We’re trying something new on our Blog column! Every now and again, I am going to do a Q&A with a music industry tastemaker who I think has a lot of great information and experiences to impart to our Readers. For my first “interview,” I’ve spoken to Dan Silver, who is not only an amazing force in the music industry, but also one of my partners in the Quantum Collective:
Dan Silver is the VP of Creative and Senior Producer at RipTide Music Group, a Sync focused Publishing Company specializing in worldwide placements for advertising, film,television, film trailers, and video games. Recently Riptide merged with Pigfactory, giving the two companies an even wider span of talent to work with. The combined groups’ most recent work includes music placements in “Breaking Bad,” “True Detective,” and “Parenthood,” as well as trailers for “Noah,” “Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
As a co-founder of the Quantum Collective, Dan curates the live talent for events, most recently for the Southwest Invasion, which took place during SXSW week on the roof of The Whole Foods Flagship store in downtown Austin. Additionally, Dan is an artist himself, which allows him to bring a unique perspective to events he produces.
1) Hi Dan! Did you always want to be part of the music industry?
Hi Liz! I always wanted to be a part of music…especially creating and making music. As a younger person, I didn’t know what it meant to be part of the music industry, which seemed exciting and attractive. It’s still a thrill every day, there are so many twists and turns, and you never know what’s going to be thrown your way. While many days are crazy, just like any job can be, I still love doing what I do, and find I enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to be successful. The business is changing every day, it’s still the Wild West, so it keeps you on your toes constantly!
2) A lot of people who work behind the scenes, originally wanted to be in the spotlight - was that the case for you?
I enjoy both! I love working behind the scenes in the Film/TV business. It’s very rewarding to find a great home for a song or piece of music in just the right Film, TV Show, Trailer or Ad Spot. As a music producer and performer, I stay highly involved with artists and also when performing with my own bands. It’s not about being in the spotlight, per se, as much as loving being on stage and affecting a crowd with a message through cool sounds and great songs. I enjoy a combination…being able to work in an exciting business and having recognition can be great, but also enjoying a quality of life and home life is just as rewarding.
3) You’re also an artist, can you tell us a little bit about that part of your life?
I’ve been playing music most of my life, I started very early playing piano and then learned several instruments as a teen. There was a point when I just knew this was something I would do for the rest of my life. Once I discovered an electric guitar when I was 15, that was it…I knew I had to commit myself to music so I joined a band with some friends from high school. We quickly became part of the local scene and put out our own cassettes and 7” records as well as began to tour on our own. It was a lot of fun.
While being in the business, I’ve always found a way to keep creative as an artist. I’m constantly writing, recording, and producing music. My last band, Standing Shadows, produced their album in Joshua Tree at the infamous Rancho De La Luna studio with producer Chris Goss (Queens Of the Stone Age, UNKLE, Sound City Players, etc). These kinds of experiences are something indescribable and extremely inspiring. I’m currently working on my new band, MOON, a 3-piece, soon to be on the scene later this year. Making music keeps me going, and without it, I would have trouble doing anything else.
4) For those who have no idea what a VP of Creative does, can you fill us in?
I oversee creative operations and marketing -- which includes everything from running the studio to working with clients as a creative liaison, to providing music from our artists or creating new music for different projects. I work with my team to ensure we suggest the best creative concepts we have available for our clients’ music needs. I’m also highly involved in finding new talent. I keep an ear to the ground at all times hoping to discover something new and special that will be useful in our industry. I also work closely with some of our artists and composers to collaborate and produce new albums, which can involve being in the studio with them and working with them to make decisions on the music and creative direction.
5) What is a typical day like for you?
Everyday is completely different…if I were to suggest a ‘typical’ day, I would be lying. Tackling the needs of someone who works on a film versus an advertisement or a movie trailer all need to be handled differently. I receive calls from clients around the world, daily, working on varied projects at all times. I’m also, constantly in the background, working on several new releases or producing new music that are in assorted degrees of completion. Every one of these requires a different direction. Some days I’m in the studio, others on the road meeting with clients, and at other times in the office combing through the catalog searching for just the right piece of music for a client.
6) Tell us about some of the artists and projects you work on at Riptide.
Some of Riptide’s recent artist signings include The Airborne Toxic Event, Fatboy Slim, Dirty Vegas, a new breakout band from UK called Morning Parade, and another UK band The Chevin. We also represent some of the classics like The Turtles, Iggy Pop, Dead Kennedy’s and Musical Youth. We’re very excited to announce a few independent artists who are doing well, like Finish Ticket who recently signed with Atlantic Records, OK SWEETHEART who’s recording her next record with Ryan Hadlock (producer of Lumineers), Jarell Perry, Vanaprasta, and more!
Recently I produced a few premier releases with composers Daniel Lenz and Cliff Lin, perfect for film marketing and advertising. I spent over six months working with Daniel Lenz to create his new album “HERO.” The sound of the record is both slick and action packed, containing compositions that are dramatic and uplifting. We spent time creating amazing melodies, while we also worked long distance with Franck Barre, in France, to highlight the melodies with huge layers of Orchestra. As we neared the end of the writing, I worked closely on production to be sure the arrangements are dynamic and tell a complete story. We just had a song featured in the TV spots for Draft Day.
I also spent a few months producing Cliff Lin’s latest album “Rising From The Ashes”. Most of the initial writing took place in Lin’s New York studio. Marisa Ferdenzi, Cliff Lin, and I wrote and collaborated on all the songs, bringing together our music ideas to make something new and inspiring. We are excited to announce one of the new songs will be featured in a TV spot for The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
7) How do you choose the music for some of the advertisements/films/trailers you put together?
Choosing music is subjective, requires a creative concept and good taste in music. Many times I suggest music that I feel could work for a client because I’ve researched their projects to get a sense of what would work. It’s important to pay attention to what the need actually is -- as sometimes you want the music to sound similar to the idea the client originally had…and other times, you want the music wants to create a specific emotional response. Since I know our catalogs very well, I usually can hear a reference or read a description, and quickly find a ballpark of ideas that relate. I spend a lot of time dissecting the clients’ need first and trying to apply those same ideas to the music I’m gathering to submit for the project.
8) Some of the artists you work with aren’t well known, how do you find them?
It’s important to listen to everything! I go to local shows and music festivals, attend conferences and big events, read blogs, listen to blog radio, watch TV, and more. Immersing yourself in the scene will always provide great underground knowledge of what’s happening underneath the radar. I’m also well connected to managers, agents, indie labels, and artists who are looking for opportunities and I do my best to listen to everything I can with the hope to discover a gem.
9) What are your criteria for picking artists at the Southwest Invasion?
Choosing the music is difficult and always a challenge, mostly because there are so many talented artists these days. Along with curating a tasteful selection of artists, we also have to take into consideration our partners, sponsors, and most importantly, bringing a line-up that keeps fans excited all day. I spend a lot of time studying the music and paying attention to what I’m hearing out there the entire year leading up to the event. I do my best to consider a handful of current major artists, a few classics, as well as supporting several independent artists. I also like to capture some bands from other territories around the world. I like to keep it slightly eclectic to be sure we’re mixing in several genres for all music lovers.
11) Did any performance blow you away?
Honestly, we’ve only had amazing performances from every artist we’ve had on the Whole Foods Rooftop stage in the three years we’ve been doing this event. This year, I was blown away by We Were Promised Jetpacks - they just floored the place…but also great surprises from Wakey!Wakey!, Matisyahu, Bad Things, A Great Big World, Lisa Marie Presley, Dirty Vegas, Boy & Bear, Suzanne Vega, In The Valley Below, and Mary Lambert, who had the entire crowd in tears because her performance was so emotional. I really can’t leave any of this year’s artists off the list…they were all amazing!
12) What do you think about the direction music is going in today? Do you think all the online avenues and social media choices are making things harder or easier for people?
Music is always evolving and there’s always an artist creating something great you can grasp within your personal taste. The barrier to entry is lower than ever, and therefore we’re all getting exposed to more music! I love that. It’s tougher to get heard, but there’s something for everyone these days. If you’re into something more eclectic or underground, you can find it. When I started working in music, and performing in bands, we had no real avenues to expose our music unless we had big budgets to hire people to spread the word for us. Now it’s easier than ever with all the do-it-yourself tools available, mostly for free, or very reasonably priced for what you can do with it. Artists have all the tools available to promote themselves to broad audiences, all over the world.
13) You work a lot with emerging artists. What’s some advice you can give, or steps they can take, to get the attention of people like you?
First and foremost, be great at what you do! Don’t try to be something you are not, the audience can tell what’s authentic, and the same goes for those in the business. Many artists and writers come to me suggesting they can create any music I need. I’m not interested in that, even though it could be useful when I am in a pinch. I’m looking for artists who are unique and are passionate about being who they are. I pitch to some clients who are searching for a song to fit their scene that has the lyric or emotion needed, as well as other clients who are looking to break the next independent artist. All of these situations require authentic, passionate, music. An artists’ story is important as well. We’re always looking for an artist who’s building an interesting story that fans will find interesting to be a part of. That said, it still comes down to great music that speaks to the world.
14) What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in the industry that you can pass along to the readers of this blog?
Don’t give up! Seriously…it’s the only reason I’m still standing. We’ve all had our ups and downs in this business, and no one said it would be easy. You have to be smart and immerse yourself in the culture where you want to succeed. Always be available, always be ready to work, and be good at what you do. Sometimes luck will play a part, but you have to be ready to do the work or else luck is useless. Just because one person won’t listen to your music or give you an opportunity, don’t get discouraged. They may not be available, or have other things going on that are getting in the way of them seeing what’s so great about you, so just move on and keep your head up. Be persistent, but also polite. Eventually, you will find your way…and when you do, strike fast while the iron is hot. Always have more music ready because when those opportunities hit, you’ll need extra ammo – which is a great position to be in!