MUSIC+SOUND AWARDS TALK TO...
2018 Jury Member +
EXTREME MUSIC + BLEEDING FINGERS MUSIC
As CEO/Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Extreme Music and Bleeding Fingers Music, Russell Emanuel is a trailblazing leader, innovator, and producer in the music industry. Bleeding Fingers is one of the leading producers of quality-crafted film and television scores in the world, bolstered by a unique creative association and business partnership with industry legend Hans Zimmer, and his long-term business partner, Steve Kofsky.
Russell’s vision for Bleeding Fingers led to a thriving collaboration with Sir David Attenborough and BBC on the music for Planet Earth II – a score that contributed to the series’ record-breaking viewership, international acclaim, BAFTA and Emmy nominations and of course a Music+Sound Awards win, for Bleeding Fingers’ work. This paved the way to his most recent project - producing the score for the highly-anticipated BBC One natural history landmark, Blue Planet II. Alongside his work producing the series’ orchestral score, Russell creatively produced a track for the prequel, titled “(ocean) bloom,” featuring a collaboration with Radiohead and Hans Zimmer.
Before creating Bleeding Fingers, Russell had already made a name for himself as a titan within the composing industry, thanks to the tremendous success of Extreme Music, which he co-founded in 1997. Extreme Music was conceived as a business that would provide quality and passion-driven production music from top tier talent.
Here we ask him a few questions and get a sense of his incredible career to date...
You co-founded Extreme Music, currently the industry’s most prolific music library, in 1997. Can you tell us a bit about your rock ‘n’ roll, on-the-road background that led you to that moment?
From the age of 16, I pottered around London working in different studios during the late seventies and early eighties graduating from sound engineer to producer through to tour manager eventually landing in management. I came up through the heyday of British Punk and had the good fortune and privilege to manage two seminal punk bands - Stiff Little Fingers and The Jam. My many years on the road with SLF were packed with classic rock and roll excess, hedonistic craziness and getting in and out of scrapes by the skin of our teeth. Looking back a lot of it was stupid and risky but the camaraderie of touring with a band is the coolest thing and I’m thankful to have had that experience.
I've always loved rebellion, it’s what drives purest forms of music which in turn can create enormous shifts in culture. I try to maintain a Punk attitude even when it comes to production music.
What was your original vision for Extreme Music and how did you plan on, and indeed succeed in, making it stand out from the crowd?
I co-founded Extreme with my good friend Dolph Taylor in 1997 (who was the drummer in SLF). In all honesty, it was time to get off the road and being a music library composer seemed like a nice easy gig. We quickly learned that it was an industry in desperate need of a shakeup. Our goal was to create a high end catalog powered by authentic talent without ever compromising on production value. We had no real business plan and zero experience in running a publishing business, but by chance a friend introduced us to Mark Levinson, a visionary VC, who was eager to get into the production music space and he was brave and crazy enough to back us.
The name Extreme was no accident and we understood that creatively marketing the brand as a renegade independent label was going to be the key to success. We did some seriously crazy stuff to get noticed which this made a huge impact. It seems weird now but music libraries had not felt that marketing was really necessary as the market place was pretty easy going until we showed up. Our efforts were met by our competitors with a large amount of disdain; they actually dismissed us and dubbed us “The No Hopers from Camden”.
Your roster is pretty phenomenal. How do you go about finding your composers?
I’m incredibly proud of our A&R team who are untouchable when it comes to finding outstanding and interesting talent. Extreme is now 20-years old and we have been surgical, and frankly a little snobby, about any music we add. We have always believed that "size isn’t everything" and we intentionally release a very small amount of albums. Artists and composers seem to appreciate that their music will not get swamped and gravitate to our reputation for excellence. We have a wide open door policy when it comes to finding talent, everyone in the company has their ear to the ground and are encouraged to bring in great music.
What led to you co-founding, with Hans Zimmer and Steve Kofsky, the custom music production company, Bleeding Fingers?
We wanted to counter the influx of companies rushing into the custom music space charging cheap or sometimes no fees with the promise of back-end performance royalties. The simple fact is you CANNOT make cheap music without cutting corners and discerning music users are growing weary of tracks bashed out in a few hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the composers’ fault - they are just trying to make a living but we hear horror stories of companies paying composers $50 for tracks and taking the lion’s share of the writer’s share as well.
Our goal at Bleeding Fingers has been to assemble a diverse collective of exciting composers, providing them with a state-of-the-art environment that encourages collaboration, creativity and experimentation. Our belief is that when it comes to music it’s cool to be reassuringly expensive and those claiming otherwise are not disruptive but destructive.
The results have been overwhelming and in just four years we have scored a long list of A-list shows such as Planet Earth II, The Simpsons, Blue Planet II, Snatch, Big Cats, The Roman Empire and Princess Diana: In Her Own Words.
We got really very lucky with our timing opening just as the disposable Reality TV gold rush is subsiding and as a result we are seeing a return of quality program makers requiring higher standards of music.
The company has a unique collaborative way of working. Can you tell us a bit about the process?
One of the greatest joys working in music is collaboration. We are blessed with a team of stellar next generation composers, but what sets Bleeding Fingers apart are our amazing 'score producers’. The extra advantage of adding an expert music producer into the mix has been a huge factor in our success and we regularly hear from our clients how they feel it makes the process smoother and takes their scores to the next level.
Our collaboration with Radiohead on Blue Planet II was a runaway success and we are definitely planning more like this moving forward. Just last week we worked with the X Ambassadors on another ambitious natural history show. These kind of artists embrace the chance to be involved in scoring for TV and bring an enormous marketing opportunity for the networks. Obviously, they are too busy with their careers and touring to devote months into writing a score and BF is ideally placed to do the heavy lifting and be their scoring partner.
And lastly, what do feel the next few years hold for your companies?
It feels like the lines between commercial music and production music become more blurred each year. Streaming has unexpectedly become an important part of our business as audiences are now able to discover our music through streaming services like Shazam.
Extreme has some very exciting new labels on the horizon and continues to push the boundaries in the production music library space.
Our team at Bleeding Fingers looks forward to scoring more prestigious projects, collaborating with more commercial artists, and continuing to seek new ways to innovate and revolutionize the music for visual media industry. Natural History is definitely a strength. We are working on a couple of movies right now and hoping to also get into the scripted drama space.