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P&E Wing Presents ‘Unsigned and Making It’

On August 21, the Producers & Engineers Wing of The Recording Academy presented "Unsigned and Making It"

From left: P&E Wing Executive Director Maureen Droney, Natural Energy Lab founder Danny Benair, The 88 members Adam Merrin and Keith Slettedahl, producer/engineer Mike Clink, Chop Shop Music owner Alexandra Patsavas, and Video Games Live founder Tommy Tallarico. Photo courtesy of The Recording Academy®/ ©2007. Photo: Mark Sullivan/

On August 21, the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy presented “Unsigned and Making It,” the second in a series of programs hosted by the Los Angeles Chapter and the P&E Wing that focus on new and alternate revenue streams for artists, especially those who are not signed to a major record label. Members of the music community discussed how the digital era has changed their ways of doing business while providing new opportunities.

The discussion was moderated by producer/engineer Mike Clink (Aerosmith, Guns ‘N Roses, Metallica), who is successfully developing up-and-coming talent. Clink noted that while major label sales and production are down and radio outlets are becoming more elusive, film and television licensing opportunities are increasing, and videogame music budgets are expanding.

From left: Adam Merrin and Keith Slettedahl of The 88. Photo courtesy of The Recording Academy®/ ©2007. Photo: Mark Sullivan/

Adam Merrin and Keith Slettedahl of the band The 88 acknowledged that licensing income kept them viable as indie artists until their recent signing with Island/Def Jam. “We’d go to every show we could and work the sidewalk passing out CD samplers,” Merrin explained. “Danny [Benair] got one, and a couple days later [he] called us and said he was interested in placing some of our songs. I think the key for us has been that being in a band isn’t just playing instruments and playing shows—it’s a business.”

Music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, whose company Chop Shop Music works with such hit TV shows as Grey’s Anatomy, Rescue Me and Without a Trace, said that her ongoing search for exceptional cuts often leads to unsigned or non-mainstream performers. “Music supervisors are different from labels because we can look for one great song. We don’t have to worry about how handsome someone is or how willing they are to tour. You just find the very best song for the TV show or film scene you’re working with.” This prompted Clink to observe that music supervisors, along with TV and film producers, were essentially “today’s new A&R departments.”

Composer and videogame industry icon Tommy Tallarico, founder of the Game Audio Network Guild, emphasized that the world of videogame music presents great a opportunity for artists. “There’s really no such thing as ‘videogame music’ anymore,” he said. “You have to define the music by its genre. As a composer, you can go from working with a banjo player to working with an orchestra to working with a speed metal band, depending on the game.”

Danny Benair, former music publishing executive and current chief of Natural Energy Lab music placement service, reminded the audience that a straightforward passion for music is still a prime motivator at this time when new business models are being built. “I do what I do because I’m still basically a geeky record collector guy at heart, and if I didn’t listen to music for a living, I’d still be listening to music all the time anyway,” he said. “You have to take your business seriously, but at the end of the day you have to love what you do.”

Maureen Droney, executive director of the P&E Wing, added, “We remain committed to bringing panelists like this together to share the benefit of their personal experiences with our members. Events like ‘Unsigned And Making It’ are a great opportunity to interact with professionals who are on the cutting edge.”

For more information on the Recording Academy’s P&E Wing, click here.