The famous Oakland-based label devoted to film and TV scores celebrated early September its 30th anniversary. For this event, the label invited composers, producers and professionals working with Intrada for the last decades for a meet and greet at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Roger Feigelson, marketing director and producer, generously returns to UnderScores to talk about the past and the future of the label.
Intrada celebrates its 30th anniversary. Do you remember what you were doing in 1985?
That was the summer before my senior year in high school. That was an amazing summer for a variety of reasons. The most important of which was not the release of Red Dawn, but when I met my first girlfriend! It was a summer of amazing movies and even more amazing film scores. 1985 was just a great year for me.
Which was your favorite score of the year?
My favorite score of that year is probably Back To The Future. Took me a couple of decades to put the deal together to release that score. So yes, that score was something I was actively engaged in for quite some time! Even now, we’re wrapping up our new single-disc version of that score. I guess I’ve done more than just think about that score for 30 years! The song album that came out at the time of the film was a disappointment for me, and the short selection of score was just a tease. I was so frustrated, and I’m glad we were able to get this one out finally! There were many albums that focused on the songs and not the score, but over the years many of those have now seen score releases. A few left I’m still working on, though!
Three decades is an amazingly long life for a specialized film score label…
I’m sure every label has their own story about how they formed and why they decided to close. Could be anything from the economics to just being burned out. Releasing these things is a lot of work, very expensive and fraught with many headaches. On one side you have to convince licensors to invest time on these niche market items, and on the other you have to field complaints from collectors who immediately discard all the hard work that went into delivering the latest miracle. You also really have to keep a firm grip on the costs and sales and move with the direction of the market. Otherwise one could quickly drown in royalties, AFM fees and publishing mechanicals.
How would you qualify your own contribution to the label’s continuing success?
Just to clarify, Doug produces most of the albums, which is doing the physical heavy lifting of mixing, editing and mastering. I handle more of the business end of things, getting the licenses in place and locating the elements. All that has to be in place before Doug can start his work. I’m the red tape guy.
During 30 years, a lot of things can happen. Was there some bad times?
There were no surprises. When the economy tanks, sales go down. When the economy thrives, sales go up. Usually I can guess what sales performance will be, although sometimes I can be surprised when I see a lot of requests for something and then the sales don’t really follow. I got many requests for Stay Tuned, and while it sold well enough, I was surprised it didn’t sell more based on the chatter. Of course, it could have been 50 people asking for it… or one guy asking for it 50 times. The introduction of the AFM historic rate opened the door to seemingly endless possibilities. But like that introduction to the old Get Smart TV series with all those doors, once you pass through one, there’s another. So once we got excited that we could pursue, say, James Horner’s 48 Hours, we get to the next door at Paramount, which was firmly bolted shut. No one could get in there to release any catalog soundtrack. That’s all changed now of course. And then you finally get in the door. So the AFM creates the historic rate (door 1), Sony Pictures, for example, is willing to do a deal for… I don’t know… Face Of A Fugitive (door 2)… and then you hit the next door marked “Music Elements” (door 3) and find they’re gone. That’s a pretty big showstopper.
You increased the rate of releases after the AFM agreement. Was it a natural decision, or did you feel like taking risks?
Once the AFM created the historic rate, there was never any question to plow ahead with all those projects that weren’t possible before. As long as we keep an eye on the costs going in and having an accurate projection of sales, it’s hard to make a bad choice. Although sometimes we do one “for the glory.” We know it probably won’t make its money back, but it just needs to be done. I think that goes for most of our rerecordings!
Intrada made limited editions early on, like Poltergeist 2. Why did you choose to make it a limited run, and not a regular release?
We look at the audience for each title. We know a title like The Great Escape is going be a perpetual seller. I know we haven’t released these, but compare and contrast titles like Jaws and Jaws 2. Jaws would be a perpetual seller, but probably not so much Jaws 2. So we decide if we want to keep the title around for a while, and it will continually sell, it belongs on our regular catalog. If it has a short shelf life in terms of interest, it goes in the limited collectors’ series. Limited only by demand, not specific unit counts we decide up front.
Wait a minute… Do you mean that “we’ll need a bigger boat” soon?
Anything is possible these days! But for those at the Intrada 30th event, there was a bit of a tease about not being safe to go back into the water.
At the beginning of the 00’s, Intrada created two specific collections: Intrada Special Collection and Signature Edition. The ISC is still very popular, but can you tell us why did the SE vanish?
Between those two and the INT (previously MAF), the lines started to blur. Plus with so much activity in the ISC, the SE line wasn’t seeing much activity. We decided to streamline two of the series. ISC for limited audience titles and INT for perpetual sellers and contemporary titles. So yes, you’d see Shiver in INT just because it was a new film, not because it has the longevity of The Great Escape. I can’t make things too simple for people. In fact, if you were able to follow what I just said, you definitely are a nerd, which in my house is high praise.
You re-evaluated your limited edition policy in 2011. The following year, you told us this new choice didn’t impact the sales, positively or negatively. Do you still feel the same?
Actually, with several years of data, I think it was very positive for most part. Had we stuck to our guns, we would have left a lot of money on the table with Explorers. Same with many other titles that I know we would have underestimated market demand and they would have sold out too quickly. With smaller titles like Baytown Outlaws, I don’t see much difference. We had already seen that the motivation of putting “limited to 1000” copies was waning amongst collectors. And frankly, I was tired of seeing collectors frustrated by missing out on a title that sold out in 24 hours and then seeing inflated prices on eBay.
Intrada pioneered in 1987 with a series of rerecordings. For some times, the series did slow down, but lately, you released more of it than you used to. How did you succeed in producing new titles?
I give Paul Talkington and his entrepreneurial spirit the credit, as he produced the later Rozsa recordings. To this day, it’s very hard to make to money on rerecordings. We do them for the glory! But yes, they will be few and far between because of the costs. I’m glad labels like Tadlow and Prometheus keep them up, but I know they see the same struggles we do on making them recoup their costs. If the market were only a few thousand more folks, it would be a whole different world.
There’s a global economic crisis out there. How does it impact your way of doing business?
People become more selective about what they purchase, so we deemphasize the smaller titles that just wouldn’t make it onto their want lists. And in fact, even in non-crisis times, with so many releases coming out, people prioritize more anyway. I love the fact that all the labels are cranking stuff out. I love seeing this stuff rescued from oblivion and made for all to hear. We just have to alter our product mix to make sure our stuff is compelling.
You recently launched the Intrada customer loyalty program, for example…
We have so many customers that have been buying a lot from us over the years and we wanted to create something that rewards their loyalty. With a sale, you get people who ordinarily order elsewhere who come to us when we have a sale, but then go back to ordering wherever. I’m not saying we won’t have any more sales, ever, but we’d rather do something for the regular Intrada supporters. A gift that keeps on giving.
There are also some LPs in the pipeline… How will you select the titles you’ll release on LP?
Right now we’re just doing a trial with six titles, so we don’t have a methodology yet. The current sample titles are horror, since that genre seems to have a good LP market right now, and a few other wider appeal titles. We’ll see how viable this all is! I’m not convinced yet, in spite of the surge in LP releases. We’re already probably plunging ahead with more than we should, but if it pans out we’ll definitely step it up.
Are these future LP’s already part of your back catalogue?
The immediate six are all from our catalog. There is one new title that’s never been released in any form that we might release on LP first and then CD. But licensing has been a bit tricky, so not sure if that will happen yet.
Will you start from analog tapes, like hardcore vinyl lovers use to beg for, or from digital sources?
We always go back to the original sources. But if it was a score recorded digitally, there are no analog sources to go back to!
In 2014, Disney launched the Legacy Collection. Is it more difficult for you to work on some Disney releases now they have their own series?
Not particularly. They’ve always had their own series going of one sort or another. What is reserved for the Legacy Collection are generally their crown jewels. There isn’t much benefit for Disney to co-brand those with Intrada anyway. Although we’d love it, of course.
Do this collection prevent you to release a project you were already working on before its creation?
There was one title that we talked about co-branding that they elevated to the Legacy Collection, although it’s not on that slate yet (at least as far as I know). So who knows where it will end up? Just as long as it gets done, Legacy, co-branded, Intrada… I just want to see this stuff out there. It’s all good.
How do you see your future with Disney, both for animated and non-animated releases?
We’ve been trying to step up our releases with Disney, aiming for one a month. A little tricky, because a lot of pieces have to fall in place for that kind of regularity. But there’s so much music there, and fortunately Randy Thornton, who is the biggest champion of Disney music, is a hero when it comes to locating elements and helping make all this stuff happen.
What kind of releases can we expect from Intrada/Disney in the future?
Like I always say, the field is wide open. Live-action from any decade is fair game. Hopefully some animated stuff too! I have a very long list!
Does the fact that Disney bought Lucasfilm mean something can be expected for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones sagas, or Willow?
I’m not sure yet. I’d love to do the complete Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, so we’ll see. I love the music of Laurence Rosenthal and Joel McNeely, who did a large number of the episodes and TV movies. And there are some Frédéric Talgorn scores in there as well, and I love his music. It would be an amazing set.
You had a very strong partnership with James Horner. It’s an understatement to say that his sudden and tragic loss has been a shock for all of us…
Shock is definitely an understatement. It’s still unimaginable, actively supporting his work for decades and have him be so agreeable with what we put together, only to have him prematurely taken away. It wasn’t just us supporting his musical legacy, but he was so supportive of our work as well. I still haven’t quite grasped it.
Universal trusted Intrada enough to agree to some historic releases through Intrada, like Charade. After Jaws 3 and 4, can we expect more Jaws and more classic scores from this studio?
Universal has always been supportive, but they are super busy, so it’s always a matter of finding that right moment when they have time to do the research necessary to clear release.
What about some projects in development, like Volunteers and Conan The Destroyer?
Conan is progressing, but we have a bit of a backlog with UMG right now, so we’ve put it aside until things clear up a bit. I desperately want to do Volunteers and we located everything. Just need the clearance.
Thank you! Happy anniversary to the entire Intrada team. 30 years and counting!
Propos recueillis par Olivier Soudé le 28 septembre 2015.