Gayle Ellett Interview

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    Art Munson

    1.) Your name?

    GE: Gayle Ellett

    2.) Any credits you care to mention?

    GE: I’ve played on a ton of albums, some of which have been chosen as “Top 10 Album Of The Year” in five different genres (jazz, world, electronic, new age, progressive), I’ve had my music used in 35 different TV series, etc, and my wife still loves me. You can read more at

    3.) How long have you been writing music?

    GE: I started playing music when I was about 5, but I didn’t start seriously writing music until I was about 15 years old.

    4.) How did you get started?

    GE: The Beatles. Hearing their Sergeant Peppers album, when I was about 8, really freaked me out and made me want to be a musician. Not to be as famous as them, or sound like them, but to be as visionary and creative as they were. I would sit in front of my dad’s reel-to-reel stereo and listen to their music with more amazement then I got when I watched TV! That album really created a “mini-movie in my mind”. And that is the style/feeling that I have always cultivated since.

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

    GE: For about 20 years now. I got started in the biz, when my friend’s brother became a TV producer for some sports shows on ESPN, and they needed music. So he asked his brother and me if we could make what they needed. And for many years that was a great gig for me. And it helped push me into styles that I would not have normally composed or played.

    6.) Are you making a living wage?

    GE: Not really.

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

    GE: “Not enough”.

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

    GE: I’m self-taught, and I have actively self-studied other styles of music for many years. But I have also taken a few college classes in music theory. If you try hard, you can figure out what makes a Country song sound “Country”, etc, sometimes its mostly instrumentation, but usually its within the song’s harmony, melodies, rhythm, phrasing, speed, texture, etc. And in this way you can learn to write music in new styles. Obviously, there is a lot to learn, if you want to. But its nice not to be stuck with only one or two styles that you can make well.

    9.) Do you work through music libraries?

    GE: Yes, as much as I can. I love music libraries. But the fees I’m paid now to license my music are about 10% of what they were 10 years ago. Yet the volume of my music being moved has increased … so that has helped make up for this short fall. The Internet has helped create a huge expansion in music libraries in the past decade. And many of them try to “out price” their competition by having the lowest fees. It’s been a race to the bottom.

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

    GE: I only use non-exclusive libraries. I like being able to have my music in multiple locations. But I also sometimes do “buy-outs”, which I really like doing too. I do think that someday I will try making some music for exclusive libraries, just to try them out. But it can be so hit and miss … I have my music in about 15 libraries, but only 2 of them move it each month. And you don’t know in advance which libraries are going to be a good fit for your individual style of music. So I have been reluctant to tie up music with a library that will most likely never move it. But I will try it someday soon.

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

    GE: No, I don’t. I probably should though!

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


    11.) How do you deal with rejection?

    GE: By making more music, and moving forwards. And realizing that no matter how good you are … sometimes people are just not going to like what you’re doing. It’s a part of life, so get used to it! I try to be working on many recording projects at the same time, so that I have many “babies”, ie: special projects, that I care about. Not just one. That way, you stay busy, and if one project does not do well, then at least you have others in the pipeline that also have a chance at meeting your goals. It also helps me that my musical focus has always been on obscure styles, not mainstream music. I am used to the fact that when I play my music for my non-musician friends, it doesn’t go over very well, and they don’t like it. So that helps give me practice!

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

    GE: I am not opposed to it. And I understand why they want to do it.

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

    GE: The only real money, for me, comes thru PROs. I’m with BMI, only because that’s what I picked many years ago. I think more composers are with ASCAP (but I’m not certain.) I have about 250 songs listed at BMI. I like them. Sometimes, the only way I find out that my music has been used in a TV show or commercial is from the BMI statement/check. Like this 30 second European TV commercial my music is in, for a pizza company in The Netherlands: (Yes, their standards are different then ours!)

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

    GE: Not really. List all instruments, etc. But I really don’t have any good advice.

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

    GE: The Internet worries me. It encourages anyone to get into any business, but their only possible edge is price, so it becomes a race to the bottom. And the amount of competition now is so huge, that there is not enough business around for everyone to make some money. I get tired of people saying “They just need to find out how to monetize the Internet”, because there is no money there, everything is free, and we’re all used to paying nothing. Now, fewer people are watching TV, and instead they watch YouTube videos, diluting the TV market, and lowering the amount of money available for producing TV shows. So its worrisome. But maybe I’m just becoming a know-nothing cranky old man!

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

    GE: Don’t do it, we don’t need the competition! Seriously! Really! OK, I’m kidding. People should realize that you need to have really good music that is recorded really well. And I think there is more interest in instrumental music (but I could be wrong). Its good to have different mixes available, with some instruments removed (or soloed). And you need to send it out to many, many different libraries, hoping that of the libraries that pick you up, one or two will move your music regularly. Each library has different submission requirements, and they usually will never get back to you … unless they like your music. So it’s a ton of work. But if you do find a good library, then they’ll make you money every month, year after year, and that’s a good thing!

    And finally!

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

    GE: Playing music, DUH!

    But seriously, when I get too old to write and play well, I’d want to expand my “Open House” philosophy that I currently already have, of making my studio open and free to other musicians, one day a week. This way I help other musicians record their music, AND I get in more practice recording things that I don’t usually do, like vocals, etc. Its good for everyone involved!

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