Monday, April 24, 2006

Specificity

My work, as most of you know by now, involves doing voices for advertisements and telephone applications. If that were all that was involved, I'd be a very happy man indeed. I'm a big ham at heart. Give me a script to read and then let me imagine that thousands of people will hear me? I'm in heaven.

However, that isn't all that I do. My actual workday usually includes much more of the stuff I don't like to do than the stuff I enjoy. I suspect that's how it is for most of you, and some of you most certainly have jobs that are one hell of a lot more gnarly than mine, so my bitching about how some of what I do sucks probably isn't going to endear me to you. Oh, well. I'm going to bitch about it anyway.

My actual job title at my main source of income is "Music Director". So, aside from doing voice work - and handling production chores on the recording sessions for other talents - I am in charge of choosing which music will be included in our production library, and thus available for use as background in our productions.

Unfortunately, this does NOT mean that I buy everything ever recorded by my favorite recording artists and then sit back grooving on righteous tunes all day. All of our production music has been recorded expressly for use as production music. The licensing fees involved in acquiring the rights to music you might actually know, for use in our relatively small-scale productions, would be enormous; most definitely not cost-effective for our clients or for us.

Another factor is that, since most of our work is for on-hold telephone applications, the music has to be instrumental. The majority of what I do ends up being heard while someone is on-hold, waiting for an actual live person to pick up the phone. While they wait, they hear a mix of our music and, intermittently, one of our voice talents extolling the virtues (and/or pitching the latest products/bargains) of the company they are calling. It can't include vocals because those vocals would be a confusion to the caller listening to our work. Listening to one person singing while another is talking isn't conducive to... well, anything, except a headache.

Now, if you go to the website linked above, and click on "select music", you can hear samples of the various types of music we have available. Some of it is decent enough for me to listen to outside of the job. To be honest, though, not much of it. Most of our clients prefer music that is non-threatening, non-jarring, easy-listening, and other hyphenated terms not usually associated with the types of music that I like to generally listen to when not working. However, if you look around there a bit, you'll find that we have a fairly large selection of styles to choose from and, within those styles, quite a few samples.

I mention all this as background to the bitching which follows.

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Another part of my job is to recommend music to clients. For example, if they have a mortuary, and they ask my opinion concerning what music of ours to use in their production, I might suggest some medium-tempo classical piece, nothing too somber but definitely not upbeat, either. Or perhaps some sort of light new age stuff. I would NOT recommend that they use a Doobie Brothers sound-alike or anything in the style of Fats Waller.

Usually, I try to get them to go to the website and pick out exactly what they'd like from the many choices available. In that way, there will never be a production coming back to me with a request for different background music, which is what occasionally happens when they ask me to choose the music. I can usually gauge what's appropriate, but I can't always be sure of someone's tastes in music, so sometimes they'll request a change. Just because I think a Van Halen knockoff isn't right for a nursing home commercial doesn't mean that some dope in PR won't think that "Hot For Teacher" would be perfect.

We guarantee satisfaction with the finished product, so if they didn't choose the music to begin with, we will change it, no charge. So, obviously, if they choose the music, it's best for all concerned. Especially me.

Now, here's an e-mail I received Friday from a client:

"I am particularly interested in religious or faith-based music. Do you have a catalog of music that you could send me?"

So far, so good. He has stated his preference and then asked a simple question.

My reply:

"We don't have a great deal of religious music in our on-hand catalog. There are a number of Christmas Carols, of course, but not so much of the non-seasonal variety. I can do a search to come up with something, but it would be helpful to know exactly what you'd like. For instance, I can specifically try to locate Gregorian Chants or even Buddhist Temple Music. So, what sort of religious music are you looking for? If you could give me some instrumentation desired, that would also be helpful. Thanks!"

His reply:

"Generic Christian and Judaism (separate, of course) and I would also be interested in holiday music."

Ooooookay. That tells me not much of anything. We've eliminated the Buddhist Temple Music, I suppose, but that's about it.

My reply:

"For the holiday music, your best bet would be to go to our website and give a listen."

(Understand, this is a client who has been with us for many years now. He knows about the website. He's been to the website. He knows that he can find most of what he wants at the website. He's just too damned lazy to actually go to the website.)

I continued:

"As far as the other selections go, are you interested in classical, i.e., aves, requiems, etc., by Mozart, Bach, Handel? I have a few of those. Otherwise, I come up with some fairly generic organ pieces and a few chants for the Christian side of things.

As far as Judaica goes, I find a fair selection of horas, Eastern European violin pieces, a few klezmer-inspired wedding songs...

Anything strike your fancy? Something to narrow the search parameters for me?"


His reply:

"Whatever sounds good."

ROWRRRRFFFFFCRUNCHCRUNCHPTOOIE.

(That's the sound of me taking a bite out of the corner of my desk, chewing it up, and spitting it out.)

They all sound good, you dope. I wouldn't have them in my library if I didn't think they sounded good. If I send this guy an upbeat klezmer piece, and it turns out he wants something less joyful, then he's going to come back and ask for a reworking of his production, which will mean another hour or two of work for me which could easily have been avoided if he'd just been specific in the first place. And what if I give him a generic "Amazing Grace" type piece, for the Christian side of things, and he actually wants something more folky? Or perhaps Gospel would be more to his liking? And does he want piano, trumpets, guitar, clarinet, organ, tuba, sitar, accordion, vibraphone, kazoo?

What I feel like writing back to him is the following:

"JUST TELL ME A MAIN INSTRUMENT, ANY ONE INSTRUMENT. ARE DRUMS ALLOWED? PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS AND GIVE ME A CLUE, ANY FUCKING CLUE WHATSOEVER, AS TO WHAT STYLE OF MUSIC YOU LIKE. I AM MORE THAN HAPPY TO GIVE YOU WHAT YOU WANT, BUT I CAN'T POSSIBLY DO THAT UNTIL I FIND OUT, FROM YOU, WHAT IT IS THAT YOU WANT, YOU FUCKING IDIOT. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. AND YOUR MOTHER, TOO."

However, I can't write to a client and tell him that. So, I told you that. And I thank you for letting me get it off of my chest. One more day of sanity, thanks to you. I'll return the favor some day.

But only if you're extremely specific about what you want.

2 comments:

Uncle Jim said...

What if your client reads your blog? Is your wife going to support you?

Suldog said...

Good question. However, that's "WIFE" in capital letters, and also, if the client is too lazy to go looking for music on the internet, he sure as hell isn't going to find this place :-)