Music Industry Advice: Licensing for a Living

Music Industry Advice: Licensing for a Living

Music Industry Advice: Licensing for a Living Biff SandersBIFF SANDERS
Barefoot Music /

Also known as Harold Barefoot Sanders III, “Biff” founded Barefoot Music in 2002 to create original score music and develop audio branding for some of the most popular television shows in entertainment. After working at the Disney Channel he got his first scoring gig, Project Greenlight for HBO. Soon after, he became a composer for the acclaimed production house Magical Elves, doing the complete score and title themes for their Emmy-winning shows Project Runway and Top Chef.

What sort of demand is there for music cues?
It’s good enough for us to specialize in it. TV shows generally have 50 to 300 musical cues, and we create them. They’re not full-blown songs, they run from a few seconds to a minute or two.

How much information do you get on a new project?
It varies. We meet with the producers and get a rundown of the season, along with requests regarding characters and story lines. Sometimes we’ll view graphical ideas and talk about the music behind them. It’s a lot of back and forth before we’re ready to go.

Are these jobs “work for hire” where you transfer and assign all your rights?
Some are, and they tend to be better deals. The money is better and we get to do the whole show/season. Today some networks want to own the music, and if the price is right we’re fine with it.

You emphasize “musical branding.” What do you mean by that?
You find the personality and identity of a show and incorporate it into the music, most often in the title theme. If you compare different shows you’ll notice that the successful ones have a musical voice.

How has the business changed?
The business has become a lot more complicated and there’s less money. The reason is that there are artists and composers who offer their material for less than they should, and sometimes even for free. You can’t compete with free.

Do you believe in versatility?
I would rather be known for a certain type of music, my brand. I don’t want to be too versatile, I think it’s confusing. With that said, I know people who are versatile and successful, so I guess it depends on your comfort zone.

Final advice?
Succeeding in this business is about perseverance. You have to be the guy who never leaves. Anyone who wants to do this needs to start today. Go out and meet people who are in film and TV. They’re the ones you’ll be working with, so establish the best relationships you can.

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