An Interview With Laura From Soundcheque

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The words ‘fair trade’ and ‘music industry’ are not usually spoken in one sentence, but CEO of Soundcheque, Laura Westcott, has created a company that links those exact attributes, whilst uniting filmmakers with musicians all over the world.

Classically trained musician and former PR Manager for The Times, Ms. Westcott, felt it was time to reinvent the music industry by standing up for musicians whose rights have been neglected for years. Laura launched her ‘fair trade’ music company just 18 months ago, providing original and custom-made music for media, film and TV.

With its mission statement ‘Helping Music Makers Make It,’ Soundcheque guarantees that artists keep 100% of their royalties on pre-existing work. With clients all over the world and staff in London and Los Angeles, Soundcheque’s consumer-friendly website is powered by SynchTank, and enables users to quickly find the music they’re looking for.

They can also send a brief straight to Soundcheque who will find the music for them – for free, saving them time and money. Soundcheque’s film festival partners include The BFI and Raindance, where they help filmmakers find suitable composers and songwriters for films of all sizes and budgets. Soundcheque also works with world-famous advertising agencies.

Laura can often be found at gigs and festivals, scouting for new talent for Soundcheque and her World Sight Day fundraising gala ‘Sound for Sight’ which raises money for the curable sight-loss condition retinitis pigmentosa through the power of live music.

We caught up with Laura to find out more about her background and what Soundcheque can offer artists.

Q1: Hi Laura, you are hard to pin down, but that’s a good thing as it means you’re busy changing the world and making the music industry a ‘fairer’ place! When you say ‘fair trade’, how is it that artists can keep 100% of their royalties by using Soundcheque? Could you explain the process and what happens here?

A1: ‘We take no ownership of pre-existing music in our catalogue.

The musicians did the work, why should we own it? We pride ourselves on our personable approach and try and be as transparent as humanly possible. We are and constantly looking at ways we can expand our services to the Music and Film industries to bring the most value possible to our clients. But we’re informing our users about everything we do and are very welcoming of their feedback too.’

Q2: What is your involvement with SynchTank and how does it benefit Soundcheque’s work?

A2: ‘I believe in fate, and it was fate that brought me to Synchtank.

I met the founder, Joel Jordan, while I was in New York for Sundance, and instantly knew it was the right platform for us. It’s basically the engine that powers our ship. Synchtank use the best music licensing technology and algorithms to enable our staff and clients to search the thousands of tracks available. It’s a one-stop shop, meaning everything is pre-cleared and ready to license off the shelf.

They offer 24 hour support too, and they’ve even introduced me to contacts they feel might benefit from our services. We still have many more updates to come; including new profile pages for artists and also a blog. So if there are any budding bloggers out there wanting to share their wisdom with the masses, get in touch!’

Q3: Do you think your experience as a PR Manager for The Times has contributed to your fantastic PR successes with Soundcheque?

A3: ‘Definitely! It’s a saturated space with a gazillion music libraries out there. Although we’re not a ‘library’ per se, we’d be swallowed up without the publicity we’ve garnered. Being ‘Website of the Week’ on BBC 6 Music really kickstarted it for us, and now journos are coming to me instead of the other way around!’

Q4: Sync is like the new punk rock. Everyone’s talking about it and doing it. What are your thoughts on music to brand, music placement, and can musicians still collect royalties from ‘placed’ music? And if so, do you offer this service through Soundcheque?

A4: ‘We’re exploring a few brand partnerships, and if done tastefully, artists can earn a fortune off them. We’ll be setting up an admin arm soon for collecting royalties, but currently we stipulate in our Ts & Cs that all artists must be a member of a Performing Rights Organisation (PRS, ASCAP etc).

Q5: Funnily enough, I’ve worked with Elliot Grove and Raindance in the past, and we’ll most likely cross paths again. What is it that made you come up with the genius idea of bridging the gap between film and music, and what is your involvement with Raindance?

A5: ‘Elliot is a straight-talking, clever guy.

I’m lucky that he likes Soundcheque and has been incredibly supportive in what we do. I’m a regular speaker at his festivals, and do my best to educate filmmakers about the serious importance of budgeting and prioritizing music from the start. It drives me bonkers how many filmmakers, producers and ad agency creatives leave music to the last minute, and then try and get it for free! It’s my mission to change this mindset.’

Q6: Tell us about Sound for Sight, please…

A6: ‘This was meant to be a one-off concert to mark the end of a “blind” challenge I did for my friend Yvette who suffers with a sight-loss condition called retinitis pigmentosa. I wore pinhole glasses every day for one week leading up to World Sight Day to raise awareness for her condition, and then asked 20 singers to perform to an audience wearing the sight-loss glasses for the concert on World Sight Day.

Some of the performers included Bryn Terfel, Dan Gillespie Sells and Sam Lee. Jeremy Vine hosted it and said it was the best concert he’d been to. It was a unique experience, that’s for sure, so we’re doing it again this year in London and LA.. Nothing like this exists, so it could really take off! It’s pretty exciting.’

Q7: ‘Do you still play music yourself? And do you think your background as a musician is what gave you the confidence, industry understanding and drive to start Soundcheque?’

A7: ‘I still sing in choirs, but I haven’t played my trumpet for a while. I should rectify that really! It’s a huge shame to waste all those years of lessons and music courses. I’ve been to thousands of gigs, concerts and music festivals though, and love most musical genres. I’m always at the front jumping around and singing along.’

Q8: As you probably know, Beats Music is proposing a pay-only system upon relaunch. We also wrote an article recently on Ireland putting an end to piracy through a three-strike rule: Do you think that with new legal systems in place and a pay-only streaming model, the music industry could potentially recover back to its wealthy ways?

A8: ‘Definitely. The music industry is on the rise again, but consumers MUST pay for streaming services if they’re using them. Companies like Spotify should make it compulsory for consumers to pay. Only a quarter of users pay and it’s only $10 a month – come on people!’

Q9: What is the future of Soundcheque, and what kind of work will you do for artists in the future?

A9: ‘We’re restructuring the company and will soon be announcing our new Managing Director, Events/Brand Partnership Director, Sales Manager… quite a lot of change! All good though. ‘

We’ve got several partnerships on the table too, and are deciding which will benefit our users the most. Our name is out there now and the sales are finally coming in, but I’m not going to pretend it’s been easy! It’s taken a lot of bounce-backs, tears and sleepless nights to get it off the ground.

Q10: And last but not least, tell us about your experience with Virgin acquiring interest in Soundcheque?

A10: ‘Our partnership with the charity FilmAid International led us to Sundog Pictures – Sam Branson’s humanitarian media company, who FilmAid work with. Sam introduced us to his business partner at Virgin, and now we’re providing music for them and writing a guest blog. They may even invest one day – who knows? I’m just taking each day as it comes and trying my best every day.’

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Soundcheque’s new Managing Director, Harry is speaking at our Music TechTalks event in October. Find out more here.