This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: P.J. Bloom, partner, Neophonic, Inc.
Slash loathes “Glee.”
In fact, Guns N' Roses, along with Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kings of Leon, have refused to allow their songs to be covered by the cast of “Glee.”
“Glee," nevertheless, is a pop cultural phenomenon.
As well, “Glee" has become the must-go-to platform for any music publisher intent on finding a sizzling promotional vehicle for their copyrights.
Each week after the musical comedy-drama television series airs, digital sales of the music featured on the show sky-rocket.
The series—if you don’t know—follows the fictitious lives of the members of William McKinley High School’s glee club, the New Directions, as they deal with life, sex and being supercharged teenagers in Lima, Ohio.
The show’s track record for snaring attention is downright impressive.
Nineteen Emmy nominations (and four wins); a Peabody Award; a Golden Globe for best TV series, and two Grammy Award nominations.
The show's first soundtrack, "Glee: The Music, Volume 1" received a Grammy nomination for best compilation soundtrack album for motion picture, TV or other visual media. "Glee" also received a nomination for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals for the cast's version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' (Regionals Version)" on the "Glee: The Music-Journey to Regionals" album.
Traditionally, television has motivated fans to purchase music—often existing third party songs—that they hear on a show. "Glee” is absolutely unique in that its fans buy both the new version performed by the program's cast as well the original by the pop superstar act.
How the show came about was that in early 2008, after the success of his cutting-edge, FX show "Nip/Tuck," the show’s co-creator and director Ryan Murphy read an edgy independent film screenplay by Ian Brennan titled "Glee."
Murphy became so fixated on the title that he asked Brennan to redo "Glee" as an acerbic television comedy. Then, with co-writer Brad Falchuk, they successfully pitched the show to Fox Television executives in the spring of 2008.
The potential for the show's music to be a digital sales powerhouse was demonstrated when the "Glee" pilot aired on Fox on May 19, 2009, greatly benefiting from a sizable lead-in of "American Idol" viewers during finale week.
The pilot episode achieved 9.6 million viewers on it first broadcast, and 4.2 million viewers when a director's cut version was later aired.
The pilot featured one song placement after another—more than 20 in an hour's time—including Amy Winehouse's "Rehab", energetically performed by the glee club members decked out in frilly blue, polka-dot skirts.
After Murphy had committed to making Journey’s “Don't Stop” the signature song for the pilot, the production team began the process of turning one of the best known pop/rock songs of all time into one of the 'Glee' greatest triumphs.
Murphy, however, hadn't cast his actors for the series yet. This resulted in no less than 20 different demo versions being created by two different producers sung by everyone from the top session singer in Los Angeles to a Journey cover band frontman.
In the end, “Glee” producer Adam Anders created what we needed—which, in turn, was sung by the cast. The rest is showbiz history. The “Glee” cast's version of "Don't Stop Believin'" has racked up one million sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In season two’s opener, besides performing Lady Gaga and Beyoncé's ”Telephone," Filipina singer Charice sang a powerful rendition of the latter’s ”Listen."
The choices of such recent contemporary hit fare signaled that “Glee” had shifted from being reliant on catalog to really entering the pop superstar sweepstakes.
Now that “Glee” is “GLEE” it has the latitude to explore newer songs on their way to becoming mega-hits.
The program has the clout, in fact, to add to the hit making machinery.
This was evidenced by Blaine and his Dalton Academy classmates singing Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream” that landed first-week sales of 214,000 digital downloads; and well as cast covers of Travis McCoy's "Billionaire" and Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" being mega-hits as well as re-igniting sales of the original recordings.
In Oct., 2010 recordings by the “Glee” cast overtook the Beatles in terms of the number of songs placed on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, "Glee" has placed 102 songs on the chart.
For the show’s success, give credit to where credit is due: to Murphy and the team of producers, writers, directors, and editors who are encouraged to contribute their creative input to the show.
Also, overseeing the music in “Glee” for the show's production company, Ryan Murphy Television, is the very versatile P.J. Bloom, a partner at the music supervision firm Neophonic, Inc.
Once Murphy picks a song for inclusion in “Glee,” Bloom tries to clear the rights with its publishers. Songs are then rehearsed, choreographed, and recorded. The process begins six to eight weeks before an episode tapes, and can finish up. the day before.
For over a decade, Bloom has been one of Hollywood’s most prominent music supervisors.
He has supervised, coordinated and consulted on everything, from small independent films (such as the 1999 documentary “Better Living Through Circuitry” on electronic music, and rave culture) to major studio projects by such film makers as Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, John Frankenheimer, Norman Jewison, Mike Nichols and others.
His impressively long list of credits include “Terra Nova” the sci-fi drama television series that is scheduled to air on Fox in 2011; as well as such TV series as: “CSI: Miami,” “United States of Tara,” “Nip/Tuck,” “The Shield,” "Angels Over America,” “Lincoln Heights,” “Trust Me,” “State of Mind,” “Night Stalker,” and “Baywatch.”
Bloom has also been a music consultant at HBO Films since 1998, overseeing such projects as "Angels in America," "The Life & Death of Peter Sellers,” “Maria Full Of Grace,” “The Gathering Storm,” "American Splendor,” “Generation Kill,” and “The Ballad Of Bettie Page.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Bloom first worked at honing his craft in the soundtrack divisions of Columbia Records, and Arista Records. As well, he worked at the Grammy Foundation, operated by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (now known as the Recording Academy).
Along the way, Bloom has been a prominent club DJ, a music journalist, an internet radio host, and part of the creative team behind Disneyland's "Rockin' Both Parks" event which updated the soundtracks for both the Space Mountain and California Screamin' roller coasters in 2007.
As well, he was music supervisor for such feature films as “Eat, Pray, Love,” and ”Running with Scissors.”
With your job, is it hard to listen to music for pure enjoyment?
I just don’t have time. I am juggling so many projects here, and I need to stay so far ahead. That is what, in a lot of ways, producers and directors who hire me expect. I don’t have so much personal time to spend with any one (music) thing. If I did, I would just lose too many hours of the day. I have to be constantly rifling through new stuff.
You also have a two-and-a-half year old son.
Yeah, so I don’t have any friggin’ time to sit down, and listen to music (at home). I am chasing him all over the place, and trying to be a husband, and a father while I do this music business thing in the day.
Do you find yourself listening to music thinking, “Maybe, I can use that?”
I don’t think there’s any moment I spend with music these days that I’m not thinking about how I can apply it to my work. That is just a double-edge sword of what I do, and how long that I have been doing it. It all seems to factor into the visual media for me in some way, shape or form.
Was that true when you started doing music supervision?
I guess when I discovered soundtracks, I was lucky enough to find a creative area that really coincided with who I am as an artistic person. I was excited to be able to apply my love of music to music supervision, and that I actually had an outlet to do it. I think I was proactively trying to figure out how I could take everything I was listening to, and apply it to the projects that I was working on. Now it is completely unconscious.
The main thing about my career, and my relationship with music is that I’ve essentially sacrificed my fandom for the work. I don’t have time to spend with back catalog or to listen to albums I love from back in the day. I’m constantly looking forward, and living this ephemeral existence with music. And, I do love that part of it. But, it’s unusual that I listen to albums more than once or twice.
That’s kinda sad being a music junkie.
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life and yet, as blessed as I am, there is this downside to crossing commerce and art that no one who’s not in (the music business) can understand. As overjoyed I am with what I’ve managed to accomplish, I can’t just sit and listen to music anymore without overanalyzing if/how it relates to my work, which zaps a lot of the pure enjoyment. Makes me long for the old days when I was an impoverished, jobless stoner surrounded by a sea of vinyl that I spun all day long.
I hosted an internet radio show (Hunnypot Radio) for four years, up until recently. The best part about it was just getting to play my favorite tunes for three hours a week. No business, just music. It was so great.
The music business is a business few people understand.
Well, it’s definitely not the real world. It is not the world that we really live in. Everybody else lives in the real world. I really hope that this music business thing continues to work out for me because if it doesn’t, I’m screwed because I do not have any real world skill sets. If I’m forced to go and push a pencil in a cube somewhere, it will be a rough road for me. I think that I’d sooner put on a back pack, and go and wash dishes across Europe.
What makes you and Ryan Murphy work so well together? “Glee” isn’t the first series you have worked on together. You worked together for 6 seasons on the FX series "Nip/Tuck” and the 2006 film "Running With Scissors.”
Honestly, I think that the thing that makes my relationship with Ryan work so well is that I just get him what he wants. Ryan is very sure about his wants, his desires and his needs. We have a very good short hand, and he tells me what he wants to do, and I make it happen for him. If he wants my creative input I am happy to share it with him. But, in terms of facilitation, I get him what he wants, and I get the job done, and I get it done on time and on budget. I think that he is appreciative of that.
You and Ryan must be on the same wave length for many things.
I think so. I think that Ryan appreciates my intensity about (music) and my conviction. He is a very intense guy himself. He knows exactly what he wants. He has a vision, and I think that he appreciates that from me as well. And I think that he appreciates the progress that I have made as well.
When we first started working together, I was not nearly the music supervisor that I am now. He gave me an opportunity to show him that I could do what I said that I could do, and it worked. And I think for one of the first times in his career his projects have been recognized for the music, and he’s been recognized as a music person—someone who pays very close attention to soundtracks. I think I can take a little bit of credit for that.
Does your company Neophonic handle all of the musical clearances for the show?
We do. I prefer it that way. We are very hands-on here. Clearance, in a lot of ways, is the backbone of music supervision. We pride ourselves on doing an incredible administrative job, and having a very tight business affairs ship. I personally believe that while it’s positive, and a good thing to know music in a creative way and have some artistic ability, I do not think that is a primary component of music supervision. I think that music supervision is a very specific skills set that includes creative, but it also includes technical and business affairs, money management, and politics. All of these things that so many of the younger “music supervisors” don’t necessarily appreciate or know how to do.
Obviously relationships are important in your work.
Yep. That’s our entire business. In the music business and the entertainment business in general, relationships are a lot of it. And, you are only as good as your last job.
Now that “Glee” is so popular, have you gone from where music was hard to clear to suddenly the floodgates are open?
It’s definitely (now) more the latter. It was a huge uphill battle at first. We had this incredibly ambitious endeavor in an episodic musical. The episodic musical had failed miserably over the years with shows like “Cop Rock” or “Viva Laughlin” which went a whopping two episodes (on CBS) before it got canceled. So we were behind the eight ball for sure. A lot of my time was spent convincing all of these A-list songwriters and major publishers that “This is going to be different,” and “We’re going to be great,” and “It’s going to mean so much,” and “It’s going to be so wonderful.”
No doubt, these publishers and songwriters were all saying, “Show me the money.”
There was a lot of that stuff. People are still saying, “Show me the money.” Now with the show, obviously everything has changed. We’re incredibly popular. We sell a lot of records. So there’s a huge ancillary income stream (for creators). There’s a huge marketing component. When our songs go into the charts, the original versions re-enter the charts as well. It brings recognition back to the original artists. There is just a lot of great stuff that happens for everybody who is associated with the show.
“Glee” has spent an unprecedented amount of money on music for a scripted network drama. Do you still battle for music rights on your other film and TV projects?
Every show is a battle. “Glee” is no different. It’s not like I just sit back in my chair and pick the things that I want. There are still a lot of money conversations. Any songwriter or any publisher is still concerned about content; especially using huge songs by certain acts, like the Beatles, Billy Joel or any of these huge catalog acts; or even these new acts, like Lady Gaga. They want to make sure that they are being really represented (in the show). Just because we say that it’s “Glee” it’s not a given that it is all going to be good and positive for everybody. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
How did it feel having the show’s cast overtaking the Beatles on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart?
It is difficult to process when you see it there in print. It’s amazing, and at the same time it feels a little bit blasphemous to a music person like me. There are just certain things that you are not supposed to mess with. Obviously, it feels incredible. I am thrilled for the success of the show, and Ryan’s success, and my own success because of it. At the same time, we are doing covers. We didn’t overtake the Beatles’ singles record by writing songs, so it needs to be kept in perspective. But, you know, it’s awesome.
Sir Paul McCartney didn’t send a telegram?
Paul has been an incredible friend of the show. We’ve used several of his songs and we will continue to use several of his songs. We have also used a couple of Beatles songs. We’ve have been talking to Paul, and his camp about doing a Paul McCartney tribute episode which will definitely happen at some point.
So many people are excited about being involved with “Glee” because they all have kids and grandkids.
If there is an accolade that Paul hasn’t won over the years I would be surprised. So I would assume that he wasn’t too broken up by “Glee’s” success.
[The episode that will feature Paul McCartney’s songs has yet to be announced. According to Reuters, Ryan Murphy was a sent a set of mix CDs by McCartney “It came out of blue in a package, handwritten, and it had two CDs and it said, "Hi Ryan, I hope you will consider some of these songs for ‘Glee,’” Murphy said. “So, of course, we are going to do something with him.”]
Ryan has been teasing a Justin Bieber episode.
Justin Bieber will be represented shortly. His episode is coming around in February. Everybody has Bieber fever right now. “Glee” is no different. We’re not immune.
One of the most fun things of “Glee” for me is that we get to participate in all of these cultural things that are happening right now. The first season, in a lot of ways, was built on catalog. We needed to have these huge hit songs that everybody knew in order to establish the series. Now, in season two, now that we are so much more popular, we get to really attack the charts as they are happening. Whether it is Katy Perry or Justin Bieber, we have our versions of these songs coming out within weeks of these songs becoming charts hits.
Are there concerns from the original artist’s labels that by using a song with the “Glee” cast, you are taking away from what they do?
No, no one is really concerned. There are certainly questions that are talked about because the record companies are running campaigns with their artists, and we’re doing our things. What has happened is that (covering original songs) only spikes sales for the original acts. We do our Paramore song (“The Only Exception”) and Paramore comes back onto the charts. We do a Kate Perry song (“California Gurls”), Katy Perry sells more records.
Everybody buys them both, especially the younger demographic, the teenagers and the young ‘20s. These folks are out there buying music and they are spending time on iTunes. They are buying, and they are re-buying. They are buying digital and then they will go ahead and buy at retail.
Was the show’s 15th episode "The Power of Madonna” on April 20, 2010 a water-shed for the program? Covering Madonna was risky, but the show went so well. It was so popular.
Certainly from a business standpoint (the spotlight one performer) hadn’t been done. It took us weeks and weeks to set this deal up. Madonna and her team were integral and Warner-Chappell, her publisher, was integral in helping us with that. So was Jeff Bywater over at 20th Century Fox, who is the head of music television there. This show could not run without him. It took the best of all our efforts to make the Madonna thing happen. Once we were able to get the deal on its feet, Ryan and his team just took the creative part to another level. I think that we were all excited about the way it turned it. We were all pleased. At the same, you have to give birth to it. You hope to put it out there and the world responds. If you do justice arguably to the biggest female act in the world, people will respond.
[The Madonna episode was the first time the music on “Glee” was turned over in its entirety to one performer. According to Nielsen, the episode was watched by 13.5 million viewers in the U.S. Michele's lead performance of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" sold 87,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The stand-alone "Power of Madonna" soundtrack from the episode debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.
Sony Music Label Group chairman Rob Stringer explained to Ann Donahue in Billboard (May 8, 2010 issue) that "The Power of Madonna” was a risky album release being that it was based on the songs from a single episode. "It's kind of weird," he said. "It's a different marketing angle, but the episode is so bloody good."
Getting Madonna’s approval for the "Power of Madonna" episode and the album that followed was, by no means, easy. Her camp originally passed on the concept. Further pitching was done, and the deal was only green-lighted after Ryan Murphy sent an appeal letter directly to Madonna.]
“Glee” covers aren’t identical covers of the original recordings.
“Glee” doesn’t try to be something that it is not. We pay homage and honor to all of the songs, and all of the acts that we cover. We’re certainly unique out there in the world, but, we are not trying to completely reinvent the wheel.
We have some of the best singers in the business. We have incredible actors. Ryan is a master story-teller, and there’s all the creative team. Everyone on this team is incredible at what they do. Kudos to Geoff Bywater, and to the production executives, and creative executives at 20th Century Fox. Everybody has been so gracious with their talent and has worked so hard to make this thing (show) so great.
The addition of Darren Criss—who sang the show's cover of "Teenage Dream"—as a cast regular and recurring guest stars like Charice must give Ryan and you a greater range to pick songs.
Absolutely. Every cast member brings something different to the table. A lot of new people coming in, and people who are going to visit in the future, just add a new dynamic and broadens our ability to do different kinds of creative things. It allows us to keep fresh.
[According to Laraine Santiago of the Santa Ana Celebrity Examiner, Ryan Murphy has confirmed that Charice is returning to the show. "She is coming back to 'Glee' in a big way; we're finishing the year with her. She's coming back for five episodes at the end of the year. She's gonna be great! Lots of big, big ballads for Charice."]
So when do we get a Nirvana/Led Zeppelin/Sex Pistols episode?
(Laughing) I would enjoy that one. I’m told that the Nirvana camp is up for it. I’ve been told Led Zeppelin would potentially consider it. Sex Pistols? I really haven’t gone there. I haven’t had the pleasure to talk with Johnny (Lydon) about it. I would hope if that day comes, it would come to pass.
Didn’t you license Nirvana’s music for “CSI: Miami” in 2006?
That deal disintegrated just before the finish line. I spent quite a long time working on that, and quite a lot of effort. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be. I certainly believe that my efforts laid the groundwork to what came after it because prior to that Nirvana had never been on a scripted television show in that way. That has since happened, it probably would have happened, but I certainly teed it up.
[The 2007 season premiere of “Cold Case” featured eight Nirvana songs: “All Apologies,” “Stay Away,” “If You Must,” “Lithium,” “Drain You,” “Something in the Way,” "Come As You Are" and “Heart Shaped Box.”
In Oct. 2006, Forbes magazine had reported that four Nirvana songs, including “Come As You Are,” would be used on “CSI: Miami” in November 2006. However no Nirvana tracks were on the soundtrack when the episode aired.
In the third season's finale of ABC-TV’s “Lost” in 2006, Jack Shephard is driving down the street listening to Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice,” right before he arrives to the Hoffs/Drawlar Funeral Parlor. This was the first usage of the band's music on a network television program's soundtrack.]
Vanity Fair magazine outed you as a Rush fan.
Rush are truly one of my all-time favorite bands. My wife loves them too, actually which is fun for us. I’ve never met them. I know Neil (Peart) has made mention of “Glee” so I feel I’m like one degree of separation from the band.
You’re a David Bowie fan too.
David Bowie is probably my singular, all-time favorite artist. He is the ultimate pop/rock artist, and songwriter. I would kill to be involved with him in some way. He is an artistic chameleon—changes every time he comes out with a new album. Just as a representative of music and rock and roll, he is my all-time, all-time favorite. I’ve never had the opportunity meet him. He’s one of very few people I would be starstruck by.
Music supervision for film and TV has changed considerably over the past decade. Ten years ago music supervisors were often dropping in licensed tracks in postproduction.
Nowadays, music supervisors can front-load the creative, business and production elements of a soundtrack well in advance of shoot days. Often you are brought into script and concept meetings.
I would say that 10, 15, or 20 years ago, music supervisors were facilitators in a lot of ways. Now, we—at least some of the best ones—are known for our creative prowess, and what we bring to the table. We all do a very different thing, a very unique thing. We are brought on to not only handle the production, technical and the business affairs needs of the show, but as a true creative component.
We are also in one of the few above-the-line roles that are in the trenches—working with the film makers and television producers from day one, really. We are there on the set. We are there during the editing process—start to finish.
There weren’t many popular soundtracks in the ‘60s and ‘70s that successfully licensed eliciting third party songs. In the ‘80s, I remember the popularity of “Stand By Me” (1986) reigniting Atlantic Records’ catalog.
There was also “The Big Chill” (1983). The concept of licensing existing third party songs en masse for film soundtracks is something that is relatively recent, as in the last 30 years. In the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, it was all about original music. If it wasn’t a musical where the songs were created specifically to support the story, (studios) were commissioning (original) works. It was never about licensing 12, 15 or 20 tracks for a film. It was about commissioning that one big song to anchor the project.
[The soundtrack of “Stand By Me” reached #31 on the Billboard 200 in 1986, staying on the chart 45 weeks. “The Big Chill” reached #17, and stayed on the chart for 161 weeks.]
Studios either had an orchestrator, music composers, and lyricists in house or had orchestrators like Alex North, Leonard Bernstein or Henry Mancini do the music.
Exactly. It was just an entirely different medium back then.
Warner Bros. Records was originally established in 1958 as the recorded music division of the American movie studio Warner Bros. Pictures.
Among the label’s early releases were albums by Warner contract players such as Tab Hunter, Edd Byrnes, Connie Stevens, Jack Webb and William Holden. That was a rare planned marketing match up of TV and music.
Absolutely. I would also say that back then that these film companies never really looked at soundtracks as a marketing tool. (The soundtrack) existed solely to support the body of the film, and the creative aspect of the film. Later, when you get into the ‘80s, the Michael Mann era of television with “Miami Vice” or the early ‘90s with “Beverly Hills, 90210” you have these soundtracks that were not only driving the episodes but they were also being used as marketing tools by the studios and the (TV) networks.
Michael Mann was one of the first to bring a sound and a look to a TV series.
Absolutely. I did a series with Michael Mann (as executive producer), the short-lived “Robbery Homicide Division” (in the 2002-03 season for CBS). At the time we were going up against CSI, “Crime Scene Investigation,” the original Las Vegas one. We absolutely got killed by that show. “Robbery Homicide Division” went off the air after a short 10 episodes. But Michael did tell me a couple of great stories about licensing music for “Miami Vice” back in the day. Nobody really cared back then. It wasn’t a money-making operation. The music industry didn’t really care about the licensing because everybody was still selling records and making money at retail. So, for him to license a song like Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight,” he said that he paid in the neighborhood of a few hundred bucks, and the deal was done in a day.
Some directors and producers are more attuned to music than others.
Yeah, there are a lot of directors I’ve worked with who have incredible taste in music and an incredible sense of it. Ryan Murphy is definitely one. Unfortunately, I think, more directors and producers really just have a sense of story, and a sense of picture, and not so much a sense of music. I find that, more often than not, most people are looking to (license) their favorite songs which may or not apply to the film or the television show. Usually what makes a favorite song is that you have your own incredible memories when you first heard it, like getting laid in the back of a car during prom (night) or on your wedding night, whenever it was. That’s what they look to. Your memories are never the same as the world’s.
And those are usually the tracks that are impossible to clear because they are such big hits.
Right, exactly. In some cases, they are such a small hit that they have no significance whatsoever.
You worked in the soundtracks department of Columbia Records in the early ‘90s?
I started my whole (music supervision) journey at Columbia back in the ‘90s. I was doing soundtracks. That’s where I discovered the trade. I ended up getting a job with Maureen Crowe, (then VP of Soundtracks at Columbia Records) who had just come off “The Bodyguard” soundtrack which was one of the big-selling soundtracks of all time. She was offered a department at Columbia Records. She started up the soundtrack department there, and I got a job working with her.
You left Columbia after a year.
After leaving Columbia in 1995, I went to NARAS (the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences—now known as the Recording Academy) and worked for the Grammy Foundation for awhile during the Mike Greene era. Jim Berk was running the Foundation at the time. I was glad I was exposed to what NARAS was doing, but it was not my bag. Then, I opened up a nightclub in Los Angeles.
A nightclub in Hollywood?
It was called The Night Watch. Do you remember the club "Simply Blues" on top of the Sunset and Vine Tower? It was there for about 20 years on the top floor of the Sunset and Vine high-rise on the south-east corner of Sunset and Vine. That’s where our club was.
You lost your ass.
Oh, absolutely. We spent about 18 months building the club, and we were open for about nine months before we had to close, but it was fun. We booked live talent and had a dance club. It was another thing to add to my music repertoire. In some shape and form, my journey.
After that, you had to look for a job.
I had been exposed to soundtracks by that point, and I wanted to stay in (that field). I ended up finding a job with Evyen Klean, who is now my partner in music supervision. His partner, at the time (in Klean/Broucek Music), was Paul Broucek (now president, Music, Warner Bros. Pictures). I was their assistant for a little while.
Six months into that, Evyen and Paul got asked to, essentially, become the music department at New Line Cinema. Evyen had pretty much lived his entire existence as an independent music supervisor, and he didn’t have any kids. Paul Broucek, on the other hand, had two kids who were imminently going to college. So the idea of steady income was more enticing to him. So they ended up splitting up. Paul went on to run the music department at New Line Cinema (as President, Music, 2004-2008 until New Line Cinema was folded into Warner Bros. Pictures).
So, that left just me and Evyen doing the music supervision thing when Evyen had “Baywatch.” All of a sudden I was thrust into this greater role. I got to spend my early days finding music for Pam Anderson running down the beach with her boobs flapping around.
Welcome back to the music supervision business.
Yes, exactly. That’s when I really thought, “You know what? This is for me.”
Didn’t you also launch Hunnypot Unlimited with John Anderson?
John and I founded Hunnypot together. It started about 10 years ago.
You started out by throwing free parties.
We did. The soundtrack world was starting to have a real voice within the music industry as digital started to come around, and physical retail was meaning less, and soundtracks were meaning more. There was a much greater spotlight cast on this industry.
As a way to bring people together in a social way, John and I started throwing these parties around town (Los Angeles). We would do them, probably, quarterly. They were great. It was everybody in the then-burgeoning film and television music business. We were all having fun. We were all doing really cool creative stuff. We were making money for the business. We were all having a good time. There wasn’t a whole lot of pressure. We weren’t supporting the rest of the record industry like we are now. We were flying just below the radar. We had enough prominence where we had the respect, but didn’t have so much of the responsibility and accountability that we have now. It was a lot of fun throwing parties for this group.
[A decade ago, Bloom and “Hot Tub” John Anderson, senior VP of film, TV and creative for Windswept Music Publishing), started throwing film and television music mixers to coincide with the then-burgeoning soundtrack field. About 30 to 40 people showed up at the early parties. As the world of film and television music grew, so did their events.
Hunnypot parties have had as many as a many as 1,000 people, and have included live bands and tastemaker DJ’s. Hunnypot has also had a presence at several music conferences, including CMJ and South by Southwest. In addition, Hunnypot broadcasts a weekly online radio program.]
Flash-forward about eight years, John and I decided to try and monetize this thing, and get into the (music) publishing world. We found some money, started signing bands, and began working with different acts.
In 2008, Hunnypot Unlimited joined with EverGreen Copyrights for a music publishing, placement and marketing venture.
EverGreen were the first people to come in and fund us. That was a difficult experience for us. It was fun trying to get funded, to go out, and look for money. We had a couple of suitors at the time, but we decided to work with Evergreen. They were funded in an around-about way by Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking Group (now known as Trilantic Capital Partners).
It was difficult to work within the music business medium, especially publishing, when developing new acts. There is probably a three or four year arc before you see any money, or any movement, on the acts that you are working with. But we were involved with bankers who were getting quarterly reports. So every three months, we would have these huge conference calls, and board meeting type of affairs, where they would keep asking us, “Where are we? What’s our progress? How much money have we made?” The answer, generally, was, “Well, we’re nowhere. We haven’t made any money. We are still spending money. We are still developing.”
We would talk in all of this esoteric street jargon with a bunch of suits-and-ties that were using a bunch of economic acronyms that I didn’t really know about, or care about.
Is Hunnypot Unlimited still active?
John and I are still partners, although I no longer participate in the day-to-day (business). We have a publishing deal with (the electro-dance group) Far East Movement, among others. They currently have an international superhit with “Like A G6” (which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100). Their second single “Rocketeer” is in the Top 30 and rising.
You are from L.A.
I am from L.A. I grew up in the Benedict Canyon area. It is technically Beverly Hills, but I am just embarrassed to even say that.
Don’t tell me you went to Beverly Hills High School.
I did. There are two other successful music supervisors from my high school class—Lisa Brown, who has done a lot of Disney stuff over the years, and Ann Kline.
Your parents are in entertainment.
My father, George Bloom, is an Emmy Award winning screenwriter. My mom, Sue Bloom, is in fashion. She has dressed a lot of very famous people over the years.
Your dad has been nominated for three Emmys, and won as head writer for “Cyberchase” in 2007.
He worked on Lou Wasserman’s team at MCA from ‘62 to ’68, and was involved in shows like “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “Wagon Train,” “Ironside” and “It Takes a Thief.” Then he became a freelance writer in the later '60s to now. He wrote for “Starsky & Hutch,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and “Maude” in the '70s, and wrote the film “Last Flight of Noah’s Arc” starring Ricky Schroeder and Elliot Gould. He switched to children’s programming in the '80s to now, writing for “Transformers,” “My Little Pony,” “Magic Schoolbus,” “Cyber Chase” and other shows.
You got a taste of Hollywood while very young.
Growing up, I would go with my dad to all of the studio lots. I grew up going to 20th Century Fox when they still had the old “Hello Dolly” set there or going to the old Paramount Studio. I’d go with him to take meetings or I would go with him when he was on set to shoot. So the whole concept of being in Los Angeles, being in the entertainment business, and being surrounded by Hollywood for all of this music stuff, is very natural to me.
Did you hang out at Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard?
I worked at Tower Records in the summer of ‘87. I’m the real deal in that way. It’s amazing to me that it doesn’t exist anymore. I still live in Los Angeles and I drive down the Sunset Strip all of the time. I look over to where this iconic record store used to be, and it just seems odd that it’s not there.
Where did you go to college?
I went to the University of Colorado (in Denver). I got a degree in music and a degree in interpersonal communications there. I went there as a piano performance major. I ended up getting in a bit of a row with the head of the piano department. She was a strict classicist, and insisted that we did the theoretical lessons by performing music by dead people, music by dead composers. I wanted to exploit the theoretical lessons by writing my own stuff, which is what I thought was kind of the idea of going to music school and learning how to play and how to perform. Apparently, she disagreed.
So at that point, I lost interest and wanted to drop out of the (music) program, but one of my professors there was Dick Weissman (then a tenured professor in the Music & Entertainment Industry program). I think that he’s also one of the top claw-hammer banjo players in the country. He’s written books on the music business. I credit him for putting me on the path. I took classes from him. He suggested that, if I was going to drop out of the music program, that I should stay and get into the very young music business program at that time. I loved taking classes with him.
[A member of the legendary folk trio the Journeymen with John Phillips and Scott McKenzie, Philadelphia-born Dick Weissman is also a renowned teacher and writer of over 20 books, including: “The Music Business: Career Opportunities and Self-Defense,” “The Folk Music Sourcebook,” and “Which Side Are You On? An Inside History of the Folk Music Revival in America.”]
You collected records for years.
(Records stores) were a big deal for me. (I can remember) all the Rhino Records backlot sales, all of the penny sales that they used to have. Record Surplus down on West Pico Boulevard—all of these places. For me, my father is a screen writer, but I developed this sort of music passion on my own.
I DJ'ed for a long time at clubs and I would lug my vinyl around everywhere. It just meant everything to me, it still does. I love to see these statistics where CD sales go down 30% every year, but vinyl goes up 200%. That is just amazing.
Do you miss the warmer sound of vinyl?
I have really expensive gear in my office. I’ve got tube amplifiers. I try to pull as much warmth out of (music) as possible. When I still DJ, I work with the digital vinyl medium Serato (Scratch Live). I basically take my turntables, and play actual physical vinyl that it is encoded so it reads the MP3s that I have on my computer. I still have my hands on the vinyl in that way.
Do you still own vinyl?
I don’t. I don’t really have that much at all. The bulk of my major collection was stolen about a decade ago. I had it in storage and the storage facility was broken into. So the bulk of my collection was stolen. The rest of it I either gave away or…I’m not so much a believer in the physical manifestation of music anymore. I was in that for a long time. I don’t know what it means to me anymore. I’m in this incredibly unique position of having everything at my fingertips at any time. I’ve taken that to, “So why do I need to own it?”
One flick of the wrist on the internet, you can listen to what you want.
It’s true. And you can stream these bootleg concerts. Go to a show, and the next day you can hear the show that you went to. I love all of that as someone who grew up in the world of record stores, and rifling through the bins.
I was always nervous for the next generation of the record-buying public, just knowing how voracious my appetite was back then, and how excited I was to leave my house and to go to the record store, be there at midnight when the album of the big band that I wanted went on sale or taking the bus to the record store and spending every last nickel that I had rifling through the used record bins.
I didn’t think that the world of digital retail would have the same kind of meaning. I thought that there would be some apathy from the record buying public. But what has ended up happening is the world has now been unified and people can now go on the internet, and find anything that they want at any time. It has given people a new kind of curiosity to try to find as much as they can. They have developed a hunger and an appetite for (music) in a different way.
Then there’s a medium like Pandora where you input one type of music that you like, or one band that you like, and Pandora spits out, “Well, if you like this, maybe you will like this music.” It gives you a playlist of everything that is kind of like this one band or this one act or this one genre that you like, which is also kind of a neat thing.
Anyone in a rural area 30 years ago couldn’t get access to diverse music. Now, they have access through the internet.
Access is everything. Back 20 or 30 years ago, we had to leave the house and go to the record store or go to the concert if we wanted to hear music. There was no access. The challenge was finding (records) and getting (records). If you were one of the few people who caught onto one of these things, you were revered for it. Now access is everywhere. So the acquisition of it doesn’t mean the same.
The internet has also exiled the traditional gatekeepers to music such as radio programmers. There’s no format on the internet. A kid can be listening to Journey followed by the Sex Pistols, and Charlie Parker.
I would say that is true of terrestrial radio. For me, terrestrial radio has been a big waste of time for a lot of years. I don’t (really) listen, and when I do listen, I find myself just completely frustrated searching around the dial for something that I want to hear. The world of satellite radio or internet radio is rife with creativity, and much more reflective of what free-form radio used to be back in the day.
Terrestrial radio is still out there, and has an audience, but a 17-year-old today can make up their own playlists on the internet.
Absolutely, and that is a beautiful thing.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide: Celebrating 40 Years Of The Juno Awards.”
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