PopMark Media’s December 2011 Confessions of a Small Working Studio
Production Music: An Interview With Studio 51’s David Trotter

Dec 5, 2011 2:51 PM, By Lisa Horan

Studio 51's David Trotter

Studio 51's David Trotter

This month, we are pleased to bring you an interview with a music industry professional who is not only widely regarded as an expert on production music, frequently traveling the country speaking at music events, but whose company has also achieved mega-success in the field. And while the unpredictable nature of the times is forcing closures and cutbacks throughout the industry, Studio 51's David Trotter has managed to expand his company into new territory. We asked him how composers and studios can achieve success in the production music world, what his latest venture is all about and to shed light on some of the newest trends that are likely to affect composers and studios in the near future.

Chicago-based Studio 51 isn’t another music production studio. It’s not a placement service. It’s not a music library. It's a music library service: The company's collection of music and composers is marketed to libraries that have relationships with major players in the production music community. “What made sense to us from a business perspective was deciding not to compete with major production music libraries,” says Trotter, who founded the company in 2003. “We decided to provide a service to the libraries rather than going up against them and approaching production companies directly.”

That’s one of the facets of the company that makes it unique. Another is the fact that it doesn’t contract individual pieces of music but signs composers to its roster. The music they write is then supplied to major network programs, national advertisements, feature films and other projects.

To get a perspective on the scope of Studio 51’s reach, consider the following:

  • The company has approximately 130 signed composers and is the Number One provider of music to Harpo Sounds
  • Its music comprises a large collection in the Pacifica Music Library, one of the industry’s most significant providers of music to Hollywood TV and film productions
  • As of December 1, 2011, the company’s needle-drop count in network TV was at approximately 22,000.

So what’s the secret to Studio 51’s success? According to Trotter, a major contributor to the high number of his company’s TV placements is the intensely strict guidelines it applies to its selection process. “The bar for network TV music is extremely high so we have to follow a very rigid policy in terms of selecting composers for our team,” explains Trotter. In fact, of the composers who make it through the initial screening process that is conducted by an outside placement company, only 10 percent are ultimately offered slots on Studio 51’s roster.

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