SEACOASTONLINE.COM - The Digbees, staying home and collecting the check

SEACOASTONLINE.COM - The Digbees, staying home and collecting the check

By Jeanné McCartin

June 05, 2008 6:00 AM

The Digbees are doing OK for themselves these days. In addition to area live performances they've scored a number of placements in film and television.

Their first licensed tune was heard on The CW's "Veronica Mars." The next on ABC Family's "Greek." They also did a theme song for the web cast series "High Heel Samurai." Now "I'm a Wanker" from their CD "Rubber Revolver: The Stinky Blackwater Tapes Vol. II" is scheduled for "Ball's Out" a new film starring Randy Quaid, scheduled for 2009.

Want to know how they did it? Well read on.

But first an important question. Is there any benefit to this licensing beyond that "greater exposure" opportunity artists are often sold?

"Um-hum. We get paid. ... So it's helped immensely," says frontman Bruce Hilton. "We get licensing fees and we also get royalties every time a show is aired on TV. It helps with our long-term goals." The happy guys sharing in this good fortune are Nelson, bass and vocals; Greg "Lucky" Zaino, drums; Bryan Kelly guitar and vocals and Gregg Pannier keyboards and vocals. All work on the tunes.

As for the long-term goals Hilton mentioned, "they've changed over the years," he says. "At 20 years old we all wanted a recording contract, MTV and to get famous and all that. But once you settle down with a job and family the reality sets in that that sort of lifestyle is virtually impossible ....;It's very difficult to make a living out of touring and selling CDs (now). So we decided to send the songs on tour and stay home and collect the check." And he recommends the path to others.

"I'm happy to share. I think there's so many great songwriters in this local area. I see a lot of bands do very well locally, but their CDs sit on the shelves ...; or get before maybe 500 people who buy them when they could do so much more. They're in the same rut and they can't afford to tour and they don't have the resources to push the material." His career advice? "Taxi." Jot it down. Taxi.

"They're the ones that opened my way to this. They're an online A&R, (artist and repertoire), vehicle." This is how it works. Taxi has clients looking for music or bands. They also have members, like The Digbees, trying to place their work. They put them together. Taxi charges musicians an initial $300 membership fee and $200 annually thereafter.

Twice a month Taxi posts listings of music they have a call for at the time.

"I go through the listings and when I see something I already have in my catalogue or that I think I might be able to create from scratch I submit to Taxi." Each submission costs $5. The fee includes a valuable critique by the company, with clear, succinct pointers Hilton notes.

"So I submit . ... They have a group of pro screeners that ...; determine if it is suitable for the end application. And if they feel it's what the client is looking for they forward it."

If a client - music director, record label or music library - likes the work they contact the artist directly.

"From that point on all negotiations are between us and the client."

Music libraries are another "must-know," says Hilton "It's where music directors go for film and movies when they need music fast. And typically they do need music fast to meet the films deadline ...; after other push-backs." Enter the library. "They may come in saying I need a song about cats ...; oh and by the way I need it in a polka. Then the library will give them that list of things."

In addition the library has pre-signed contracts with the songwriters allowing them to negotiate a licensing fee quickly.

The band retains rights. "The music library ...; does non-exclusive deals. They can license your song while you're still free to shop that song around," he says. "So what they do to avoid copyright confusion is they'll take the same song and re-copyright it with a different title."

For instance Crucial Music put The Digbee's "Caveboy" out as "Cro-Magnon Man." - The Digbees getting full credit.

"So they have the rights to license that, while The Digbees have all rights for "Caveboy," even though they're one in the same song and the identical recordings."

Currently The Digbees are in three library catalogs, (all Taxi connections), Blue Scout Music, Triple Scoop Music, and Crucial Music. Artists can download music to libraries directly for consideration, Hilton notes.

Knowing what libraries want is a big help, Hilton adds. And The Digbees are getting the hang of it. They're looking for music that sets a mood musically and lyrically nearly immediately "that in the first five seconds establishes emotion," he says. So cut that intro and get on with it, he advises. Oh, and diversify.

The Digbees are known for roots rock/Americana. And that's likely what you'll hear at a live show. But when it comes to film and television "we've opened ourselves up to all styles of music, just to hedge the odds. ...; We've done everything from surf music to a children's lullaby, to classical piano pieces, to hard rock." As Hilton sees it there may be a song in a member not appropriate to the band, but if it's a good tune "it shouldn't sit by the wayside. So we have an avenue for all our ideas."

And how is the money?

"The first placement on 'Veronica Mars' paid for two years of Taxi membership fees and song submissions. And I know for a fact there are people out there that are working members of Taxi making 150,000 a year."

There's a trick to that, he adds.

"It's really all about work ethics. ...;. "This is your job. You sit down every day and you write."

Hilton warns, be ready for rejection and push past it. He was a Taxi member for a number of years with no hits. He left. Then he went back and year two things started happening.

Hilton's final suggestion: Write, submit, listen, and do it all over again.

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