Music col­la­bo­ra­ti­on at the click of a but­ton: how fre­que is revo­lu­tio­ni­s­ing work­flows for film music

What would The God­fa­ther be wit­hout the sad and beau­tiful waltz, Psycho wit­hout its  famous ter­ri­fy­ing music for the show­er sce­ne or Pulp Fic­tion wit­hout the eclec­tic sam­pler of soul clas­sics, rock’n’roll and surf music? Music is an important ele­ment for films and the emo­ti­ons they con­vey. But how do you find the per­fect sound­track? Film teams are often faced with the chall­enge of cli­cking through num­e­rous song opti­ons, test­ing them against the images and making a sel­ec­tion in exten­si­ve con­sul­ta­ti­ons. The next step then invol­ves having to inqui­re about the licen­sing and obtain the rights.

The Media­Tech Hub start­up fre­que has deve­lo­ped a solu­ti­on that sim­pli­fies the­se time-con­sum­ing and cum­ber­so­me steps and sti­mu­la­tes the crea­ti­ve pro­cess. A world first, their plat­form allows film­ma­kers to direct­ly inte­gra­te every type of music, com­bi­ne it with film clips, let the team deci­de on the sel­ec­tion and then licen­se it. The need for the pro­gram­me seems so obvious that it’s sur­pri­sing that film crews are still working in such a com­pli­ca­ted  way. Jus­tin Micha­el la Val­le, co-foun­der, Mana­ging Direc­tor and a film com­po­ser hims­elf, explains: “Film soft­ware is often deve­lo­ped by peo­p­le from the film busi­ness. Music soft­ware comes from peo­p­le from the music busi­ness. The inter­face bet­ween the two indus­tries is rare­ly made use of. Inno­va­ti­on typi­cal­ly hap­pens on one side or the other. We bring the two together.”


One solu­ti­on ins­tead of five dif­fe­rent platforms

This is becau­se in post-pro­duc­tion, choo­sing the right music is often an ongo­ing pro­cess across various digi­tal tools and invol­ving mul­ti­ple crew mem­bers. Film sequen­ces are uploa­ded onto a video plat­form like Vimeo, a song list with up to 70 titles is shared on ano­ther music plat­form like Spo­ti­fy or com­pi­led and sug­gested by the indi­vi­du­al mem­bers of the film’s team such as the direc­tor, film edi­tor or agen­ci­es. Num­e­rous emails sub­se­quent­ly go back and forth about which tracks the team likes the best. A small sel­ec­tion of titles is then sent to video edi­tors, who put them tog­e­ther with the cor­re­spon­ding film sequen­ces, export them and play the files back to the team. The final ver­si­on making into the film must now be sel­ec­ted from the sequen­ces that have now been opti­mal­ly edi­ted and com­bi­ned with the music. Once this has been deci­ded, a search is con­duc­ted through music cata­lo­gues and the rele­vant rights reques­ted or obtai­ned. The search for a simi­lar pie­ce will then begin if this par­ti­cu­lar pie­ce of music is not available or is too expen­si­ve. This means that film­ma­kers are using up to five dif­fe­rent plat­forms as well as feed­back via email for their com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on process.

“As humans, we are very visu­al beings. The focus is on the visu­al, and this is also the case for film­ma­kers. Audio pro­duc­tion is often trea­ted as being secon­da­ry. It’s often com­mon prac­ti­ce for music to be deci­ded at the last minu­te in the pro­duc­tion work­flow. Com­po­sers are com­mis­sio­ned when the film is almost finis­hed. And then opi­ni­ons are often very far apart when it comes to making a decis­i­on. But agree­ment is rea­ched more quick­ly on all things visu­al,” says co-foun­der Tobi­as Wag­ner, who is also a com­po­ser and a Mana­ging Direc­tor of fre­que. This is whe­re fre­que comes in with the tool sup­port­ing col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve work in the best pos­si­ble way and pro­mo­ting the crea­ti­ve process.

From music com­po­sers to tech entrepreneurs

The two foun­ders know each other from their stu­dies at New York’s Man­hat­tan School of Music and have work­ed for a long time as com­po­sers and music pro­du­cers for TV shows, com­mer­cials and films. The cum­ber­so­me working prac­ti­ces had bothe­red them for some time. After shoo­ting a film tog­e­ther in Green­land, it was just by chan­ce that they then deci­ded to extend their stay in Ber­lin and went on to deve­lop the idea for fre­que whilst the­re. Apart from the two Mana­ging Direc­tors, the foun­ding team includes AI expert Ste­phan Bau­mann, who is con­duc­ting rese­arch at the Ger­man Rese­arch Cent­re for Arti­fi­ci­al Intel­li­gence, and Tech­no­lo­gy Offi­cer Pao­lo Gal­li. The team suc­cessful­ly com­ple­ted the Media­Tech Hub Acce­le­ra­tor in Pots­dam and has for­ged important cont­acts with other tech foun­ders and the film industry.

A par­ti­cu­lar chall­enge during the deve­lo­p­ment was posed by the inter­face design. It was desi­gned in such a way that any kind of feed­back from the team is imme­dia­te­ly com­pre­hen­si­ble and can be easi­ly assi­gned to the dif­fe­rent song ver­si­ons wit­hout having to scroll through long con­ver­sa­ti­ons. “The ope­ra­ti­on is intui­ti­ve. Music is added by drag and drop. We want to keep fre­que as simp­le and acces­si­ble as pos­si­ble so that ever­yo­ne can work with it straigh­ta­way while very com­plex pro­ces­ses are run­ning tog­e­ther in the back­ground. That’s the tech­ni­cal chall­enge,” the two foun­ders say. Whe­ther it’s sel­ec­ting music for Hol­ly­wood films, the access prime-time series, com­mer­cials, influen­cer vide­os or You­tube pro­duc­tions: film­ma­kers as well as com­pa­nies bene­fit from the easy hand­ling and the pos­si­bi­li­ties offe­red by an inte­gra­ted licen­sing of the songs. In post-pro­duc­tion, the sel­ec­tion typi­cal­ly beg­ins with crew mem­bers sug­gest­ing favou­ri­te songs and very well-known titles to test the pace, gen­re or mood. Howe­ver, hits by Rol­ling Stones, Bey­on­cé, Moby or simi­lar big names are then sim­ply unaf­forda­ble or the rights aren’t available. fre­que works with arti­fi­ci­al intel­li­gence so that it can sug­gest simi­lar sound­ing music on the basis of the sug­gested songs. In future, ever­y­thing will be done from a sin­gle source and the rights to the music will be made available straight from  fre­que. With Chief Licen­sing Offi­cer Corin­na C. Poes­zus, they have someone on the team with over 30 years of inter­na­tio­nal expe­ri­ence in this field working with major music labels and media com­pa­nies. The pos­si­bi­li­ty to offer all music cata­lo­gues accor­ding to the right pie­ce of music and the cor­re­spon­ding licen­sing is the first solu­ti­on in a tool of this kind any­whe­re in the world.

The beta ver­si­on will be released in May and fre­que is about to have its most exci­ting year yet - as it pre­pa­res to launch into the mar­ket. As one of the par­ti­ci­pan­ts of the Ger­man Pavi­li­on with the Digi­tal Hub Initia­ti­ve at South by Sou­thwest, the crea­ti­ve trade show for the digi­tal, music and film indus­tries in Austin/​Texas, fre­que was busy intro­du­cing the trade show dele­ga­tes to its ser­vices and plea­sed about the posi­ti­ve feed­back coming from inves­tors and its main tar­get group, film­ma­kers from all over the world.

“After all, this is the first time that we are con­nec­ting ‘the sup­p­ly chain’ for music direct­ly with ‘the source’,” is how Jus­tin Micha­el La Val­lee sums it up. The mar­ket launch this year will see fre­que going inter­na­tio­nal. The first addres­sees are from Ger­ma­ny and Hollywood.


The media tech­no­lo­gies of the future are alre­a­dy being used today – not only in the enter­tain­ment sec­tor, but also in a wide varie­ty of indus­tries. Chris­ti­ne Lentz meets up with tech enthu­si­asts, estab­lished com­pa­nies and rese­ar­chers for our month­ly Media­Tech Hub Pots­dam blog to tell the sto­ries behind the inno­va­ti­ve busi­ness models.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.