Alibi V.18 No.47 • Nov 19-25, 2009 

Music News

Sound and Sight

New Mexico music licensing company Masterscape, Inc. helps artists make money

Tom Frouge and Michael Davenport of Masterscape, Inc. pause for a picture in Davenport’s Nob Hill office.
Tom Frouge and Michael Davenport of Masterscape, Inc. pause for a picture in Davenport’s Nob Hill office.
Jessica Cassyle Carr

Meeting an Albuquerque musician who makes more than $50 at an average show nowadays is rarer than sighting the elusive yeti, and as most can tell you, earning a respectable sum via song is almost unheard of. Almost.

Imagine a world where you, the independent musician, actually get paid for your efforts. It's possible without shacking up with a major record label or gaining recognition from the national press (neither appreciate your talent anyway). You don't even have to call New York or Los Angeles to get the ball rolling. But you will have to talk to Tom Frouge and Michael Davenport.

The two globe-trotting New Mexicans have worked in the music industry for decades. Frouge is a world and roots music enthusiast, a former executive at labels Putumayo and Triloka and co-creator of the ¡Globalquerque! festival. He's worked in almost every corner of the music business, and he currently owns and operates a management company called Avokado Artists. Meanwhile, Davenport has worked with names like Santana, Ozzy, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He’s received more than 150 gold and platinum awards for his participation on records by Guns N’ Roses and David Bowie, and for movie soundtracks such as 8 Mile, American Pie, Spawn and South Park. He also owns and operates a music management company called Expressive Artists.

In addition to the many feathers in the duo’s respective caps, together they own Masterscape, Inc., a pre-cleared music master catalog company formed last year. In layman's terms this means they have a bunch of hand-selected music ready to be placed in film, television, video games and commercials. And they might want your music, too.

"It's not about what we like, genre-wise—it's really about how good it is," says Frouge. "It's like what Duke Ellington said, 'There's only two kinds of music—good and bad.' ” Frouge and Davenport don't scrutinize the material so much as judge the production, which must be high quality in order to meet mainstream media standards. If you've got a good recording (from yesterday or years ago) and can prove you own the publishing rights—no sampling unless you have permission—your foot's in the door. "At any given moment it could be absolutely anything that someone might want," says Davenport. The more diverse the catalog is, the better chance of placement, making money for artists and Masterscape, Inc. and completing the circle of life.

So how do you get considered? Educate yourself and get your ducks in a row. Register with ASCAP, BMI or SESAC—performing rights organizations that collect royalties on behalf of writers and publishers—ensuring you own your master recordings and compositions. Online, these organizations provide a wealth of information. "If someone takes 10 minutes to review their websites, they'll understand how licensing works," says Davenport.

In addition to creating a symbiosis between film and music with a catalog from around the world, Frouge and Davenport have an affinity for music made here at home. "New Mexico has become a force in the film and television industry," says Davenport, "and we now have an opportunity to expose New Mexicans’ music to the world through these mediums."

For publishing/licensing information, visit bmi.com, ascap.com and sesac.com