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How I got music on MTV, in interview with Jim Cochell from Trans Atlantic Crush

Boise band Trans Atlantic Crush recently landed a song on MTV's 'The Pauly D Show'. I sat down with Jim Cochell and asked him how it came about and in this interview there are some great pointers for anyone who wants to try and license their songs for TV and movies.

So tell me how the deal with MTV came about

We got an email from Sarah Ponder at MTV and she said “I heard your songs and we would like to consider them for use in some of our shows” and so they sent us licensing agreements and we went through it and signed off on it and sent it back. Then communication kind of stopped, they have so many artists they’re working with they never really got back with us, and then one day we just got an email, it was a reply all “someone needs to contact Trans Atlantic Crush and let them know their music is going to be on our show tonight”. So initially when they sent us the contracts what they said they hoped to do was to get it in several of their shows and they seem to be doing that and the next step is to try to get it into movies.

So Sarah Ponder who contacted you, did she represent a music library or was she a music supervisor for MTV?

As I understand it she’s a music coordinator for MTV, if you look up Sarah Ponder on IMDB or something you’ll see all the shows she works on. She previews a lot of the music and then bounces it to people who can use it and then if it sticks, it sticks.

So the nature of the deal, was there up front money?

No, no up front money, most of this is, and I’ll be honest… from what we understand, MTV likes to circumvent major artists cause it costs them so much , so what they are doing is smart. A lot of it ends being ego strokes for the musician cause right now there’s not a lot of money in it, but it’s great because you get that visible boost. What they’re doing is picking around various websites and artists that are making waves, and I don’t know what kind of algorithm they’re using, but they’re looking at Soundcloud and some other places and they’re contacting bands and what that does is it helps to create a buzz for their show cause they get 40, 50, 60 bands and their fanbase, and it has a seeding effect. That’s how they’re using it and they’re saving a lot of money and it’s great exposure for the band.

Are you registered with a PRO (performance rights organization)?

ASCAP

So you’ll get something on the back end?

Yes it’s a small amount. What I’m finding is that one hand feeds the other so to speak. When to music is on a show you get a bump in people who are paying attention to you, you get a bump on the indie charts, it just kind of starts elevating that way.

You’re on iTunes and Amazon?

And Pandora, we just got on Pandora

So did you see a bump in sales after the first show aired or anything like that?

I was surprised, I went back and looked at Amazon and we started selling some of the older stuff, Romantica, Discovered, (previous TAC albums) so it’s elevating that. We noticed a bump in sales but we don’t really know where it’s coming from. Like iTunes, we go check our iTunes account and we’re like “Wow, a lot of it is selling overseas” we just don’t exactly how or why. I wish there was a way to be able to track that stuff. Why did this person or that person initially find TAC and buy it on iTunes? It’s the seeding effect, you cast it all out there and this elevates that and soon you start getting on peoples radar in little bleeps. The funny thing is the less I worry about it, you know, I use the old girlfriend analogy, you chase her around, you call her and you treat her good, you do all these things and she won’t give you the time of day. Then you ignore her, and all of sudden she calls you up, and this is how this has kind of worked. I still seed it and work it, but now I let the contacts start working for themselves.

So the song that they used, did they use the whole song or a piece of the song or did you send them an instrumental version?

I sent them both (instrumental and vocal) version, they want the rights to use the full song with lyrics and instrumentals so we sent them both. I sent her an invitation to Soundcloud and she grabbed it, it shows when she downloaded it and everything and then they choose on their end.

When it finally did appear on the show, how much of the song appeared?

Not very much, about 15 seconds.

So it was a bumper?

Yeah it was a scene bumper.

And it was all instrumental?

Yeah, all instrumental, and then what you get is a link at the end of the show and they put you in their MTV player (on the website). MTV is pretty good about telling what songs are in the episode, and again it starts to feed that. I’ve never watched the Pauly D Show before.

It’s not really our demographic…

And the Irony is, like, Wow, of all shows, BUT that’s how it is, you take the deal and we watched it. I can imagine someone in a different demographic who is really in to the show will help to start feeding that interest in the band.

Those Jersey Shore folks are really popular and it sounds like now that you’re in the system it’s reasonable to think that you could get another similar call any time.

That’s another thing they had mentioned is the follow up needs to be quick. They called me and said they need instrumentals and I scrambled to get instrumentals ready for them in 24 hours, and that’s part of it because they may like something, but if it takes you 2 weeks to respond to them, someone else will squeak in behind you. They actually mentioned that it was nice to get the tracks so fast because most bands don’t normally do that. I think that’s part of it, being ready to jump and get it done and not spend a lot of time celebrating too much about the idea of it.

The real money is in the movies, if they get you a feature in movie then that changes everything. 30 seconds in a Pauly D Show or whatever it is, we see a little bump and it’s nice for your ego but ultimately we’re building a resume.

Getting a feature song in a movie, that’s the game changer..

Pop the Champagne, those tend to pay some up front, and also pay on the back end for a time afterwards. And if you’ve got your own product, the downloads and stuff, that money comes to you. That’s huge cause let’s say you get 20, 30, 40,000 in sales because of a blurb in a movie, at a buck a pop that’s a good deal, and if they buy the whole album, even better.

Even if they just buy the single…

And it’s more for your resume, now you’ve got that in a movie and now you’re in more people’s minds and it helps to create some legitimacy for you.

Have you done more to follow up and develop your relationship with Susan Ponder?

I’ve sent a few emails just saying thanks and she’s always responded. I haven’t really pushed hard.

As busy as those folks are, that’s about the best you can do really…

And I think that 10 years ago I probably would have been on her and she would have smelled my desperation. Now I’m like, put it out there give them what they want when they ask for something, sign the contract, send it back get it done, and be ready to move forward when they come to you.

Are you also working with a producer or publisher?

140 db, they are out of the UK, and that’s another thing on the resume that helps, every little thing adds to it that gave us a little more visibility

So 140 db, are they your label?

No. They’re just someone we work with. The story is, I was working with some people back east and it just wasn’t working out. So one day I got up and started sending out some emails to some offshoot record labels and got ahold of a gal named Rosalyn Earls. I didn’t know who she was, I just sent her an email, told her what kind of music I did and asked her if she had any ideas and she redirected me to her label not knowing she had worked with Depeche Mode and people like that. She said I think I have a guy that would work really good with you, he’s in LA right now let me bounce him your music and we’ll get back with you. A week later Guy Massey called and said I want to mix you at my cost, but these are the things you have to do, we have to sign a contract and list it as 140 db but we’re not really on their label, but we were able to utilize their tools and people, and their name.

Will 140 db get a piece of the money from this Pauly D placement?

Because of the deal we got on the mixing we negotiated points on the back end for the album.

So you have the title registered with ASCAP, does 140 db also have the title registered with their PRO?

No.

How do they end up getting paid, do you have to send them money when you get it?

Exactly. There’s a paper trail, they can check on all that stuff, it’s easy to find.

So if at some point if they want to audit you they can?

Yeah, but you just be straight forward. He gets a certain amount after I’ve recouped my costs from the mixing, so that’s how it works, then he receives a percentage.

That seems to be a pretty good deal…

It works great, the percentage is EXTREMELY fair

That’s about as square a deal as you’ll find in the music business these days…

That’s why I jumped on it, and to be able to utilize the resources is huge. I didn’t realize it until Joanne and I started to research it, but they (140 db) manage Flood (producer, Depeche Mode) and a lot of other people who work with the kinds of bands we sound like.

What kind of things did Guy Massey bring to the mix that you couldn’t have done on your own?

He has a completely different approach. If you look at his resume, he worked with a lot of those bands (Depeche Mode, etc…) years ago, but a lot of the stuff he’s doing now, he likes to work with more of the rock and acoustic, that’s kind of his flavor now, not heavy, but he just brought that ear to it. It was all through email

So you didn’t go down and sit in on the mix sessions?

No it was all through email and he did revisions when we told him ‘this is what we’re shooting for’, and he sat down and did his thing

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