I have never written about my job in detail here, so I want to give you a taste of what I do.
I have had several jobs in my life that people say “Oh how cool!” Being a DJ, obviously, was one of those that people thought would be super fun. It was. Now I have a job with the title “Music Designer,” just like someone might be an Interior Designer, I design the music for a business. Again, people say “How cool!” Lots of co-workers in the building think it is the coolest job in the company and are envious. They are right. It is.
So what does a Music Designer do? Truly, there are a lot of boring parts in most days, just like any job. I usually start my day (late) and read the emails that have come in and deal with anything urgent there. Urgent might mean that a program I have running has run out of songs and needs to be updated. That is rare since we get warnings if that email is going to be coming. Urgent might be questions from my boss or co-workers. The worst urgent is an email telling me that one of my programs has profanity or some other unacceptable song in it and it needs to be re-issued (we call it “republished”) immediately. This can be bad news for the company because the cost involved can be very high. If, for instance, you do the music for a store with 1000 stores in the chain, we might have to re-print 1000 discs (they aren’t CDs, but similar) and send them by a speedy method to 1000 locations. A $10 mailing charge times 1000 locations? You can see why we do NOT want to get an email like that.
So that leads to a lot of what I do … While many people picture me listening to music I like and just bopping along, enjoying the tune, a lot of my time is spent listening to music I expect to use in a program and checking it for profanity or other things we don’t want in a song (some people don’t want religious references, some don’t want drinking references, most don’t want references to morbid subjects, like suicide, etc.). Friday I was listening to 7 to 10 songs by the heavy metal band Avenge Sevenfold (I think that was their name) for these things. Surprisingly, they were mostly acceptable. No, this isn’t music that I would choose to put into anyone’s program, but I have a casino in Connecticut as a client and they like to have music in their program by the artists that are performing there that week. This band is playing there in June so I needed to get their music into the program. The week after this band, there was an 80s dance music show with about 10 performers on the bill. The only one I recognized was Vanilla Ice, so I included Ice, Ice, Baby, of course, and then I had to see if there were songs in our database by the other performers and then find out which ones (if any) were hits that people might recognize (since I didn’t) and then I had to listen to all of them and see what lyric problems they might have. Heavy metal, rap and dance, and who knows what. This casino has so many different styles of music it is rather weird to have them all in the same program. As a Music Designer, I would NOT recommend it, but they are the client. And when I am in a casino and I hear the noise levels of the machine and the people and barely hear the music, I realize that it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.
When I’ve finished with a little project like that, I might go to work on another client’s music, gathering appropriate songs and compiling them for their monthly update. Each client is different in what combination of types of music they want, so I have to remind myself of their current program and then go hunting. Right now I have 3 clients that use a LOT of Texas Country music. That is one of my specialties, so I have been working to get licensing for a lot of the artists from Texas so that we can use their music. I also try to put their music in other programs to make it worth their while to go through the hassle of being licensed with us (we do pay them, it is worth it). Some of my clients have lots of the current top 40 music in their programs. Some of these songs on the charts are songs I don’t use in any other programs, so, again, I have to listen to them and familiarize myself with them. Some I may choose NOT to use because even though the client THINKS they want all the hits, I can hear that some of these are too far out there for them or the themes are too dark or too sexy or something. I use my judgment on these things. But it requires me listening to a whole lot of music that I don’t like.
But I also take care of a lot of programs that are not specifically for one client, but many might use the program. Stuff like “hits from the 60s,” “hits from the 50s,” “country,” “traditional country,” “bluegrass,” etc. I enjoy most of these because there is a clear-cut delineation of what works and what doesn’t work on most of them. Was it a hit? Is it the right era or genre? This week I did a lot of work on the 60s program. It is ever-evolving because our technology upgrades and then I can use better versions of the same song, so I am always looking to see if I can find a better quality version of songs that are already in the program. Many times I do checks and realize that there are missing songs from an artist. Perhaps when someone else started this program we didn’t have that song, or maybe I missed it at some time, or we didn’t have it. But now, I am looking at, say, hits by the Supremes and I realize “Hey, I loved the song The Happening. Why isn’t it in here?” I’ll go and check and find that we do have it and I’ll add it. Or, if we don’t have it and I think it is important enough to have in the program, I’ll go searching for it in other databases where we can buy music and request it. I did that last week with Neil Sedaka’s slow 70s version of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. And that made me think of Tony Christie’s song “Amarillo,” which was written by Neil Sedaka and was a minor hit for Christie, but I still wanted it, so I requested it, too.
A LOT of my time is that “oh that reminds me” thing that leads me far afield from the program I am working on. Or I’ll be working on, say, the 70s program and realize that one of these hits would be perfect for a restaurant I have music in so I’ll save that song in their folder so I’ll come back to it when their time comes. Or I’ll go see the whole list of songs by that artist and pull several for that restaurant or other stores. I may throw them out later when I come back to it, but at least it give me a start on finding their music.
Well, that’s enough for this entry of “What I Do.” This stuff fills up most of my time in most of my days, but isn’t my full job. We’ll get to that another day.