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We Will Rock Your Jingle

Every Sound Loop Needs a Garage Band

August 22, 2004|ERYN BROWN

On any given day, Luke Eddins gets weird stuff in the mail. Food. Underwear. Massage oil. A single pink high-heeled shoe. But mostly Eddins gets independent CDs from the vast backcountry of the unsigned, thousands of agonized-over, lovingly labeled CDs loaded with songs of lust, longing and loss. They're filled with odes to Escalades and Cristal; bourbon, crawfish gumbo and pickup trucks. And Eddins listens to every one of them. "Think of that friend you had growing up, the one who used to dig through the local-artists bin at the record store, looking for an undiscovered gem," he says. "That's me."

But unlike that guy, Eddins is trying to make a buck off the deal. Out of his tiny apartment in Hancock Park, the 28-year-old founder of Luke Hits is bringing the indie sensibility to a soundtrack near you. When folks producing movies, commercials and TV shows want a song snippet that sounds like, say, Sarah McLachlan, Eddins fills the bill with an unknown at a fraction of the price.

This is not copycatting, he says, because he's not hiring people to mimic known artists. Rather, he's dealing in "entirely original songs, where the vocal stylings might happen to sound a bit like Bono, or the beats happen to sound like the beats of the Neptunes." He also has advisers to help ensure there aren't any samples, loops, melodies or lyrics lifted from other bands.

The idea is simple--what isn't simple is finding decent material amid the noise and promotional "schwag," as Eddins likes to call the avalanche of miscellaneous freebies that arrive by the bushel. "I think my mailman despises me," says Eddins, who does not advertise and surmises that the barrage results from word-of-mouth, indie Web sites and media mentions of Luke Hits. In his apartment of wall-to-wall CDs, he cheerfully "sifts through the undesirable demos out there," he says. Eddins tabulates that he listens to more than 100 songs a day, and has heard 20,000 CDs in all, from which he's compiling a monster MP3 reference database. "I'm the human Google."

"Underdogs only" is the mission statement for Eddins, who revels in working exclusively with unsigned talent. In the two years he's been running Luke Hits, Eddins has placed about 100 songs by his "baby bands"--many from the local club scene--in shows and commercials. His latest coups include getting an unsigned singer-songwriter from San Francisco a spot in a new Miller Lite ad; landing an Amsterdam-based client's song on "The Division" on Lifetime Television; and placing three songs in the movie "White Chicks."

He takes about a 30% commission, a small sum given that his unknowns average one-tenth of the six-figure fees a big name can command. He "wouldn't recommend this life to someone trying to be the next music mogul. I'm living on mac-and-cheese and Red Bull."

After a particularly gruesome string of three all-nighters, he signs an e-mail, "if only I could duplicate myself." And in countless garage rehearsal rooms, his hopeful would-be clients are probably wishing the same thing.

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