Bryan Steele – Composer Interview

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    Art Munson
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    1.) Your name?

    Bryan Steele

    2.) Any credits you care to mention?

    I’ve had hundreds of placements over the years (both TV, film and with artists) but the biggest are Shameless, Vampire Diaries, CSI Miami, The Voice, Burn Notice, Jersey Shore and a few commercials, including KFC.

    3.) How long have you been writing music?

    30 years

    4.) How did you get started?

    When I was a kid in middle school, my band teacher let me write for the jazz ensemble.  I had no training and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  You can imagine what it sounded like!

    5.) How long have you been writing library/production music?

    8 years

    6.) Are you making a living wage writing library/production music?

    yes

    7.) Do you care to give any general figures of earnings (low/mid/high 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 figures)?

    My earnings on writing have been steadily increasing every year.  This year will be around 50k.

    8.) Are you self-taught or have you studied formally?

    I studied saxophone in school from 4th to 12th grades.  I then went to Ithaca College and earned a jazz studies degree.  After college I studied privately for 3 years.  After all that (and still to this day)…the school of hard knock gigging.

    9.) Do you work through music libraries?

    Yes

    9a.) If so are they exclusive and/or non-exclusive libraries?

    Once, they were all non ex, now some are moving towards exclusive.  So it’s probably 70%-30% in favor of non ex.

    10.) Do you contact music supervisors, music editors or TV production companies directly?

    I do contact music supervisors directly.

    10a.) If so how do you approach them?

    With a quarterly newsletter, then CDs to any that respond.  I watch their websites for projects and submit when they ask.  I follow their twitter accounts, particularly for fast turn around projects.  I’ll usually send mp3s to those leads.

    11.) How do you deal with rejection?

    It always hurts a little (more when you’re stating out) but once you see the other side and how much music is being submitted, you realize that music supervisors and libraries have tough decisions to make.  Also, working on films directly with film makers is a great way to learn to love the taste of “no”.  If you approach the situation positively and try to figure out why (honestly) your music was rejected, it will move you closer to writing and submitting the best music for the project the first time.

    12.) How do you feel about re-titling?

    love it, it stretches my revenue per track base

    13.) What do you have the most success with, royalty free sites or back end PRO royalties?

    definitely back end PRO royalties

    14.) Any tips about writing descriptions, keywords and/or metadata?

    Be creative, make it exciting, don’t just write a couple of words and move on. Learning to be a salesman is part of the job.

    15.) Any trends you would like to comment on (YouTube Content ID, Internet Royalties)?

    The incredibly low royalty rate on the web (spotify, youtube, etc.) is disheartening.  Also, the recent move by ASCAP to treat songs the same as instrumentals in back end calculations is really scary for songwriters (of which I am).  I hope it does not become the industry standard.

    16.) What sort of advice would you give to someone just entering the library/production music world?

    Like anything, persistence is the key.  Listen all the time, write every day, and be patient.  Look back at the end of the year and you’ll be amazed at how much your library has grown.  All this is potential money.  Submit as much music to as many libraries as you can.  However, read every contract VERY closely. After being taken advantage of a few times, I’ve learned to how to read a contract.

    And finally!

    17.) If you were not writing music what would you be doing?

    Hiking (is that a job?)
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