'The 3000+ master recordings of film and TV themes that we own are exploited worldwide at retail' : Reynold da Silva - Silva Screen Records MD

In the world of music companies that put out original work one firm that is unique is Silva Screen Records (SSR). Among other activities it puts out the score music for Hollywood films ranging from classics like Dr. Zhivago to the Bond films. What is unique is that it is not just the soundtrack that one hears on the film but the original score. This means that the SSR takes the entire line sheets and re-records it. The result is that one hears the music as the composer whether it is John Williams or Hans Zimmer intended for it to be heard.

Scores are played by upto 80 musicians from orchestras like the City of Prague Philharmonic. SSR also does deals with television channels and ad firms that want to use snippets of music. The company was founded in 1986 by Reynold da Silva and now has a turnover of several millions of pounds. Reynold serves as the company's MD. He also serves as executive producer on the albums put out by the company.'s correspondent Ashwin Pinto caught up with Reynold to find out more about his company and its plans.

Could you give me an overview of Silva Screen Records and the products that you offer?

Since it's inception in 1986, SSR has released some 500 albums across most genres. However, SSR's core business is film and television music. We release original film and television soundtracks and re record film and television music.

We have a catalogue of over 3,000 master recordings of film and TV themes that we own and which are exploited worldwide at retail. These are used in feature films, television commercials, TV programming and are now heard in the mobile entertainment arena. In addition, to film and TV repertoire, we also have contemporary jazz, rock, world and popular classical music. Our Silva Classics division deals with classical music. It serves as the home for two upcoming Opera Stars: Welsh baritone Jason Howard and Chilean tenor Tito Beltran.

In what way has your product portfolio expanded in the past five years?

In the past 12 months we have had the soundtrack rights to some hit films. These include Sideways, Wedding Crashers, Blade Trinity,Birth and David La Chappelle's Rize.

Three years ago, we established Times Square Records in the US. This has emerged as a respected world music label with artists such as the critically acclaimed Portuguese singer Mariza who sold out Carnegie Hall in October and the Miami based Cuban singer, Albita.

Which are the television channels that use your music a lot as background music in their shows and for promos?

Our recordings are used worldwide in television. The BBC uses our music the most. However, to give you an example of usage - Sky, ITV and other channels in the UK use our music. In America CBS, Fox, Warner, National Geographic use our product.

Have any new deals been struck in this regard?

Deals are being struck all the time. On an average we have a request everyday from the BBC. Purely from television channels, I would say between five to eight per cent revenue comes from this kind of licesning activity.

"Our recordings are used as real tones worldwide, in particular, Japan and the US. The quality of our recordings and the ability to move fast has enabled Silva Screen to be a leader in this field"

At the same time at least in India a lot of ad agencies use music for ads without any money being paid to the copyright owner. What do you feel is the solution to this problem?

From talking to various people I know in the Indian music and advertising industries, I get the impression that more and more people are aware of the copyright owners in the music composition. By this I mean the music publisher and the copyright owner of the sound recording i.e. the record company have to be paid and that there is a prior approval clearance procedure.

As far as music in TV programming is concerned, in the UK and many other territories there is a blanket licence agreement in place. This is based on various revenue calculations. I suspect that such arrangements shall come into existence in India.

What potential does Silva Screen see in mobile as a way to deliver content to the consumer?

Silva Screen has not benefited from the monophonic and polyphonic ringtone craze. However, since the emergence of the actual sound recording now being heard (master tones, true tones, real tones) instead of the inferior sounding ringtone, we have made tremendous inroads in this area.

Our recordings are used as real tones worldwide, in particular, Japan and the US. The quality of our recordings and the ability to move fast has enabled Silva Screen to be a leader in this field. Local and international pop account for between 75 and 80 per cent of the international market with film and TV accounting for approximately 10 to 15 per cent. The eventual ease and speed by which the consumer is able to access content will be of tremendous benefit to both consumer and content owners.

While film scores do well music from television shows do not sell. Is there any reason for this?

No particular reason although a massive franchise such as Friends should do well. Presently, we have the worldwide rights (ex North America) to Charmed. However this isn't a score but a collection of songs by various artists.

As far as India is concerned could you talk about the agreement you have with Times Music?

The agreement we have with Times is basically a licensing deal. They have the rights to market and distribute our catalogue in India. This includes two Cinema Classics CDs where we have themes from the likes of Bridge On the River Kwai, Ben Hur.

We also have a CD set which is dedicated to musicals like Cabaret, Cats and Phantom Of The Opera.

Apart from this arrangement do you have any other plans for India?

I am exploring certain opportunities in India within the entertainment industry. That's all I can say at this stage.

"There is severe pressure on margins. The consumer has more choice by way of entertainment and record companies are fighting for a larger slice of a shrinking pie. Against this background, we are still optimistic for the future"

How has the internet changed the scene for content providers like yourself?

The music business landscape is changing and the whole distribution model is in the process of evolving. At retail, CD sales are down although Silva Screen was up last year.

There is severe pressure on margins. The consumer has more choice by way of entertainment and record companies are fighting for a larger slice of a shrinking pie. Against this background, we are still optimistic for the future. Our success in ring sounds and now full track downloads via the phone is what we are gearing up towards. We have in excess of 100 albums on itunes and our catalogue is being added on to many download sites throughout the world.

What advantage does the recording work that Silva Screen does on film scores provide the listener compared with the studio released scores?

We take great care of our recordings. Unlike other companies we ensure that we do not use five string players when 20 are needed. Our re-recordings receive five star and album of the month reviews, and have even received prestigious awards.

These recordings of film scores are recorded with the listener in mind as opposed to the originals which were recorded and mixed with the film in mind. Therefore, from a musical perspective, our critics commend us by saying that our recordings are sometimes better than the originals in that they highlight certain aspects of the arrangement / instrumentation which may have previously been buried in the mix of the originals.

Are there any film composers whose work is particularly difficult to adapt because of instrumentation involved?

When there are many electronic effects and overdubs used it makes it more difficult to recreate the original music. I would give the example of Hans Zimmer's work (Gladiator, The Thin Red Line). The late Jerry Goldsmith's work also presents a challenge as there is a lot of percussion.

Could you talk about the studio facilities that Silva Screen employs to make recordings?

Most of our orchestral work is done in Prague using ProTools with certain overdubbing and mixing in the UK. The studio facilities may not be the best technically. However, with over 10 years of experience in recording there with our in house team, we obtain the best sound possible.

What are the new projects that Silva Screen is working on?

We have a Charlie Chaplin project coming out in April. We are also looking forward to a four CD set of Western Film themes, a Bernard Hermann collection. This will featured themes from Taxi Driver, Vertigo, Psycho etc.

Then there is a Marlon Brando collection as well as David Conenberg's A History of Violence and the new Terrence Mallick film The New World. We are also continuing our releases of cult British 60s TV music such as Joe 90.

Could you give me an idea on the amount of work that goes into recording a film score in terms of the size of the orchestra, rehearsal time?

We always try to obtain the original scores from the music publishers, music agents or the composers themselves. Frequently, we have to have the music arranged.

The music has to be checked and copied for the musicians. The size of the orchestra depends on the orchestration. We generally aim to achieve about 20 minutes of recorded music in a three hour session. There are no rehearsals. The musicians see the music for the first time at the start of the session.

You have entered the DVD arena with Silva Screen Visual Entertainment. Could you talk about the plans in this regard?

The DVD market is a difficult one as the prices have come down significantly. It is a question of obtaining the right balance in terms of the acquisition costs, the pre-production costs and promotional spend.

We have released some titles that our French company own such as John Cale and Iggy Pop. Scheduled for this year is a 5 hour set called World War Two Chronicles and a James Bond Gadgets programme.

I just want to touch on piracy for a bit. While the RIAA has worked out a plan to target illegal downloading don't you think that the global music industry needs to embrace new technologies a little more instead of running scared?

I do think that the major record companies have taken their time. However, looking at it objectively, one can hardly blame them for making sure that security / digital rights management (DRM) issues are full proof.

After all with all the illegal downloading taking place and the rampant piracy of CDs, all owners of IP need to be prudent.

Finally what does the future hold in store for Silva Screen Records?

Well we are always looking at increasing our ownership of recordings by way of re recordings or acquiring masters. Through our investment in a French music company two years ago, we now collectively own over 10,000 recordings ranging from Iggy Pop and Jack Bruce (of Cream) to The Bolshoi Ballet and Trlok Gurtu. Our intention is to keep increasing our asset base.

We are also in the process of introducing a digital only catalogue and are fast tracking our catalogue on to the various down load portals. Mobile entertainment has been a growth area for us and we intend to continue to aggressively market our catalogue worldwide through this medium.

We are also looking to make strategic investments in other companies whereby they can plug into Silva Screen's existing infrastructure. We will continue to represent and forge relationships with companies such as EMI Music Publishing, Warner Chappell and Saregama.

We will also be doing a lot of promotional work in terms of promoting our recordings in commercials and films. For instance last year we had the Nike commercial in the US.

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