Production Music Camp

   Last week I attended a 3-day workshop in London, jointly organised by Media Tracks and Tileyard X which was all about production music. 


What is production music?  

It can be albums of music in the style of (whatever is required), sometimes referred to as library music, which can be used in film, TV and advertising. Sometimes it is commissioned and sometimes it is available in a library, but may be tweaked to fit new briefs. This is a summary of my experience of a 3 day camp/workshop which, as far as I know, was the first of its kind. It was an intro into the world of production music, as well as being an opportunity to create music with people you’ve never met before. 


Day 1: 

I was travelling from Bristol so had an early start (5am!) and a train journey to London, I'm a Londoner and always enjoy visiting. On the first day, we had some introductions to production music and learnt about the different formats required - a stinger (5-10 seconds) 15, 30 second and 60 second cutdowns, as well as the full track and an underscore (vocals/main instrument removed). We were put into groups and given a choice of briefs to work from in different styles. We started making our first track and decided on “Dream pop”. Our group had a producer, composer and two singer songwriters and myself - I normally perform a bit of all of these roles and found it a little difficult to know where to put myself, but just tried to contribute to the general process. As a person with Inattentive ADHD and a natural introvert, I did find it hard to keep up with the pace of the progress of our track. Our producer worked really quickly, which I admired, but because I had been expecting to have to do the production myself, I wasn’t exactly prepared for songwriting or singing in a room of people.  The two singer-songwriters had amazing voices which really complimented each other, and I felt a bit weird trying to insert myself into something where it wasn’t exactly necessary. I feel strongly that we should always “serve the song” but having reflected on the whole experience, I realise that in these situations you are also supposed to be showcasing what you can do, and if you’re not doing anything except encouraging other people…well that’s not great for own your career is it?! It was a good if exhausting day, propped up  by excellent coffee and lunch at the Vinyl cafe. In the evening, I met a friend for dinner (Vegan pepperoni) at Happy Face Pizza in King's Cross and got some sleep ready for another day of collaboration.  


Day 2: 

We started by waiting for the producer of our group to come in, which I think could have been remedied by having a shared folder for the group projects, available to everyone in the group. We were given talks about PRS/PRO’s, as the agreement often differs for production music and about how important registering is.  As a group, were assigned the red studio, which was lovely and had a whole separate piano/recording room. We managed to finish the first track; I edited some vocals for timing (something I do as my main paid work) and I had a meeting with a new ADHD coach and came back feeling energised, while we started a second track - an electro pop track for a fashion ad.  This time I felt able to add some small vocal riffs which could have equally been played on an instrument but they were kept as vocal ideas, and I also added in vocal stacks of some parts already written, which helped thicken the vocal sound in places. I felt better for having contributed something tangible and used some of my skills. I had a very pleasant evening with a vegan burger and chips from beer + burger near my hotel, which incidentally was a Premier Inn Hub and was fine - I’d stay again. I've got a soft spot for the Kings Cross area as I used to get the train to Enfield from there and cor blimey has it ever changed. 


Day 3:  

On the final day, we learnt about the importance of tagging and Metadata and had a great talk from Marcel Pusey about his experiences in production music as head of the MediaTracks World division. Again, we had a bit of waiting for a few hours, which was frustrating, but as we’d made such good progress the previous two days, it didn’t seem to worry the group.  When we are all together again, there was some talk of a third track but I felt we’d be better off mixing the first two tracks well, as they’d be played later alongside the other groups at a listening party and it would be amazing if they were as polished as possible- I would have loved to have delivered our tracks in the 15/30/60/underscore format too. Extra vocal parts were added and some small production/mixing was done and then we were left to bounce the tracks out for a deadline of 4pm.  We were the last group to hand in our project and therefore the last to be played, which was tricky for me as I had to catch a 6.30pm coach back to Bristol. I needed an hour to get to Victoria coach station from Tileyard, and luckily our tracks finished playing at 5.35pm so I pegged it just after our songs had been played and received some feedback-  I made the coach with 5 minutes to spare! I didn’t get a chance to talk with anyone after because of having to leave, but I think the feedback was positive and I feel there is the potential of our tracks to be signed to MediaTracks.  


Always be prepared for any kind of collaborative work, especially when you wear many hats - for example, I had set up some production templates and had some effect chains ready but as there was a producer who worked really quickly I wasn’t prepared for wearing my other hats and having to come up with vocal ideas and actually  wasn’t vocally warmed up at all. Next time I think I’d sharpen all my tools and be a little more assertive about my own contributions. 

 I found it hard to wait around and to not be able to work on the project without some people being present. While I think this could have been potentially solved by the organisers, i.e. having a shared folder system which everyone needed to put their files in at the end of the day, it was hard to know what to do in this situation and how to handle it. I tried to download the software and learn how to use the desks/set up in each of the rooms, but it was hard to progress on a group project without the project files/plugins or all the group members on board. 

 Sometimes when working with many others it is hard to know what is going on in the moment, but it’s made me realise that perhaps establishing some group rules at the start and having a conversation about everyone’s abilities and areas of expertise first, rather than just launching in, would probably be beneficial to the group dynamics. 

Overall, it was a really positive learning experience. It was great to meet other people and have the opportunity to learn about production music, which in the past, has not always had a great rep, but actually has a high bar for entry in terms of quality and in the abilities of the composers/producers/artists to deftly adapt their work to suit a clients needs. 

It was a pleasure to watch other people create and to observe how the producer in our group moved so quickly to create a vibe to build on and had everything set up to work at speed. True democratic collaboration can sometimes be a slow process and I think there is some middle ground there in letting people extend their expertise in different areas and in holding back at times to allow others to shine. 

On the other hand, it was also useful to reflect on my own process and how if you want to collaborate in real time with people (something which was lacking over the pandemic) you need to cultivate a certain amount of openness. It is imperative to be able to find some personal comfort to access your own creativity in physical and social environments which are not familiar to you. All more difficult when neurodivergent of course but certainly possible. 

 I’m hoping to submit the work we did together to Media Tracks for consideration for their library, but also my own work too. It’s exciting to have another potential revenue stream to explore! Let me know if you found this interesting. 

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