Cutting Edge Group Sync Manager Alex Sheridan takes us through the launch of music.film, the go-to destination for licensing film score.
Hi Alex, can you tell us a little bit about Cutting Edge Group and its business model?
Cutting Edge’s business model is quite unique in the music business. We get involved in film soundtracks by investing in the music department of the production. We also offer a music supervision service, and we take an interest in the master and publishing of the score. Our focus thereafter is exploiting those copyrights through synchronisation and music.film, which is our rebranded website for our catalogue of film scores. A lot of people look at our offering and don’t understand how we have a catalogue of easy-to-license film scores, and the reason we’re able to provide that is because of our investment. We’ve invested more than $30 million in producing film scores since the company’s inception.
From a creative point of view, it’s very exciting being able to license score because sometimes the music created for a film doesn’t get heard if the film isn’t successful. Licensing gives the score a chance to find a home elsewhere, and the composer to be rewarded for that. I think score has become more popular with brands and across different media over the last few years, and at Cutting Edge we can offer something that other rights holders in the score world can’t do as easily. We have everything in one place and we make provisions for musicians’ union fees, so it’s as easy as possible to license these fantastic scores. That’s why composers like to work with us.
What does the catalogue look like?
We’re incredibly proud to have music from some of the best known and most respected modern-day composers including Jöhann Jöhannsson, Cliff Martinez, Clint Mansell, Alexandre Desplat, Carter Burwell and Thomas Newman. There’s a really incredible breadth of talent there.
Would you agree that score composers are getting a lot more recognition in the industry?
I think score composers are becoming more celebrated because they create worlds that people take with them from the multiplexes into the real world. Streaming has allowed people to access score in a different and more personal way. I think the same is happening in certain areas of modern classical music, with the guys at Erased Tapes Records and people like that. It’s a very exciting time for score.
Can you tell us about the partners that you work with at Cutting Edge, including your deals with Lakeshore Entertainment and Electric Entertainment last year?
Cutting Edge is always growing in terms of our involvement in score. The Lakeshore Entertainment deal is exciting because it gives us access to some fantastic one-stop scores, including the Underworld series, Lincoln Lawyer, and so on. We also purchased a share of the Electric Entertainment catalogue last year – that was another big acquisition, as well as the legendary Varèse Sarabande Records catalogue several years ago. All of these catalogues will fall under the umbrella of music.film, and we will hopefully be able to plant our flag in the sand as the go-to home for licensing film score.
“We will hopefully be able to plant our flag in the sand as the go-to home for licensing film score.”
Why is score music perceived as so hard to license?
It’s perceived as complicated to license film score for a number of reasons. Often it’s because score music is created by studios who are not well versed in the secondary exploitation of those scores. So when it comes to using them, for example, under blanket agreements for UK broadcasters, they just make a note to say not to use them. Because we own both masters and publishing we are able to place our music in blanket agreements. There are some hurdles to clear in confounding peoples’ expectations of difficulty with licensing score but we have begun to overcome those with Top Gear and The Grand Tour using many of our cues in their most recent seasons. If we can pass muster with the BBC then we should be able to pass muster with everyone.
All of our catalogue is on music.film with downloadable mp3s and WAVs. The branding of our films is really front and centre so it’s easy to navigate what the vibe of the score will be. We have a full backend service that allows you to license directly from the site using a rate card. The songs that are easy to clear are demarcated and there are all kinds of fantastic Synchtank features for searching different parts of the catalogue. We’re very excited about that as a tool to broaden people’s knowledge of the further flung corners of music.film. I also love making playlists, that’s my thing, so we spend a lot of time making playlists based on our experiences of music supervisors’ search patterns and workflow.
“The songs that are easy to clear are demarcated and there are all kinds of fantastic Synchtank features for searching different parts of the catalogue. We’re very excited about that as a tool to broaden people’s knowledge of the further flung corners of music.film.”
From a creative standpoint what do you think the benefit of using score is?
Film score has such a high quality of recording. Everything in our catalogue is available in 5.1 surround sound because it will have been shown that way in theatres. So that quality can really amplify a production – you’re working with a piece of music that has been produced to the highest possible level. And the way in which score is created for particular scenes is exciting from an advertising point of view. Those cues will have a narrative arc that were made with picture in mind and will work with voiceover. So that marriage between the cues and a TV advert can be made easily with score.
And then of course the exciting thing is getting that filmmaker feel. Whether it’s the opening of Manhattan, the shark in Jaws, or the title music in Star Wars, score is immediately recognisable to us in modern culture. Having iconic modern scores like Drive or The King’s Speech or Whiplash and Sicario adds a widescreen wonder to anything I think. They’re going to be the iconic scores of the future. The word ‘cinematic’ gets banded around a lot in searches. There’s nothing much more cinematic than score, right?
“The word ‘cinematic’ gets banded around a lot in searches. There’s nothing much more cinematic than score, right?”
Which scores are you most approached about?
There’s definitely a lot of enquiries for Drive, and also for Samuel Bohn’s “Unlocking the Mind” which is in the trailer for The Theory of Everything. “The Rehearsal” from The King’s Speech by Alexandre Desplat is another one, as is “The Beast” from Sicario, which is a Jóhann Jóhannsson score. And then there’s quite a few that you wouldn’t necessarily expect straightaway. For example, we have a score piece from RocknRolla called “The Stolen Painting”, and that has a kind of quirky, regional Balkan feel to it. That’s often a popular one from an advertising point of view. Similarly, the score for Better Living Through Chemistry has a great quirky Bossa Nova-meets-60s garage kind of feel, which is not something that you would associate with the catalogue straightaway. It’s one of those little gems that people keep coming back for. And I can’t do an interview without talking about the score for Don Jon, which is brilliant. I often speak with music supervisors who name check that one.
And Arrival is obviously such a great score
Arrival was an amazing thing to be part of. Jóhann Jóhannsson was kind enough to come to a screening of Arrival in Berlin where we had a soft launch of the music.film brand back in February. He spoke at length about the score and the film, and about his process. That will actually be one of the first interviews that we put up on our music.film blog. We’re going to be doing regular interviews with all of our composers and pieces on the world of score and the world of music within film.
Can you tell us about some recent placements?
Notable uses in the past few months have been uses for Jóhann Jóhannsons “The Beast” in the Logan trailer and in The Great Wall trailer. We had two tracks from The Guard score, which was composed by Calexico, (a personal favourite) in the TV show Training Day. We can also offer bespoke music creation for projects. An example of which is the show Beyblade Burst. Michael Kurtz headed up the team in our US office that created the theme song for season 1, and we are currently creating the score and theme song for the upcoming season 2 of the show. The first season started airing on Disney XD in the U.S. and Canada in December 2016. It’s currently being broadcast in Australia and Latin America, and will roll out to Europe this summer. Beyblade is the perfect example of how we like to grow with our clients and fulfill all their music needs — here we started with providing one track for season 1 and ended up working with them on the entire score and musical landscape of the show for season 2.
How do you see the world of music licensing evolving?
I started in my sync career around 10 years ago, and the landscape then was hugely different. TV commercials were king. Now there’s obviously many more screens in the world, and so in terms of licensing across all media there’s been a lot more deal flow. I think it’s going to gather even more pace with new technologies like VR coming online. And at the same time it offers huge potential to weave music into production in a much more immersive way. We’re really excited by those prospects. I also think the possibilities of licensing through Blockchain are incredibly exciting for creators and rights holders alike, because it will ease that dissemination of copyright, and the people at the origin of the chain will always be remunerated for it. That can only be a positive thing. So I think we’re at the threshold of a new age of licensing.
“New technologies like VR offer huge potential to weave music into production in a much more immersive way.”
How has online video streaming changed the way that you do deals with licensing?
We want to be able to offer our catalogue out to the broadest possible range of potential licensees, and so we need to be able to work like a library in some ways. One of the new offerings that we’ll be rolling out as part of music.film is the ability to offer a rate card out to all licensees, allowing them to use score music on any number of online films, widening the scope of our potential uses. We’re in a great position to be able to take advantage of that. It means more licenses and more uses, which can only be a good thing.
What do you see as the challenges and the opportunities for Cutting Edge moving forward?
As ever, volume is a challenge for rights owners. Finding the time to listen to your catalogue and get to know it on an intimate level is challenging. As we bring more catalogues in, we want to know all of them well enough to be able to search using Synchtank and offer the best possible solution for every search or project. As a sync manager, volume is something that you’re always wary of. One of our core values is to have a catalogue that’s small enough to know, so that we can always keep on top of it from both a creative and rights point of view. We always know what we’re working with.
Can you tell us about some exciting new releases?
Recently we’ve had in Their Finest in the cinemas which has a score by one of my favourite composers, Rachel Portman. That’s a fantastic score that we are just in the process of sending out. And we have a couple of films that have been out recently that have got fantastic scores, one being Gold, scored by Daniel Pemberton, and the other being The Founder, scored by Carter Burwell. Both of those are fantastic pieces of work in their own right. The score for Gold has elements of Lalo Schifrin and kind of classic Hollywood era strings, and The Founder has great quirky instrumentation. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – we have six or seven really exciting new films coming out in 2017. Again, part of what we’re doing with music.film is aligning more closely with our films releases, and working with agencies to put on showcases of the films themselves and doing more composer Q&As. It’s nonstop at music.film!
Great to hear! Thanks so much for taking the time Alex.
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