A national association of professional music composers and producers for film, television and media

Cue Notes

Vol.5 No.2 Summer 2017

by John Welsman

442F94A1-3B9ACA00-1-John Welsman by bmma McIntyre - B&W



We are living in an era where massive change seems to be the new normal. One of the things we must wrestle with, as individuals and as an organization, is what these changes mean to us, and what we can do to help shape a path forward. At the moment, the traditional model of performing rights royalties for music in television programs is being turned on its ear by the major streaming services – Netflix and Amazon to name two. We’re now seeing the numbers from performances on these streaming services, and they’re only a small fraction of those for terrestrial television. What can we do to correct the imbalance in remuneration for our work?

Approaching this subject offers us a classic ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ scenario – without frank conversations, we don’t have a clear and accurate picture of the battlefield, and without that it’s difficult if not impossible to strategize. It’s only by sharing information that we’re able to make our way forward with some kind of value for our work intact.

To start, let’s look at how downstream revenue, performing rights royalties, compares with the up front fees we’re paid. Everyone who’s had a show or series that plays frequently and sells well internationally knows how important those royalties are to the larger remuneration picture. For our purposes, we’ll speak in terms of a multiple of the up front fees that could reasonably be expected in royalties over the lifetime of a show. I’ll thank now those composers I’ve recently spoken with who’ve shared their experience with me in order to get us some realistic numbers.

In factual based television, documentary and lifestyle programming, where, in the case of a series, the composer often builds a library of music that is used and reused, the up front fees can range from not so great to pretty decent. The range that composers see in downstream revenue can range from 1 to 2.5 to as high as 14 times what the up front fees were. (Note we’re talking about the writer’s share of royalties only. Composers may be able to retain some or all of their publishing rights in any of these genres, but we’re not including that portion of royalties in these examples.)

MOWs for the mid level cable channels can also pay a range of fees up front, but the downstream revenue can amount to from 4 to 5.5 times the amount paid.

Recently, we saw a question on the Discuss List about quoting on a kid’s animated series for one of the large streaming services, so let’s spend a moment with that genre. Our recent rates survey tells us that composers in this genre can receive anywhere from $400 to $1000 per minute of music, which is often built into a library of 100, 120, or 140 minutes. That’s quite a range, but represents some solid up-front fees. Yet the most important component in compensation is the downstream revenue.

Given that kids programming often plays repeatedly, and in multiple territories in translation, if the series has modest success on a broadcaster in Canada and some good international sales, the writer’s share of royalties can range from 1 or 2 times to 4 to 10 times the up front fees.

Are you getting the picture? In contrast, the data on streaming services indicates that only a huge hit would pay anything like what terrestrial TV might pay. If your show only gets a regular or modest viewership, you’ll see only a small fraction of what terrestrial TV would pay.

As an example, it was reported that a top 10 rated children’s series playing on Netflix yielded about $5,000 over 3 years. I think it’s fair to say that, for the time being, the vast majority of programming on the streaming services is going pay very little in downstream revenue.

How do we address this discrepancy in remuneration for our work when negotiating with a streaming service production? Can we reverse recent trends and start to charge more up front to make up the remuneration difference on the front end? How much do we need to charge for our work up front in order to close the gap?

Ask yourself: how can I possibly accept fees in the range I’m used to getting if the royalty component of remuneration is missing entirely? How can I justify working for a fraction of the remuneration I received for my last TV project?

There’s a bigger problem behind all this, of course. Streaming services are acting like broadcasters, but aren’t bound by the same tariffs and policies that terrestrial broadcasters are. Any agreements that our PROs have in place with the streaming services are obviously not yielding the value for our music that we’ve seen historically. Though we might like to close the gap by bumping up our creative fees in the short term, for the long term we must surely focus on correcting the value gap at the PRO and government policy level. That’s going to take a lot of work; work that the SCGC is already doing, work that SOCAN and foreign PRO’s are already doing. But it’s going to need a lot of dialogue, support and coordination between all the stakeholders in content production to get this fixed. In this regard, producer/publishers may well be important allies.

We’re in dangerous waters, where precedents are being set as speak. Consider carefully the damage done to all of us and our livelihoods if composers readily accept from one of the streaming services the kinds of up front fees they’re accustomed to getting from terrestrial TV productions. We have to work hard to uphold the value of our work in instances like these.

I hope we can continue to have these conversations amongst ourselves, and then prepare to take our message out to our industry and the policy makers. Otherwise, we risk ending up as a bunch of hobbyists, dreaming of TV score glory while hardly able to make a living.


AI and the AV Composer: Is Your Job Next?

by Collin Ankerson

In 1956 Lejaren Hiller and Leonard Issacson used the Illinois Automatic Computer to compose String Quartet No. 4, also known as the Illiac Suite. Utilizing different algorithms for each of the suite’s four movements (titled ‘experiments’), Hiller and Issacson generated random musical elements (pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc.) and filtered them through some classic rules of composition. The first experiment was conducted to obtain a simple diatonic melody that would serve as cantus firmus for the subsequent movements. The second and third experiments centered on the creation of four voice polyphony, and variation of rhythm and dynamics respectively. The final experiment abandoned purely musical rules in favor of Markov chains, based on the idea that new events in a sequence can be predicted based upon those previous. The resulting suite is a fascinating demonstration of the power that organizational rules have in shaping the sound and style of musical compositions.

In the 60 years since Hiller and Issacson’s experiments, there have been massive breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence, including the development of deep neural networks. Artificial neural networks are roughly modeled on the biology of the human brain with layers of interconnected ‘neurons’ and ‘synapses’ that process data. The network becomes ‘deep’ as more hidden layers are added between the input and output. This technology is currently being used to develop autonomous vehicles, create machines capable of mastering the game of Go, improve preventative healthcare systems, and write music.

A new company called Jukedeck recently used their machine learning technology to compose and synthesize 8 bars of piano music. On their research blog, they write that ‘to the best of our knowledge, it’s the first time a computer has written and produced a complete ‘song’, from start to finish, using purely machine learning-driven techniques.’ Since winning TechCrunch Disrupt London in 2015 the company has attracted mainstream media attention in outlets like the New York Times and NPR. Users have already created nearly one million unique tracks using the site, and major brands like Coca Cola have signed up for monthly subscriptions. The Jukedeck platform allows the user to select genre, instrumentation, mood, tempo, duration, and climax point. The AI then creates a new, unique piece of royalty free music available for download. While the current version is limited to a handful of genres, and creates music that seems most suitable for the background of a YouTube video, it is easy to imagine wider, more varied usages as the technology improves.

While Jukedeck is focused on creating completely machine generated music there are other companies working to build applications that function in tandem with human composers. One such technology is the FlowComposer tool created by the Flow Machines project at the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris. The software can be used as a ‘personal, intelligent assistant’ generating chords and melodies based on parameters
chosen by the composer. The user can specify the input or ‘songset’ to direct the style in which the AI will generate music. The composer is then able to modify pitches/durations, reharmonize melodies and remove or regenerate pieces of the composition. The team at Flow Machines used a set of Beatles lead sheets to create what they call the “first structured AI pop song, Daddy’s Car”.

The capacity of artificial intelligence to shape the future of human society is not limited to engineering, medicine, and scientific research. Clearly it will play a role in our artistic endeavors as well. The development of new technology has always had a part in directing artistic movements. When painters of the late 19th century like Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka were confronted with the advent of photography they turned inward to create paintings that were less ‘realistic’ but captured elements of the human psyche that a photograph could not. Art historian Ernst Gombrich put it this way:

The photographer was slowly taking over the functions that had once belonged to the painter. And so the search for alternative niches began. One such alternative lay in the decorative function of painting, the abandoning of naturalisms in favour of formal harmonies; the other in the new emphasis on the poetic imagination which could transcend mere illustration by evoking dream-like moods through haunting symbols.

As machines continue to improve in their abilities to compose music perhaps we can draw inspiration from the painters who searched for new, deeper forms of expression in their art.

Illiac Suite:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0njBFLQSk8

Jukedeck:  https://www.jukedeck.com/

Flow Machines Project:


My First Year In La La Land:
The “Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television” Program at USC

by Steph Kowal

I never expected to get into USC. Los Angeles was nowhere near my radar. “Not for another five to ten years” I would tell myself because if I can’t make it in Toronto why would I think I could make it in Los Angeles? That’s where the big guys go. That’s where the exciting people go. People with big dreams and bigger realities. No, I had to graduate from Toronto first. That was the plan. That was the “ladder” I needed to climb.

I had done everything right during my five years in Toronto. I participated in everything the SCGC offered, I had scored more than a dozen student and independent projects, the Guild members had become my family and I was starting to feel like one of them; a real composer. So, why hadn’t I moved up the ladder? Why was I consistently being told “no, maybe next year”? The day after one particularly hurtful “no”, I vividly remember saying out loud “f@*% it, let’s think bigger”. I had been periodically checking in on the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Program at the University of Southern California through their website for about five years – looking at all the faces, taking in the names of the chosen twenty and wondering what it would feel like to be one of them. That morning I pulled up the website and saw that the deadlines for new applicants was less than twenty-four hours away. I was never planning on applying but here I was. In that moment I changed the entire course of my life. My application was brutally honest and came straight from the heart – no energy for bullshit anymore. The people at USC were getting the real, unfiltered and unsolicited Steph. I couldn’t hide. If Los Angeles was for me I was going in being unapologetically myself.

A year and a half later, I sit here on the USC campus with a Master’s Degree in Screen Scoring. The Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Program transitioned to a Master’s in Screen Scoring the year that I was accepted. It was one of the first incredible moments of my time at USC; learning that a risk I took with a bruised ego and a tear stained face brought me to a life that I never dreamed I could have.

The program at USC is like unlike any other program in the world. They choose twenty people from around the globe and guide them through a one year incubation period in the industry. I had no idea what I was getting into but, after our first orientation week where we spent eight hours going over proper score and part notation with two hours on proper taping methods, I knew they weren’t messing around. We were being trained. Classes consisted of private lessons, tech, orchestration, scoring, spotting, and everything in between. We learned about contracts and budgets, unions and cartage, file organization and proper deliverables and a million and one other things that I had never thought to think about.

Film History with the incredible Jon Burlingame showed us how and where our industry came from, the incredible story telling of the decades and opened us up to conversations we had never thought to have before. We had multiple cues to write every week which were critiqued in front of the class on a daily basis. One of our scoring instructors, Eric Schmidt, even graded our cues with a simple one, two or three: one meaning you’re hired, three meaning you’re fired and two meaning you could probably get away with fixing it at lunch. There was no sugar coating for us! Our weekly forum guests, who included industry professionals such as Thomas Newman, John Powell and Junkie XL, all told their stories and offered sincere advice for the twenty of us. They looked us in the eyes and shook our hands as they talked about how to schedule your life as a freelancer, how to divide your budgets, and most importantly how to be yourself. This was a lesson drilled into us over the course of the year. Come as you are. Use what you have. We want to hear your voice.

Every second or third week we would have a recording session at the Bridge Recording in Glendale. The sessions started small under the tutelage of the amazing Bruce Broughton, utilizing each section of the orchestra individually so we could get an ear for the sounds and capabilities of each instrument. We recorded a string, brass and woodwind quintet working our way up to larger sweetening sessions and finally our 65 piece session at Warner Brothers in May. For every one of these sessions we were required to do all of the prep. We created our own Pro Tools sessions, scores, parts and taped everything ourselves. There was hardly any time for revisions so this was all straight from your instinct – “go with your gut”. It’s amazing what you can learn on your own. You record this piece of music that you had no time to look over. You had a reason for choosing to orchestrate as such and you had a reason for changing or not changing the harmony. It all becomes clear after that first pass when you hear, in stereo, all of your mistakes hitting you in the face. That was one way to learn!

There was absolutely no hand holding involved. If something went wrong on the day of the session it was one hundred percent our responsibility to fix it. The musicians we had the immense pleasure of working with were some of the best in Hollywood and it was by far the most humbling experience to learn that these players were taking a break from their week with Hans to play our dumpy little pieces. I couldn’t believe it. Every single week I was left thinking “How did I get so lucky?”

Another amazing connection the Screen Scoring program has is to the School of Cinematic Arts. Some of the most talented and dedicated student directors and producers were learning their craft ten feet away from where we were learning ours. We had pitch sessions once a semester where filmmakers would pitch their projects to us with plenty of films to go around. Some of these projects even left room for live musicians in their budgets and we were given the opportunity for our own scoring sessions at the John Williams Scoring Stage on campus, an opportunity that none of us took lightly. “How f’n cool” we would say every single time.

We learned how to lean on each other and how to help each other. Being squared away with nineteen other misfits every single day for a year was nothing short of a social experiment. There wasn’t a sense of competition or skill-based hierarchy. From day one I started learning from my peers. Everyone had their own strong point and those with many strong points never wavered on putting in the time to bring everyone else up to speed. There was just no time to be selfish. We were all emotionally pouring our souls into our work and that never went unnoticed. We were thrown into the eye of scrutiny but we were never alone. USC turned us into a family.

The Screen Scoring program showed me everything that I don’t know. It pointed out all of the techniques I’ve never used, technology I’m unfamiliar with and gigs I don’t know how to get. It showed me that every job is different and there is no right way to succeed. It shone a light on the dark and mysterious world of being a film composer and said “this is what it looks like – now go learn it”. USC has taught me who I am and who I can be. You have no time to be someone else. You have no time to WRITE like someone else. You just have no time. Defence mechanisms wear away quickly and you are forced to show up every day exactly as you are and with exactly what you are capable of doing. There is something so intensely gratifying and terrifying in that because every one of your critiques essentially becomes a critique of who you are.

And that’s where the work starts. USC can’t teach you everything you need to know for every job. What it does is teach you HOW to know everything you need to know for every job. It throws you into the deep end, fending for yourself and picking yourself back up. It is the ultimate crash course in failing and succeeding with authenticity. I’ve learned that you don’t need to be anyone but yourself. Opportunities come from genuine interactions you have with people you sincerely connect with. Those interactions lead to real relationships which lead to incredible gains. It’s amazing once you start seeing life and industry through that lens how gratifying this process can be.

Of course, we all would like to be successful some day – but the opportunity most often missed is the pure enjoyment of the journey. As our program co-ordinator, Dan Carlin, reminded us every week, all you need is to “work hard, be nice and get lucky”.


Composer Spotlight: Erica Procunier


SCGC Member News




Compiled by Janal Bechthold


Lesley Barber was appointed as the new Composition Chair of the Canadian Film Centre’s Slaight Music Lab, taking over from Mychael Danna.

Spencer Creaghan, Chris Reineke, Aimee Besada, Rebecca Everett, and Neil Haverty are the new graduates of the 2016 Canadian Film Centre’s Slaight Music Residency.

Congratulations to the residents of the 2017 program: Lora Bidner, Virgina Kilbertaus (composers), Sarah Slean and Jonathan Kawchuck (songwriters).

Amin Bhatia, Darren Fung, and Jeff Toyne appeared on the panel “From Canada to LA: SOCAN All Star Composers” presented by the Society of Composers and Lyricists and SOCAN, June 14, 2017 in Los Angeles.

Adrian Ellis and Janal Bechthold presented on the TO Webfest Screen Shop panel “The Composer-Producer Relationship” discussing music rights, licensing, proper practices, how to communicate ideas, and tips to ensure a strong composer-producer relationship.

Trevor Morris appeared at the 2017 Festiwal Muzyki Filmowej w Krakowie – Film Music Festival in Krakow, Poland, conducting a live concert performance of the music to the NBC television series, “Emerald City”.

Lesley Barber appeared on the panel “Women Who Score” at the ASCAP I Create Music
in Los Angeles on April 14, 2017. The panel was presented in collaboration with Women in Music.

Gagan Singh spoke to the students at University of Toronto for Music Monday, a program of the Coalition for Music Education in Canada. Gagan spoke about his journey in the music business from UofT to composer and music producer.


Alberta Media Production Industries Association “Rosie Awards”

Best Original Music Score (Drama over 30 Minutes)
Alec Harrison “Considering Love and Other Magic”

Best Original Music Score (Non-Fiction over 30 minutes)
John McMillan “Vital Bonds”

Best Original Musical Score (Non-Fiction under 30 minutes)
Beau Shiminsky “Against the Ropes: The Raging Bull”

Best Original Musical Score (Drama under 30 minutes)
Beau Shiminsky “It’s All In Your Head”

Additional Rosie Awards Nominees:
Mitch Lee, Mike Shields, Andrew Wettstein, and Jonathan Kawchuk


ASCAP Film and Television Awards

Rob Duncan received two awards: Most Performed Theme and Underscore for 2016
Top Television Series for “Timeless” (NBC) and “Castle” (ABC)

ASCAP Composers’ Choice Awards – Film Score of the Year

Lesley Barber “Manchester By the Sea”

BMI Film and Television Awards
Mychael Danna (with Jeff Danna)
Film Music Award for “Storks”

Christopher Dedrick Award for Live Musicians in Music Soundtracks
Matthew Van Driel 2017 recipient

Emmy Awards

Outstanding Original Song (nomination)
Daniel Ingram “My Little Pony” Equestria Girls

Leo Awards

Best Musical Score Dramatic Series
Jeff Toyne “Rogue: Maria, Full of Grace”

Best Musical Score Feature Length Documentary
Michael Richard Plowman “Avenues of Escape

Additional Leo Award Nominees:
Blake Matthew,  Matthew Chung, Brent Belke, Dennis Burke, Schaun Tozer, David Ramos, and Daniel Ingram

Prix Gémeaux Awards (nomination)

Meilleur thème musical : toutes catégories
Serge Côté “St Nickel : Épisode 1 – Un bonus et un amande”
Michel Cusson “Unité 9: saison 5, Épisode 100”

SOCAN Awards

Domestic TV Music – Fiction
Robert Carli, “Murdoch Mysteries”

Domestic TV Music – Non Fiction

Greg Fisher Derek Treffry, ”Border Security: Canada’s Front Line”
Peter Chapman, “Leave It to Bryan”

Achievements in Made For TV/Film Music

Christopher Nickel, “Killer Photo”
Catalin Marin, “William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge”

Youth Media Alliance Award of Excellence (Nomination)

Best Program, Animated, ages 3-5
Carl Lenox (theme) and Neil Parfitt (score) “Ranger Rob”




Canadian Film Festival:
David Arcus “Great, Great, Great”
Steph Copeland “The Heretics”

Festival de Cine de La Almunia (Spain):
David Federman “Cruzar el umbral”

Global Shorts Film Festival:
Adrian Ellis “Orange Lipstick” – Excellence Award

Hot Docs International Documentary Festival:
Lesley Barber “A Better Man”
Ben Fox “Babe, I Hate to Go”
Todor Kobakov “My Enemy, My Brother”, additional orchestrations by Felipe Téllez

IFVA – Incubator for Film and Visual Media in Asia
David Federman “The Suitcase”

Maryland International Film Festival:
David Federman “John Lives Again”

Palm Springs:
Casey Manierka-Quaile “3-Way, Not Calling”
Erica Procunier “DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver”

Sarasota Film Festival:
Erica Procunier “Mariner”

Shanghai International Film Festival
Michelle Osis “Juggernaut”

TIFF Kids International Film Festival:
Erica Procunier “DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver”

T.O. Short Film Festival :

Dillon Baldassero “Anastasia Lin: The Crown”
Janal Bechthold “Acting Up”
David Federman “Taking Posession”
Iain Gardner “Mismatch and Lighter”
Iain Gardner “Forgive Me Father (Pardonnez-moi Mon Père)”
Simon Poole “Misinformed”


Rob Duncan “Spark: A Space Tail”

Lesley Barber “A Better Man” – limited release

Edo Van Breemen “Hello Destroyer” – limited release


Serge Côté “Jaxon and Songs’s Maple Mystery” (CBC)

Phil Strong and Thomas Hoy “Village of Dreams” (TVO)

Rob Carli and Peter Chapman “Wynonna Earp” Season 2 (Syfy)

Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner “Anne” Season 1 (CBC)


Janal Bechthold scored the advocacy short film “Reel Women Seen” which includes vocals by Rebecca Everett and Emily Milling. The film was screened during an panel discussion addressing diversity in the industry at Yorkton International Film Festival and has also screened at the Nova Scotia Film Awards and the Female Eye Film Festival.

Lora Bidner recently completed a two-year Masters Degree in Music Technology from University of Toronto. She is in the inaugural cohort to receive this degree. Congratulations!

Suad Lakišić Bushnaq released the soundtrack for the film “The Curve” https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/the-curve-original-motion-picture-soundtrack-ep/id1227106196

Spencer Creaghan released the soundtrack for the films “The Second Life” and “Ashes”: https://spencercreaghan.bandcamp.com/

The video launching the new $10 bill contains music composed by Serge Cote: https://vimeo.com/212996086

Universal Music has released the “Canada 150” box set of music which includes two songs by Lighthouse: “Tower of Song” and “Sunny Days”. Congratulations to Paul Hoffert!

Stephanie Kowal recently received a Masters of Music Degree in Screen Scoring from the prestigious University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Congratulations!

Steve Lehmann scored Season 3 of “Cyanide and Happiness” released on seeso.com

Lou Natale arranged and produced an album for world music artist Dorjee Tsering titled “Thank You Canada”. 4 of the 11 songs were orchestrated by John Herberman.

Michelle Osis created music for the TransCanada “Discover Energy” ad spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7uxeCPnQSA

Simon Poole created music for the Tim Horton’s commercial “Born on Canada Day” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2qUuFEsfSE

The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performed the animated film “DAM! The Story of Kit
the Beaver” with live score by Erica Procunier.

“Sesquicentennial Song” for CBC Radio’s Irreverent Show was composed by Jan Randall

Russell Soares released his third EP with experimental electronic collaboration Derblinker https://derblinker.bandcamp.com/album/saturated




Editor’s Pick



What Creators Have to Gain, and Fear, in a Streaming-TV World

Apple Gets Into the TV Game

Jerry Goldsmith’s Top 10 Scores

The Iconic Music of Twin Peaks

5 Film Scores That Changed the Way We Hear Movies

Should Copyright be Forever?

SOCAN Collects Record Setting $249M In Royalties for 2016

12 Composers From 6 Countries Selected for ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop
https://www.ascap.com/press/2017/06-29-film-scoring-workshop-participants-CGC MEMBER 


We welcome your suggestions for story ideas!

Email the Guild: info@screencomposers.ca

Cue Notes:
Craig McConnell
: Editor
Nicholas Stirling: Layout, Web
Admin: Tonya Dedrick

“Taking Possession” is screening at the International Short Film Festival SHORT FORM, in Serbia! Congrats @federmusik! #composer @TakPo_1883

@SCREENCOMPOSERS • about 2 hours ago

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