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Fast Track

Fast Track/21″/Netherby/dt1st/mark2nd By JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter Anyone who has spent time in front of a television set has undoubtedly heard the music of Megatrax not that the tunes are likely to be noticed. In less than a decade, North Hollywood-based Megatrax has grown to be one of the biggest producers of “promo” music for movie trailers and TV stations nationwide. “A network does between 20,000 and 60,000 promos a year,” said Vice President Steve Corn. “Those (promotional) programs are big business.” The company has grown from a $20,000 investment in 1991 to revenues of $2 million in 1998. Megatrax specializes in producing and recording music that sounds like familiar tunes in a variety of genres. Advertisers, like studios creating trailers or TV stations promoting their shows, can use these tunes as background during their spots thus avoiding high licensing fees they would have to pay if they used actual recorded music owned by a record label or artist. Founders John Dwyer and Ron Mendelsohn met in the early 1990s while studying music at USC and playing in local bands. Dwyer was working in NBC’s music library as an intern when he came up with the idea to start a separate company. Networks, studios and other entertainment companies generally have internal music libraries that producers can use for movies or TV shows. But, Dwyer said, many complained of having little selection. He and Mendelsohn decided to solve the problem by making a promo CD that included 100 or so different tracks, with music ranging from big band to heavy metal. “We were trying to break into writing music for film or TV,” Dwyer said. “We worked at night on the CD. No one had done a promo CD with 121 titles before.” In 1991, Dwyer and Mendelsohn pooled their savings to turn a room in Dwyer’s Sherman Oaks home into a studio to record what would be called “Promo Collection: Vol. 1.” After they finished, they pawned the disc off on friends who handled promotions, and soon word spread through the industry. The $100,000 they made on the venture convinced them to quit their day jobs and start Megatrax, making CDs geared solely for promotional use. “The networks started freaking out because we were making so much money,” Dwyer said. “One network offered to buy us out.” Dwyer refused. He and Mendelsohn opened a studio in North Hollywood, hired a producer and composers, and began cranking out CDs full time. They now have 75 different albums with more than 40,000 different recordings. They cover all ranges of music, from electronic to spy-themed. “It’s designed to be utilitarian,” Corn said. “We have drama, action and comedy all in one (CD). It’s designed to do the whole library venture.” The company also makes CDs geared toward specific genres, such as ’50s rock or country. Advertising agencies, networks, production houses, post-production houses, studios, local news stations and others pay for the music on a per-use basis, or for smaller stations, in one annual fee. Megatrax’ credits include shows on all four major broadcast TV networks, cable networks like CNN, VH1, and HBO, and feature films such as “There’s Something About Mary” and “Mighty Aphrodite.” As the company has grown, so has its competition. While promo music was a relatively undiscovered niche when the partners started out, today there is no shortage of others offering similar services. Corn says the company has been able to stay ahead by producing library CDs that sound as good as retail CDs. “We’ve tried to make our library music not sound like library music,” he said. “So our techno sounds like it could be the Chemical Brothers. We use live orchestras (for some music.) That’s how we stand out. A lot of people say they even listen to our CDs in their car.” Sandra Gollas, an associate producer with Glass-Schoor Films, a small production house that specializes in movie trailers and television promotions, said her firm relies on Megatrax because it produces good sound quality for the price. “Their library music is really good,” Gollas said. “And they work with you when you have a budget.” Megatrax is expanding to add a second studio to increase the number of CDs it releases each year. The company typically puts out 15 to 20 new CDs a year. It also has invested in Liquid Audio, a format that allows music to be downloaded at a high quality over the Internet. The company has 5,000 different tracks available at its online site, all of which can be searched and downloaded. Corn said the multimedia market, which includes the Internet, video games and other new-media ventures, will be the company’s biggest area of growth in the future. “The multimedia market is now at $6.4 billion, and film and TV is only $6 billion,” Corn said. “It’s a burgeoning market for products and music.” Megatrax Year Founded: 1991 Core Business: Music for promotions and advertisements Revenues in 1997: $1.5 million Revenues in 1998: $2 million Revenues in 1999 (projected): $2.5 million Employees in 1997: 9 Employees in 1998: 12 Top Executive: Ron Mendelsohn, CEO and co-founder Goal: To continue to diversify clientele and expand to new media markets Driving Force: Demand for quality promotional music at a competitive price

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