Intrigued by the idea of a “business-to-business record company,” I dropped in at the Westside's rapidly growing RipTide Music (www.riptidemusic.com), a secret weapon in the arsenal of many busy music supervisors and editors. Founded five years ago by musicians Rich and Ellie Goldman, RipTide is a boutique shop working with top-flight artists and composers to provide licensing, scoring and A&R for films, television, games, trailers and advertising. With recent placements in such high-profile games as Gran Turismo 4 and Sony's God of War; trailers that include Batman Begins, Sin City, Stealth, Herbie: Fully Loaded and Mr. & Mrs. Smith; and on television with North Shore, CSI and Malcolm in the Middle, RipTide's on a roll.
From left: Dan Silver, Ellie Goldman, Emily Weber, Rich Goldman, Bob Kaminsky and Carrie Adase
photo: Maureen Droney
“We've been in the production business forever,” says Rich Goldman, who, with his wife, Ellie, formerly owned Cincinnati's Fifth Floor Studios, where such luminaries as Bootsy Collins, the Ohio Players, Prince and Sheila E recorded. As a self-described “gun for hire,” Goldman produced music for “everything” until, watching the industry change, he began looking in different directions.
“The concept for RipTide came out of seeing so many artists — bands, singer/songwriters and composers — who had so much fantastic music sitting on the shelf,” he explains. “We started aggregating that great music. At the same time, we re-connected with Bob Kaminsky, who had been in A&R at A&M Records.”
Ironically, Kaminsky, now a partner in RipTide, met the Goldmans when he passed on an act they were pitching. When they met again, Kaminsky was producing network television specials and working for a company that sourced content for Video-on-Demand. This time, there was a meeting of the minds.
“All this musical content out there, and because of the consolidating of radio and record companies, fewer and fewer avenues to market it,” Kaminsky comments. “With the technology curve, we've never had more people making more diverse music with better production value. But there are fewer ways for them to sell it. Being musicians ourselves and knowing all sorts of people in the industry, we realized that we could help find the correct audience for a lot of this music.
“Now, we provide the functions of a traditional label: finding music and, in many cases, assisting in the production of it. We're also, in a way, manufacturing, distributing and promoting.”
Also like a label, RipTide acts as gatekeeper. “We're extremely selective,” Goldman points out. “We primarily focus on music that we know our buyers want. We compete directly with major labels to place things, so everything we represent has to be on the highest level. The people who buy our music respect our musical knowledge, and we only give them what really works.
“The problems and disarray of the record industry have, in some ways, been a boost to our company,” he continues. “Record companies are looking for something very traditionally commercial. Their machinery needs to work with it, and the artists need to tour. We're not encumbered by those things. We have unbelievable talent showing up at our door because we have ways of exposing people's music and making money with it.”
Staff composer Dan Silver, along with Emily Weber, runs RipTide's Pro Tools — based studio. “We specialize in on-the-edge, knock-your-socks-off action music,” he informs, “but we have every style, from electronic, punk rock, orchestral, hip hop and industrial/metal hybrid to what sounds like vintage field recordings of a harmonica player. When the music originally comes in, we take a lot of time with it: editing, mastering, even going back to the producer and helping construct it to better serve the clients.
“I deal with a huge flow of music. I'm constantly on e-mail and IM with several music supervisors at once who type, ‘What do you have that sounds like this?’ I distribute our music via Internet, IM or, if they've got one of our collections of compilation discs, I can suggest where [on them] to find the music.”
O’Henry’s prize-winners, from left: composer John Frizzell, Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sara Watkins, and engineer Rick Winquest
photo: Maureen Droney
According to Goldman, RipTide's success stems from performance, recording quality and, “the fact that it's an easy deal. We're a one-stop shop. For 95 percent of the music we offer, we represent both the master and the publishing side. We can make a deal on the phone immediately.”RipTide has now branched out internationally, both with clients and artists. Kaminsky offers an example: “One of the game companies needed something that sounded like it was a popular song in Turkey. We happen to have a great composer there. We e-mailed him the cue, he wrote the song — in Turkish — overnight, and had a singer come in. A few hours later, it was done. The client was delighted.”“It's an exciting process,” concludes Goldman. “You're doing everything you can to give clients what they need in a very limited time frame. They trust our intuition, and that they'll make their deadlines. The clock is ticking; they have faith that we'll deliver, and we do.”At Burbank's O'Henry Studios, composer John Frizzell and engineer Rick Winquest scored
The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, with orchestra and feature performances by “newgrass” band Nickel Creek's Sean (guitar) and Sara (fiddle) Watkins.Based on a true story, The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, due out later this month, takes place in the 1950s and stars Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern. It tells the story of a mother of 10 who supports her family by winning commercial jingle contests. For the soundtrack, Frizzell recorded approximately 45 minutes of music that he describes as “definitely not a ‘normal’ score,” which includes lots of muted strings, a plucked cello and a jazz/country feel.Having worked together for 10 years on something like 20 films, Frizzell and Winquest have a groove going. “I do very detailed synth mockups, which Rick listens to prior to recording,” says Frizzell. “And we have discussions. For this session, we talked about where to put the piano and harp, which, for this score, work like a unit. They trade back and forth, with parts normally covered by the piano's left hand often played by the harp.”“Both instruments ended up together in close proximity in a large iso booth,” adds Winquest. “Since they played off one another, leakage was a factor in a good way.”Although the jingles of the era — for which Julianne Moore's character wins toasters, groceries and enough cash to pay her mortgage — were sometimes set to music, they actually originated as small poems. “There are probably about 10 minutes of score that emulates the kitsch '50s sound,” notes Frizzell. “But most of it is dramatic, because the movie is really a drama about the sacrifices this mother made to keep her family going.”Eschewing a period sound, Frizzell and Winquest aimed for something “contemporary, but very pure, with minimal reverb and a kind of blunt presence on everything.” Winquest used a combination of new and vintage mics, noting, “This score is very ‘exposed,’ so we had to be especially careful of noise problems.”For high and mid strings, he chose Sennheiser MKH 80s; for celli, Neumann M49s; and for basses, Telefunken/Neumann U47s. The piano was captured with AKG C12s and the harp with a Schoeps CMC6 body fitted with an MK21 capsule. Sean Watkins' acoustic guitar took a Schoeps CMC6 with an MK5 capsule and a Sennheiser MKH40. Six mics captured Sara Watkins' solo fiddle. “We recorded her alone, close-miked with an MKH 80,” says Winquest, “and also with the orchestra's LCR and wide room mics: three Neumann M149s for the Decca Tree and two MKH20s for the wide room. When we laid the violin on top of the orchestra in the mix, it melded together naturally.”“It's pretty wild on this score,” Frizzell says with a laugh. “We had vocal recordings, orchestral music, a rhythm section and a ukulele. It pretty much has everything.”E-mail your L.A. stories to