CD Baby artist Glass Pear has had a recent string of TV placements for his self-released music. Greys Anatomy, Bones, Vampire Diaries, 90210, One Tree Hill, and the new show Missing (starring Ashley Judd)– the usual suspects when it comes to licensing catchy pop, rock, and folk-pop tunes from independent artists.
On top of earning him licensing money and performance royalties, these placements have helped Glass Pear sell 30K iTunes downloads to new fans. How did all of this sync-buzz come about? I asked Glass Pear’s Yestyn a few questions about that process. Here’s what he had to say (and be sure to read his advice in the middle of the interview on how to turn a sync placement into sales):
Tell us a little bit about your musical life and sound?
As far back as I can remember there was music playing in my house. My dad would play Dylan, the Byrds, the Beatles on an acoustic. My three older sisters (one of whom is the singer Jem) were big fans of the Pixies, the Smiths, Depeche Mode and Stevie Wonder. All those artists come out of the pop tradition from different angles – they all have a love for great melody, for the art and power of songwriting, for the hook.
So that’s what sunk in at an early age and got me into artists like Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, David Bowie, the Beach Boys, early Coldplay, Blur and a lot of other British indie pop. I’m sure all of that has weaved its way into my songwriting.
On my newest album I wanted to bring a lot more rhythm into the music. That’s a reflection of getting into electronic artists like Trentmoller and the Prodigy. I’m not the type of artist to make album after album of the same thing. I always like to be exploring new horizons.
You’ve self-released your music on your own label. What challenges has that posed? (And what were the potential solutions?)
The conflict is really that there is not enough time in the day to do everything!
Part of me pulls in the direction of just wanting to create all the time. The problem with that is I wouldn’t be able to feed myself if I didn’t do all the business admin that makes sure the money comes in.
So I solve that by dedicating periods to doing the business side of things and promotions. And then when I’m writing I generally won’t do too much business.
I don’t always find the right balance and I’m looking at ways right now to outsource accounting and promotions to other people.
Promotions (digital and print press, online networking, getting radio play, organising touring) really is the time eater so I think the only solution in the long run is to find the right partner outside to hire and at the same time carefully manage budgets so the label survives.
What were the obvious pluses to going DIY?
One of the areas that isn’t talked about much anymore is artist development. Artists used to mature over several records and some labels fostered that process. Nowadays its rare that you’d find a label who’d hang in there if the first album, sometimes the first single, is not an unqualified success.
But that means that many artists just don’t have the time to grow, to evolve, to become better. Even worse, they feel this pressure for immediate success so they deliver sub-par music.
I feel like I’ve had the space to grow as an artist by being free of this commercial pressure to succeed, or get on radio or chart.
Its also forced on me things that I didn’t originally plan to get involved in like making music videos, finding great collaborators for artwork, the whole visual side of music.
You’ve had a lot of success with licensing tunes to TV. How did you get started there? Licensing agency? Networking with music directors?
I sent a CD of my first demos to Nic Harcourt in late 2008, who was then the main DJ at KCRW radio in California. He had already helped the careers of British acts like Coldplay, Keane and my sister Jem by playing them before they were widely known.
He started playing the track “Last day of your life” and it got a great response. When he became the music supervisor of 90210 he used it in the final scene of the first episode.
On the back of that, I started working with a wonderful licensing agency based in LA who have got further synchs for me in Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, Bones, One Tree Hill and, last week, ABC’s new show, Missing starring Ashley Judd.
What kind of promotional work do you generally do for your music surrounding a TV placement/airing? How should an artist capitalize on a synch placement and make the most of it?
The best thing to do by far is have a video of the song on YouTube. Put the title of the TV show in the YouTube title along with your band name. This means it comes up for everyone searching for the TV show. Obviously it helps if the video is good too!
Be audacious. Last week I personally called ABC television and after about 5 attempts got through to the person in their music department. Within three hours I had arranged for them to give “Eyes Wide Open” away for free from ABC.com, the track that was appearing in their show “Missing.” They also posted the video I had done.
So its just about being really creative and thinking of all the ways you can capitalize on the mass exposure that the synch gives.
What sort of bump do you see in sales from TV placements?
After a synch in a big US TV show, I usually sell 3000-6000 downloads of the track in the weeks after and then 1000s more of other tracks that people discover as a result of going on iTunes. The real value though is finding people that genuinely love the music and want to follow and hear what music I make in the future.
What has surprised you most about your music being used in TV shows?
Its definitely the emotional response you get from fans, that the song has touched them deeply in some way. These shows get watched all over the planet so to get a note from a fan in Malaysia or Argentina saying they just discovered the music and loved it is wonderful. It makes all the (occasional) pain of surviving as an indie artist worthwhile.
Do you ever feel strange or possessive about placements, like… “Hey, they’re using my song totally out of context! Didn’t they listen to the lyrics?” ??
The only time I was peeved was when they used “Last day of your life” in Grey’s Anatomy. The synch was really good, the problem was that it was put all over a scene dominated by Patrick Dempsey. My girlfriend had a massive crush on him and I think she was so distracted by him crying in the scene that the music passed somewhat unnoticed!! So that’s just plain old jealousy from me and wanting to be the centre of attention!
You shot a music video recently of you singing while various words and paints and construction paper cut-outs move around you and on you. How long did that take to shoot and edit? Cost?
Well here is the whole story. I came across Tayoi Kusama’s installation “The Obliteration Room.” I thought it would be a lot of fun to take the idea and turn it into a music video.
I ordered in 3m x 11m of white paper on a big roll ($86) and persuaded my mum and sister to help me cover my bedroom with it.
I have a Canon EOS 550D which I used for the shoot. Using only natural lighting from two windows, I spent 5 days crammed in my bedroom shooting the video myself, gradually adding elements and paint ($40). The first time I wrote on my body, I did it in a mirror and wrote everything backwards by mistake! I had to knock on my neighbours door and kindly ask if she’d mind writing on my chest!
In the evenings when I didn’t have the light I’d edit the video in iMovie as I went along.
On the final day I covered everything with paint including myself. That was when I became concerned that all the paint had seeped through the paper and ruined the flat. I couldn’t get out of the room for 10 hours as the door was covered so needing to go to the toilet got to be a real problem!
It took about 3 baths to get everything off me and when I pulled up the paper fortunately all the furnishings were fine.
I finished the edit over another 2 days so in total it took 7 days and costed just over $120.
It was a hell of a week but a lot of fun!
Thanks to Glass Pear for taking the time to answer these questions. For more info about his music and story, check out http://www.glasspearmusic.com.
Have you had success with TV sync placements? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
-Chris R. at CD Baby