Interview: Jesse Cafiero of Split Screens Chats Publishing & Sync Licensing

August 13, 2015

Jesse Cafiero is the mastermind behind Bay Area’s Split Screens. Releasing a debut EP in 2012, Split Screens has gone on to release several singles and a full length, Before the Storm, last summer. The pop gems Cafiero create have been described as “sonic landscapes that take in the old and the new, the rough and the smooth.”

A visual collage artist, he’s no stranger to blending, layering and bringing together sounds in order to create something truly unique. As an indie artist, Cafiero took steps early in the development of Split Screens to make sure his royalties were being accounted for and collected. As a TuneCore Publishing Administration artist, he was thrilled to learn that we had landed his single “Close Your Eyes” in a 2015 episode of the long-running Fox series Bones! TuneCore is thankful that Jesse chose us for Publishing Administration, and we’re super proud of his recent accomplishment. We chatted with Jesse about his influences, his art, and the understandable initial naivety that surrounds a complex area like music publishing.

Tell us about you got started making music. 

Jesse Cafiero: I’ve been making music practically since I can remember, I started taking piano lessons when I was about 5 or 6 and did that until I started playing bass when I was about 14. A big influence musically in my childhood was my older brother who played a little piano as well. I remember hearing him playing a melody he had come up with and being fascinated hearing something actually being created. I was around 10 at the time and soon after started writing melodies of my own, though it would be a while until I started writing concrete songs.

You’ve played different instruments in numerous bands. What sparked the creation of Split Screens?

Split Screens came about soon after I moved to San Francisco from Boston in 2009. I had been playing as an upright and electric bassist for years and knew I had a separate side to my personality that wanted to get out in the form of singing and being in more of a lead role. It was a slow process for me making that change, I began Split Screens as a solo studio project and then after recording began to get a band together to bring those songs and arrangements to life.

Who do you cite as some of your earliest influences? Conversely, where are you finding inspiration in 2015? 

I’ve always been a big fan of psychedelic, classic rock. Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix were and still are huge influences for me; jazz players like John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans shaped my academic years studying music. I gotta say I’m not as hip to new bands as I should be – in 2015 though, Radiohead still continues to impress me, their records are of the highest caliber of talent combined by incredibly hard work.

At what point did you start looking into music publishing administration options? What was your knowledge of this area beforehand?

I started looking into music publishing soon after my debut EP came out. I was busy writing new music that would be on my next LP and knew with all the songs combined that I had enough variety in the music to get more serious about having my music represented. My knowledge though of music publishing around that time was about the same as a good amount of indie artists starting out…not so much!

What interested you in TuneCore’s Music Publishing Administration services?

I really liked the administration part of it, there’s an ease of mind to uploading songs and having TuneCore take care of the details and coordinating with my performing rights organization (ASCAP). Plus, I certainly was interested in the fact that they pitched your music for sync licensing, though at the time I certainly wasn’t expecting to get a network TV feature!

Tell us how it felt when you found out “Close Your Eyes” would be used in the TV show Bones. 

It was clearly the most exciting thing that had happened to me in quite some time and definitely the biggest thing that had happened to the band thus far. 

When Pete Rogers [TuneCore’s Director of Creative] first hit me up and said that there was a license request for “Close Your Eyes”, I was completely shocked. Just taking a second to think about how a song I wrote alone in my first apartment in San Francisco was going to be on a network TV show was about as surreal a feeling as I’ve ever felt. But as much as that first email was exciting, the sync wasn’t confirmed at the time, it was just ‘looking good’. So then I had to play the waiting game for a few weeks, managing my own expectations in case they chose a different song. When I got the final ‘yes’ closer to the episode’s air time the feeling was just complete relief!

How has the placement affected your career thus far?

It’s been pretty recent that the episode aired so I think that a lot of the benefits from the placement have yet to be seen. It has been really cool getting new fans from around the world and I’ve appreciated that they took the time to find us since it does take some effort from either using Shazam or looking up the episode. As far the means to creating new music it’s been an incredible opportunity. Having the chance to recoup my recording costs for the LP “Close Your Eyes” was on along with putting performance royalty money into the next EP is a big deal. During these times in the music industry it’s pretty brutal out there, and I feel incredibly lucky that this placement happened in the first place!

What advice or insight would you share with independent artists similar to yourself when it comes to the importance of music publishing?

For me I’m kind of the cliche artist that could certainly take some more time learning about the business side of music. The truth is though, if you’re making a record you’ll be proud of, you’re going to put your time and spirit into that and you should make it as easy as possible to collect some money from your effort. Having a team pitching your music is incredibly important, too! There’s so many factors involved with landing a placement, the song fitting the write mood, the mix, the scene, etc. There’s a lot of luck involved but having a publisher with connections certainly helps your chances!

How important to you is the ability to collect international/songwriter royalties?

It’s incredibly important, I feel like especially during this time in the music industry indie artists need to make sure they have every avenue open to make income off their music.

What is in store for you musically in the next year?

My main priority is to finish up writing some new songs I’ve been working on and then getting into the studio to work on the next record! We’ll continue playing shows in the Bay Area and doing short west coast tours, those are really fun! 

I’ve also been working on expanding my collage art and engraining it with another stop-motion music video. The one I made for our single “Stand Alone” (featured belowgot a great response and it’s always fun to meld visual art and music whenever possible!

Tags: bones featuring indie jesse cafiero licensing music publishing split screens sync tunecore