Interview with Adam Taylor, President, APM Music
For podcast release Monday, October 17, 2016
KENNEALLY: It’s a matchup made to please fans everywhere, on each side, power and agility, but defense, defense, defense will save the day. Welcome to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. I’m Christopher Kenneally for Beyond the Book.
The opening bars of “Heavy Action,” the longtime theme music for Monday Night Football in the U.S. have preceded many a memorable game. We swap the MNF theme for our own to help make the point that music makes emotional connections that are compelling and indelible. Music, words, and pictures together are an unbeatable team. The playful bait and switch also demonstrates how easy it is to produce programming on your own, with the same look and feel as the networks and the studios. For businesses today, making music a part of marketing, training and other communications represents and opportunity and a predicament.
Over more than three decades, Adam Taylor has helped intellectual property companies, organizations and individuals manage and extract value from their copyrights, trademarks and patents. As president of APM Music, Adam has grown the company’s standing as an innovative creative house and production music library with one of the most diverse collections of original music for every time of media. Think of Adam Taylor as a Hall of Fame coach for the team that puts music, words and pictures on the same field. Welcome to Beyond the Book, Adam.
TAYLOR: Thank you very much, Chris. Glad to be here.
KENNEALLY: Well, we’re happy to speak with you because we are together as APM and CCC are announcing the launch of RightFind Music, a search and file management Website designed to help customers find, download and manage music from a collection of more than a half a million tracks licensed for use in presentations and video. It’s an interesting aspect of the rights area. It’s also a really not-so-well-known field of music. APM is a leader in this field. Tell us about APM.
TAYLOR: Thank you. Well, APM was founded in 1983, and our purpose was to license music to productions so that people would have an easy time of doing this. The library business actually started in the U.K. in the early 1950s, and APM was founded by EMI and Universal, two of the big music publishers, in order to distribute music that they owned in the United States. And subsequently we took on representation of a lot of other libraries from around the world to enhance our collection to over 500,000 recordings. We also represent the music of the National Football League and Major League Baseball and Discovery Networks and others, and that makes up our comprehensive collection today.
TAYLOR: So the music in the library is made available to anybody producing programming. If you’re producing an audiovisual program, you can edit the music into your production. And the value of this music is that there’s no difference in quality between what’s in the library and what’s commercially released. The value is that all the rights are pre-cleared and every right is available, so we license both the master side and the publishing side. It’s all pre-cleared. And as long as you have an arrangement with us, an agreement with us, you can use the music. You don’t have to check beforehand. There’s no artist approval. You can just go ahead and make the music – put the music in your production.
KENNEALLY: And you mentioned the number of tracks available, it’s over half a million, but it’s not just the quantity of music that APM provides to its licensees but also the quality of music. Tell us about some of the artists that you work with.
TAYLOR: The library is made up of an enormous stable of composers who have written for us over many, many years. And beginning in the ’60s and ’70s, there’s a host of British composers who really helped define the sound of British, and even to some degree American, television for many years and made an enormous contribution to them.
Some of these are not household names. There’s a composer, Alan Hawkshaw, and another, Keith Mansfield, that, if you care to look it up, you’ll find amazing things about them, plus their music has been sampled in hundreds, if not thousands, of hip hop and rap songs over the years. We just recently did a deal with Common, another with Drake. We’ve done it with Jay Z and CeeLo and others. And a couple of the other names, Harry Gregson-Williams is a very well-known film score composer. He’s an A-level composer in Hollywood. He did The Chronicles of Narnia, The Martian, X-Men and many, many other over-$1 billion films. And he actually got his start by composing library music for us.
Another one I was very proud to work with and happy to be –, and honored to be, able to call a friend is Hal David. Hal David was mostly known for writing with Burt Bacharach. Their writing team name was Bacharach-David, and they together wrote such songs as “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Alfie,” “The Look of Love,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose,” “What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love,” “What’s New, Pussycat?” and many, many others that you would know. And Hal did five CDs for us, and one of the ones that I was very personally proud to work on with him was a rock record. It’s actually the first rock record that Hal ever did. And it’s called Pop, Rock & Alternative, and I think later on Chris is going to play one of the songs, a song that is called “I Love the Way You Look at Me.” You’ll get a sense of what he does. But it was really an honor to work with him, an extraordinary man.
KENNEALLY: And as you say, Bacharach-David, the only close competition they had in their day were Lennon and McCartney. They were really the team that wrote the pop hits of the 1960s.
TAYLOR: Yeah, them and Simon and Garfunkel and a couple of others, who all really helped to, along with Bob Dylan, define the languaging of our time. And there are so many phrases that Hal David, as the lyricist, came up with that it’s extraordinary that he was able to put these feelings into words that really resonated, and still continue to resonate across the generations.
KENNEALLY: Digital tools today, we said at the outset, really make this kind of high-level production possible for just about everybody. And as well trained consumers today, we also expect and even demand high production value. So what are the challenges that people in the corporate world have to getting access to quality music?
TAYLOR: In a corporation, especially larger corporations with a lot of different divisions, you’ve got a lot of people making decisions about music. They’re providing a number of different services. They’re producing podcasts like this. They are doing corporate videos for training and sales purposes and marketing purposes. They may be working on commercials, YouTube videos, Vine videos, Instagram videos. There are all kinds of things that people are going to be doing. So especially in today’s digital world, the decision makers are really pretty far spread out.
The problem with music is that the rights are very complicated, and you can’t just take a commercial track and use it in a production without having permission on both for the master recording, itself, as well as for the underlying composition, and that’s complicated. Some of the songs today have four or five writers, four or five publishers plus a record company. You have to go to all of them to get permission. And as badly as you may want it, you may not actually be able to get it. And library music solves that problem. It directly addresses it from a quality perspective. We hire incredible composers, whether they’re well known or not. We use the finest musicians. We do a lot of recording with great orchestras. We use the London Symphony. We go to Abbey Road. We use a lot of great orchestras in Eastern Europe and Israel and other places. And so the quality of the music is terrific.
And then also one thing important to understand is that this music is made to work with the moving image. When you’re working with a moving image, you don’t want a popular song over everything. It’s distracting. And so this services the video. It’s storytelling. It’s music made for storytelling. So it will enhance the value of the production. It allows you to control and indicate where you want to highlight things, so that the power of your production is dramatically enhanced.
KENNEALLY: Music for storytelling, I like that phrase, because that’s so critical. And storytelling in a world of content is absolutely fundamental to the way all kinds of businesses approach their communications. Stories are what it’s about. It’s not just catch lines and so forth. They want to engage and music helps to strengthen that engagement, I think.
TAYLOR: Just I want to add one thing, there’s one thing that Walt Disney said many years ago that he felt was the secret to his success, that he would rather entertain people and hope they’re educated than try to educate them and hope they’re entertained. So you want to give flavor. You want to give color. You want to entertain. You want people to enjoy, but you also don’t want to distract from the message.
KENNEALLY: Everybody wants to do that. The other thing they don’t want to get is sued. And you mentioned how complicated the rights are for music. And to sort of underscore that is the fact that you see much more litigation around these kinds of uses for music than you do for other types of media.
TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s very true. And music is something that somebody can easily download and copy and modify. Everybody, got a Mac or some kind of editing software, and it’s so simple these days to just take a piece of music and make a modification to it, do a sample of it or put in a sample from somebody else in it. And you feel that, OK, I made a modification and now I can use it. And then you send it off to somebody, and they use it unknowingly.
And then you run into trouble, and the potential copyright costs for infringement costs, are enormous, up to $150,000 per instance. And with recognition systems today like Shazam and other systems where you can just hold a cell phone up to a TV or something and find your track, it really affords a much easier opportunity for people who are litigious to find infringements, and the risks are great, so you have to be very, very careful.
KENNEALLY: And it really doesn’t matter if you’re a Hollywood studio or if you’re Beyond the Book. Everybody has to respect these rights and make sure they have the proper permissions.
TAYLOR: Right. It’s very, very true. It almost doesn’t matter what you’re using it for. There are some cases which fall under the copyright law in fair use, but those are much fewer than people actually think, and we actually get a bunch of people saying, oh, it’s fair use, it’s fair use, but in reality, it isn’t. So you want to be careful. And the great thing is you don’t have to be a lawyer in order to use library music. You just make a deal. You get access, unlimited access, to the repertoire with one deal the corporation makes, and then you’re free and clear. You’re indemnified and you’re not going to have any copyright infringement problems.
KENNEALLY: And as partners, APM and CCC would seem to have a lot in common. There’s clearly a big difference between music and the kinds of texts that we have so commonly licensed in the past. And it seems to me that what we do share is not only an understanding of the media that we work in but an understanding of the rights issues. And so it’s kind of a natural fit. Why did APM decide that you thought it would be a good partnership for you?
TAYLOR: CCC has an enormous reach into the corporate marketplace and selling to tens of thousands of corporations. We do sell to corporations. We sell a lot to entertainment and ad agencies, thousands of clients across the country. But CCC’s reach is unique. There isn’t anybody else in the business, in the industry, that really has that kind of direct access. And it’s not just access to anything. You’re not selling widgets or cigars or paper or something. You’re selling something that, you’re selling intellectual property. And CCC understands and respects copyright.
And that’s very important for us. We are composer-centric. We believe in composers sharing with us. We respect copyright. It’s an important component of the business and the world and the creative product that people who put their lifeblood and their work into, and we really want to respect that. So we only would have worked with a company that really had an understanding of that and would protect and enhance the value of our copyrights.
KENNEALLY: And beyond that sort of shared understanding about the value of copyright is a shared understanding of the value of metadata, of really getting that right as well. And that’s something that APM does superbly. The differentiator for your search engine is just the way you can really dive deep. And if you’re a producer, you want to find the right – not just any music but the right music.
TAYLOR: There’re a number of different use cases with people looking for music. There are some people who are producing a promo for a show that’s airing in an hour, and they don’t have much time at all. They need to type something in, and they’re not trying to find the best track, they’re trying to find the first track that will work. And so our search engine accommodates that. Then, if you flip it over to, say, film trailers, where you have much, much more time to do it, sometimes a month or two, it’s very, very important that you find the right track, and speed isn’t important. So our engine allows you to dig very, very deeply to narrow your results down with additional searches so that you can find exactly the track that you want.
In order to support that work, we do a lot of work up front, and there are three or four very important components of this, the first one being the what we call a taxonomy, which is the list of terms that we use to describe a track. And we have about 35 different elements and attributes of a track that we use to describe music. Some quick examples would be the genre and the mood and the tempo and the era, the region it’s from and what instruments it contains, and there’s many, many more. So we spend a great deal of time, firstly, creating that structure and then going through all 525,000 or so tracks of ours and tagging them. All of that work was done manually. Every single one of those tracks was listened to, and the tags were chosen and attached to those tracks.
And then once those tags are in there, in the search engine, there’re a set of algorithms that are used to decide which tracks to return and in what sequence. Our job is to deliver a set of relevant results to the user, so we spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to optimize that.
KENNEALLY: Well, we’ve enjoyed the chance to play with some music ourselves here on Beyond the Book, and we’ve enjoyed chatting with Adam Taylor of APM Music. Thanks so much for coming to CCC here in Danvers, Massachusetts and for joining us on our program.
TAYLOR: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center with its subsidiaries RightsDirect in the Netherlands and Ixxus in the United Kingdom. CCC is a global leader in content workflow, document delivery, text and data mining and rights licensing technology. You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at our Website, beyondthebook.com. Our engineer and co-producer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. I’m Christopher Kenneally. Join us again soon on Beyond the Book, and enjoy some of Hal David’s contribution to an album called Pop, Rock & Alternative. The tune is “I Love the Way You Look at Me.”