Q&A with Zero Fee Music
by Michael Valinsky
Prior to Cine Gear Expo, we sat down with Michael Fuller, Creative Director of Zero Fee Music, and talked at length about his production music library. Fuller answered a variety of questions over a couple of tuna melts at Pat & Lorraine's, the very restaurant where Tarantino shot the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs. Although in the film, Mr. Pink didn't like to leave tips, Mr. Fuller gave us a few of his own.
Q: We have a number of music libraries that are a part of ProHUB, what differentiates Zero Fee Music from the others?
A: Pure and simple. We waive the master use and synchronization fees, sometimes known as “needle drops” or “laser drops”. In fact our blanket plan makes needle drops, production blankets and even annual blankets obsolete. And before I forget, we also waive direct to DVD fees as well. Our Zero Fee Music producers pay absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip. The question we get the most is “How do you guys make any money?” We rely entirely on the backend public performance royalties from performance rights organizations like BMI for our revenue. So you can see, qualifying of projects is very important.
Q: In a nutshell, can you tell us what kinds of projects qualify for free production music from Zero Fee Music?
A: Basically any production that is or will be broadcast on television over venues licensed with BMI, ASCAP, SOCAN, etc. Ideally this is a television show on the air and in production but we do sometimes take a flyer on a pilot. Feature films of 85 minutes in length or longer are also easily qualified.
Q: Zero Fee Music... is that a gratis library?
A: Yes, “gratis” is a generic term that describes a form of licensure that is similar to ours at Zero Fee Music™. But Zero Fee Music is more than just a License Agreement. It’s an entire full service program designed especially for film and TV producers. Our concierge service comes quickly to mind. Then there’s Cue Sheet-0-Matic™, a unique Playlist utility and 3 search systems to name a few features.
Q: How is a Zero Fee Music license different from a creative commons music license?
A: Indemnification. That’s a very important word in music licensing for film and TV. Creative Commons libraries, so called “free except for the shipping” libraries and some royalty free libraries, offer no warranties, representations or indemnification provisions in their licenses. Put differently, these libraries take no responsibility for infringement. The risk resides with the licensee.
Q: Where would we hear some of your music today?
A: Funny you should mention “Today”. Yes you can hear it on NBC’s Today Show. Also ABC’s Good Morning America. We’re also on FOX , CW, WE, Lifetime, Spike, Oxygen and many more. We’ve been very fortunate.
Q: What about webisodes?
A: Webisodes currently don’t qualify for Zero Fee Music™ but check with me in 5 years. I think internet delivery will achieve parity with terrestrial and cable television. We’re right at the beginning of a brave new broadcast world. Pretty exciting.
Q: Looking back, what are the origins of Zero Fee Music™; how did it begin?
A: Oh I guess you’d have to say the market made us do it. There seemed to be a crying need for a new way to license music for film and TV. Needle Drop /Blanket libraries were and are too expensive while royalty free libraries deliver a wobbly “one size fits all” approach. There had to be a better way. Not a swan and not a goose—a swoose that delivered the best of both and did it better than either. Our solution, Zero Fee Music™, empowers end users. It removes barriers and let’s face it, master use and synch fees are pretty hefty barriers. If it’s anything, Zero Fee Music™ is different. We started test marketing in the nineties, went through a refining process and then formally launched at NATPE ‘06.
Q: When you watch films or TV today, what are some issues in the sound mixing and design industry that you're hearing?
A: You know, for the most part I think our Zero Fee people, for example, do a really fine job. Good clean sound. Not too processed. Sometimes library music itself is over processed say with “brick wall limiting”. Some of the music editing today is fantastic. Editors can thread a needle, slicing and dicing to get just the right sound for the picture. I wish they’d let the music play sometimes. But on the other hand, there’s nothing worse than loops playing ad nauseam. For the most part I think the cringe factor has been greatly diminished.
Q: Any thoughts on the current state of the industry as we sit here mid-year?
A: We’re going through some pretty touch times aren’t we? Cutting the music budget is often what happens. But Zero Fee producers can forget about cost and just concentrate on making good content. Even in hard times, they can still put on the dog. You can’t beat “free”. But seriously once the economy starts to build again, the “pipeline theory” will kick in and eventually all boats will rise.
Q: How can our users contact you to ask questions or learn more about Zero Fee Music?
A: Call me personally toll free at 800-468-6874 or visit our web site at www.zerofeemusic.com. Or I guess if they want to they could e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Any specials offerings for our users?
A: Specials? How do you beat free? Pat and Lorraine’s is the Official Eatery of Zero Fee Music™. If any of my fellow Production Hubbers visit LA and have a TV show on the air and in production, they should consider themselves invited to a sumptuous feast here at Pat and Lorraine’s. A free lunch to go along with the free music they get from Zero Fee Music™. By the way, are you going to have some of that apple pie? I think I will.
Q: Any recommendation for other LA-based production folks on cool places to grab a bite like this?
A: You know, there are many special places here in LA. Right here in Eagle Rock they might enjoy Colombo’s Italian Steak and Jazz Club, or Damon’s in Glendale.