Chuck Hughes – Composer Interview

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    Art Munson
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    1.) Your name?

    Chuck Hughes

    2.) Any credits you care to mention?

    I have a tune in an indie zombie movie, Dead and Breakfast, with David Carradine. I have had T.V. Placements on MTV, HGTV, Travel channel, Science channel, Animal Planet, VH1,Food Network, HBO, Science channel, Smithsonian channel. I have had 1680 Tunesat detections between Dec. 2011 and August 2013.

    3.) How long have you been writing music?

    Since 1994.

    4.) How did you get started?

    I was a guitarist in top 40 bands in the 70’s and 80’s, and taught 50 private guitar lessons at a music store weekly.  In 1994 I made a conscious decision to start writing and get out of the cover band world. I became interested in old and new rockabilly/psychobilly music, so I made a decision to form a new trio to write, record, and play only original music in that field. The bassist and I each wrote separately, and would teach each other our songs. That project resulted in two 20 song lps, and multiple tours of the U.S. And Europe, all self-booked and produced.

    In 2002 we put all of our songs online for free download on mp3.com for a limited time to see what would happen. Pumpaudio was just starting out, and contacted us and licensed all 40 songs. We started getting checks in 2003. Our best check was in the $8,000 range in 2007, covering 6 months.I noticed that Pumpaudio was not getting us any film placements so in 2010 I started methodically submitting to other libraries, working with Aaron at howtolicenseyourmusic.com. This got me into a few more libraries, like Audiosparx and Audiosocket.

    I have all my songs up on Broadjam and in 2011 they wrote me and said Viacom was looking for licensable Rockabilly and was having a hard time finding any and told me to call Viacom. Viacom then licensed 20 songs from me direct, where I got an upfront fee, publisher, and writer’s share. It was for a current MTV show called Ridiculousness, which I have never seen.

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

    I haven’t really started. So far I’m just licensing instrumental versions of music written for the band. The band still plays 100 shows a year, which consumes a lot of time and energy. But live music club pay has not risen in 30 years, so I will soon be cutting my live gigs down to almost nothing to spend more time writing and producing.

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

    I am in the low five figures now with the library/production music, and still gig and sell a decent amount of downloads and streams. So I am making a living with those 4 sources.

    7.) Do you care to give any general figures of annual earnings?

    Low 5 figures. I take advantage of sec. 179 deductions to keep my net low.

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

    I studied with Bill Fowler at U. of Colorado for 3 semesters in the mid 70s. I also studied privately with Bill Frisell, who lived a block away from me in Denver. Then I studied a few months with Bill’s Teacher, Dale Bruning. I took Apple logic at a community college in 2003, then spent 2 years in Hollywood at Musicians’ Institute in their Indie Artist program, studying Cubase, Reason,and guitar.

    9.) Do you work through music libraries?

    Yes. I am taking Aaron Davison’s 90 libraries in 90 days submission marathon for the second time. I get the complete range of reactions on my submissions, from being ignored to enthusiastically recruited.

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

    Non-Exclusive. I would only sign exclusive with an advance, and nobody has ever offered me one.

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

    No, with the previously mentioned exception of Viacom. I took Sarah Gavigan’s licensing course in 2011, and she advocated a direct approach to the companies, after you had done your homework watching the T.V. Shows. Unfortunately I quit watching T.V. 40 years ago and haven’t been able to get back in the habit yet.

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

    I read about a writer in Hollywood who schmoozes them up on Twitter then meets them at live social situations and it seems to work for her. I think it would help to be younger and live in hollywood to do that. I am in Boulder, Co.

    11.) How do you deal with rejection?

    I like to post my rejection letters on my Facebook page, and watch my friends’ and fans’ reactions. It is very entertaining.

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

    My placements have been retitled from the beginning starting with Pumpaudio. I don’t mind it, because I didn’t know any better. I would like to see electronic watermarking and the end of voluntary cue sheet reporting. I think we’re all getting ripped off.

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

    Back end PRO.

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

    No, I simply endure it. I did it for 71 track on Audiosparx, what a chore that was. Conversely, Jingle Punks metadata is minimal and their business is going crazy.

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

    After watching two youtube presentations from ASCAP I Create Music convention, I pulled my Youtube representation back from Audiosocket and Rumblefish and am building and managing my own robust Youtube channel. Audiosocket wanted me to leave everything unmonetized and Rumblefish wanted to monetize everything, so I just took it back and will manage it myself. I am going to monetize, with no middleman.

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

    It seems the path to success is different for everyone, and I haven’t found a way that is easy.
    And finally!

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

    Booking, promoting, managing, and playing gigs.

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