Getting your music licensed for film and television is all the rage right now, just like working from remote places over the internet. Composer Rotem Hecht combines all this. He lives far off the scene but still managed to get his music in commercials by Hershey’s, Mercedes Benz or Microsoft. In our interview Rotem explains his approach. Be sure to watch the videos of music he has created.
Julian Angel (J.A.): Hi Rotem, first of all – as always – a big thank you for being our interview partner. You have scored quite a number of impressive credits as a composer for film, television and commercials. When did you start and how long has it taken you to actually get a steady stream of income – or jobs?
Rotem Hecht (R.H.): Actually I used to be more of a music producer for artists and song writers in Israel and from time to time I had projects from a local Israeli kids television channel. I did that like almost 5 years, but its very hard to make a living from this, especially if you’re trying to do this in a country with a rather bad economy.
In 2011 I started working with clients out of Israel and today 99.5% of my work comes from places all over the world. But what I always do is promote and market myself all over the world. I don’t stop doing this, this is what brings me work all the time. The side of promoting, and not just post on FB, is a big part here, lots and lots of work. These days I found a few agencies that want to represent me and handle promotion and I hope to stop doing this and focus more on the music and let others promote me. But till then, I keep doing this all the time. That’s what brought me a steady stream of income and jobs.
J.A.: Listening to and watching what you have done it seems as if you have really custom-scored the music as opposed to just providing a random song. Do you mainly get custom requests or do you license pre-exising single songs as well?
R.H.: I only do custom-score music for projects, I don’t deal with music I have already recorded and try to get it licensed. For me its much easier to make something new than finding pre-made tracks. I’m a composer, not a music editor. This is all the fun of this, creating music.
J.A.: What is your general approach to get your music used? Do you contact music supervisors directly, do you use music libraries? If so, how many libraries represent your music at the moment?
R.H.: I’m contacting everyone and anyone. I don’t care if it’s a music supervisor, music library, big production company, small production company or a camera assistant. From each of them I can get work or not, but unless I try I will never know.
I’m trying not to work with music libraries and pre-made tracks that much, as I was trying that in the past and nothing happened from that. Today I only work with libraries that ask me for exclusive music by demand or by brief, and who pay me for my work. It’s a rare thing as most of the libraries today just want pre-made music for licensing and pay you just if it gets licensed, or you just get the royalties. Or there are libraries that ask you for custom albums but don’t want to pay advances for the work, just for the licensing and the royalties. So I’m working just with those who pay me in advance plus royalties and licensing fees, we usually split 50/50, and I’m working with three or four such libraries.
If you are an artist or song writer who’s not making a living from this yet and just create music and hope to get it out somehow, so libraries are good for this. It’s still better your music will go out than just stay on your computer.
J.A.: Speaking of music libraries. There are a number of fully automated online music libraries out there where you can license tracks for a few dollars only and get world-wide synch rights. Other libraries even charge artists to have their music represented. Do you see music licensing as an endangered business due to such cheapo services?
R.H.: I never pay someone to license my music, there are too many music libraries that want to represent artist tracks for free and split in the publishing or the license fee. I don’t think artists need to pay for this, maybe if they have extra money in their bank (laughs).
J.A.: If you work with music libraries, can you share your experiences with both exclusive and non-exclusive libraries? How many musical pieces do you have out there?
R.H.: With non-exclusive libraries I had bad experience. I saw very small amounts of money from them and I found my tracks in some music stocks for very low prices. With the exclusive libraries I didn’t have any experience with pre-made tracks. But from what I saw, exclusive libraries are more serious and they have heavy clients. One of those libraries I work with licenced one of the tracks for a big movie trailer, so it’s nice (laughs).
J.A. Film, television, commercials, games – what is the best to get your music placed?
R.H.: Television series. It’s also better for the composer as tv series sometimes broadcast re-runs and if they’re being produced by big networks they are running all over the world. So you can see lot of money in back end royalties.
J.A.: You live and work in Israel. Is it fine in this day and age to be working from any remote place in the world or would you recommend moving to a film or advertising capital such as New York or Hollywood?
R.H.: It’s always good to move to Hollywood or New York to meet directly with the industry. But if you know how to market yourself well and make people get to know you even through the virtual world, you can successeed even from a distance.
Most of the year I operate from Israel and I have even more connections to people in Hollywood and New York than friends who have been living there for years. I even help friends to get jobs there. You can succeed in this business if you are a big pusher. When I went to Hollywood to promote myself, I got more connections in one month than many friends who have been living there for five or six years. It depends on how much you push yourself.
J.A.: Does the internet, especially social media help you get new clients?
R.H.: I have found all the clients I’m working with these days on the internet. But I market myself with emails. Social media helps me just to promote my works and projects I’m working on, but I never got any new clients from it. Sorry, just one client (laughs).
J.A.: Your musical works are very diverse all the way from Dance and Rock to Classical and Kids Music. Do you see a good reason in diversification versus specializing in a certain genre?
R.H.: In order to work well in this business you need to be very good in a lot of genres. This is a good reason for of companies to hire you. Also, in the advertising industry they need music for tv commercials and this can be any genre so if you’re well versed in many genres you increase your chances.
J.A.: How long does it take you to finish a song or score all the way from scratch?
R.H.: It depends on the complexity of the music, the style and how long the track will be. I’m a piano player, so creating a 30 seconds track of piano music can take me few minutes only. Usually it starts from 30 minutes to three or four hours of work for a serious track.
J.A.: What do you like best about your job?
R.H.: The biggest fun in this business is adding life to the video, as without music and sounds the video is still quite boring. I have the chance to experience and learn about new genres and sounds. Usually when someone asks me to create music in a genre I’m not familiar with I say yes anyway and accept the challenge. Afterthat I have learned something new about that genre and can use that exerience for future productions. What I like as well is of course the chance to create music and get paid for it. Very simple (laughs).
J.A.: Final question: Who did the kids vocals on the cartoons you have composed for? J
R.H.: Usually, I get it from the production companies, sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s my wife and sometimes even my own kid (laughs).
A big “thank you” again for taking the time to do this interview. Now hit those musical keys again…
Here’s to your success – Julian Angel
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