Mark R. Hasan : Some soundtrack producers began as journalists, graphic artists, and publishers, and I wonder if producing was one of the goals you had always wanted to achieve early on?

Mikael Carlsson : No, it wasn't. It happened sort of by accident. As a film music fan, you're always doing these personal compilations, and you're always doing stuff on your own, just for the fun of it. There's always been this dream to do something for real, but it was never a serious ambition until much later.

I worked as a news journalist for fifteen years at various newspapers here in Sweden, and then suddenly I was unemployed, so I decided to start my own company to really try and make a living out of my true passion, which is film music.

MRH : For anyone deciding to set up their own label, obviously one of the biggest concerns is cost. Did you do a lot of research before selecting online distribution as your model, or did that choice happen when you analyzed the manufacturing and graphic and printing expenses inherent to a commercial CD release?

MC : It came naturally, because I'm completely on my own. I didn't have the financial opportunity to take any risks.

I wrote this column at the Music from the Movies [MFTM] website, which was about unknown composers, and was called “Hidden Treasures.” This was very much focused on new works by young and up-and-coming composers that were pretty unknown to the main film music audience.

I guess at the same time, my main interest in blockbuster scores from the Bruckheimer stuff and all that started to decrease, and I started to get very interested in music from smaller films. I tried to find really good music in alternative genres, and it quickly became evident that there is so much terrific music written outside the mainstream. When I started my company, I thought that this is what I want to do, besides all the other things I'm doing. (I'm writing music myself, and a few other things as well.)

I wanted to concentrate on these unknown composers and give them some exposure, and to introduce their work to the film music community and to the industry. The only way to do that was to minimize the economic risks, so there was not much left to do, other than to choose this online distribution thing.

MRH : I guess within the last two or three years, as more people started to use high speed Internet, and as MP3s becames a standard for many people, it's now easier to establish a label compared to five years ago.

MC : Yes, definitely. It's like an explosion, really. It's developing very quickly, both in terms of the high speed connection and the quality of the encoding.

MRH : Was there any advance research you had to cover regarding the technology? For example, before you attempt to distribute an album, you want to make sure that the album isn't too large for the average person to download, and that servers can handle the data transfer.

MC : To argue your question, when it comes to web design and graphic design, that was something that I had done quite a lot; I think I was actually one of the first to have a film music website online (that was in 1996 or 1997), and then I became the webmaster for MFTM for a few years, and I designed their first website.

But when it comes to the technology of music downloads and finding a good partner to work with, there wasn't much to choose from a year ago; there was one big company, and that was Apple's iTunes. They are the leading company in this field, so it wasn't a difficult choice at the time, but I wanted to broaden the distribution, and I'm also looking into selling the music on other sites.

There's been some issues about the audio quality of the music at iTunes, because they have a low bit rate, and a lot of people are annoyed by the fact that they have to download special software to be able to download the music.

In just a few weeks, maybe in one week, I'm launching my own webshop. I'm working with an English company which is very good, and they will be able to offer all of our albums at 320 kilobits. [Editor's Note: this service is now available at http://www.moviescoremediashop.com/]

MRH : Are there any unique licensing issues for online distribution when compared to compact discs - either performance rights, distribution restrictions for specific countries - or do you find the rights applicable to releasing a CD are very similar to online distribution?

MC : In some ways it's similar, because you have to pay the rights the same way when you're releasing a physical album, but there are key differences. If you press 3,000 copies of a CD, that's the number that you're presenting to the licenser or the film company or whatever, and the most common thing is that you pay for what you're producing and manufacturing.

When we're talking about downloads, at least for me, I have commission paid deals, which means that I pay for what I sell, not for what I manufacture, because I don't manufacture anything. It's like a win-win situation for every one involved. We put the music out there, and when we start selling the stuff, everyone gets their share of revenues.

MRH : It's much more economical than CDs.

MC : Yes, I think so. I haven't really looked into the physical CD release options in that much detail, but from what I've been told, and from the few questions that I've asked at various places, it's very uncommon when you don't pay anything in advance.



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