Frequently Asked Questions

I am predominantly a music composer/producer for film & t.v. (or any medium, really). I am also an experienced sound designer and music/audio/dialogue editor as well as being an apt MAX/MSP Programmer. I mix music, and, in certain circumstances, I mix films and t.v. shows.

In recent years, I've expanded into screenwriting and film producing, both of which are skills that are aided by my 15 years of experience as a professional composer, as well as my numerous years on set prior to that. I also find both of these skills feed back into, and improve, my abilities as a composer, and vice-versa.

It all comes back to the same thing: I love telling stories, literal or abstract, through music, visuals, words, and even through budgeting and scheduling.
Your composer is an essential part of your key creative team, and should be brought on board as early as possible!  The more time you give your composer, the more time there is hone in on the right sound for your production.

It's important to consider what method suits your production best, as this will influence when a composer should be engaged. If you want your composer to '
score to picture', your composer needs a locked picture to truly begin scoring. That said, your composer will want as much prep time as possible prior to that to get inspired, research, play with ideas, learn the director's/producer's creative language, gather source, strategize, schedule, deal with paperwork, etc.. Personally, I prefer to (schedule and budget permitting) start working as early as commencement of principal photography so that I may be influenced by the creative discussions that go on between others, and so that by the time I actually begin composing to picture, I know exactly what the music needs to convey.

If your project requires a '
music library', then you should hire your composer several weeks before editing begins, to allow for them to do the necessary prep work listed above, and still have enough time to compose a good quantity of tracks for you to get started with. Most composers can average between 1 - 3 tracks per day while creating a library, so keep this in mind when scheduling and selecting a composer.
There are two common approaches to bringing music to a production: writing a Score (i.e. scoring to picture), and creating a Music Library. Both methods are very effective, but certain types of productions tend to favour certain methods.

Dramatic productions are generally best served by scoring to picture. In other words, the editor and director work together to cut the film, and then, once that is complete, the composer, working from a locked cut, creates a frame accurate score that specifically supports the action and timings as they exist in the finished product.

In some circumstances however, a
music library is preferable. This means that the composer creates banks of more generic music in a variety of styles and moods (preferably before editing begins), which the director and editors pick and choose from to set the pace of the cut. This is very common in Reality/ Lifestyle and even some Documentary genres, in which the specifics of th story might not fully exist until after the footage has been shot and edited.

Some projects will use a combination of both - for example, it's common on Reality / Lifestyle projects for the composer to create the library of music before editing begins, and then create episode specific music cues as production continues.

Alternatively, many dramatic series that are technically scored to picture, may find that by the third or fourth episode, previous music cues may be reused and treated as library.

If you are unclear as to which situation best suits your project, consult with a composer. Both methods are effective, but require different post-production scheduling. Make your decision early enough that your composer can give you the best quality music, no matter which route you go.
Every single production is unique.  There are many variables that can affect a budget, including (but not limited to):  genre, instrumentation, schedule, licensing and/or publishing requirements, and intended broadcast mediums.

I am aware that production budgets can vary greatly, and I always try to be flexible, billing appropriately for the project and clients. Your best bet is to
contact me, let me know your specifics, and I’m happy to provide you with a quote.
Again, every single production is different. Certain styles of music are more labour intensive, certain projects require more research, and sometimes unique situations arise that need to be accommodated. There are general turn-around standards that should be adhered to, and both the composer and the producers should keep this in mind while scheduling and discussing expectations.

Composing music is not an exact science, and the only way to know if a piece of music is finished is when all involved parties agree that it is done. Again, your best bet is to
contact me to discuss your specifics.
Music ownership is divided into 2 halves: the composer’s share, and the publisher’s share. The composer generally always retains the right to be referred to as such (and to collect the royalties associated with being the composer), but that's about all being the composer grants you - it is the publisher who controls the rights to the music and can dictate where, when, how, and by whom the music gets used by.

By default (in Canadian Law), the composer and the publisher are the same person (or people). However, there are certain circumstances in which a third party may wish to purchase the publisher’s share, and therefore, effectively control the rights to the music.  In my experience, most people who feel they want to 'own the publishing' really mean that they want to 'license the music in perpetuity' (i.e. not have to pay further costs for the music down the road).

So, do you need to own publishing or will a license-in-perpetuity suffice?  Start by asking yourself this basic question: “Do I own a Publishing Company?”  If the answer is “NO”, then you probably don’t need to own publishing.

The terms of license are flexible and can be mutually decided upon between producer and composer/publisher during contract negotiations.
In most cases, NO!

There are different kinds of royalties associated with music usage, but the kind that is most often applicable in the film & t.v. production industry are Broadcast Royalties. These are NOT paid by producers and production companies - these are paid by the broadcasters, who, as part of their broadcast license, are required to pay a performance rights society a fee that gets distributed to the appropriate composers & publishers.

All you need to do, as a producer, is to make sure that accurate
cue sheets are filled out, approved by all parties, and submitted to the correct performance rights society (i.e SOCAN, BMI, ASCAP, PRS, etc.) Consult with your composer(s) to find out who they are registered with.
The simple answer: YES.

There is a lot of confusion about this topic, and understandably so - music is everywhere, and it becomes so intertwined with our lives and experiences that it's hard to comprehend that it actually doesn't belong to you (unless, of course, you've composed it or purchased the publishing). Whether we realize it or not, in most other circumstances, the music you are hearing has been licensed by you, or by someone else on your behalf (the notable exception to this is with
Public Domain music or recordings).

There is often confusion around certain circumstances. For example, there is an common urban myth that you are allowed to use up to 7 seconds of a track without licensing it. This is simply not true. Also, some filmmakers are under the belief that if their film is only destined for festivals, then they don't need to license the music. Also not true. If you are redistributing someone else's intellectual property, you need to license it. Period.

What may be true, is that, in those circumstances (and others), the owners of the publishing may choose to charge you a reduced rate (or not at all) for using their song, but, you still have to acquire that license. What may also be true, is that the owners of the publishing may turn a blind eye to their music being used without permission, but this is at their discretion. For example, many artists truly
don't care if a kid uploads a video to YouTube of themselves singing or lip-synching to one of their tracks. But many do.

It's also important to note that music exists in different states. These days, the two most common are in the form of the song itself (i.e. a series of notes, chords, tones, etc., that, when put together, are uniquely identifiable), as well as recordings of that song. These are NOT the same entity. If you wish to use an existing recording, you will actually have to license not just the song, but also the recording. To be clear, you need permission to use either. It's another urban myth that you can record your own version of a song and not have to pay licensing fees.

It is extremely expensive and labour intensive to compose and produce music. It costs tens of thousands of dollars just to own or rent the equipment necessary to create broadcast quality music (not to mention the tens of thousands of hours necessary to become proficient at doing so).

Please respect the artists enough to seek permission to use their music. Most will be extremely flexible and will be happy to work with you no matter what your budget is.
When I founded Squarewave Music almost 15 years ago, it was the perfect brand for what I was doing at the time.  The bulk of my work was in electronic music genres, and the Squarewave Music brand attracted and appealed to that clientele.

I have since found that being perceived as a company instead of as an individual has lead to some confusion amongst potential clients. Some weren't clear if Squarewave Music offered original composition and production, or if it was just simply a music library or label. This was complicated by the fact that my reel features extremely diverse musical styles, and some folks found it hard to imagine that the same composer could create glitchy dubsteb as authentically as orchestral scores or solo piano meditations. Hopefully rebranding as an individual instead of as a company will help to clear some of that up.
No.  I’m not.  Sorry. (Please note the middle initial "S." in my name). And while I’m happy to read your script and send you notes (providing it doesn’t interfere with my professional or personal schedule), I’m in no position to offer you a million dollars for that hot new action script you’ve penned. Sorry.