Introducing APM Music’s Caron Nightingale, CEO of Nightingale Music
Women’s History Month
Library Owner Spotlight: Introducing APM Music’s Caron Nightingale, CEO of Nightingale Music
Caron Nightingale is a treasure trove of incredible stories. Throughout her decades-spanning career in music, she has worn a multitude of hats, exploring her talents as a performing artist, touring musician, composer, producer, editor, music supervisor, entrepreneur and business owner navigating the world of publishing and licensing. Based in Toronto, Nightingale has been a champion of amazing music in every sense of the word, solidifying herself as an industry force and longtime supporter of those who make production music such a rich, creative landscape to be immersed in. As the founder and CEO of Nightingale Music, she has led the company to become an award-winning library and independent label with a global reputation, and in 2012, she also joined the APM Music family as the Director of Sales in Canada.
Throughout Nightingale’s expansive background, a love for music and a dedication to putting in the work by all means necessary consistently remained as a North star, guiding her forward as her passion for the business took on different forms. Growing up, Nightingale explains how fortunate she feels to have had a lot of role models in her family, sharing how her mother served as a source of inspiration showcasing firsthand how it is never too late to reinvent yourself.
"My mother was raised to believe that her place in life was as a housewife, but once my sister and I were grown up, she reinvented herself as an entrepreneur creating a number of different products including skin care for men and a monster spray for kids to spray under their beds at night!" Nightingale shared. "When my girlfriends' mothers wanted them to marry doctors or lawyers, my mother wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer! She may have been a little disappointed when I said I wanted to join a band and go on the road, but completely supported my decision when I actually did that. I grew up being told that ‘anything you can believe, you can achieve’ and I was encouraged to follow my own path."
Over the years, as Nightingale's path took on various directions, she dove headfirst into every endeavor, learning as much as possible about each area of focus that captivated her attention. While her vast experiences, achievements and the lessons she's learned along the way can easily fill a book, some monumental entries include creating the Nightingale Voice Box, a critically acclaimed SFX library composed entirely of voice sound effects, speaking at countless conferences and panels, including for WIFT, TIFF and Sundance, and winning numerous awards, including the prestigious PMA Mark Award for Best Vocal Song in 2017.
Music from the internationally recognized Nightingale Music Library can be heard in just about every country and network in the world, with over 10,000 placements including feature films: Jack Reacher, Deadpool, American Ultra and The Big Sick; hit TV series such as: “The Handmaid's Tale,” “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” “Suits,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Saturday Night Live,” and brands like Mercedes, Fisher Price, Subaru, McDonalds and Activia, to name a few. In April 2020, the Nightingale Music Library was officially acquired by EMI Production Music, a division of SONY/ATV Music Publishing. When Nightingale isn’t happily busy working with APM Music, overseeing Nightingale Music and keeping a watchful eye on emerging talent, she can be found polishing her skills as a tournament Blackjack player and mentoring others on the ins and outs of the fast-paced and ever-evolving music industry.
During a recent conversation with APM Music, Nightingale offered an inside glimpse into what this current chapter of her career looks like, how her passion for music led her to where she is today and what her advice is for those looking to get a leg up in their chosen profession.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and what first drew you into the world of production music?
Music is basically embedded in my DNA! I have so many relatives who were (and are) respected musicians. In fact, two of my uncles co-founded the Toronto Symphony. I also had a great aunt who was a piano player for a lot of the old Hollywood movies… When you saw a beautiful starlet playing piano on screen, it was often my aunt who was the one playing!
I started singing professionally in my teens in wedding bands and as a back-up singer for other artists, and at 19, I joined a touring 50’s rock and roll band. It was a crazy time but a lot of fun. I loved traveling, staying in hotels and having someone else make my bed [Laughs]. I then had my own lounge band for years, but ultimately, I really started to enjoy being behind the scenes where I started writing and producing for other artists. From there I ended up involved in music editing, supervision and publishing.
My transition into production music was pretty organic. I was writing a lot of original music for corporate clients and networks, when one of my clients had big job but a tiny budget. I said that I could take the job, but instead of them owning the music, which was typical, I would simply license the music to them non-exclusively for this one job. The client said yes, and to my surprise, three months later, they called to re-license that same music for another project and continued to re-license the music many times for other projects. That was my first experience with re-licensing existing music that I owned. I quite liked it.
The next big ‘aha’ moment was when my writing partner and I wrote 20 minutes of original sports music for a big network. Again, we were able to keep the rights, so I sent a copy of the music on reel-to-reel to ABC Sports who started licensing that music for their sports promos almost daily. We then sold that same 20 minutes of music to a production music library in the 90s and we are still making money today from those tracks being licensed around the world. It was because of those experiences that I decided to start the Nightingale Music Library producing music that is specifically written for licensing and I have loved every minute of it.
Can you tell us more about what your day-to-day is like now working with APM Music and in general following the acquisition of the Nightingale Music library?
While the acquisition of the Nightingale Music Library has definitely reduced some of my day-to-day workload, my plate is still very much full with my APM responsibilities! As the Director of Sales for APM Music in Canada, I currently manage over 500 client accounts. My inbox is usually pretty full before I even start my morning coffee. My clients are production companies, ad agencies, networks, etc., and my job is to help them with their licensing needs, whether it be helping to find the right track or negotiating the licensing of the music. I’m also involved in strategic planning for how to better serve the Canadian market in particular. Before the pandemic hit, I was traveling to visit clients, speaking at panels and attending trade shows. Now I’m on the phone or Zoom with clients all day! During my "free time" which generally translates to ‘evenings and weekends’, I still oversee projects and my staff at Nightingale, because we still produce albums for the library and this still involves listening to and approving tracks, as well as overseeing the artwork, metadata and contracts with the composers.
I love my job and this business and I really enjoy nurturing new talent and sharing my insights. I also love having way too many things to do. Sometimes I think it's a blessing to have too much on your to-do list, because it allows you to be flexible while still getting the work done. When I was very young, my dad told me something I'll never forget. He said, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person." I find that people are so much more engaged and productive when they have a lot going on. The energy level just stays up, especially if they are enjoying what they are doing. I will say though, time management is extremely important when you've taken on a lot of responsibilities and that’s something that I’ve learned to be good at over the years.
In what ways do you think can the industry at large encourage more women to become composers, and tangibly support their careers in doing so?
There is no question that men continue to dominate the music industry, both on the business and creative side, but there are significantly fewer women in the industry, so if we want women to have meaningful careers in music, we need to address both gender bias as well as encourage more women to enter the industry. It’s a bit of a numbers game and we need to find ways to help existing female composers get a leg up. If we want to make the playing field more equitable, we need to get more women on the field. Promoting female composers and releasing albums by women is important, but I think the industry needs to do more in terms of financially supporting female artists and the companies who champion their work. For example, the music industry can create scholarship funds for females interested in entering the industry. I’m proud to share that Nightingale has always had a diverse staff and has typically been made up of at least 50% women.
Looking back throughout your storied career, what would you say is a project or accomplishment that you're really proud of?
I am especially proud of creating Nightingale Music and building amazing relationships with music professionals around the world, and yes of course, the awards that we have won… Honestly though, I would have to say one of my most memorable accomplishments is having one of the songs that I co-wrote and sang on "Promises Don’t Come Easy" placed in a popular TV series in Asia. The song was used over 50 times in the series and became a commercial hit there. I still get fan mail from my ‘15 minutes of fame!’ It’s really nice to have recognition and validation in the things you work so hard at.
What stands out as an interesting story, especially being on many different sides of the business?
Lots! Here is the wildest... I got a call one day from a prison pay phone. It was one of the Manson family members who wanted to use some of our sound effects for a film he was producing in prison. I didn’t recognize his name at first, but my intern did and then the very next night, Helter Skelter was on TV and they showed him in the credits at the end. It was pretty surreal.
As the former owner and current CEO of Nightingale Music Productions, what has been the most rewarding part of watching the company grow and succeed in the ways it has over time?
By far the greatest reward of creating the Nightingale Music Library and watching it succeed has been working with all the incredible composers. We have had more than 165 composers from around the world write for the library, many of whom are award-winning film and TV composers, as well as Grammy-nominated and winning writers, producers and artists. I am proud to have nurtured many composers and artists, introducing many of them to the world of licensing and writing production music. It’s honestly like being a proud parent, especially when you follow their careers and successes. I also am proud to have mentored many interns over the years at Nightingale who went on to successful careers and businesses. The Nightingale Music Library was definitely my baby and it was hard to say goodbye, but the timing was right.
I know you mentioned feeling like a proud parent at times, which I'm sure is a really great feeling being able to watch the composers you've worked with succeed in different capacities. Who is one composer who stands out where it's been a delight to follow their career over the years?
I’ve worked with and nurtured many young composers who have gone on to have very successful careers as songwriters or composers; I even gave a few of them their first feature film credits. But one of my favorite success stories is Stephan Moccio. who couldn’t be more deserving. Stephan co-wrote one of Celine Dion's biggest hits ("A New Day Has Come"). He co-wrote "Wrecking Ball" [for Miley Cyrus]. He wrote and co-produced several of The Weeknd's tracks, including the Grammy Award-winning "Earned It." And besides being a hit songwriter, he’s an incredible concert pianist too. He's in APM Music’s library too, by the way!
Stephan came to see me for advice one day just out of high school. He was so personable, charismatic and talented. He played some of his songs for me on cassette and honestly, I was just blown away with his writing and production skills at such a young age. He was also really hard-working, playing 2 gigs every night; 2 hours at a lounge and then another 4 hours at a jazz club right after that. Sometimes you meet someone, and you just know that their talent can’t be denied. He was one of those people. I told him, that I normally would advise young talent not to give up their day job because even with great talent, it’s a crap shoot to be able to actually earn a living with their music but in his case, he would be the first person I would say this to …..he was going to be, without question wildly successful. Within months by the way, he had to hire someone to manage his time because he was so in-demand. I actually don’t think he ever really had to pay his dues in the traditional sense. He was always that good.
Soon after our first meeting, he was offered a staff writing job with Sony and at the same time, he was offered a scholarship at Berkeley. He wasn’t sure which one to take. Can you imagine such problems [Laughs]. I remember him asking what I thought he should do. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to influence such an important decision but I did say, that I felt that Sony was excited partly by the fact he was that talented and so young. If he went to Berkeley, then it might not be as easy to impress Sony when he comes back several years older. I thought he should sign with Sony, make his first million and then if he still wanted to go to Berkeley he could pay for it himself! Anyway, he signed with Sony and within six months, he had co-written one of Celine Dion’s biggest hits, which is pretty incredible. He hasn’t looked back since!
Every once in a while, I'll write Stephan to congratulate him for an award or some accomplishment, and he still always thanks me for being there for him when he was starting out. I can’t tell you how rewarding that is.
In this next chapter of your career, what do you aim to accomplish next?
So many things! Seriously, I keep a very long list: Championing Canadian Talent both at APM Music and through Nightingale Music, learning another language, writing a book, launching an organization to give back called "1 Million Random Acts of Kindness." There is so much I want to do, but since the pandemic hit, I am thinking that it might be good time to try to learn to relax and find some balance. I suddenly have a desire to be more social when we come out of this, so I just might host some parties [Laughs].
What are some words of wisdom you'd like to pass along to someone first starting out in your field?
- 1. Be confident and take ownership of your successes and your failures.
- 2. Be tenacious. Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to fail; it’s how you learn.
- 3. It’s a numbers game. The more people you meet and tell your story to, the more likely it is you will make a meaningful connection.
- 4. Hang around the people you respect and who respect you. There is nothing worse than being with people who will bring you down. You can’t succeed if you don’t feel good about yourself.
- 5. If you’re going to a job interview, be prepared, do your research and think about how you can help them, not the other way around.
- 6. Most importantly. It’s all about building relationships. If you are in it for the long haul, then this will play an important role in your future success. All those people that you treated well or helped along the way will be there for you when you most need it. I can’t tell you how many times some young kid I was nice to 20 years ago turned out to be an executive or CEO of a company I am now doing business with.
To get in touch with Caron Nightingale for any business inquiries related to licensing APM Music in Canada, see here.