Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Where Do They Get It?!?" ~~ A Question for YOU!


Excuse me if I sound like I'm kissing up here, but I've noticed that my readers tend to have a lot of knowledge about various subjects. Therefore, I'm hoping that someone out there can answer a question for me. (Well, maybe one-and-a-half questions.) Perhaps it has a really simple explanation, one which is just not occurring to me.

I've always wondered about music used on movie and television soundtracks, specifically what Wikipedia refers to as "pop songs heard in whole or part in the background of non-musicals," rather than a film score, or performances in a musical, which are recorded specifically for a film by a studio.

To list just one example, when George Lucas was making American Graffiti in the early 1970s and wanted to use songs like "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets, we all know he had to get permission to use every song, and pay licensing fees for each one, but who supplied the actual music we ended up hearing in the film? I think it's pretty safe to say that Mr. Lucas didn't just put a couple of microphones in front of his stereo speakers and play 45 RPM records from his private collection.

Also... Music used in films and TV is always clear-sounding (except when it comes from a radio or record player in the scene, or something similar). How do they obtain flawless copies of the original material, especially when the song in question is really old, and the master tapes aren't available? I realize that with today's computers and digital technology, they can probably "clean up" a song's sound, but what did they do years ago, before such methods existed, as in my example?

By the way, if you're the enlightened guy or gal who gives me an answer, I'll probably follow up with an additional question or two if I feel a need to further clarify things in my own mind. I'm funny that way. So please sign up for follow-up emails once you leave a comment.

And rest assured, fellow babies, I hate it when someone asks a question just because he or she is too lazy to look up the answer for himself or herself. Therefore, long before I decided to post this, I did all sorts of searches on the internet, but found nothing.

Thanks for your time.

24 comments:

  1. I think it is the record label that provides the end music. I know they have to clear it through the label/artist, whoever owns it, usually the label, and then the writer of the song as well, whoever holds copyright against it no matter how many. Some can go for upwards of $50,000 just to get it licensed.

    As for how they made it so clear back in the day, umm, I assume they go the master copy and just overlayed it in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, Pat has it right. When the producers of the movie apply for permission to use, the owners of the music provide a master copy to be used in the soundtrack. The movies' sound engineers take over from there and seamlessly graft the song into the soundtrack. Don't ask me how; I'm not a sound engineer on that level!

    As for the quality of the master, they may be old, but they were digitized decades ago, and that never degrades. And even if the original tape has suffered from age, there are audio programs, sort of like the audio versions of Photoshop, that can clean things up and restore the sound to its original glory. Don't forget, we live in an age of technological magic!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Agree with posters above - the recording company. Leonard Cohen said somewhere that he never made any money from Suzanne because he signed something without really reading and so signed away the rights to his song...as for the cleaning, don't have any personal knowledge, but was in talk by an audiobook reader recently where the gentleman mentioned the editing process and there are programmes now to zoom in on one particular word and 'clean' it up if say the author doesn't like the emphasis or there's a disturbance or something. I'm sure music studios would use even more sophisticated technology...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read the above comments which makes sense to me because they would know what to do. I learn something new every day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, everybody!

    I did know about the licensing aspect. Hell, if anyone in a film even speaks a few words from a song, that song (along with all the copyright info, name of the writer[s], and the name of whoever spoke those words in this film) is listed in the credit crawl with all the rest of the songs they used in the movie. And the filmmaker has to pay a bundle.

    So, the label has to provide the actual recording used? That may be a problem with an artist like Ray Charles, who got to own his own masters when he moved to ABC-Paramount Records. But as long as they can track down the original tapes...

    Of course, me being me, I'm still wondering what some poor filmmaker in, say, the 1960s would have gone through if his only available copy of a song was a scratched-up 78 rpm record from the 1930s, released by a record label that shut down in 1947... We're so lucky that in more recent years, they've been able to clean up such sounds digitally. But even before then, I'm sure the sound engineers worked magic with whatever technology was available to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I know exactly what they would have done - they would have hired musicians to play it again, from the original arrangement if possible. If the label was shut down, then more than likely the music itself had passed into the public domain. I know of several musicians who were still alive in such a case who were brought in to recreate the original; some of the older recordings of Duke Ellington were out of print and the originals were in bad shape, so Duke was brought in, while he was still alive, to recreate some of his classics in a couple of movies. Believe me, there is no obstacle that Hollywood can't overcome!

      Delete
    2. You read my mind! I was thinking they would find musicians to re-record and perhaps, use pieces from the original. It sounds like a complicated process, but technology can find a way to remaster work.

      Delete
    3. That's a very clever way to handle such a problem.

      Delete
  6. Everyone who answered first gave any information I could have. My day job requires that we pay for licensing to use the songs we play every week. The licensing covers rehearsals, projection of lyrics, download of chord charts, etc., all from the original artists.

    I can't imagine how difficult it used to be to even track down the permissions needed (by phone or mail), much less to do all the audio engineering required once the recording was obtained.

    Side note that has nothing to do with anything: how long has your background had clouds and a plane wing? Am I really not that observant or did you just change it up and I'm super-observant?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just did some checking. I changed the blog's template a little over... ummm... six years ago. Between late 2008 and early 2012, it looked much more like something someone had actually printed.

    Charles Dickens' work appeared primarily in either one or another of two weekly magazines called "All the Year Round." and "Household Words." and the periods at the end of both of those titles actually belong there. I stole that little touch from him, thus "The Lair of the Silver Fox." (with a period at the end) is the official title of this blog, and I'll bet nobody notices that!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Interesting topic Silver! I’ve always been fascinated with music and the industry in general. I think the replies you rreceived were insightful.

    Now, A question for you, is there a song you would like to hear remastered? Of course with permission from those who retain rights to said “music”

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ps I noticed the period, but I just thought it was your own signature in a way. Very interesting stuff Silver.

      Delete
    2. If you mean, is there a record I'd like to see restored, before YouTube I would have said a 1960s version of "Stand By Me" sung by none other than Cassius Clay before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali. The only copy I've ever seen is the one in my collection, which is in terrible shape. But nowadays I can go on YouTube and find several videos for it.

      Delete
    3. Yes, as remastered and restored are two different things. I like your song choice Silver and I had to go to YouTube and give it a listen.

      Would yours copy be a 45? Ok, now see what you have done this song is looping around in my head putting me in a dancing mood. I'm listening right now, singing along. Sing Silver....

      Delete
    4. Yep, I found the 45 at a Salvation Army Thrift Store about 35 years ago.

      I own several versions of "Stand By Me." My favorite version was done by a guy named Spyder Turner. He does impressions of many other recording artists, and how he imagines they'd sing that song. Pretty cool.

      Delete
    5. Imagine Dragons have performed a cover of Stand By Me. Have you seen it?

      Delete
    6. No, I'm not familiar with that one.

      Delete
    7. I did check out Spyder Turner. I’ve never heard of him. Thanks for sharing the info.

      Have a nice weekend Silver!

      Delete
    8. I know nothing about him other than finding the 45 in my sister's record collection years ago. But there are two versions of "Stand By Me" by Spyder Turner. The one they released as a single, and a longer version on the album!

      Delete
    9. Okay, I just did some checking, and it appears that there are three versions, one "straight" version done about twelve years ago, and the 1967 versions, in which he imitates several other soul singers!

      Delete
    10. I wonder why he imitated other artists? Why not just do a cover?

      Delete
    11. It was a novelty piece. He wasn't stealing anyone's style. He was actually doing impressions. He'd announce who he was going to spoof, then he'd sing like Jackie Wilson, Smokey Robinson, and several others. Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZCTmTZ6MYo

      Delete
  9. No idea what the answer is to your question (and I'm too lazy to read the other comments), but I have one of my own: why do you want to know? :)

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No matter how old the movie or TV show is, the sound quality of the songs they play is always rather remarkable. So long ago, I started wondering where they got such perfect copies of these songs, which in turn made me wonder who supplied the music to filmmakers in general. And like I mentioned in my post, this question didn't include songs or background music recorded specifically for the film by the studio.

      Delete

I strongly urge you to sign up for follow-up comments, because I (usually) reply to your comment! Comments left for me more than two weeks after a post is published will not appear until I approve them, but they will be answered eventually!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails