How I went from ‘I need to drive Uber Eats’ to ‘Ricky Gervais liked my first ever Tweet!’ (and back again. . . )
I had just learned that a song from one of my albums was being used on a bigtime Netflix show. Apparently, someone on the music production team for Ricky Gervais’ sensation “After Life” had placed it in the Season 3 Finale. Was I ever excited! I was so giddy that my hands were shaking and I could barely highlight the screenshot I’d taken to indicate where my name was on the list so I could post it on my social media pages. Somehow I managed, even though it ended up looking more like some weird hieroglyphics instead of underlining my name with an arrow and star beside it.
I was a 50 year old single mom. Covid had taken a toll on my musician’s income, which was primarily teaching early childhood group music classes. I had gone into debt through the pandemic. During the lockdown, I’d swallowed my pride and had been driving Uber Eats to make ends meet. Even though my income had began to recover, I was still delivering food to pay down the debt I’d acquired. Quite frankly, I found I quite enjoyed it. It was less taxing than the wild frontier of educating very small children (which I adored). I felt as though I had achieved a nice balance, while alleviating the money stress.
So here I was, basking in the news of my triumphant, albeit inadvertent, entrance into bigtime film and television composing. Eventually, I decided I was ready to watch the episode. My sister bestowed a bottle of champagne upon me as I doused a giant bowl of popcorn with copious amounts of melted butter. We were anticipating much celebration. I couldn’t wait to take a video of my big moment on the screen while my music was playing.
Hey, this really was a big moment. Trained as a classical pianist, I had only begun composing in recent years. My piano performing career had been unexpectedly cut short in my late 20’s due to a car accident injury in my wrist. It took me a long time to recover from that blow. Meanwhile, I had created the early-childhood program to pay my bills more than anything (although I had grown to love it very much). Still, for years I’d felt lost as a musician, not knowing what my true calling was.
Side note, if any of you know performing musicians, well, to put it nicely, we can be rather self-absorbed. Many of us desperately need to not only have a true calling, but to also feel acknowledged for it. Luckily for me, composing had become my ‘thing’. And I loved it so much I didn’t really care about whether or not I was ‘discovered’. I didn’t feel a need to promote it and try to get it distributed (plus I did not have the time, I was busy trying to support my family). Consequently, I noticed that I’d stopped searching and yearning for a sense of purpose. I finally felt fairly content with the life and career I’d created, despite Covid and the loss of income I’d recently experienced.
Yet here I was, on my third glass of champagne, awash in a big celebratory ego trip, watching the episode and listening to some soulful music that was not mine. I was curious when my music was going to come into play. As I sat there wondering just how they were going to juxtapose my music with the heart-wrenching music I had already heard, Joni Mitchell’s epic song came on and the credits came up! WHAT the heck!?! Where was my music? There were at least a dozen websites that had my name listed on the Season 3 Episode 6 Afterlife Soundtrack: “Introspective Inquiries” by Margaret Dahlberg. We watched it again. Now I was on my 4th glass of champagne. “Are you sure this isn’t your song Margaret? Maybe they reworked it?” My sister suggested. “Absolutely not!” I averred. Songs are like babies – you know your own music.
In the meantime, my posts on social media were on fire. Everybody was excited for me and celebrating my success. I stayed up drinking champagne and eating chocolate, feeling like a chump, watching other episodes in the hopes that maybe they had listed my name on the wrong one. Eventually I fell asleep, slightly drunk and quite dejected, convinced that it all must have been a crazy mistake.
I awoke a few hours later to texts from my sister. A well-skilled academic researcher, she had done some sleuthing on my behalf. Through her research, she learned that Netflix replaces music all the time. I then asked a friend who was an established classical composer, lived in LA and wrote music for film and television. She corroborated the story, explaining that an upper executive may have just wanted to change the song ‘on a whim’ or they didn’t feel like dealing with the licensing. It’s also possible that the song was on the British Netflix version and just not the Canadian one.
The good news? My song was found by someone in the business and placed in the episode. It just didn’t make it into the final production. Sure this was disappointing, yet the exposure had taken my music further than it had ever gone. Plus, my handful of followers on YouTube, Spotify and other streaming sites had increased by the hundreds. I concluded that it was truly a highpoint of my composing career, even though my song wasn’t on the version I had watched. I made a choice to feel acknowledged and validated as a composer of expressive instrumental music.
The bad news? There wouldn’t be any fame or fortune coming my way, other than the handful of dollars for more views, streams and followers. But hey, I was never in this for the money. I love my simple life, my condo, my kids, cats & dog. I love teaching piano plus music for the very young. And when I need a little extra spending cash, I even love driving Uber Eats! I don’t feel like I want for anything (except maybe a housekeeper).
But now I had found myself in this crazy current of excitement. My name and my song is on the Soundtrack list for that episode, and yet my music is not on the episode. What do I do? How do I tell everybody what actually happened?
First I did what any honest newly discovered music composer would do. I signed up for Twitter and posted a heartful thanks to Ricky Gervais for listing my song on the soundtrack for that episode. I made sure I worded it accurately, since my song was definitely on the list. And as I was learning to navigate Twitter, somebody liked my post – and it was RICKY GERVAIS. My first like on my first post ever!
I shared my story with a close lawyer friend, who joked “you should sue Ricky Gervais for using your name without your permission!” We laughed. Then he says “No! You should make a short film about the whole thing. Except change it up so you have a ridiculous viewing party where you invite all your friends and get really drunk and messy when your song doesn’t appear. And in the film you try to sue Gervais for using your name without your permission. Then you put HIS name on the list of cast members and include a scene at the end in which actors are portraying members of Ricky Gervais’ team saying ‘I don’t get it, his name is on the list but he’s not in the film!?!’ “DM Ricky Gervais and pitch the short film!” my lawyer friend insists. Like anyone can just DM Ricky Gervais, haha.
Anyway, the bottom line is that someone important on the After Life team found my music and felt it worthy of being on the soundtrack list. That is the story I am sticking to. I am trying to figure out how to reach anyone official on the After Life production team to get more answers, but that is near impossible. Go figure. . .
In the very least, I have a story to tell. Plus over a thousand more listeners on Spotify than I had before Christmas. Hey, in Royalties land, that’s a VENTI!
Listen to Introspective Inquiries by Margaret Dahlberg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27LS7RpXfL8
The album, Guided Harmonies: the Covid Series, may be found on all the music streaming sites.