Elie Maman at Peter’s Planet, New York City
Photo: David Weiss
From sequencer to sync license. It’s a tricky route, but smart producers and artists in New York City who ride the subway every day understand that there just might be a music supervisor sitting next to you on the A Train. If you can get some of your tracks in his or her hands, you might have the makings of a solid business plan.
By keeping his eyes and ears open, producer/engineer Elie Maman (www.eliemaman.com) was able to pull off just such a feat recently. Although he’s only 20, Maman has already been making his mark producing rock, pop, hip-hop and more, including a featured song for MTV’s The Lowdown on Rob and Big, and a slew of cable commercials and promos.
Three months before a driving hip-hop track that he produced was featured on the MTV show Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, Maman’s song “You Already Know” was barely an idea. “I had a Kanye West song referenced in mind — that vibe,” explains Maman. “A lot of hip-hop kicks and snares, 32nd-note hi-hats, mid-tempo in the 90s. I put it together with the typical pop arrangement: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, outro.”
Maman assembled the initial arrangement — a darkly driving song packing a big beat and athletic hooks — at his Brooklyn home studio using Logic, Logic and nothing but Logic. “You can do everything in Logic — recording, mixing, arranging,” he explains. “I also master in Logic using the IK Multimedia T-Racks plug-ins, which makes things come out loud and clear.
“For the drums, I used Logic’s EXS24 sampler,” Maman continues, “performing the beat on a MIDI piano keyboard. A lot of people click the mouse to program drum sounds, but I can’t do that. I’m a musician, and as a bassist/guitarist/drummer, I have to play something. After I play out the beat, I’ll edit it on the piano roll, locking every single note to the grid by hand. Obviously, it’s faster to just quantize it, but the way I do it is tighter. It sounds a lot better. For the arpeggios, which are an important part of this song’s sound, I used the PoiZone VST synth.”
Enter David Rush, a fast-rising rapper signed to Universal Republic Records and introduced to Maman via a mutual friend. Impressed with Maman’s past success getting a synchronization placement on Rob and Big, the New Jersey-based Rush asked if the producer had anything new cooking. He did. Rush listened, pronounced the track to be dope and quickly wrote lyrics and a melody.
“He said, ‘I’m wrapping it up,’ and we met at Reflex Studios in Piscataway, New Jersey,” Maman says. “He and his engineer, Critiq, have been working together for a while, and they’re a tight team. We recorded the vocal using an AKG C414 doing a lot of double and triple trackings, plus ad libs. For the choruses, we used Auto-Tune, with a lot of different harmonies — one each of low, medium and high registers — then blended all together. There’s a lot going on in the chorus: 32nd notes on the hi-hat, a bunch of arpeggiators, and it just sounds very in-your-face. We recorded the vocal and mixed the song in four hours, as crazy as that sounds. I’ve never done it so fast.”
Riding the momentum, Maman burned the track to disc and shipped it off to his broadcast contacts and got some quick feedback. “I listened to your track. Catchy hook,” came the e-mail reply from Ben Hochstein, a freelance music supervisor for MTV’s Fantasy Factory. And then — nothing. But four months later, in the beginning of April, Maman suddenly got a phone call.
“It was Ben Hochstein,” says Maman. “They said, ‘We want to use your track. How fast can you have it cleared?’ I said, ‘The next day.’” As it turned out, “You Already Know” was the perfect background for a scene in Fantasy Factory where two of the show’s personalities play the song out of a boombox while they dance around on the skate park-like set (view the scene at http://www.mtv.com/videos/misc/372782/zorro-vs-cole.jhtml#id=1608300).
As he worked out the deal, Maman also made sure that MTV credited him so that people would know exactly who to call when they heard the tune — a shrewd move that ensured the song would continue to pay dividends long after the first airing. As a result, “Artist: Elie Maman and David Rush. Song: You Already Know” popped up onscreen as the song was broadcast, and the results were off the hook — literally.
“Everyone started Googling me, e-mailing me and MySpacing me,” Maman says. “Credit and credibility is so important, and I think everyone — artists and producers — should always fight for credit. The bottom line is that connecting with music supervisors is more important than ever. They’re the ones who are going to get your songs on TV and commercials, and that’s where the money is right now from upfront fees and royalties. They say you’re as good as your last record. In this case, you’re as good as your last placement.” But you already know that.
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