Production Music Conference Delves Into Gender Equality, Shares Creative Insights
Tyler Bates on stage during the keynote session of the Production Music Conference on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018.
PMA honors excellence within production music industry with 4th annual Mark Awards
  • HOLLYWOOD, Calif.
  • --

The issue of gender equality came up unexpectedly in one session and as anticipated in another during the course of the Production Music Association’s (PMA) three-day Production Music Conference which wraps today (9/28) in Hollywood.

A Thursday morning keynote session set the tone in part as Variety’s Jon Burlingame interviewed composer, multi-instrumentalist , songwriter and record producer Tyler Bates who reflected on his extensive movie work, which includes scoring for the Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool and John Wick franchises. Bates noted that he has composed for and scored 70-plus features thus far in his prolific career--and only one of those films, this year’s release The Spy Who Dumped Me, was directed by a woman, Susanna Fogel. Bates said he enjoyed the experience, would like to collaborate again with Fogel as well as hopefully with more female filmmakers.

While it wasn’t until his 72nd feature that Bates got the opportunity to team with a woman director, that woeful gender ratio sadly extends to composing ranks as well, according to Christy Carew, composer and music director at 5 Alarm Music. Carew, a panelist at the early Thursday afternoon Production Music Conference session, “Women in Production Music: Styles, Strategies and Survival,” cited a USC Annenberg study which annually reports on the number of female directors in a given year’s 100 highest grossing box office films. In 2015, the USC Annenberg research expanded into the number of female composers. Carew noted that in 2017, out of 100-plus composers for top box office films, only one was a woman--Rachel Portman. Carew noted that it took the extraordinary accomplishments of Portman to break through the ranks. Portman is a three-time Oscar nominee, winning for her score for Emma in 1997, and nominated in later years for The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.

Carew added that there are qualified female composers in the marketplace. She herself is one of some 300 members in the Alliance For Women Film Composers. Furthermore Carew noted that there were a number of women selected for the highly competitive Sundance Institute Film Music and Sound Design Lab which took place this summer at Skywalker Sound. She was one of the select group chosen by Sundance and BMI for that Lab.

Production Music Conference session panelist Alicen Schneider, head of music at NBCUniversal Television, noted that she rarely gets female composer submissions--perhaps in part because agents have not proactively supported having women composers on their rosters. Schneider said she and her counterparts have had to request female talent in order to help build some momentum for gender equality--but even at that there’s a shortage of name talent akin to the drawing power of someone like Bates, for example.

Still the Women In Production Music session panelists themselves underscored that females have made major inroads into the production music industry. Representing the power of inclusion and pushing for more industry diversity are panelists Carew; Schneider; Karen Falzone, founder of Mostly Music; Heidi Narholz, CEO of the preeminent music library SONOTON, and discussion moderator Cassie Lord, founder of 5 Alarm Music.

Creative process
Keynoter Bates shared insights into his creative process, the nature of which varies from project to project. For example, The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise calls for the atypical practice of his writing a fair amount of music before shooting, spurred on by director James Gunn on the first and second installments of the franchise. (The Walt Disney Co. dismissed Gunn from directing the third Guardians film after old controversial tweets of his resurfaced.) 

Bates noted that for the second Guardians film, actors had earbuds on set so that they could listen to the music to help shape in part their performances. Bates explained that “the language of the music for Guardians is specific” to those films and that Gunn wanted performers to move and act to that music accordingly.

Bates related that his approach to the soundscape for a film is to craft work that is “specific to the story and the storyteller,” meaning he has to be in tune with and understand the storyteller’s perspective and the unique way he or she expresses emotions for that story. Bates said he could write the coolest sounding music “but if it’s not aligned with the sensibilities of his collaborators,” the score won’t work in terms of properly advancing and conveying the story.

Furthermore, Bates observed that directors evolve as one project informs another. “Directors are growing exponentially with every film,” he said. So even when he’s worked with someone before, Bates doesn’t assume that he knows thoroughly where his collaborator is at. “I never walk in thinking, ‘I’ve got this,” said Bates, who looks to see how a storyteller has grown and changed in order to best work with him or her in crafting a score.

Bates is immersed in a wide range of work. He currently is scoring for an undisclosed video game, continues to score an episode a week for TV series The Purge and The Punisher, is co-composing for John Wick 3, and is collaborating with a couple of other recording artists on album projects. Earlier this year, he again went on tour as a guitarist with Marilyn Manson.

Mark Awards
The PMA, the advocacy group for the $1-billion a year global production music industry, announced and honored winners of the Fourth Annual Mark Awards, which celebrate excellence within the production music industry. The awards ceremony kicked off the 5th annual Production Music Conference on Wednesday (9/26) evening in Hollywood.

During the 2018 Mark Awards ceremonies, Sam Trust received the PMA’s Hall of Fame Award. Trust entered the music business in 1958 at BMI, where he rose through the ranks to executive director of publisher relations. In 1969, he was named president of Beechwood Music Corporation (Capitol/EMI’s U.S. publishing company), where he achieved numerous hits and BMI’s top performing song.  In 1971, he established Trust Music Management, and in 1973 was named president of the newly formed ATV Music Corporation, was later named chief executive for ATV Music Group worldwide in 1982, and served in that capacity until 1985. In 1986, he became president and CEO of Lorimar Music Division, and three years later created and was president of Killer Tracks--the company was sold to BMG in 1997. Currently, Trust is retired in Carmel, Calif.

Also during the 2018 Mark Awards ceremonies, Karen Takata, VP, music, at CBS Corporation, accepted the PMA’s Ambassador Award.

Here’s a rundown of the 2018 Mark Awards winners:

Best Cover Art
Designer: Ryo Ishido Brighton
Composer: Devin Powers
Company: Powers Music

Best Production Music Library Folk Artist
Nik Freitas
Library Catalog: 5 Alarm Music
Production Library: 5 Alarm Music

Best Production Music Library Hip Hop-Urban Artist
Library Catalog: VALO Artists
Production Library: Warner/Chappell Production Music

Best Production Music Library Jazz Artist
Gordon Goodwin & Dan Savant
Library Catalog: 5 Alarm Music
Production Library: 5 Alarm Music

Best Production Music Library Pop/Rock Artist
Library Catalog: A-List Records
Production Library: A-List Records

Best Production Music Track - Ambient
Tori Ross
Composer: Devin Powers
Library Catalog: Ambient Uplifting Guitar
Production Library: Powers Music

Best Production Music Track - Country
I’ll Get to Dance With the Devil
Composers: Daniel Braunstein, Edward Wohl
Library Catalog: Sonoton
Production Library: APM Music

Best Production Music Track - Dark/Mysterious/Investigative
In Solemnity
Composers: Eric Alexander Tannery, Jeffrey Fayman, Yoav Goren
Library Catalog: Immediate Music
Production Library: BMG Production Music

Best Production Music Track - EDM
Feel So High
Composer: Vermair (SACEM)
Library Catalog: Megatrax
Production Library: Megatrax Music

Best Production Music Track - Film Trailer
Breathtaking Journey
Composers: Alastair Adams, Max McGuire
Library Catalog: Cinemasounds Trailer Music
Production Library: 5 Alarm Music

Best Production Music Track - Folk
Composers: Jennifer Jordan, Tom Hillock, David Krutten
Library Catalog: Justement Music
Production Library: APM Music

Best Production Music Track - Hip Hop/Urban
Composers: Christopher Walters, Spencer Bensch
Library Catalog: Pop Machine
Production Library: APM Music

Best Production Music Track - Jazz
Blues for Bix
Composer: Stan Laferriere
Library Catalog: Cezame
Production Library: Cezame Music Agency / APM Music

Best Production Music Track - Wildcard
Tongue Tied
Composers: Grace Savage, Ben Cartwright
Library Catalog: No Sheet Music Publishing
Production Library: No Sheet Music

Best Production Music Track - Vocal
700 People
Composers: Eric Starczan, Ashley Clark
Library Catalog: Justement Music
Production Library: APM Music

Best Use of Production Music in Theme Song for TV Program
Reaching for the Pinnacle
Composer: Andrew Gross
Library Catalog: Konsonant Music
Production Library: Bulletproof Bear

Best Use of Production Music in Commercial Advertisement
New Skoda Karoq
Composers: Janmaat, Mathias, Boyd, Lenka
Library Catalog: Blue Scout Music
Production Library: Blue Scout Music

Best Use of Production Music in Theatrical/Video Game Trailer
The Inquisitor
Composer: Inon Zur
Library Catalog: X-Ray Dog
Production Library: BMG Production Music

Best Use of Production Music in On-Air Promo
Composer: William Werwath
Library Catalog: MODULES
Production Library: VideoHelper

Best Use of Production Music in Online-Digital Advertising
Han Kjøbenhavn - “SS18 Men”
Composers: Zdenek Bartak, Asger Wilde, Peter Rockwell, Saul Guanipa
Library Catalog: Standard Music / StereoRoyal / VideoHelper
Production Library: Standard Music / StereoRoyal / VideoHelper

Best Production Music Library Country Artist
Brett Boyett
Library Catalog: Megatrax
Production Library: Megatrax Music

Best Production Music Library Indie/Vocal Artist
Gem and the Deadheads
Library Catalog: West One Music
Production Library: West One Music Group

Best Production Music Track - World
Rompiendo Fronteras (Breaking Walls)
Composers: Belinda Marie Robles, Francisco Ruiz
Library Catalog: Sensación
Production Library: Megatrax Music

Best Production Music Track - Orchestral
The Inquisitor
Composer: Inon Zur
Library Catalog: X-Ray Dog
Production Library: BMG Production Music

Best Production Music Track - Pop/Rock
In My Head
Composers: Glenn Eddie Meul, Vince Peersman
Library Catalog: Sprint Edge
Production Library: Warner/Chappell Production Music / Studio Fontána

Hall of Fame Award
Sam Trust

Ambassador Award
Karen Takata


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