Sarah chatting with Mark Gordon (Score Draw Music & SCGI member) as well as Chris Banks and Wag Marshall-Page (composing duo Banks & Wag)
I’m a musician’s enabler living in Bray.
Physical music >>View Video>>
I used to work in band management and artist management. I worked primarily with Kíla which my now partner, Rónán Ó Snodaigh, is a member of. I had worked with them from about 2002 to about 2011 and that really straddled the years where physical music stopped holding value. The value of music disintegrated in front of our eyes; certainly the value of music as produced by an independent band of folk/world musicians like Kíla.
I found it really devastating. It took me a few years to realise the burnout that came from that. Suddenly something that had value – making an album had such meaning and there was such a process about it – suddenly it just disintegrated a little bit. Watching RMG slowly fold and our partners, we had distribution partners in Australia and Japan and France and Spain and across the BENELUX and America who were friends, people you would meet up with… just watching them go out of business one by one was really devastating and that was what was happening.
In the meantime then, this excitement around this digital revolution… I don’t think it really came to fruition for artists. We would have gone via our UK distributor quite early into online and selling via iTunes. Getting those first distribution statements in and looking at these stacks of pages that added up to like 50 quid or something… oh my God, for me that was a challenging time.
I love the idea of cottage industries, I love the idea of creators being able to make something and sell it and engage with their audience directly and not have to be dependent on grants or have to compromise in order to attract funding… to watch that slowly get pulled away and not replaced by this big promise of the democratic digital playground that was to come, I found it upsetting and I felt depressed.
How did I overcome it? I moved down to Kerry for a year with Rónán and that was a big change. In lots of ways you use family to distract from career. I think of all the jobs I’ve ever done and being a mother is full on. I think when I went to Kerry for that year I tried to be maybe a stay at home mum or a housekeeper… oh my God I never failed so miserably, so abjectly in my life, so in one way I’ll keep working to keep me away from that role!
I did a course in music supervision with Berkeley College. I was thinking, “Well here’s an area where music will retain value; through audio visual and content.” It’s something I’ve always been really personally creatively interested in.
Watcher of films and TV >>View Video>>
When you’re working as a manager and an agent and you’re trying to support a career and really help the creators reach their audience, it’s like nearly being a gardener; you’re just helping in the growing process. You’re not growing yourself so maybe I had to replace that with my own creativity – I found a voice for that through music supervision.
I really love when music is well placed, I really love what music adds to stories and adds to my enjoyment as a watcher of films and TV. I’ve always loved music, I love the atmosphere that it can create or the way it can support you in your emotions. I’ve one or two maybe go-to albums – if a friend calls over after having a fight with their fella I just put them on and go, “Here you go, this is gonna help this conversation”. I love that and I love how music makes people dance and move their body. So that was my way of finding my own creative expression and to look somewhere I wasn’t being reminded at such an extent how the value of music was being lost or what I saw as kind of a burning of a city that I loved in a way.
People love to talk about resilience, this period in my life did help me acquire resilience. It’s hard to unweave what parts of my life had grown with motherhood – I had another two kids in that time and I already had a 10 year old boy then. I dunno if it’s age or wisdom but I think you get a little more accepting along the way.
The positives? >>View Video>>
I think the biggest hit we’ve all taken is relevance. When our credible, busy, little exciting woven lives have suddenly been completely dismantled at the snap of a finger, it’s hard to know where your relevance is so my advice and my advice for the guild, for our members, was to take this as an opportunity to do some homework to prepare, not to feel like all is lost, woe is me – to find the positives and really go with them.
So what are the positives? The positives are you have more time at home, there’s less travel so what can you do? You can go through all your publishing registrations, make sure everything is up to date, collect any monies that are owed to you. Learn a new skill, this is a brilliant time to learn a new skill, it may be music related, it may be completely non-music related.
Something even better >>View Video>>
To me it’s really awful but it’s also very exciting when plans are thrown aside. In music supervision, for example if a director really wants a track and you can’t license it because it’s in dispute or something, the consequence of that can lead to a much deeper mining of what the creative function of that song was, so then you can end up with something even better in place.
So I would say to live musicians if you’re left feeling that you’re bereft of purpose, identify with what other purposes you would like to have in life. What else do you want your music to do? How can you build those foundations? What can you learn?
Picture in my head >>View Video>>
I kind of have a picture in my head that there should be much, much more Irish composers’ work on the international film and TV scene. I have this picture because I think we have incredible talent here and we have incredible performers, we’re rich in imagination and creativity. To me it’s a frustration that we’re not there so this is part of why I’ve gone down this route of getting involved in trying to support industry in this way. It’s something I feel like I’ve observed and I wanted to lend my skills to it for the moment and I hope it will become something on its own; it will develop its own legs and we’ll be talking about great film composers who came from Ireland in 50 years time and female composers as well as male. I can see this picture and it’s so annoying until we achieve it.
As a music supervisor
How do I get music synced? Make it brilliant, make it findable, and know your rights. If somebody rings you and asks you to license a track, know who owns your music, make sure it’s you if you can but somebody else might own the masters side. As a music supervisor that can be a reason why we don’t license it because it becomes too complicated or you can’t find the contact numbers for people so even in this day and age of mass social media you’d be surprised at how difficult it can sometimes be to identify who the right person is to talk to.
I’d encourage everyone to engage with IMRO as much as they can on how their works are managed. Make sure all your registration details are up to date, make sure you’re putting in for any time if your music is used under the blanket license; make sure you let IMRO know so that you can collect anything. It’s important that musicians understand how those funding streams work.
On my list
For the guild we are working with producers to create a best practice formula which will hopefully help enrich the working environment for composers which will lead to better creative outcomes so it will only enrich the quality of the music that’s coming out.
I wanna go to LA and check out this new Screen Ireland office and get them selling Irish composers over there, that’s on my list. I hope film festivals will come back and we can keep working and putting on events.
Look out for
There are a good few film releases that you should look out for. Kíla my old band and my partner’s, they have composed for Wolfwalkers with a French composer, Bruno Coulais. They’re also involved in Arracht – that’s longlisted in the Oscars which is Kíla’s own work. There are a lot of great composers working in animation in Ireland Darren Hendley just scored Angela’s Christmas Wish and he also does Octonauts, Giles Packham, Mark Gordon, Anna Rice, Jonathan Casey are just some composers growing with the animation industry here.
We have Stephen Rennicks who composed on Normal People he’s also worked on Death Of A Ladies’ Man which is a really gorgeous film with Gabriel Byrne – it uses songs of Leonard Cohen to tell a story.
Bill Whelan’s got Riverdance, the animated story. I’m dying to see how that works out. I’m so in awe of Bill, he’s got so much energy and is really into what he does. That’s gonna be phenomenal.
Sarah Lynch and Natasa Paulberg are working on two different documentary series’ for Irish TV. They are both composers to watch, I think they’re both going to go very far.
Brian Crosby who was of Bell XI has a new album coming out. I really wanna hear that.
George Brennan who composed for Extra Ordinary has something coming out as well there’s a lot of great activity.
Remember, if you’re a member of the Irish creative industry, you can talk to a counsellor free of charge at any time of the day or night. Simply call the phone number below.