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Th?nk Media Music in the media...
Stewart Churchill from the Academy of contemporary music recently interviewed Terry Eckersley, founder and CEO of Thinkmediamusic
- How did you first get into composing?
I wrote my first song when I was 18 when I was a singer in a punk band that never really got off the ground, we didn’t even get a name for the band, but I wrote a song called ‘looking for fun’ so that was the first time I composed. Interestingly enough I went back to that about 18 months ago and reworked it and it has now been published worldwide on ‘Monkey Business’, which was interesting and exciting. That was 30 years ago and now its on ITV’s biggest selling wildlife show.
- How did your writing develop from that first track?
I did not then touch writing for a long time, but music has always been a massive part of my life. I really started writing music when I had a vision to write formats for TV shows about four years ago and from that vision I was writing TV shows including the music so that’s how I started again really. Writing theme music for TV shows and I had a couple of songs that I wanted to get placed with artists and we were looking to pitch for Will Young’s last album. But just as that was happening I met a guy who was working in TV, ITV Meridian, and he asked if I wanted to consider pitching some music for ‘Monkey Business’, so I pitched some new theme tunes and incidental music and as soon as he put that music on the show, Discovery Channel international came in a bought the rights, suddenly it became a worldwide smash. It goes out to 140 countries worldwide so it happened really quickly for me.
- So was that the first thing you pitched?
Yes and it was ITV’s biggest selling TV show so that was really amazing. Some people say that could have been a lucky break and I am very lucky but I define luck as years of preparation meeting a moment of opportunity. I also created that opportunity because I created a network of media people in Southampton and I was determined to make something happen so I was heading that up and that’s what came out of it.
I was writing the TV programs and a director was helping me make the treatments, then I got involved with quite a famous music producer who came in and did a couple of co-writes with me. Then I told him of the opportunity for ‘Monkey Business’ and he said it's another of your wacky ideas and he didn’t have time unless he was paid. So I then hired a studio and did it myself and subsequently got the job.
- Are you still getting revenue from that now?
Yes, I will talk you through the story. I was fortunate enough to have music placed on ITV and I had the head of music ring me up and say we have never heard of ‘Think Media Music’ and I said you would not have because we are only registered as writers so far. So I went the other way round, I got my music placed registered as an artist and then registered as a publishing company. I have been getting revenue from the MCPS and PRS for ‘Monkey Business’ for the UK and Channel Islands but as yet have had no international royalties. I am hoping that this July we are going to get our international royalties and that is a big revenue stream, from 140 countries worldwide. One of the people I have found very inspirational and a wonderful guy is writer and producer Mark Hill who liked my work and encouraged me. I remember him telling me that after he got his Ivor Novello awards he had to get off the train three stops away and walk the rest of the way to his house because he could not afford the ticket. This was because he had no revenue even though his album was triple platinum and a worldwide smash.
- So how long ago was monkey business?
The first show was about three years ago and we are still waiting for international royalties but they will be through this year definitely.
Was think media music set up as a publisher so you could keep control of your music? Did you try to sign to other publishers?
I did actually because I wanted money to develop the company. I tried vaguely to get a deal with Mark Hill’s publishing company, signed to Warner Chapell and we very well could have done because of the catalogue we had. I already had three or four albums and now we have 50. We didn’t get anywhere with that but I didn’t really aggressively push it and I am glad now because we own all our publishing.
- You also do voice over and radio work, have you found that beneficial to making contacts and finding more music work?
I think so; everything is beneficial in making contacts and getting more work. Any door that opens I will go through it, people have said of me that I don’t see closed doors, any opportunity there is I will seize it.
- Have you found that the most opportunities have come from networking, capitalizing on relationships?
Definitely, relationship is everything, cultivation and establishing them in life. If you have done that people want to work with you, honouring people, treating them well, being respectful, kind. My vision for TV media and music was to come in and start making kindness fashionable again. A lot of people say the music business is ‘dog eat dog’ and people stab you in the back. There is an element of that, it’s the way of the world but you don’t have to go with that flow. I treat people fairly, people who are signed to us get a better commission of publishing than anywhere else, we do a 70/30 spit where normally it’s 50/50. We honor and treat our people right, we develop them as writers, and we buy them kit when we have the money. We honour people in the industry and treat them well, we give them what they want on time, on budget and will do things very fairly. That’s the way we have established this business.
- Is think media music run as more as a library or is there a lot of bespoke writing as well?
We do commissions, we did on for an airline ‘Owners Air’ that’s one we have also done them for dreaming fish productions, gadgetpens.com. We do bespoke all the time but we are continuing to develop our library, our vision is to have 500 albums then 5000, to be the biggest media music library in the world.
- Do your commissions come through as briefs?
Yes as a brief, to be honest we have not registered with people like ‘song link’ or ‘cuesheet’ for one reason, we have been too busy. We have been developing our library and our company so we have not needed to. At some stage it would be good to get briefs through but we have not been getting generic briefs. The ones we have had have been specific and they come through contacts and our website.
- How do you approach a brief?
The way I personally write is to work with phrases. I will ask what style is required, Owners air wanted ‘Ocean Drive by the lighthouse family which would have been difficult and expensive to acquire so I suggested we write something in that vibe. So I will visualize/harmonize that melody and then I will use key phrases, key words that the client wants in their brief. I find words very melodic, even your questions here; I get a melody form a word, a title, that’s how I write.
- You work full time, how much time do you find to write?
I have not written for a couple of months, but I could do, it’s not a time constraint. I have been busy with other projects at the minute. Like any other successful creative person or entrepreneur is you have to maximize your time. I don’t watch TV but I write music for TV, I am very focused and positive with my time. The last couple of months I have been working on my book that has been published. Be strong on yourself in your diary to get time when you are going to write. I think for a creative person or any visionary person it is important not to get bogged down by junk. Time is precious, if you can get in the habit of maximizing your time that’s when you start to become successful.
- You tend to write albums for your library, do they have specific themes/concepts?
Yes, what we want to do is write albums in every theme possible so that’s what were doing. At first it was everything to do with wildlife music and documentaries from every country, vibe and genre. Now we are developing out to TV advertising, film themes, extreme sports, title music and incidental.
- How would you differ an extreme sports piece form a wildlife documentary?
Tempo, its rocky, vibey maybe a bit grungy. Different instrumentation as well, we use all live instruments all recorded in a studio using a mixture of sampling and both software and hardware. The first time I played recorder since school on a track called ‘ See no Evil’ and that track went worldwide on Monkey Business as well.
- Do you do different mixes of your library tracks?
Yes we did initially but now we do all those mixes and put them on a full track. If people want different bits they chop it up themselves. It takes a lot of time to that so we have stopped.
- Have you found any styles/genres to be more successful than others?
Because we landed monkey business we became specialists in that and we have 20 tracks looping around the world as we speak. We did produce a big portion of our library for wildlife documentaries. We have a very strong brand and product and now we just need to keep getting it out there. We have now moved into the advertisement for Owners Air and other adverts.
- Where do your leads generate? Are people contacting you or are you chasing leads down?
No, I don’t have time to chase stuff down but we are developing a team of people, a culture, a vision of people who are doing that. The answer is vision and conviction, it brings movement and that gets stuff placed.
- Any advice to an upcoming composer?
The advice is to write stuff that is coming out of your own life, so it has depth and feeling. If it is for the library obviously you are not vocalizing that but the music speaks for itself. Get around some other good singer songwriters and get some good advice. Study the fundamental laws of success which are irrefutable and work hard. Vision, hard work, delegation, team, integrity, kindness, weave those traits into what you are doing. Learn from others and read about other composers and producers, that will inspire you and you will learn from that. Believe that you are awesome and think that if someone else can do it then why cant I?
Think Media Music, music for film music, TV Music, production music, library music, advertising music, theme music, and website music.