Randy Wachtler knows a thing or two about production music. The company he founded in Nashville, 615 Music, started out in the 80s as a jingle company and grew to offer custom music, news theme packages and a collection of production music catalogs. When 615 Music was acquired by Warner Music Group in 2010, Randy stayed on to help Warner/Chappell turn their recent acquisitions, which also included the CPM (Carlin Production Music), Non Stop, “V” and Groove Addicts catalogs, into a comprehensive offering through Warner/Chappell Production Music Worldwide (WCPM), which was launched in 2012.
After leaving WCPM to teach a TV & Film music licensing class at MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University), he returned to take on the position of CEO and ran the division until 2017. Nowadays Randy is a consultant advising a number of production companies on various issues, from distribution and revenue to operational design. We recently sat down with him to run through some key considerations for companies looking to succeed in the production music business.
Taking your production music business to the next level – key considerations:
– Does the business have a clearly defined target market and business plan?
What I like to do first is take a good look at the basics of the business. market share/potential and existing customer base, marketing, operations, sales, internal systems and even company culture. Are they going after a wide range of clients or is it very niche-oriented? For example, there’s one company I advise in Los Angeles that specializes in the movie trailer market. So it’s important to establish the market that you’re going after and how effective you are in that particular market. I like to think about the overall broad market in segments (see the list below) and once you’ve established what customers you want to serve you can design your business plan around how to best exploit those market segments.
List of some market segments:
- TV Networks
- Local TV (Terrestrial stations)
- Cable TV
- Production companies
- Movie Studios
- Satellite TV
- OTT (Netflix, Amazon)
- radio stations and groups
- UGC (user generated content) or Micro licensing
- Advertising Agencies
- A/V (Audio Visual)
- Recording Studios/Editing facilities
- Podcasting companies
The great thing about production music is that it has such a wide customer base, and so there’s all sorts of areas and revenue sources to consider, from micro licensing for UGC to music in promos and TV shows. A lot of the smaller revenue streams add up over time and can become an important part of your overall business plan. It’s all about making your music available to a lot of different potential users.
Music on the consumer side is also an interesting element. There’s a big segment of the consumer market that loves epic, trailer-type music. If that’s the type of music you provide then your business model should include getting into various playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, and all the big consumer-facing music platforms. That can also help to grow your business to business side as well.
– What are the 1, 3 and 5 year goals?
I always tell company owners they need to have a written business plan, but not to be afraid to let it evolve as the marketplace changes. Things are changing very rapidly with new content platforms, and so your business plan should evolve accordingly. It can be daunting when owners think they need to have a really detailed business plan. I tell them to start very basic – what’s your one year, three year, five year plan – but don’t feel so locked in that you can’t adapt as the marketplace changes.
One advantage smaller companies have is they can make decisions very quickly. I equate them to speedboats vs larger organisations like who are more like ocean liners. In larger organisations there are many layers and it takes a while to make decisions. That can present incredible opportunities for the smaller guys.
– Has the company done a SWOT analysis?
A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis can be carried out in the beginning to help you get a handle on how your business is perceived and how it stands up to competitors. It’s one of the first things that you do.
– How good is your website / customer experience?
As a production music company your online experience is really important. It needs to be easy for customers to search and find music on your website easily, on both desktop and mobile devices. People’s attention spans have become very short and you never want to give them a reason to be frustrated. Music companies these days have to be tech orientated. You don’t want your competitor’s sites to be easier to navigate than your own.
As you guys know at Synchtank, metadata plays a big part in dictating how effective your search function is. I advise my clients to take a detailed look at their metadata and their search platform and do a few basic tests and you’ll quickly see how good your metadata is.
– Does the business have a clearly defined image and marketing plan? How do customers perceive the brand?
It all starts with the owners and their vision. Some want to be broader providers of production music, and some want to target a specific market. Creating a mission statement can be useful too.
The company logo needs to speak to the core of your brand. I’ve had people say “it’s just a logo”, we create music, but it’s also how people perceive you. Editors are very visually oriented and visual cues can help them navigate your catalog. How you communicate to customers visually can be as important as the music you provide.
– What sets the company apart from competitors?
With all the competition it is getting a little more difficult to stay above the noise. It’s important to first define who you are and then illustrate it consistently across online platforms, social media and marketing. Once the brand establishes its identity then be sure to stick to it.
Relationships are central to building a business, and attending industry events is a great way to meet potential customers. In the U.S. there’s the Production Music Conference (PMC) that draws both domestic and international attendees, and other conferences such as Real Screen East and Real Screen West that are focused on scripted/unscripted television.
Another important item is developing a solid release schedule. You don’t have to release a lot of music, but it should be consistent as customers will expect regular releases. Whether you’re releasing quarterly or bi-annually, just establish it and deliver. Various times of the year including holidays, sporting events, political and special events can allow brands to create playlists useful to customers.
Playlists have become so important on the consumer side as well so don’t forget to create them. In general, the more you can do for a potential customer the better. So, for example, editing your music into 30’s and 15’s and 60’s, providing stems and instrumentals – that’s a great way to set yourself apart and save customers time.
– Does the company create and update financials in a timely manner and in a professional way?
Many smaller companies I advise seem to overlook or downplay creating professional and consistent financial statements including P&Ls. There are many on-line accounting systems such as QuickBooks available.
If a company is starting to think about selling having financials presented in a professional way will help make your business more attractive to a buyer. The first thing they’ll be looking for is how well financially the business has done over the last 3-5 years, from both a gross revenue and an NPS standpoint.
– Do you need a sales team?
Sales staffing needs are another important consideration. There are some libraries that want to offer their music online and that’s it – they don’t want to be burdened with having a sales team. There are examples of companies that do that well however note that some larger successful companies have full time sales staff. Not only do they have an online offering, but they have people that are actively developing customer relationships.
– Do you need cue sheet assistants and music search assistants?
Anything that is going to affect your income you don’t want to leave to chance. There are some TV channels that have a great reputation for filling out cue sheets in a timely manner, and then there are some that don’t. Again publishers and composers depend on cue sheets for accurate royalty distribution so consider having a staff member help customers fill them out.
Some larger catalogs employ music search specialists to assist customers in finding music. Sometimes even the best online search platforms can prove cumbersome for some clients. Some customers describe music very differently. One person’s view of rock music will mean something completely different to another person. Search systems will continue to evolve and improve. Some companies employ search assistants as an additional customer service. Many times customers don’t know exactly what kind of track they’re looking for and assistants can help. if you can assist your customer and make their life easier that’s a great thing.
– Is the company a member of the Production Music Association (PMA)?
The PMA is really an organisation that at its very core is striving to make the industry stronger through education. There are quarterly live events as well as the annual PMC (Production Music Conference) and Mark Awards held in Los Angeles in September. The event features experts in virtually all aspects of the production music industry during 3 full days of panels and social events. The Mark Awards celebrates the finest in production music as well as inducting the annual “Hall of Fame” and “Ambassador” winners. For more information visit www.pmamusic.com.
For more information about Randy check out his consulting website: https://