a soundtrack using orchestral musicians and cast members.

We quickly got into the nitty gritty and Eric described how it was fairly easy to get high quality talent into the studio because with the pandemic raging everyone seemed available. Andy described how they all got together in the same room, but were in separate glass sound isolation booths so they could all see each other, but remain safe from possible infection. Will described how they used multiple tempo mappings for things like fermatas and/or rubato. Then, Andy mentioned the orchestration was integrated afterwards similar to a movie process and the instrumentalists could visually see the tempo maps as they performed.

An alternative method for creating a soundtrack would be to use online collaboration software such as Soundtrap (a Spotify tool). The cloud-based application allowed the development team for WYSIWYG, a Colorado based production created by April Alsup, to work on their scores while the actors add their vocal parts in a cloud-based DAW. It doesn't have some of the nuances of a live string section and dialogue and timing can be tricky, but it isn't as expensive as coordinating an entire orchestra for your recording. Virtual instrumentation is often used with modern pit orchestras and once the parts are approved by the producer the audio mastering team creates the master tracks for distribution.

Interactive Version of WYSIWYG

Here's a link to review the new interactive version of WYSIWYG. There's nothing to download and the music is streamed directly to the browser. There are even QR codes if you want to hear the music on your phone as you read the script. Soundtrap has built-in notifications that can notify each participant when the project has been updated. This sort of functionality has been utilized by project managers for enterprise business applications for quite some time and is now being used to streamline the unique requirements found in an artist's creative workflow.

Both projects had a positive outcome and you can hear it in their music. The New York team used tempo mappings and multiple isolation booths to produce a high quality soundtrack in a relatively short period of time, while the Colorado team used collaboration software to pull together actors, musicians and sound engineers into a unified creative process. There are pros and cons to each method, but both show the will power of creative people to produce their art in the face of a pandemic.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Using the ALSUP document format for Music Theatre Productions

In Music Theatre, an ALSUP (Another Libretto Score User Production) guide is a single PDF document that combines a musical's libretto with the show's songs in a single, "easy to use" digital performance package. In the past, (directors, performers, musicians, etc.) of Broadway-type Musicals commonly used two major (printed) documents, a libretto (script, stage directions and lyrics) and a music score (sheet music for the actors/singers and/or musicians) when mounting a new music theatre work. Much of today's licensed collateral is dated and inefficient. The format for an ALSUP performance package was created to take advantage of the functionality and the universal adoption of electronic PDF documents while eliminating the needless duplication of hardcopies for the various personnel involved in a music theater production.

An ALSUP (Another Libretto Score User Production) Document
The new standard was recently adopted and used in New York City at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity for the production of WYSIWYG the Musical and the show was awarded the prestigious Greener Planet Award for it's holistic process and approach. PCTF is the country's first eco-friendly arts festival, providing green marketing and promotional materials and supporting sustainable design production practices.

An ALSUP formatted music theatre document uses graphic icons to link the various parts of a musical's performance package. A TOC (table of contents) icon is provided for a show's "Scenes & Songs" and a User icon for it's "Actors/Characters". The Song icon is used to navigate to a song's sheet music while the Libretto icon is used to link to the script/book. The music notation includes links to the corresponding libretto pages and vice versa from the libretto to the sheet music. Streaming audio links and QR codes are available for rehearsals and/or live online performances directly from the ALSUP document. Here's a link to the award winning ALSUP (Another Libretto Score User Production) download folder used to prepare the WYSIWYG show for the festival mentioned above.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Production compensation webinar: Music Compensation

We recently attended another webinar from the the Dramatist Guild's Production Compensation Series. It's was an in-depth discussion on Music Compensation Rights. The webinar was lead by Ralph Sevush, with an expert panel of contributors including: Sean Flahaven, Jeanine Tesori, Kirsten Childs and Amy VonMacek. We asked April Alsup, our local music theater expert, to represent PAP (The Performing Arts Project) in the webinar.

The first major takeaway from this session was that as a member of the Dramatist Guild there are lots of  resources who are familiar with just about every aspect of the production compensation of Musical Theater works and they are willing to help whenever questions arise, but ultimately an agent and/or publisher should promote your works, manage your rights and they should always be working in your best interest.

Dramatist Guild Music Compensation Panel

There are a lot ways to supplement the music of a theatrical piece. Are you playing your original music live, are you getting played on the radio? Are your songs placed in a TV show, film or commercial that is being played on TV? Songwriters get paid for these types of public performances and PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) like ASCAP and BMI are an integral part of how the music industry get these types of public performances licensed, tracked and then royalties paid to songwriters.

Here's some terminology:

Mechanical rights are regulated federally. In copyright law a mechanical license is a license from the holder of a copyright of a composition or musical work, to another party to create a "cover song", reproduce, or sample a portion of the original composition. It applies to copyrighted works that aren't free, open or in the public domain.

Synchronization rights are the agreements between the owner of a copyrighted composition and the user. A synchronization license grants permission for a user to release the song in other media formats. This permission is also called sync rights and your terms and conditions are completely negotiable.

Grand rights are a type of music licensing that specifically cover the right to perform musical compositions within the context of a dramatic work. This includes stage performances such as musical theater, concert dance, and arrangements of music from a dramatic work.

The license agreements of major Performance Rights Organization (PRO)s such as ASCAP and BMI do not cover grand rights and exclude the usage of compositions within "dramatic" works. Unlike small rights, grand rights must be negotiated directly with the publisher or copyright holder of the composition. Grand rights also differ from sync licensing, the licensing of music to synchronize with video content in films, videos, videogames, etc. Small rights is a term used to cover performances of individual songs in a concert or cabaret-type setting.

Print rights (licenses) provide a significant form of income for interested parties, despite new technology and new revenue streams. Two major sheet music companies are Hal Leonard and Alfred. Sheet Music for commercial music is roughly 1% of an artists revenue, but for music theater composers it can be as much 10% of the music revenue.

Providing your music digitally tends to have a greater amount of piracy issues since the files are easily copied, but the panelist agreed there isn't much you can do about it. Also, they said it's not uncommon for a sheet music provider to give an upfront advance of $25,000 for a completed music score and to be weary of contract provisions that include recuperation costs.

So that's a quick recap of the Music Compensation webinar. If you have any questions don't hesitate to reach out to us. We're glad to help you any way we can.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Canvas Rebel Magazine Interview | Meet April Alsup

Here's an online magazine interview about choosing the Performing Arts as a career profession. April Alsup, a leading music theater expert from Denver, Colorado and PAP artist, shares several tender moments about her decision to pursue a career in the Performing Arts and the inspiration that happens behind the scenes with music theater development projects. To read the full interview and see all the pictures select the link below.

Canvas Rebel Magazine Interview | Meet April Alsup

Canvas Rebel is a national publication based in Dallas, Texas that examines the "modus operandi" of creative people in a way that might be beneficial for others who are dealing with similar issues. Unlike many local media sources, who can be influenced by their advertisers and/or donors, Canvas Rebel is a grassroots organization that considers stories based on its referral network and often draws attention to the human elements of an artist's journey.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Brand identity for NEW music theater works

One thing theatre groups often overlook is branding for their new music theatre shows. There are a lot of hats for a theater's marketing team to wear and sometimes there just aren't enough resources for this sort of thing. Large advertising firms typically have whole departments dedicated to branding and strategy. There's a whole bunch of catch phrases they use during the development process; target audience, single net impression, user personas, CTA (Call to Action), positioning, messaging to name just a few. PAP's marketing team has decades of experience in this space and best of all, they're fun to work with. Here's several examples we've collected for you. Just give us a call and let us know how we can help with your project.

WYSIWYG: (WIZ-ee-wig) exposes a world where people live life defined by others.

WYSIWYG the Musical Logo
Logo: WYSIWYG the Musical

The Age of SisyphusSisyphus must teach the citizens of Corinth to embrace free will, despite the wrath of the Gods.

The Age of Sisyphus Logo
Logo: Sisyphus the Musical

The Burgess and the LairdThe Isle of Eigg has a long history of conflict, can the inhabitants take control?

Eigg the Musical Logo
Logo: Eigg the Musical

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Production compensation webinars from the Dramatist Guild

We've been participating in the production compensation webinars presented by the Dramatist Guild in New York City over the last few weeks. The discussions are lead by Ralph Sevush and include a variety of experts depending on the topics for each session. This series is very informative and is a real benefit of being a member of the Dramatist Guild. Our sense is there really isn't any blueprint for these sorts of financial matters, so the format is perfect. Ralph does a great job at identifying the topics for each session and then lets the experts share anecdotes and valuable insight from their experiences working in the real world; afterwards, a DG participant gathers questions of the online audience for further discussion. The sessions last several hours and are going on for the next month or so.

Production Compensation Part One: Advice for Theatre Writers on Commissions, Advances, Royalties from Theatrical Productions with Ralph Sevush, Lauren Gunderson, Diana Burbano and Roger Q. Mason
Production Compensation Part Two: Advice for Theatre Writers on Making Income from Subsidiary Markets with Ralph Sevush, Tonda Marton, Jason Cooper, Doug Wright, Don Zolidis, Amy VonMacek-DG
Just let us know if you have any questions! We're happy to talk with you about the theatrical production compensation topic and if we can't answer your questions we can reach out to our guild friends for more clarification. Remember there is far more we can do together than we could ever do on our own.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Using recorded music for theater shows

If you plan to use recorded music for a theatrical production, you'll need to pay royalties if the music is protected by copyright. There are several different scenarios for this; for example, you may need music for background ambiance in your lobby and/or as music tied to the performance itself

If you do this sort of thing you should probably get a general license from the organizations that represent the writers and publishers of the songs. The best-known organizations are ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Industries).

General licensing is used by businesses like restaurants and retail stores for background music and if you use a lot of background music, it's usually cheaper to get the yearly license. Licensing organizations base the amount they charge for the performance licenses on the type of theater and its seating capacity.

You can can even license music from a particular composer or the entire catalog of all ASCAP or BMI composers, but you can't do it for just one or two songs. Recently, April Alsup added the music for her award winning musical "WYSIWYG" to the ASCAP catalog, so her songs are now available for theaters who have subscribed to the ASCAP catalog.

Permission to use recorded music with live stage performances involves what is called "synchronization rights." Those rights are handled by the publisher or an intermediary like the Harry Fox Agency and/or the National Music Publishers Association, the agency that represents most American music publishers. Just let us know if you need any help with any of this.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Give your music theater fans choice online

Getting your music theater soundtrack online has it's challenges. Many musical theatre projects don't even consider creating high quality commercial song soundtracks for the airwaves; and even if they do, navigating the infrastructure of online streaming services, radio, television and film is not for the faint of heart.

If your show doesn't have label affiliation you'll need to set one up with GS1-US. This can get you going on services like Spotify and only costs $30, but music theater fans use all sorts of different online streaming services. 

WYSIWYG Online Streaming Services
Online Streaming Services for WYSIWYG the Musical
To go to the next level we would advise that you join a PRO organization like ASCAP or BMI. Once you become a member you can register your works for a variety of additional online audio services and they'll handle the royalty distributions for you. It will also cover the bases for all your fans since there is such a wide selection of online streaming services out there.

Recently, April Alsup expanded the soundtrack for WYSIWYG to include; Spotify, Apple, Amazon, YouTube, Tidal, Deezer and SoundCloud. So now we have the choice to hear our favorite WYSIWYG songs on a lot of different streaming services...just search for April Alsup and enjoy!  😀 🎧