Crucial Music has survived the competitive world of sync placements for a decade by being highly selective, only accepting songs they feel fit today’s visual media landscape. Recently, they created an auxiliary business, Crucial Custom, which designs music that is tailor-made to meet their clients’ requests.
We add 100 to 150 new songs a month. We take about 10% of submitted material. We’re not like other companies, where they’ll take somebody’s entire catalog. I don’t think that benefits any parties—clients get mad because they have to sift through so much music and artists get mad because they’re not earning money.
I started in broadcasting and worked at public radio. At public radio, they have 10 jobs one person does, so I ended up doing news reporting, graphic design and event planning.
I fell into music shows and was lucky enough to have the music director take me under his wing and teach me how to be on the air and pick out music. Part of that was getting new music from labels, so I was talking to them all the time. I thought, “Man, I could do that job.”
I moved to Nashville to finish my Master’s in Business at Belmont University. I took undergraduate business courses, which got me into their internship program. I worked at BNA Records for two years in publicity with their country artists. After that, I worked for Gibson. I spent a year there and thought, “I have to do something I’m into.” Jim Long, my current partner, placed a newspaper ad looking for a radio promotion person. I applied and got hired. I’ve been working with him now for 20 years.
A Musical Boone
[Long] sold 100% of his label, Honest Entertainment, to Pat Boone. At the time, he had a production library distributed by FirstCom. That’s where I learned sync licensing. I learned aspects of the business working under him and formed relationships with composers.
When he closed the Nashville office, I’d already been there for 12 years. Jim had his classical library that he needed somebody to work, so I moved to L.A. and worked the classical catalog for a few years.
Indies in Sync
Independent artists’ music was getting so well produced that it made it much easier for supervisors to use them. Before, they were using instrumental library tracks versus something real. It was a quality shift that allowed them to do that.
The first year I was here, the supervisor I was working with said, “Do you have indie music?” I went to Jim and said, “There’s a business here.” We launched Crucial Music a year later, and two years into it I bought into the company.
Lyrics should be universal and applicable to tons of situations. Never write a song about your dog and name it “Mitsy.” There’s never going to be a scene with a dog named Mitsy and they need to highlight that with a piece of music.
Love songs are great, but what’s better is celebratory songs like American Authors’ “Best Day Of My Life” or “Let’s Get It Started” by Black Eyed Peas. Celebration, great day themes that are not relationship-oriented—that makes a song sync-able. Short intros are better.