Marc Ferrari is the kind of guy who recognizes a break when he gets it, grabs the opportunity and runs with it.
His first big break led him to the stage as guitarist for the '80s hair band Keel. His second break brought him a much more stable way of life as president of MasterSource, a music production company that licenses its original songs for use in movies and television.
Since launching the company in 1996 with what remained of his personal finances, Ferrari has seen the business grow into a $725,000 enterprise with a growing library of 100 CDs packed with 1,500 copyrighted songs.
Not bad for a guy who once thought his livelihood would come from a six-string and a blonde streak in his long black rock-star hair. It's that musician's background, though, that gave Ferrari the foundation for his success.
"When a band first comes out, you're a baby band; you're competing for attention," Ferrari said. "When I started this business, it was the same way. I was going up against established libraries. I was going up against major publishers."
After starting a band in the early 1980s, Ferrari and his three bandmates moved to Los Angeles form Boston in 1984. After dissolution of that band, Ferrari ran into the chief of a small metal-band label who put him in touch with local singer Ron Keel. Break No. 1.
After four albums, Ferrari and the band split because of the obligatory creative differences. Ferrari's second band, Cold Sweat, became a candidate for the "Where are They Now?" file after one record in 1990.
In the ensuing year, Ferrari was cast as a guitarist in the "Wayne's World" movies and lived off income from odd jobs and royalties from Keel records. In 1992, he got his second break when he slipped a couple of demo tapes to a friend working as "assistant coffee maker" on a "B" movie.
"They used (some songs) in the movie, gave me a little money and screen credit," Ferrari said. "I just thought it could be something I could do to supplement my income."
So he picked up trade directories and started cold calling licensing departments at movie studios.
"Everybody was really open to it. In a lot of ways, it's easier to make inroads in movies and TV than the music industry because you're providing a service," Ferrari said.
Traditionally, movie and television producers looking for what's known as incidental or background music had to contact record labels and song publishers to secure rights to use recorded songs. You want a country song for a bar scene? You negotiate rights for a Johnny Cash or Johnny Paycheck song. You want a rap song? Hunt down the license for "King of Rock." That proposition is neither quick nor cheap, Ferrari said.
As the gears ground in his head, he thought production studios might benefit from a stockpile of songs that sounded like those from established artists, but were written and performed by, in many cases, unknowns.
In the beginning, Ferrari stuck to what he knew best: rock. He started building a library of songs and sent them out on cassettes and digital audiotapes.
"Then people said, 'You have some good rock music. Got any country?'" Ferrari said. "I'd say, 'Let me get back to you.'"
So he started branching out, bringing other songwriters and musicians into the fold. The library grew. Soon Ferrari had reggae, country, ballads and roadhouse blues to offer.
MasterSource grew in 1997 to a 10-CD volume, for which Ferrari owns 100 percent of the copyrights. In 2001, he's putting together the sixth volume. At the end of the year he will have 100 CDs and 1,500 copyrights. MasterSource is cranking out 20 to 25 CDs each year and its client list is growing.
Sam Diaz, manager of television music at Paramount Pictures, said there are two camps among the folks who license music for movies and television: those who like instrumental music and those who want to hear words. Diaz aligns with the latter bloc.
"I use MasterSource because Marc's cues have vocals," Diaz said. "Marc offers tracks at an affordable price that sound like real songs."
According to Ferrari's formula, that price $1,000 to $10,000 depends on many factors: who's using it and for what; how much of a song will be used and its prominence in the product; length of the license; the media in which it will appear and other details.
You've probably heard MasterSource songs, even if you don't know it. Ferrari-licensed music has been in "Fight Club," "Dogma," and "The Sixth Sense." On television, MasterSource has fueled "Ally McBeal," "Friends," and "Sex in the City." Rage Against the Machine used MasterSource music to introduce their video for "Guerrilla Radio."
Ferrari has left no avenue unexplored. He has licensed music for Web sites, corporate videos, radio and television commercials, even the waiting queue at the Wild California ride at Disney's soon-to-open California Adventure.
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