Latest blog post from Tammy in LA:
Cost cutting is on trend today in the major and minor record labels and publishing companies – many companies spending less, both on salaries as well as on core company needs. This trend has been seen most glaringly in both the staffing choices and the operational investment of record labels and publishers.
Of course with the economy being what it is these days, it is needed in many cases to shave overly burdensome executive salaries and needless expenses that have often plagued the music biz (mostly during the 80s/90s). Cost cutting isn’t always a bad thing.
However, what has become a disturbing trend is seeing cost cutting in the form of letting go of essential executives (sometimes a whole department of people) and hiring in their place a lower salaried, newer, person who may not have quite the expertise or certainly the catalog knowledge of their predecessor.
In the area of sync licensing, this trend has become increasingly prevalent. Many sync licensing creatives, who have been successful for their companies and have worked hard to gather the supervisor contacts that it takes to bring in the sync revenue, have been laid off. In their place, companies have hired newer, (granted, possibly more energetic) people, but people who haven’t worked towards making the relationships, who don’t really know the catalogs, the managers of the bands well, and who haven’t yet learned the fine points of the art of pitching.
What these companies don’t realize is that these new people, although they may seem qualified, will not be able to make the kind of money that the older more experienced did, and it is partially due to the fact that supervisors these days are inundated with new pitch people and getting into the ‘inner circle’ means making space amongst an already long roster of relationships. Human relationship is an important element of the high-value sync process.
Time efficiency is also a key stake – the new people don’t always know the shorthand of what a supervisor likes/doesn’t like in terms of pitch style, pitch format, musical tastes. They also don’t always know what the band does and doesn’t want their song licensed in, and wheels are spun often chasing a project and getting the placement, only to find the band is strictly against putting their music in that genre of film. This isn’t to say that new people cannot be talented, nor that they cannot learn. One should always be building a team both bottom-up and top-down. Just that if the motivation for change is a pure ‘cost’ decision it could be potentially damaging.
There is also often the temptation to try and replace a sync staff with the new person, armed with a technology system, thinking that pitching is just a matter of finding out what is being asked for out there, and servicing the sups with what they are requesting. We should know as, after all, we provide technology systems for synch! Alas, not so easy. Unfortunately, a mis-informed/off-centre pitch (electronic or not) from someone the supervisor doesn’t know often gets ignored in the sea of submissions. If it looks like it is a blind pitch with no human care put into it, then often it is, and supervisors have come to recognize one when they see it. Nothing can replace personal knowledge and judgement based on getting to know the sup, forming a bond, and having the extra intelligence to read between the lines of a brief, to pitch just what that sup is looking for. Often you need to know someone to really know what they are asking for. And if you are able to read them and cut through to the core of what they want, then that supervisor will come back to you – you will be on the short list for submissions in the future.
So what I’m saying is there is no easy cost cutting solution in sync. You need to have the relationships, put in the time and listen to be a good pitch person. A newbie cannot make up for that immediately, and by solely hiring less experienced staff a company will probably do itself an injustice.
I know this is not a popular argument in these hard times, but in some cases, the old adage is true that you need to speculate to accumulate. A balanced team of ‘oldies’ and ‘newbies’ and of ‘tech’ and ‘relationship’.