By John Pellegrini
The catalogue of all the libraries available from FirstCom is 91 pages in length and about the thickness of 4 issues of RAP. Thankfully, I don’t have to review all of it this month. But, that should give you an idea of just how big FirstCom has become. FirstCom’s success story is a result of painstakingly following all aspects of production music needs and filling those needs as well or better than anyone else. They’ve come a long way from their beginnings, and even further since the late 1980s when I first became acquainted with their library. Now boasting over 16 full libraries, and some rather famous people among their composers, there is little that FirstCom doesn’t have available for any aspect of broadcasting production music.
Access Music is FirstCom’s promo library, and it contains 25 discs of music beds to suit any kind of promo work you could possibly imagine. For this review, FirstCom sent 5 sample discs, each with different purposes. AM004 is called “Tools For Story Tellers,” and they’re not kidding. They describe the disc as “Sonic Atmospheres, Punchy Rhythms, Ominous to Positive Motion, and Sound Design.” Starting with 20 separate sixty second music beds ranging from hard hitting metal to acoustic new age and everything in between, you also get a thirty second version of each bed, and an underscore version—primarily without the “lead” instrument. But, if that wasn’t enough, you get what FirstCom calls, “Bonus Beats,” and to call them mixout tracks is a monumental understatement. You can use these tracks to change the beds entirely, make different interlude arrangements, and extend the length of the pieces. FirstCom even goes so far as to give you the beats per minute (BPM) of the bonus beats so that if you have MIDI and SMTPE, you can use any number of nifty music composition software packages to take the tracks to even bigger possibilities. They also include the key center of each piece so that you can add your own musical accompaniment or ideas if you play guitar or keyboards (although they don’t offer this feature on all the CDs in the library).
Other CDs FirstCom sent for the review include AM014, Logos, Fanfares, and Opens, which is perfect for any newsroom. There are serious news themes, light-hearted themes, talk show themes, and other information beds. One track for example, cut 37 “Business Network,” had me picturing a CNN financial report. These cuts are exactly what all the news directors I’ve ever met in this business have always bugged me to provide them. In fact, you might as well just give this CD to your station’s news department and resign yourself to never seeing it again. AM015 is named “College Rock,” and it’s described as “Organic, Alternative Acoustic Rock Promos.” Again, the description is precisely what you get. Twenty sixty-second acoustic rock beds with thirty-second versions of the previous, underscore versions missing the “lead” instrument, and a BDP (bass drums and percussion) version. You also get the Bonus Beats for added fun, although this CD does not have the key center info on the tracks.
Disc AM020 is called “Remix” and it’s pure urban, house promo beds, although FirstCom says sports stations could also use it. Lots of hip-hop tribal acid jazz and back-beats. There’s also some rapping going on, such as on track 17, which is called “Nothing’s Over.” The rapping included is a bit surprising to me, since I was expecting mostly instrumentals. But, the more I thought about it, if I was a producer at an Urban station, having some short raps available might be welcome. Several of the tracks, such as cut 19, “Acid Blues,” had an early 1970’s classic rock soul sound, with a hip-hop beat. The very next cut, 21, featured a sexy Lauren Hill style singer repeating “Gotta be Good To You” which could make an interesting addition to many promotional concepts.
The final disc for review is AM023, “Hard Sell Rock.” FirstCom describes it as “Modern Alternative Rock, fast energetic tracks for sports, youth, and lifestyle.” It’s definitely “Modern Alternative Rock” alright, with the cuts sounding exactly like they came off any alternative rock album released in the last couple of years. You get 40 sixty-second beds, and a thirty-second version of each. Then, you get something called an “Overscore” version of each track, which is a :60 version that just has the lead instruments without the rhythm track or “underscore” track as done previously. Also a :60 Bass Drums Percussion mixout is included.
If the remainder of the discs in the Access Music library live up to the standards set by these five, then this is a promo library worth its weight in gold. Looking over the other CD titles in the Access Music index, I can’t see anything in promo formatics that they’ve omitted. Any broadcast facility, be it televised sports, alternative rockers, cable news programming, classic rockers, or public radio stations can find stuff here that they could use instantly. But what else would you expect from FirstCom?
FirstCom has an excellent Website at www.firstcom.com that can give you more information on everything they have in their libraries. You can even audition some sample tracks and order libraries or discs for custom libraries. They also have an 800 number for those still not hooked into the Internet: 800-858-8880.