Dear Joe Record Guy (or Girl),
A disturbing new trend is making its way into the music video business and I want to vent about it. But first, for those of you not in the biz, a little bit of back story.
When people like myself are asked to come up with an idea for a music video (we call it a concept or a treatment) the label sends us a copy of the song to listen to. This is one of the many honours and blessings of our business – we get to hear a hot new song weeks before anyone else. It’s a privilege that I treat with great respect.
As we all know in the last few years MP3, Napster, iPod and other extraordinary new words have come into our lexicon and these new bon-mots haunt the nightmares of record execs everywhere. The execs are justly nervous that the music they produce, and make a living by, is making its way around the world for free. Obviously Joe Record Guy looks at someone like me as a possible deviant who will dump his hot new track onto the web weeks before it’s available to the public, thereby neutralizing its carefully structured release plans or just simply screwing up potential sales.
In order to stop me from doing this Joe Record Guy has come up with a brilliant new gag. He sends me a copy of the tune but he dips the sound to 0 db (that’s no sound at all) over and over and over again during the song. He seems to love doing it at the moments when the lyrics might provide some clue as to what the song is about or when the music really takes off. I got a hot new song a couple of days ago and they dipped the sound TWELVE times in four minutes. Try listening to your favourite song and get someone else to dip the audio for you at TWELVE random times during the tune and I guarantee you’ll want to hit them. In fact I’d go so far as to say don’t try this at home at all – especially if there’s a loaded firearm in the vicinity.
The reason JRG sends me the song to listen to is so that I’d be inspired. Believe me, Joe Record Guy, this isn’t inspiring – IT’S INCREDIBLY ANNOYING! And there are alternatives. Here are some of the other methods I’ve come across from other labels to make sure I won’t rip off your precious sounds…
1) Put a threatening spoken message at the beginning of the track which says something along the lines of, “This music belongs to us. If you put it on the web we’ll track you down and make you squeal like a pig.”
2) Send out a CD with an individually encoded watermark with my name on it. If I dupe it or download it every copy will have my name running through just like that actor who allowed his DVDs to be pirated. You won’t have to track me down – you can just come straight over and make me squeal like a very fat pig.
3) Send me a really bad cassette copy that no-one will want a copy of. Luckily I still have a cassette player.
4) Make me sign a disclaimer and return the CD after I’ve written the concept. The lawyers really like this one because they get to charge for coming up with the disclaimer. It’s a drag for me though because I don’t get to keep the free CD which is what normally happens even if I lose the treatment-writing contest. Bummer.
5) Don’t give me a copy of the song. Make me go to a studio and listen to it there. The added bonus with this approach is that I get to meet some really miserable assistant studio engineer who’s had to come in early just so he can watch me under my headphones staring at my lap-top waiting for inspiration to strike.
6) Don’t let me hear the song at all. Incredibly this has happened to me a couple of times recently. They tell me it will be uptempo and give me 48 hours to write. In one instance the song hadn’t even been recorded.
Dear Joe Record Guy – these six options all work. The sound dipping version DOESN’T.
What the sound-dipping thing does though is tell me that us video directors have really slipped off the edge of the respect map. After all these years of writing countless concepts for free and taking it like a man on set and in edit suites you’re now telling me that I can’t be trusted? I’m the guy who sees your artists undressed, taking drugs, getting drunk, having affairs, bitching and whining about you and yours and I keep it to myself and I don’t talk to the press.
And I can’t be trusted with four minutes of music?
Dear Joe Record Guy, this is my business too. I love music, I’ve missed births, deaths and marriages because of music.Believe me you can trust me with your four minutes of music. The worst that can happen is that I’ll play it to someone else and encourage them to buy it! End of Vent.