An Interview With Jeremy Von Hollen

     Aaron:  Hi Jeremy. Can you tell me a Little bit about yourself and your role at Instinct Entertainment?

Jeremy: I’ve been working with instinct for three years now, with a general “all-purpose” role.  With only two people in the company, that means I’ve been helping with everything, from company administration to researching and administering music, to licensing and placing the music to picture.  In my time with instinct, I’ve also worked in music editing, web design, social media, art design and the dozen other facets that face music supervisors.

My roles vary per project, sometimes I am involved strictly in the administration and other times I act as Music Coordinator and/or Assistant Music Supervisor, all the while working the other tasks essential to any business, from answering phone calls to ensuring there is enough stationary around the office.

I am the Assistant Music Supervisor on Degrassi, now in it’s 11th season, meaning I hunt for music and place it to picture, secure licences, work with budgets and with all manners of artists, managers, labels, publishers and brokers, as well as the editors, producers, composers and mixers on the show.

        Aaron: What kind of music does Instinct primarily place and where?  Are there certain styles of music you tend to place more than others?

Jeremy: We place literally all kinds of music.  I’ve been approached by a professional whistler, too, but haven’t had a chance to place that yet.

The cool thing about my job is we get to work on a variety of projects, from a hip-hop film to a documentary about Winston Churchill, and the genres of music vary just as much We’ve placed everything from reggae and dancehall to old blues tracks and everything in between. As a result, our tastes are always expanding, and there’s no such thing as “I listen to everything except…”.

Of course pop and alt-rock is placed a lot these days, to satisfy the North-American market for the genres.  They dominate the charts and are popular amongst the general population, but if we can delivery a soulful jazz piece or a classic rock track amongst them, so much the better.

Aaron: What advice do you have to musicians interested in licensing their music beyond the obvious tips like “write great music” and “produce great music”.  Any specific tips based on your experience that musicians who want to license more of their music should know about?

Jeremy: Well, “produce great music” is actually a really good start.  A song cannot be placed for broadcast if it’s quality is too poor.   Then again, it’s a double-edged sword, as an over-produced song can easily be too “busy” to be placed against picture, especially if there is dialogue (which there often is).  Memorable hooks and solid melodies are always a good idea.

A good balance of lyrics, production, vocals, musicianship and instrumentation is key, not too much, but not too little either. The trick is to really be comfortable with what you put out there, as an artist.

That being said, you shouldn’t write music specifically for TV (unless you’ve been hired to do so).  I cannot stress enough that the best songs, the best placements, come from truly genuine moments in an artist’s life, where he or she felt something that they translated into a song.  The TV drama is only enhanced when coupled with real-life drama, real-life stories and real-life emotions.

Aaron How much can musicians make from licensing their music? Obviously there are a lot of variables but can you give us an idea of possibilities in terms of how much musicians can potentially make?

Jeremy: As cool as a paycheque from a production is, in 90% of cases, the money isn’t as glorious as generally led to believe.  That’s not to say the money isn’t appreciated, most artists revel in the fact that they are receiving a cheque, as they would have made the music anyhow, and it’s basically “found” money.

There are many variables, from the music budget to the usage of the song.  Generally a “background” song will garner less of a fee than a “feature” song.  It can also depend on many other factors, if you’ve been licensed before, if your Masters or Publishing are held by a label or publisher, if you’ve got someone negotiating for you, etc.

The up-front fees can range from as low as $50 to upwards of $100,000, depending of course on your status as an artist and the team you have supporting you.  A good thing to keep in mind is the constant revenue source generated by royalties, in many cases those royalties will outlast the up-front placement fee.

Aaron: What makes the most sense from your perspective, musicians writing music in anticipation of potential licensing needs or musicians simply writing what they write naturally and then pursuing licensing opportunities after the fact?

Jeremy: As noted above, it’s always best for an artist to create their music from a true place, rather than creating it with a paycheque in mind.  The best songs we’ve placed come from an unrestrained place, whereas sitting down and writing with TV placements in mind can be very restricting

It isn’t unusual to be hired to write for a specific project, for a commercial, for example.  These composers are usually experts in that field and have a natural adaptation to it and it’s generally considered a different profession than touring artists. 

AaronAny final thoughts you can leave us with in terms of how musicians can successfully license their music?

Jeremy: Be kind, be yourself! As cool as it is for a band to get a call from a music supervisor, it’s just as cool for a music supervisor to get a call from a band he or she really likes.  At the end of the day, we are music fans and we appreciate the talent and hard work that goes into creating our favourite tunes.  We generally place what we love – so we generally love the artists we place!

Flexibility and knowledge of your material and the sync world really helps to bridge the business gap between creativity and administration.  Know who your PRO is.  Know your writers’ shares.  Put us in touch with co-writers or co-publishers, if applicable.  Help us to help you, as much as possible! The Sync world is fast-paced, so knowing all the answers before the questions are asked creates trust and a solid working relationship with music supervisors is key – even before your tunes are placed.

Aaron: Thanks for your time, if musicians want to learn more about your company and how they can submit music for your consideration, where can they go to learn more?

Jeremy: I absolutely recommend getting to know a music supervisor before sending them your music.  You can find us on the web, on social media, and you can check out the numerous bands we’ve placed already, to get a vibe of what we love to listen to!