Check out part 2 of our conversation with Lindsey Smith, music supervisor at PlayStation.
Do you have any conferences or events you’d recommend for songwriters, publishers and labels to attend?
There are lots of sync conferences out there and often you’ll find someone from my team on a panel. Not usually me, I shy away from those things! But there’s usually someone speaking so either Duncan Smith, Leslie Amos or Martin Hewett will probably be there. So things like the SyncSummit, and there’s Game Music Connect – that’s probably more useful because there will be so many gaming people there.
Even something like Develop because you’ll get a lot of music supervisors going down there. But I think it’s just about keeping an eye out. If there’s someone specific that you want to see just keep an eye out for all the conferences and panels and see who’s going to be there – there’s usually time afterwards to introduce yourself and have a quick chat.
Have you noticed any trends in the music gaming world?
We were actually talking about this in the office earlier and saying that there really isn’t, because there are so many different types of games that are coming out and they all require completely different things. There’s not something where any of us have thought, “oh, they’re asking for a lot of this” or “we keep being asked for the same things”. More so on the trailers I think, the trailers are still using a lot of big, epic, orchestral, beat style music or a lot of indie pop. But when it comes to the game itself I think it’s generally what works for that specific game. You want something that’s unique to the game and unique to what you’re looking at. But I guess for the trailers they’re looking for something a bit more commercial to draw people in.
What are you personally into musically at the moment?
I’m actually a big Doo-wop, Motown, rock ‘n’ roll fan, but then also I do have guilty pleasure for a lot of pop and indie music. To be honest with you I’ll listen to anything, I love all music. I’m not a music snob in the slightest but I do definitely have a soft spot for Doo-wop and Motown.
PlayStation has recently stepped into the original content world with their new superhero TV series Powers – is this an area you see yourself getting involved in?
Powers I believe is exlusive to the PSN and as far as I know we didn’t have a hand in making it so I don’t think so, but you never know what’s around the corner – maybe we’ll look into doing stuff like that.
If you did have to choose a favourite game soundtrack, what would it be?
I really, really love the soundtrack to the game Hohokum. I think I’ve listened to it over and over again as I’ve been working, just because it sounds so nice! It’s one of those things where if you’re really stressed out or you’ve got a lot on the Hohokum soundtrack is really soothing. So I think it’s probably that!
Music supervisor and songwriter Adam Kane asks, “how important is it to access stem mixes when you’re considering a track for use?”
It’s really not that important at all. If we’re having something composed then obviously that will be given to us in stems but for a commercial track it’s not really something that we’re looking for. It wouldn’t make or break me choosing something.
His next question is, “do you find yourself predominantly using instrumental or vocal track selections”, or is a lot of it, as we’ve learnt, on a case-by-case basis?
Yeah it’s a lot of “it depends”, you’re probably sick of hearing that! It depends on the scene you’re looking at, is there any voice over in the scene, what’s happening – it’s really just about what fits.
Can you explain work for hire compositions vs. licensing existing tracks and how the artist is compensated in relation to each?
So work for hire would basically be when we commission you to write some music for us that we then own all the rights to, and you would be paid a one-off fee for that. It’s essentially the same as us licensing a track, the only difference is with a track you still retain the rights and can do whatever you want with that piece of music. So you can license it to us and then license it to 5 other people the next day, there’s not really anything we can do about it. But essentially the licensing is the same, you’ll get the one-off fee and PRS obviously on the use but with work for hire we own it, whereas if we license it from you then you own it.
Are there particular instances where you would go one way or the other?
Work for hire is really useful for us because obviously being able to own the music means that we don’t have any worries about where it’s been used. So if that piece of music is then used in a trailer we don’t have to be thinking, “do we have to re-license this? What did the original deal say?” We own it so that’s fine. Obviously if we’re getting something composed then we’ll want to own it, that’s just how we work. If we’re going to go out of our way to get something bespoke made for us and our game, we want to then own that music. In cases where we want to license music there’s nothing we can do about that, we can’t own it.
Songwriter Andy Doonan asks, “do you ever use music from artists who are not signed to a publisher or label?”
Sometimes it can actually be a bit easier to use music from unsigned artists because you have less people to go through. If I’m going through a label or a publisher then they will then have to go and seek approval from their client. So we do license music from people who are unsigned, that’s not an issue at all.
Andy also asks, “do you often seek out instrumental versions of songs?”
One thing I would say is if you have an instrumental version please send it as well as the vocal version because there’s quite a few occasions where I’ll send some music over to someone and they’ll say, “have you got an instrumental, I’m not so sure the vocal’s going to work”. Or sometimes there won’t originally be any VO (voice over) and then they’ll add VO and it makes more sense then to use the instrumental rather than swapping out for a different track.
Phil Knox-Roberts asks a technical question, “do you have a personal favourite site for file-sharing?”
Because I have a Box.net account that’s the easiest thing for me because even if you password protect it, it’s easy for me to get into because I have an account so that barrier to entry is lifted. Anything where there’s a password or I have to sign up to be able to download your music, I’m going to find that really frustrating. So anything where you can just send me a download link and I can download it easily, whether it’s wetransfer or box.net or whatever.
Although I will say that SoundCloud changed their layout recently and it took me a while to find out how to download tracks! And also with SoundCloud I think you can also only download individual tracks, and for me it’s a lot easier if you just put everything into one file so I can just download that rather than having to click “download” 10 or 20 times.
Yeah, those are frustrations we’ve worked to provide a solution for at Synchtank
Well I’ve always been a big fan of Synchtank, particularly in my previous past time in publishing.
That’s great to hear! So Laura Montarroso, a student of audio and music tech asks, “is there any way to decipher if the music has made a big impact after a project and do you track that stuff?”
I’m not really sure to be honest, it’s not something that I’ve really looked into. Obviously when we release the soundtracks of our games we can see how well they do. I think there was a TV ad sync for a track from Journey recently which had made a bit of money but that’s obviously all stuff that we own that we’ve had composed. When it comes to commercial music I can’t say that I’m sure if any tracks have made it big off the back of a game.
Laura also asks, “do you have any advice for graduates/undergraduates looking to pursue a career like yours?”
That’s a really tough one and I always feel really awkward when people ask that because it’s such a competitive industry to get into. The one thing that I would say is for me personally I think working for a publisher really helped. I think it really helps the role that I’m in now and it really helped me to get all the contacts that I needed to find a job like this. I think that when I was hired it was one of the things my boss quite liked – that I already had connections with publishers and labels and I understood the way they work.But then it can be difficult to get into those positions as well. If she’s a student then I guess interning and trying to find her way into a lower entry job in a label or publisher would be a good stepping stone.
Yeah, and it’s also about going to the summits and the networking events, be out there, be genuine, leave an impression. Don’t be a resumé, be a person.
Yeah absolutely, and that’s the thing, people realize when you’re only interested in them because you’re looking for a job. If there is something that you genuinely like about the company they work for or some music that they’ve signed – let them know. Go there with something that you like because people are obviously going to warm much more quickly to you. Like you say just make sure that you’re out there meeting people, and there often are entry level jobs at labels and publishers so keep an eye out on the Music Publishers Association, Music Week, Record of the Day, CMU – all that stuff is going to be listed there.
Tony Roberts asks, “is there ever an instance where you might choose to use cover versions or re-records as opposed to original songs?”
There are sometimes where someone obviously says “no, you can’t use the original”, and then we might start looking at a cover but actually we do get asked sometimes for cover songs. I’ve actually been recently asked to source a piece of cover music, nothing in particular they just said they wanted a cover of a song! And that was interesting as he wanted it to be a cover because he was looking for something that people are familiar with but also something a bit different. So yeah if he has covers of songs definitely send them over.
Our friend Melissa Waldhorn from Division of Sound asks, “is there a certain time of year that you guys look for music more than others?”
So when it comes to games obviously that is all dependent on the schedule of the game, so that will be as and when we need to find music. When it comes to trailers – yes, right now! Right before E3 which is coming up in June, and then you have gamescom coming up in Germany which is in August. We make tonnes of trailers for E3 and gamescom so right now is a really important time to get music, especially stuff that you think would work on a trailer. Not necessarily anything in particular because like I said there’s so many types of games – I don’t know what anyone is going to ask me for until I find out what trailers are being made. So right now! I realise I’m now going to get a tonne of emails tomorrow morning.
Amazing, so Garrett Frierson asks “as a music catalogue we have a wide variety of new stuff coming in all the time, do you prefer a playlist of varying styles or do you like to have everything grouped more themeatically?”
I quite like samplers that are a mix, but I’m open to someone sending me something saying “this is an electronic sampler, this is a pop sampler, and then this is an indie sampler” – either way is fine for me.
Well that was a tonne of information, thank you so much for joining us today!