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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Lomas

Hear the Experts At Melodie Music

This month in Ampel's series Hear the Experts Here, we interviewed co-founders Evan Buist and Andy Wilson from the Aussie tech-music start-up Melodie. Melodie is the music behind many of Australia’s best marketing, podcasts and more. Melodie provides unlimited access to high-quality stock music for storytellers. With an exclusive catalogue featuring 20,000+ tracks & stems from award-winning composers (updated weekly), simple licensing & intuitive search functions featuring AI-powered 'reverse-audio' search tools. Discover why this exciting Aussie-based start-up just completed a successful funding round of $1m+ and is about to take the US market by storm.

Listen to the episode here or read the transcript below. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss out on more great news and insights from the Audio Industry.

Josh Butt: Hi, I'm Josh Buttt, CEO and founder of Ampel. Welcome to Hear the Experts Here, where we talk to experts in the audio world to find out more about how they do things and what they think about what's coming tomorrow. We're really excited to be talking to guys from Melodie Music Evan Buist, who's the Managing Director, and Andy Wilson, head of A&R. Guys, thanks so much for coming in and joining us in the studio.

Evan: Thanks for having us. Josh, do you.

Josh: Do you want to tell us a bit about Melodie and how you got started and why you got started?

Evan: Yeah, absolutely. So Melodie's just turned five last November. We're an Australian independent music licensing platform, and you and I have been friends and collaborators for a good, good part of a decade now at least. And we created Melodie really as an opportunity to get Australian music on the world stage and also to hear more Australian music and Australian productions. So we built Melodie, the platform from the ground up. We recruited all of the amazing composers that we had within our network and started to work with TV producers, content creators and creative platforms in Australia and all around the world, providing them with access to amazing music.

Josh: You know, at Ampel we use Melodie music pretty much exclusively. I don't think we've had another track for a good couple of years. So, you know, you really are our music library. Yes. Andy, you're head of A&R. What the f_ is A&R?

Andy: It's a great question. It's a funny old title, isn't it? It's a head of artisan repertoire. So in the old days, there were people who would go out and hunt down, you know, great artists, performers, bands, whatever, and then work with them on getting a set of songs that they would go and record. And to be honest, it's essentially what I do now. So I try and find composers or composers come to us and then we work with them and I work with them specifically making sure that what they're supplying is going to work for the clients that we have on the other side. So really, I'm kind of the linchpin between the music that comes in and making sure that it's road fit for the clients on the other side. My background is both in music and in television. I've made music since I was in my teens and had some success and was a was a rock star flash in the pan for a moment.

Josh: Right. Where were you, a rock star?

Andy: I was a rock star in New Zealand in the early 90s. It sounds like such a wank, doesn't it? I was a rock star in the 90s.

Josh: You look like a rock star now. But it's true.

Andy: But it was a short period time and at the same time I always did TV and wrote music for TV and that was kind of my bread and butter. That's what paid the bills when I wasn't gigging or doing other things.

Josh: Well, what was the what's the biggest bill payer that you've ever had?

Andy: I did a global launch for National Geographic Channel. We worked collaboratively with an existing theme, and then built on it and built a whole suite of tracks for it. Yeah.

Josh: Because that's that's a is it?

Andy: Copeland No, it's no, no, it's even older than that. Like the original ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba. No, it's one of the old kind of old school New York Jewish composers. I can't remember, like one of the Bernsteins or something like that.

Josh: Oh, wow.

Andy: Yeah. But the reality is we only used three notes of it at the end, and then the rest of it was built around that. So.

Evan: So it sounds the same, but it's not quite a sound a lot. It's an inspired by it.

Andy: It's just, it's just the, it's just the mnemonic really. But mnemonics can carry on for centuries. In fact.

Evan: Prior to Melodie, when I met Andy, you had just done the theme for lifestyle channels and Star network stars.

Andy: Yeah, Star News in Asia.

Evan: And he's done a lot of that and we've worked together. I was working in post-production when Andy had the accounts for most of the Foxtel channels, so doing a lot of work with promos and branding for TV channels in Australia and Asia Pacific.

Josh: Why was Melodie set up? I mean, it was was it because, you know, being imposed and music libraries that just shit and have been shit for a very long time and now they're not. Was it because of frustration around how bad some stock music was?

Evan: Absolutely. I mean, working on both sides of the fence, having both been composers and both been working in audio post environments with editors and producers. Like we knew the pain points and the frustrations of the end users, both in terms of like consistent high quality of music, which wasn't always the case. Simple licensing, you know, being able to know what your rights were so that you wouldn't be sued down the track and having some kind of, you know, relatively intuitive search interface so that you could find the music that you needed. So those three things together we knew were problematic and there wasn't really a solution at the time. And particularly there wasn't a voice for Australian music in the global production music space. So that's what we wanted to try to put together. We've been kind of iterating the tech since the beginning. So you know, every other month, we're putting in a new feature or, you know, adjusting something based on user feedback. And now we're at the point where it works really well. It's, you know, there are many ways to search from, you know, the standard menus, genre, mood, instrument, you know, key BPM, all of that stuff. We have AI search tools where you can drop a YouTube link or an MP3 in there and it'll analyse the reference. File and kind of extract keywords from that analysis and then search for those keywords. In our database, we've got find similar functionality that works with AI. We've got all sorts of ways to to find music, but most recently we've introduced what is maybe the most exciting feature for an Australian music company, which is the Aussie button, the Australia button, which allows our users in Australia. So just those users with an Australian IP address to filter the artists on the platform to only show music by Australian artists, which we all know is important to support our very small industry in Australia. But it directly allows Australian businesses, produces TV production companies if they want to, to be able to find music exclusively by Australian artists. So it empowers our clients to be able to directly support Aussie music.

Josh: We're so lucky. We've got so many great musicians, I guess, I guess where it comes into play for me, where I'm looking for First Nations Australian music. Typically I've just called you and asked you to look for and so you've just told me you have. I mean, I'm really annoying, I must say. So hopefully you don't have to hear from me. So all love it.

Evan: No, we love to do music searches and acquire music for you. And you know what you need is what everyone needs at the end of the day. So it's great to have that level of communication.

Josh: Yeah, well, you guys are so responsive. It's unbelievable. And, you know, we've ended up working with James Henry a lot, who's one of who's one of my go-tos, I guess, on the platform. He's a very talented indigenous musician. When you're looking for an Indigenous-led music track, typically it's didgeridoo or sticks. James Henry's, for example, is not that, not always that it's got those instruments, but not necessarily in what would be a cliche way. He's really got a great vibe.

Andy: There is no one sound. And in fact the didgeridoo only comes from a very small section of Australia up in North Queensland. Yeah. So, you know, although that's distinctive and signifies Australia, it's not descriptive of Indigenous music as a whole. And James has done a fabulous job of when he does use it, he uses it in such a way that it doesn't feel like it's a cliche, it feels like it has, it sits up space. He uses all sorts of other things in terms of voice, etc etc, that sound uniquely of this country. He'she's a real talent, is a multi-skilled guy and he does music for installations. He's a go-to photographer as well. His styles are quite broad. Like he will do kind of electronic music and he will do almost traditional kind of rock and roll a little bit. But somehow he just makes it all fit together and it doesn't feel awkward. He's a real talent.

Josh: Yeah, I know. We can't name everyone, obviously. 115 currently. 115. Wow. That's the thing with a library, right? Like, you find a few composers that you like and you kind of gravitate towards them. I mean, some of the people we've worked with is Cookie Cartel is one that springs to mind. Really funky bunch. But, but who are some of the other go-tos for?

Andy: You know, the nature of having a production music library means you need to have a broad range of music. So that's kind of where we have a lot of composers and they all have strengths in different areas. So some of them can be broader than others. Cookies Cartel is an interesting one to bring up. They are extremely prolific, but they can do a bunch of different things, which is kind of why they can be prolific. We have got stacks of local composers that sit in particular areas as well. Not always what you might expect. In fact, Helena Chaika and Yuka Snell are a duo, in fact UK's most times in Berlin these days. But she's an extraordinary violin player and Helena is a fantastic composer who's been in our midst for ages.

Josh: It sounds like a leading question, but it's not. A few months ago, we needed some classical music and there wasn't something that just sort of was sitting there. And I mentioned that to Evan. And a couple of months later the duo sent us a couple of classical tracks, which are pretty unbelievable coincidence.

Evant: Josh You decide. Yeah, well, I mean, Helena was already an artist with us and we've known Helena for years and she teamed up with Yuko, who is in the Berlin Philharmonic, and she is an extraordinary violinist. And Helena herself is an extraordinary composer, writes for Bluey and wins awards here and there. Yeah. And they got together and they did create these songs. And to be honest, I can't tell you whether that was your spark or whether that was a spark that was already ignited. The way we acquire music often is for actual broadcast productions, so we work with some of the bigger production companies in Australia. They come to us with a show like Real Housewives or Bondi Rescue or whatever it.

Josh: Happens to be.

Evan: Waltzing Jimeoin. Yeah, we have this one client. Josh That's right. And we'll brief the show out to our composers. Maybe 20, 30 of them will submit music. If the music's good, we acquire it and it'll end up being curated, put into playlists and sent back to that client. However, unlike Bespoke music, which is typically going to be commissioned and exclusive to that project, it ends up in our library, not. Available to other users, but it's created with a specific production in mind. So it's about as perfect as it could possibly be for that show, if maybe not written to picture.

Josh: One of the things I really like about the service that you provide is that you give us the the tracks and you split the instruments up so that we don't necessarily have to use all of the instruments every single time. Sometimes it might just be the piano or that without percussion or yeah.

Evan: Subtractive stems as opposed to giving you a high hat and a snare and yeah, because it makes it back together.

Andy: You mean this is why the search functionality is the way that it is. This is why the music is the way that it is. We don't have stems in so far as we don't split everything up, although we will do some individual instruments. What we do do a lot of is subtractive mixes. So we'll take things out of a mix because that may be the difference between it being used in a production or not. It might be that there's a guitar track that's just sitting over and right in the vocal space, and that means that the audio post producer or the offline editor is going, I just can't get this to work. And then they find the mix it has. There's no guitar, which is great because they occupy a similar frequency space, so then they can work around, then they can have the music kind of envelop the narrative that's going on, whether that be dialogue or voiceover or whatever. Again, just how quickly can we get a piece of music into a production? How quickly can we solve a problem for an editor or an audio post producer?

Josh: What are some of the typical challenges that producers throw your way that now just become kind of your standard response?00:11:36

Andy: The stems is really the well, the alternate mixes is the one that comes up most often.

Evan: We're not providing different interpretations of a song. So we won't have a, you know, a poker version of a rock song. It's going to be the rock song and we're going to break it out. So you've got drums and bass, you've got the full mix, you've got a version, an instrumental version with no vocal. And we'll have all of these subtractive mixers that by themself can work in an edit. So you could line up, you know, nine of these versions beside each other and just cut between them and you'll have a seamless mix with different vibes. So we all of our versions are like that. They're not, which is what you've actually requested before.

Josh: I haven't requested a polka version of something, but I may, you know, give me time.

Evan: We've had occasionally, you know, extended tracks that we've broken down into into different versions and they've been retitled.

Josh: But the collaborative nature of Melodie, if someone really did want to poke a version of a song, could they reach out and just say, Can I get a polka version of this song?

Andy: And most of our composers are receptive to these sorts of requests too, so there's no conversation that we won't have, that's for sure.

Evan: We do commissioned works. Obviously we do bespoke music. We'll do themes and ads and whatever's required. We're doing something for Heineken at the moment out of the Netherlands, we did a rerecord of George Michael's Careless Whisper a couple of months ago. And yeah, so we absolutely do that. And if someone has a specific request, we can create a piece of music that's exclusive to that client that won't appear in the Melodie Library. And they could actually have exclusive use to that as a pneumonic like we did for labs. We do anything music and you know, in doing so we provide opportunities for our for our writers. So we'll never say no to an opportunity.

Josh: On the mnemonics and the ads. And obviously sonic branding is becoming a much bigger thing. Yeah. Now, although I imagine it's going to be a much bigger thing than it is even in 2023.

Evan: Yeah, 100%. We do it. We did it for Levi's a couple of weeks ago where we put together a set of tracks like you often do. In this case, they were non-exclusive tracks available in the Melody catalog, but they wanted a specific sound for a specific piece of content that they had, and it transitioned across different parts of the content, and the team went through and curated playlists for different parts of this and they had an amazing outcome. But equally, if they wanted a unique piece of music, we could actually create that, score it to picture.

Josh: Even so, you can be the music library as a company, but you can also be the music supervisors.

Andy: Certainly these conversations are starting to happen and we're already the go to company for music, for for production music. It kind of makes sense to have the chat with us in the first place and with, you know, the amount of composers that we can call on. And also in multiple territories, which really helps to in fact, one of the ones we did recently, we needed to have it done in 24 hours. So we were able to call, you know, people in other time zones to get stuff happening and we got it done. And, you know, in 20 hours, which is extraordinary.

Evan: Yeah. Client UK composer and we're squashed in the middle and it worked perfect.

Josh: And what about for emerging musicians who want to get their music onto a site like yours? Like, how does that work?

Andy: It's a really good way to make an income. If you're a composer, it's a good way to cut your teeth to skill up because you need to, to a degree, work at pace. The more tracks you have in the game, the more likely you are to going to get picked up. And certainly we've had conversations with people who are kind of fresh out of the Conservatorium or they're fresh out of other, you know, tertiary institutions and they suddenly realize that there's an option for them.

Josh: So it kind of feels like a faux pas even mentioning that. But one of the things that I noticed about that AI generated music is just how boring it is. Is and how it all just sounds the same.

Andy: You need a human in it. You still need a human. And we know this from first-hand experience. And we've worked in and around, you know, development in this area. It needs to resonate with human, otherwise it won't work. I mean, music is communication, right? Yeah. Our whole business is built on trying to make people feel something. Right. And that's a choice of notes, a choice of rhythms, harmonic interplay. If you're not a human, you won't understand it. You know, you can feed an AI machine with billions of pieces of data, but it still won't kind of resonate the same way.

Evan: It's only creating based on its data set. And you can have a broad data set that will allow it to create things that seem new, but it's never going to be, you know, that real cut through sound.

Josh: Yeah, well, I mean, you're not hearing much in 17, 8 or 5 four. You're not hearing, you know, interesting scales. You know, for example, you're not hearing the E-flat pentatonic scale, you know, underneath. Thanks. It's my favorite scale, you know, that I kind of.

Andy: For me, I mean, music is, you know, I'm, you know, a few decades old now. Music is still such a joy for me, right? Like, working in it is still such a joy. I don't get tired of it. I don't know why anyone would try and seek to find an alternative to being immersed in the joy like it's such a cool thing. Magical frequencies that somehow make us feel differently. It's weird. It's like alchemy, you know? So I'm all about trying to continue. I got all these composers that I work with and all these people on the other side who want to hear great music.

Josh: You guys have an API who like who uses the API.How does it work?

Evan: Yeah, I mean, I didn't really touch on this in the beginning, but we have three markets. We have the content creator market, so people making digital content for social media, YouTube, Facebook, etcetera, those people. Then we have our B2B film, TV, broadcast realm advertising. And then lastly, we have our B2B to creative platform market, which is often accessed through our API. So these are creative technology platforms with users making user generated content. So they might be online video editing platforms, they might be online podcast editing platforms, text to speech, all of these AI things that are popping up, any kind of digital content creation platform. We pipe our music in, they get access to our database so that their users can search and integrate our music into their content for use online. And that's that's that entire realm for us. And it's exploded. Interestingly, since GPT came along, especially one of the users, we went from several hundred thousand calls to now it's more, now it's in the millions of API calls per day. So every day we're getting literally millions of pings on our database by humans all around the world searching for and downloading music for their digital content. It's super.

Andy: Exciting. Melodie only exists because of the composers. So, you know, everything's cut down the middle, 50 over 50. We understand that they make a leap of faith to, you know, to put their music with us. And we take that really seriously and we work really hard on their behalf.

Josh: Awesome, Guys, thanks so much for for coming in. Where do we where where can we download it?

Evan: We're called Melodie Music. And you can go to Melodie Dot I we're pretty new to Spotify, but if you look up Melodie Music will pop up and there'll be a few playlists for your listening pleasure.

Josh: Thanks guys.

Andy: My pleasure. Thanks.

Evan: Thanks, Josh, Thanks for being an awesome customer.

Josh: It's easy.

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