Wednesday Workshop: Music and Song – Report

Posted on: Wednesday 02 July 2014 7:15pm by Katie Simmons

How can Producers and Composers best work together? Drum roll…. Katie Simmons kicks off her conference with an upbeat Wednesday workshop!

Take Away

The Music and Song workshop was designed for Producers and Composers to discuss experiences around commissioning composed music. Producers talked about how to take subjectivity away from decisions, publishers talked about the importance of concrete terms and fees, and opinions were heard about the benefits or not of having an agent. The latter part of the workshop bought together some of the industry’s biggest musical personalities, so was guaranteed to be a ding-donging barnstormer! And it didn’t disappoint.

Session Details

Music is such a vital part of children’s media – it’s important to consider it almost as another character to the show.

Helen Stroud from Collingwood and Co has taken the creative lead on many successful preschool brands and talked through her experiences of commissioning music. Everyone has an opinion about music – it is such a subjective area – everyone thinks they’re an expert but it’s probably just your subjective opinion. This is important to keep in mind when you’re commissioning music. You have to stand back and think about broadcast partners, audience, global audience, tone of the show….

Helen is passionate that music shouldn’t be a bolt-on but rather a part of the development process that feeds into the tone of a show.

Composers have to have thick skin – they’re receiving feedback and briefs from Producers who don’t necessarily have a music background; “Can you make that dingy bit a bit more dingy?”

Helen showed us the written brief for ‘Cat in the Hat’ and then played the range of submissions that came in; demonstrating how differently a brief can be interpreted. The theme tune as an audition piece has to be catchy and has to entice the child into the room. Next comes the kit of parts that can be slotted in that help to build the tone and atmosphere of the show.

On this point Anne Miller from Accorder Music gave some great pointers for composers when they’re submitting their music. Labelling tracks and correctly filling in Cue Sheets are vital to ensure composers receive their share. If not claimed, it may end up in PRS ‘Black Box’ money which then gets divided between the top earners (Sting, Elton John… Like they need any more!)

Anne from Accorder Music talked in detail about the complicated process of rights, royalties and responsibilities. She made the important point that composers in preschool make a lot of back-end revenue, so think about the repeat pattern – if you’re generous with your music delivery then the back end is going to be good for you. She also made the important point for Producers to spell out to the composer the fee, terms and delivery before you offer them the gig and before they write a note.

The very capable and appreciated last-minute stand in, Steve Berman from The Composer Works discussed his experience as an agent. He gave out tips to composers about going above and beyond the brief to make yourself stand out and finding that fine-line between keeping in touch with a Producer, and stalking!


Then came the harmonious crescendo of Composers Banks & Wag and Richie Webb.

Richie talked about his background as a member of a comedy group who started on Radio 4 and Live and Kicking, where he met a lot of contacts and broke into the children’s TV world.

Banks and Wag met at university and moved on to being session musicians for various pop bands. Banks always had a yearning to break into writing TV theme tunes. So after doing backing for various “pop muppets” (sic) they built a studio in their student house and sold themselves as a London Production House (In reality it was the two of them in their pants with an Atari and some equipment pilfered from the Student Union). Their first client was a Dutch production company who couldn’t understand why Banks always answered the phone instead of the ‘Receptionist’…

The group were highly entertaining in talking about the range of briefs they receive.

Banks and Wag have had to write everything from Italian opera sung by an ape in the bath to Bengali folk music.

And what do you compose in response to a brief for an historically accurate piece of music for children all about the civil rights movement that is educational, emotional and funny? This, as it happens. A moving, funny, funky-as-hell piece of work by Richie Webb that had the audience goose-pimpled and clapping.

And comments from Producers… Ah comments from Producers! Richie once accidentally sent in the same piece of work twice, and got completely opposing notes each time! Banks and Wag have been asked to make something “more ceramic” and “Do you have a sound like a foot squashing a question mark….?”

The session ended on a high with the musicians taking requests from the floor. We never did get a preschool version of a Morrissey, but we did get ‘Eastenders’ in a lounge style.

And despite the minor key, it didn’t hit any flat notes at all.

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Katie Simmons

About the author

Katie Simmons

Freelance, Writer/ Development Producer

Katie started her career writing bar reviews for grown-ups and online content for children. After a brief foray into writing questions for pub quiz machines and learning about VFX magic at Hogwarts, Katie started to work for various parts of the BBC’s Children’s division. Katie has been involved in the… Read more