Wednesday, March 18, 2009

State of composing for television as dictated by Neophonic and NBC

Heather Guibert

PJ Bloom (with the headphones)

Below is an email from Linda Livingston at BMI today. It's hard to blame Linda as she may have had good intentions and wanted to help her friends stay "in the mix." But it is a disgrace and an insult to the composing community and she should know better.

If I am an agent, I would be worried. The music supervisors are basically inviting an "America's Top Model" type stampede. Whatever happened to hiring a composer, working with him, and getting good music from a give and take that historically has yielded results.

Instead, we have a free for all.

So does NBC and the producers pay the music "supervisor" to set up this free for all?

Also, do the producers, the network, the music supervisors and anyone else culpable here realize that they are basically inviting a law suit as there is no such thing as a "work for hire" if you don't "hire?"

With all this in mind, I submit to you, courtesy of people who pretend they are here because they "love" music- but really are intent on just profiting on the fact that composers are desperate and will work for free.

A pox on their houses. Go read and see how horrible working conditions are for composers. This is the complete email:


We have been hired as Music Consultants for Parks & Recreation (NBC) starring Amy Poehler. This show comes courtesy of Greg Daniels & Michael Schur, the creative masterminds behind The Office (US) and is shot in the same docu-drama, behind-the-scenes style. P&R takes place in Pawnee, IN and centers around the town’s public officials as they try to make their city a better place.

Here’s what you need to know...


The series begins airing on April 9th. Clearly, this is coming up very quickly – which means we are nearly out of time to procure our Main Title Theme. Accordingly, we need ANY and ALL demo submissions in our hands by NO LATER than the end of the day on Monday, March 23rd. We will be presenting everything to the Producers on Tuesday, March 24th. In the interest of our accelerated schedule, we can offer NO latitude with regards to our submission deadline. If you wanna play in this sandbox, you’d better have your pail & shovel ready to go by MONDAY, MARCH 23RD!

Once the Producers and Network have chosen the lucky winner, we will have one (1) week at most to facilitate any creative changes and/or go from “demo” to final recording. Should you make it to the next/final round, you must be available and willing to facilitate any changes and/or final recording prior to April 1st.


In the interest of time and the environment, we will be accepting digital submissions ONLY. Accordingly, please send us mp3s, wavs or aiff files via downloadable link or FTP site. Please DO NOT send files by email as those may not reach us or will clog our system. Additionally, we will be using the audio you submit to cut to picture so we suggest you submit high quality files in order to ensure your material is best referenced.

We will accept and listen to anything you wish to submit. Please don’t hesitate to submit multiple works or multiple versions of the same theme.

Please send all submissions to PJ Bloom at AND Heather Guibert at Everything will be filtered through this office.


At the risk of stating the obvious, no “demo” money is available at this time. Anyone submitting material for this opportunity must do so on “spec” on their own time and dime.

The Parks & Recreation final main title theme is a work-for-hire! It pays $7,500. The theme song must be an original work, not an existing song or an arrangement of an existing song. No shared ownership is being offered by NBC (although writers will retain their customary writer’s share and participation in the performance income – which may be significant for a long-running internationally successful show). Encumbered artists and writers are welcome to participate but waivers will be required.

Now on to the fun part...


It’s safe to say we have a blank canvas here. What we can tell you is this... While the series is clearly cut from the same creative cloth as The Office, P&R is its own show (in the same way Christopher Guest films have a similar look and feel but are uniquely individual)! As such, its main title theme must be unique. Any submission too closely emulating the main theme from The Office may do its composer a disservice and may not be considered simply on general principal.

P&R is a comedy but it also has heart. Our theme should represent that. It can have comic whimsy and quirk, but it shouldn’t be slapstick.

The theme must have a very distinct, memorable melody - the kind folks will whistle in cars and download as ringtones for years to come.

The theme can be instrumental or have lyrics. As far as what a lyric might say, keep in mind that anything too on the nose will not work. The rest is on you!

The main theme will be 30 seconds in length. Accordingly, your submissions must be approximately 30 seconds in length. PLEASE: Do not submit material shorter than 30 seconds and do not submit material longer than 35 seconds knowing we’ll have to edit. Any full-length song submissions and/or any material significantly longer than 30 seconds will not be considered.

We have attached the current P&R visual animatic. The music included in the animatic is TEMP only! It is an example of a sound the Producers are interested in and may be considered when writing your original work. However, please go with your creative gut and write what you feel! The temp music is a loose guideline – or no guideline at all.

Well... That’s pretty much it! Bottom line... We need the greatness and we need it fast!!! We are available to answer any questions but we’re hoping everything you need to know is embodied in this brief.

For those artist, composer and writer representatives, there is no need to ask of how we feel about a particular candidate. We can tell you right now... If they’re willing to write on spec and are amenable to the deal terms above... We LOVE the idea!!!

Let’s discuss only as needed. We look forward to hearing you wares very soon!


  1. Hey pussy,

    Instead of wasting time creating a blog that only serves to demonstrate your anger and frustration with the business, why don't you focus your energy on writing the winning main title? Feel free to call me directly and discuss, like any real composer would. Since you seem to know so much about me, you must know how to find me.

    PJ Bloom

  2. PJ-

    I wish I could write you a theme, but I don't work for free. and I am guessing, neither do you.

    If you are looking to create a great theme for what appears to be a terrific show starring some great talent, you would do well to find a great composer and work with him (and pay him to work) to fit the music to the show.

    That should be your job. I mean you are drawing a salary for your job, right? Why shouldn't the composer?

    Look, anybody can put out a casting call for every composer in the world and all you are inevitably doing in this situation is building in your own obsolescence(Alicen Schneider could save the money for the music sup. fee and just put out the call herself. Maybe she could pay a few composers a demo fee with some musicians' cost while she's at it).

    Great themes aren't born of "cattle calls" and you should know that your value to a network and to a show should be based on your ability to cultivate a culture of artistic trust and support (again, pay people to work- especially if you are planning on taking their publishing while they were on "spec").

    And you should watch yourself legally. Because in legal terms, calling something a "work for hire" doesn't mean anything until you "hire" the person for whom you are engaging.

  3. "Great themes aren't born of "cattle calls""

    Really? How do you know? What themes can you name that were born of cattle calls? Are none of them great? Who defines great?

  4. I don't think you're a pussy, I think its a point well made. It's completely bizarre state of affairs that genuinely creative and professional people have to be at the mercy of this ridiculous circus of recruitment.
    Any genuine fan of music knows that being a music supervisor is about as cushy as jobs get. You only have to tune in to most shows on TV to hear how TV music (much like the shows) is about as bland and mediocre as its ever been.
    Most proper TV/film composers know this to be true, imagine the time when show themes were written and recorded by the likes of Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin etc. The Parks and Recreation theme hasn't even been recorded properly! Its an okay theme, but it sounds like shit.
    This isn't written through bitterness. I'm not a composer, and I'm doing very well in my field thank you very much; but I am interested in quality music and genuine talent being able to shine through.
    Good luck! x

  5. if you don't want to take part, you don't have to

    there's nothing wrong with the email

    business sucks for musicians because they are a dime a dozen

  6. hi...i really liked the theme...its quirky and fits the show very nicely

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  9. I found your site when I wondered aloud, "Doesn't the Parks & Recreation theme song sound like the theme of Glee?" There is a reason, as a listener, why I like both themes a lot, but I can only empathize with the state of job security for composers, and it sounds like PJ Bloom is very defensive.