Namm 2015, California & food for your soul.

I recently returned from my second trip to the NAMM convention. Its now my 3rd time in California, and that drug, the vibe, it never wears thin on me. From the long long ass haul across the pond, all 11 hours of it, coupled with a pressure cabin headache, nothing could break the trance i was under.

Maybe plane food has that effect i cant say, but im always in a excited stupor about heading to the west coast of the U.S.

What draws me there again and again isnt just NAMM, its so much deeper and more connective than that. It really is the entire wrap around atmosphere when you step off the plane. Standing at terminal 2 awaiting your ride, im just smiling from ear to ear.

This one was really special to me. Finally getting to spend time with some friends i have made over the years, and when you do finally meet, there is no awkward pauses, nothing aloof or odd, its just putting on your comfy slippers, grabbing a coffee and gliding into it seamlessly.

You tend to notice a lot of cultural differences each time you make that trip. They begin as subtle nudges but after a short while, its a constant flurry of really cool differences in behavior, expectation, ambition, colloquial nuances and well, they have much nicer places to eat than ive seen here!

I tend to spend a lot of time day dreaming too when im out there. I guess being so close and personal with your own daily life and the things you convince yourself are relevant, the stress you pile onto stress, it all seeps away for a short while.

That moment that grabs you when you just miss your family. You know what they really mean to you in a out of body kind of way. I mean 5500 miles has that instant effect on your whole system.Its not jet lag, although i feel i have consistently lost all my battles with the time zones, its that longing. But part of me loves that. I think its healthy to have a moment or too when you are so far removed from your life, you have a chance to see all the rich heart tugging value, passion in its wake.

Im probably the worst guy to have go to NAMM and come back and report all the findings. Utterly awful. Id make a terrible journo, even a fake one…….

but it was a brilliant show. I visited last for this in 2013. This time round its a completely new vibe which i wasnt expecting. In the space of each passing hour, you see people you never met, those who your so glad to have spent time with.  Its the hub of all things creative and musical.You can effectively walk in and be blinded by all the “things you want” and come out with sore feet and a shopping list, and thats fine. But i came away with so much more.

Taking the break from writing, im not a travel and write guy just yet, its so refreshing to cleanse your head of every project your working on and allow new ideas in, letting people into that space where only busy ideas and music occupy. Its then that it strikes me, more and more its about your connection to people.

There isnt a community unless you have something to contribute. Whether your driving people nuts, too many opinions, dont know when to speak or shut the hell up, but its what you bring and how it matters. How people matter.

So when im standing there with friends and colleagues i dont get to see all year round, i am the big softy. I am just enjoying every second. It feeds a part of you that we spend so much time guarding. Its perhaps, the easiest thing to be to become a cynic. To scathe and hurl banter, make gossip, turn someones thoughts, words and music on its head, so its time we just cut away all the people in our lives that feed on this.

When you only surround yourself with people who love what they do, adore the craft, relish new ideas, the competitive streak always has little to cling onto. You are embalmed in a kind of butter! haha. Nothing bad will stick to you. Being in this part of the world, it always makes this feeling louder. Its amplified above all the noise, all your own head noise.

Its funny but it takes all those convos when you meet, to yet again affirm that you are far from the only one feeling all the weird insecurities. On any level, on any rung of the career ladder, every single creative has this pang.

We often work alone in our humming tech filled rooms. The sound of coolers, a mug of coffee within reach, staring into a screen more often occupied by someones rant on facebook.

Eventually we plunge into our next project, the next big cue. Its so so easy to become too isolated. Its already too easy to make music. i mean its absurdly easy to put out something that can stand up against the next best cue. Too easy maybe.

Im not a “turn up to all the events” kinda guy, never have been and never will be, so maybe thats part the reason my pilgrimage to NAMM, to California hits me so hard in all the best ways you can imagine. Some self cast chains are cut from you, you soar above all the mundane and you start reaching for something again.

Every single time, i swear down, bar none, ive come home and felt invincible. Like there isnt any good tangible reason not to succeed and meet those expectations. Again though, its not just that climate, easy going vibe, the tempo of life, its  the people you surround yourself with.

This time round was a little different, new. Something has changed in me and a week on nearly and i cant shake the feeling. Its like ive got shot once and for all, the negativity cloud that just stalks you somedays. I looked above me, felt my tee for any rain spots and nope, nada, its still clear and positive up there.

There must have been some in flight exorcism service i was unaware of just before the “finger sandwich” and weaponised blueberry muffin.I could ramble on for hours about the weight thats off my shoulders, which is odd actually as ive committed to so many things now, in theory i should be under the car of Nurse Ratchet for what im taking on, but im not. I love it, bring it on.

If a simple trip to California does this, if its the bewildering charm and spell of Namm at full tilt, so be it. I cant bottle it, i cant sell it on, but i would recommend anything that performs a rest or reboot in your mind and heart. If there is something you can do to disarm and just embrace something, anything that makes you sit up and love all those big things in your life, reminds you that you bloody can, then take it at all costs.

Yaiza Varona ‘Le Chef Compositeur’ – Guest Blog November 2014

On art vs industry


Once upon a time, in a magic land called Music Industry, there was a composer that was giving much thought to what she was writing. Maybe she shouldn´t have, because occasionally that led her to speak in third person.


Anyway, she also loved going to the point so here we go.


LE CHEF COMPOSITEUR – Hamburgers vs Risotto With Truffles (A tale of art and industry)


Like Ancient Romans´ architecture, I believe tracks need to have:


  • Firmitas (to be well built and not collapse),
  • Venustas (beauty) and most importantly,
  • Utilitas (the building must serve the purpose it was built for).



Now let me make sure I´m meeting all three criteria adapting whatever project I currently have in my hands to them.


I cook music. I love cooking some music dishes better than others, I´m naturally better at cooking some than others and my kitchen is more prepared for those certain dishes I do more often, however no matter what, I work in a happy, efficient kitchen because I enjoy cooking music so much.


As someone who cooks, I encounter two scenarios; I cook for a customer, or I cook for myself (or some loved guinea pigs).


Let´s imagine that hamburgers are successful, demanded by a big majority and associated with fast food, while truffle risotto requires investment, slow cooking and finesse, and it´s more on the delicacy end.


Scenario 1: Customer walks in, requests 15 hamburgers to be cooked within 20 min.


Hamburgers. Again. AGAIN. Don´t people eat something else?


I can try and convince my customer that there are other dishes in the menu, that my risotto is fantastic and that he or she should wait for 2h and invest more in live truffles as it´s more than just nutrition, and ask him / her to rely on me having the skills to pull off an otherworldly risotto.

This would be a funny situation, right? You as a customer walk in, know what you want (and you might as well not give a damn about truffles anyway), and if you´re happy with the service and like the place you might return later on and actually give that risotto thingy a chance.


Which means in this occasion as a chef, I´m stuck with doing 15 hamburgers within 20 min. A few crunches, red band tied around my forehead, the fun begins!


In this scenario, I become a mercenary: I’m focused, ruthless, on a mission, like in a videogame. Step one: let go of wanting to do a risotto. Next time. Wipe mind clean and embrace the concept ‘Hamburger’. It just so happens I love hamburgers too!

I find the most efficient way of cooking what I am requested with the means at my hand. I don’t have to reinvent hamburger all over again. The recipe is perfect, and you can have it as often as you wish, can’t go wrong like that. And more importantly, as much as I keep on falling in love with hamburgers, I try and add my little personal ingredient and sign them all with a big Y on the top.

This is no McDonalds dodgy stuff. This is MY hamburger.


Scenario 2: I´m on my own in my music kitchen.


I need to spend time alone with my tools. Reminds me why I started cooking music in the first place.

If I’m cooking home – who cares what do I use or how do I accomplish it? I put together whatever I fancy if I feel it feels right. Cocoa and chilli can belong together. In any set I need something to contrast, a slight dissonance, a touch of rawness just because. But who cares? That’s just my aesthetic, my taste. Is my plate nutritionally balanced? Has everything you need? That’s all there is to it! Especially after having worked so hard on the hamburgers, I owe it to myself.


This is the time for me to allow my artistic self some space to breathe and do whatever I fancy: no deadlines, no constrains, no pleasing others, I am GOD in Yaizaland; I rule, destroy and create.


I enjoy spending ages perfecting my very personal truffle risotto. I also gather information about who may actually be interested in such dish.


One last advantage of this mental division: whatever I develop in one area helps the other and viceversa. The resources I come up with when being a mercenary help me focus and not be too ethereal when writing as an artist ( for what is the use of a track that never gets bounced, however high idea we have of it in our mind? ) and the techniques I slowly discover when taking ages to write I can later accelerate my everyday writing.


I love being a music mercenary. And an artist. I am lucky like that!


This is my current approach to writing, but obviously there are many others from which I could learn so much.


Now, I would love to hear how you cook in your music kitchen.

Help others – Help Yourself

Sometime way back in the mid nineties, we had this basic tool. I call mine AOL online lol. It was a dial up, slow arse means of wandering into dingy chat rooms, waiting for MSN news to load, not knowing entirely why your even using it, or maybe it was just more exciting than Encarta? But slowly and surely, we started talking to people on the other side of the world and doing things we couldn’t do before. We might have had a pen friend, a hard to reach relative or a passion for places we will never visit.
It opened doors. It opened so many do quickly, we became ‘online sentient’ in a peculiar way. Even today, when we are not buying crap from eBay or fighting over a senseless clash of personal opinion on a subject completely meaningless, we are communicating more than ever.
With this new era, and as technology and telecommunication advancements came to fruition with super fast porn,sorry broadband access, for a few quid a month, we can now work together, talk to someone face to face whilst watching a full HD movie that used to require a journey to Blockbuster.

The one thing i really like about the internet right now, today, is we are learning to accept one another and help someone with no tally or score sheet. Tutorials, walk-throughs and guides, You Tube videos, live webcasts, hangouts and more. Support groups by the score and an answer for nearly every question known to man via a voice activated search engine.
The time before this? Before we could just randomly ask someone 5000 miles away how to setup VE pro on a slave pc?
We kept everything close to our chest. As creatives, we shared very little in fear of losing an edge, losing your contact. You had to drive up and down the country, send out a million costly CD’s with maybe promo packs, setup meetings, phone calls and book expensive studio time for quite a simple session by today’s means.

Whole communities of composers would just be part of a small known clique. Its probably a sensible and survivalist way of handling yourself when you consider all those factors. The immense time and money price you pay to forge a career in an age where everything was a conscious effort. Maybe that is exactly why we shared so little. Not because it was so hard to do, but the effort that goes into breaking a new contact, massaging that deal?
The work on the table was effectively shared and by very few. Most of us couldn’t just jump on a flight to LA and expect to groom relationships or check out of LAX and be greeted by a suit taking you to a big studio, network etc.
But today?? Now we can hook up with anybody in a matter of minutes. The downside is saturation for sure. One giant global door that has no locks, no checks or clauses, no restrictions, no real effective Policing of your personal ethics and morality. At least not on a civility level of basic manners and respect.

The upside of this is the way we are embracing this big open door. This huge portcullis. We are more equal than ever and willing to hand out information to others. We can conduct full remote sessions with entire orchestras several thousand miles away, or have a full set of custom stems sent and then loaded into our DAW’s only hours after a Skype with someone.

So what does it mean to be willing to help? How does this work exactly?

For me personally, all that i have found from trying to give something back, is you need to remember where you were a few weeks ago, months or years. The early days when you were asking a million questions and finding everything so intimidating, you questioned if you would ever learn your industry.
The reward for all of that is really simple. Its not a monetary gain on any level, its not a means to get something buck free or start a spreadsheet on who owes you how much time and favours.

Its about teaching yourself something along the way. The process itself of being asked, is like asking yourself those questions and what they all mean to you. Its a means of growth.

You can overdo it like anything else taken to excess. If you spend too much time everyday trying to help someone else, your work and family life can easily suffer.
There is a balance you must strike and through some stumbles and silly mistakes on your part, you will find a happy medium of working with others and the time you need to stay afloat. If any of this sounds like too much hard work, i still think you would be missing the whole point.

As long as you work by some simple rules and guidelines, you can offer so much of your time and none of this should feel like an effort. Be upfront with people your working with and say, “im only too happy to help, but i will be busy during XXX days or after 5pm i tend to switch it all off and spend time with my family”

Maybe you can try a system where you can ask that person to leave you a bunch of questions and you will get back to them as soon as you can??
If its hands on creative help, that’s fantastic, but you still need a basic framework to operate under.
But i think the most important thing is, learn to walk away. Sometimes, just sometimes, no matter how many ground rules you set, what you think is fair and just, isn’t seen the same way to others.

I cant say everyone is in this like you will be. I cant promise you wont meet one or two people who just ask and ask relentlessly, forgetting those ground rules you mentioned, and become angry and disillusioned with you are no longer on 24 hour call.

Over the last 4-5 years, ive seen this quite a lot, but its human nature. For some, just a few, you will encounter those who only want to take, and are passive aggressive when you don’t come up with the goods.

You have to rise above it every-time. Chalk it down to something that didn’t work out, but don’t stop.
People aren’t inherently all bad, selfish takers. Never allow one bad experience mar this journey you are taking.

There are reasons some people dont want help even when they verbally ask you for it. Quite simply, its pride.
There is nothing worse a feeling for some, when they have to admit they need to ask but once they have that info, they find ways to disassemble who you are, what you know. Everything you say and stand for has no currency or credence and they are long gone.

It can however, work like a dream. Its all a little Utopian in a way, without having to mention it, to call out, but when the chips are down, its great when you see so many people selflessly lay down what there doing and come to your aid. Its not a pay it forward system, but i guess in an unspoken way, it has the right message behind it all the same.

If no one helped no one, all you had was your solitary wits, your sense of ruthless survival, we would end up in that world when we couldn’t reach anyone like we can now. It would descend back into a system of “pay me for my time” and thats it, doors closed.
I do like helping when i can. I like to stave off obvious problems. Stop your friends from walking into something, or a contract that will eat them alive. We have the time and love to raise a friend or relatives spirits, its the same thing when you reach out online in a community.

I tell my son he can do anything, that nothing is beyond his grasp if he works really hard at it. The teaching or ethic behind that is the same you pass on to others. No one ‘likes’ to see others hurt, failing or walking into certain danger. Its not about opening your diary and telling someone everything about you.
Its not giving up all your leads and contacts, offering them all your best production tricks and hints, sending them freebies or anything inbetween. But it is still a process of giving something.

I think it sends out the right kind of energy and vibes back into the world too. Im a big believer in creating that space, that world you want to live in where someone can just do something for you and want nothing in return. Where manners are second nature, and you can make time for people who may be just starting out or fumbling around for some sense and reason in what there doing.

Its not an easy thing to just let that part of you be so willing. Yes you will face those who will take a dig at you, undermine what authority you have to be helping, that you are far from qualified to advise anyone.
That side of it will actually never stop. Its the price paid for just putting yourself out there, so learning to ignore the detractors is a task in itself.
Usually, its spurned by jealousy and resentment born from comparisons to what you are doing and what there not doing. But dont give in! Always always rise above it.

When Something isn’t quite right – And how to fix it.

I remember a few years back when i wanted to begin writing music for commercial usage. I wont say “music for media” as no other generic bland label turns my blood as quick to be honest. I posted up a few of my tracks to a forum, and the response i got was unexpected and it did shock me.
It wasn’t high praise, a pat on the arse and a nod from your peers. It was a critique and a fair and brutally honest reaction to my work. You know what? It smarted.

I felt immediately like a failure. Day one out of the gates and i suck at this. Lets down tools and sit with a bowl of lemons all day.Well once you pry yourself away from a little self prescribed pity, the next step is making a big decision. Its a decision that will affect you for a long time to come. Simple put, do i take constructive criticism or do i basically say “screw them all, what do they know”?

Recently, i have had emails, ive read posts online with all manner of would be composers trying to strike out and wondering why on earth the industry isn’t clawing at their portfolio. What does one have to do to catch any breaks at all.
And the culture now is one of, i kinda deserve this shit. I went out and bought the latest string library, i bagged some amazing percussion samples, i have a decent DAW to construct in, so what gives??

Well heading back to our decision we made, if you chose to ignore anyones feedback when it wasn’t all sparkling and ego basting, then you are in for a very long haul experience.
I felt quite angry, how dare this person say it was written clumsily and that the form and structure weren’t remotely commercial, and the sounds were “ok” and the mix was so-so.
How dare this one person that i looked up who had spouted, and his accolades, his multi film scoring career, tv advertising back record, hugely successful tv writing and say to me i needed a lot of work and my music was a hobbyist at best.

But after what was a day of sucking on said lemons ^, i turned that corner. Well of course what he is saying holds water. Not only due to this distinguished career he had undertaken, but he had nothing to gain by just lying to me. I honestly couldn’t see any posturing in a new composer with weak material rocking this guys world where he would be making it up.
So i stopped making excuses. Ok so he said my writing structure was too song like, and i hadn’t written it for any seeming purpose. So is it for a show reel, scored work, tv placement etc??
Having played back my finest 3-4 i had to conclude he was 100% accurate in his critique. Id confused the issue with no actual target for the music. I wasn’t writing for anything, anybody, merely to please myself in the most self ingratiating, indulgent manner. There was little to no chances of anyone else liking it at all at this point.

But ive been writing for so many years, what gives??

Well its the story of just because isn’t it. Just because you have a lot of experience in one area in music doesn’t qualify you to leap headlong into the next.
It was fair to say there was something not at all right with my attitude at that point and the mechanics of the music on several levels.

So with a swift change of attitude, ie:not treating those you ask of to listen like lepers purely because there honest critique doesn’t gel with your ego.
And studying as hard as possible to understand what does what and in what medium.
Learning the rules of audio engagement if you will. Understanding how your music will effect the product your selling. Will a 12 minute epic opus show anyone you can write for promotional trailer work? – probably not.

Will a selection of full on rock tracks illustrate your ability to morph, to adapt and be versatile in a constantly changing market?
To understand what someone needs from you as a composer, writer, creative etc, is 90% of the battle. If you understand all those things, and you have the skills you built up over the years, making that transition isn’t going to be quite as hard.

What does get old and tiring is when you DONT change your attitude and adapt.

But surely i can write anything i want and eventually someone will recognise my amazing chops and sign me up and the rest is history?

I would imagine the sheer batting average for that philosophy is about as low as you can get. Maybe count them on one hand over decades. Dont allude to being the next Thomas Newman and just cant catch a break, everyone’s wrong, why are they listening?

There is a big difference between being heard and being acknowledged.
You know sometimes the music you have right now, this minute, is actually bad.
It can be just awful despite all our best intentions. Yes you are being heard but no one will take time out of a busy day to delicately tell you why you suck so much.

You’re going to have to self medicate and fix your own wounds.
If you start getting things right, if you work really hard, and i mean REALLY fucking hard, you invest in some decent sounds and equipment so your hands aren’t tied behind your back, you will get some feedback slowly but surely.
Ranging from, yeah i liked that first half, your programming is great. You might not win the ultimate prize of “this is a great cue, totally see this in XXXXX”

But just don’t blame everyone. the world at large when you don’t adapt. When you refuse to hear feedback that your family or friends didn’t make.

I read so many comments recently of why cant i sell more music?? Is it the market place right now?? Where else can i send my music??

How about you don’t for a while?? Maybe your not selling because your not listening or growing.If you still think everyone’s an arsehole and you deserve your spot, good luck with your other job and prepare for a life less gratifying.
For those of us who slept past decent education, myself being one of them, go and study. Less facebook less moaning, less blaming and study.
The main overall reason you are not selling music is 99.99999% all you, not your lame excuses.

Permission to Speak Captain. The unspoken rules of self promotion and internet manners.

Man with black tape over his mouthWe all know the required etiquette for waiting our turn in a doctors surgery. We know how to behave when we are in other peoples homes, places of worship, airplanes and just about any other convenience or public place, so it makes you wonder why we cant quite achieve that level of social norm online.

The world wide web was created sometime between 89 and 91 with Berners Lee sending out those first text body comms, and sparking something that would change our lives forever. Bearing in mind we have had some form of spoken language for millennia, and have  been creative artistic people since we strutted about in caves, you would think that a mere virtual place to chat and swap ideas, would be an innocent stress free medium and everyone would just get along.

The history of this globalisation ‘tool’ is still in day one infancy. No one knows less cares about being polite 24/7 playing by unofficial forum rules, being moderated and herded by over zealous site admin any more than they do when 18 and on holiday with there mates bowling across town like you pretty much own it.
You can take a tour of your community online and just like in ancient times, street preachers proclaim the end of days, how to live a clean life, tales of sorrow and woe and words of self appointed wisdom. Yes, the internet has so many opinions now, everyone and there cat, yes CAT, is a blogger like me, or a part time broadcaster who thinks there big view of the world needs to be followed.

Its the difference between advice and offering a perspective on how you have found parts of your life came out complete with highs and lows, versus loud belligerent ego herding you into there click. The power of this Un Policed social medium is no one really understands where the boundaries are and if everyone else is even paying attention. i mean theirs nothing worse than standing in line and the cashier pulls down the window curtain for the day whilst others are skipping the line and cutting in.

This is a new civilisation but realistically, its not even a good 15 years old. Most people just didn’t go online at all until 10 years ago as dial up moved to the side and allowed for life to move at a sensible speed.So bearing in mind, this brand new place that connects you to every culture, every good or bad habit you didn’t realise you had, is it any wonder that when we learn to use it to assist our lives or careers, we are either scared witless of breaking too many rules that others just impose at a whim, or we aren’t even sure how far your voice will reach. A lot of us are trying new ideas, ways to be noticed in our working career and we still aren’t harnessing what there is out there.

I’m not any level of an expert in web related promotion but what i have seen so far is, it is so colourful, fad/ trend driven, that you need to link all your promotion and tie it into something tangible.

Like a campaign for example.

Perish the thought we might collate all our ideas for a project and find a way to schedule some info once a week, tie in other media to generate easy cross platform promotion! lol

The simplest way to think of trying to have a voice online is to think numbers and the pyramid effect you need to actually reach people. You have something new to show people, you tag where you can, you also say check out some new artwork on Pinterest, or catch me on twitter for exclusive download links. i mean you can just link from a host of options and have them self circulate like a whirlwind effect, and the part that matters, everyone who has seen it and shows interest, is helping you by leaving there trail online too. They might tag a friend, re post on Tumblr or facebook,google+ etc.

Having a focused project like this is great cos lets says your releasing an album of trailer cues or a collection of your new folk pop tracks etc blah blah, you can announce something very cool is coming,and you cant beat adding an actual date with that.

Thats why movie posters, album releases,books etc all have that date stamp. Not just so you make a calender note, its cos it looks exciting. its physiological. Your hard wired to respond to things that you believe are important, even when its actually quite low key and unimportant.

Follow up on that date with a new date!! Show some artwork pics, a small blog about the making of your new movie, 4 track EP or whatever it is you want to generate some clicks from. Seeping out your media in an organised schedule means a lot to people.No matter what you might think about how bloody trendy and flaky we are all now, we still love to know “when its coming out though”??

A schedule is brilliant cos its training your audience to subliminally be in your eyeline roughly when you want to be seen.


Now this is the one EVERYONE brings up a lot. How much is too much self promotion????

I have a bug with this topic and ill explain why. Now in any other real world situation, lets say you were buying radio tine, tv ad time, billboard posters, mag article space etc THE WORKS, how much does this really affect you?? seriously??

I mean are you REALLY that pissed off that you keep seeing an artist on tv? If you have that level of repulsion, to be fair now, it means you are so not there target audience and your unlikely to be swayed by any amount of super catchy tunes, what the band does for charity, and the last thing they ate for dinner, but if you vaguely like this kind of music, your keen, this is for you.

You get pulled in, the catchy tune gets under your skin, its the genre you love, and this new band is actually pretty cool so your responsive now to all the ads and radio play. Think about all the biggest bands or artists you adored as a kid, now can you recall you were never sick of hearing about them?? of course you weren’t, you had posters on the wall, you watched them on chat shows, on tv and in movies.

So why we have such a huge aversion to self promotion? Bearing in mind, as above, we are happy to skip the rules online cos frankly we’re just not sure it really matters cos its not real eh?? its just computers and online crap?? right?

We hate to promote cos we think a few relatives and peers (when i say peers i mean no one that will employ you, just 500 others who do the same job as you), will get so sick of this stuff, you might be……


drum fucking roll please………….


Seriously?? This is what stops you actually promoting what you do? you and the rest of the entire world understand the concept of marketing.Your either spending millions driving it home or your buying into it. Does it really matter that a 100 of your composer friends for example have dropped you from there feed cos this guy is always on the sell?? Your trying to sell to an industry, not a stream of friends and buddies.

I just say to friends and family, if my shit drives you nuts, don’t stress, just unadd the feed.

Then you get this golden gem, “i only use my facebook music page to promote so it doesn’t annoy anyone”

Yeah cos there are 2 big things wrong with that statement. Firstly you aren’t really using the page, and most people aren’t actually doing what they claim annoys the crap out of you, and secondly, its so so short sighted to just lump all those eggs into Zuckerbergs basket. You have so many ways to communicate now you really don’t need to be worried about the world judging you on this one platform.

Dont you find that part funny? We worry about that kind of promotion thinking a million people will think im a schmuck when a million people is exactly what you want to reach!!?? Who gives a crap if the ratio of a million viewers equates to 800k think your work is mediocre and just annoying? Your could break that down over and over and if it leaves you with say 10,000 interested viewers who want to know more, they will do the rest for you. its FREE. They will re post to friends who DO like this kind of shit.

Your need to hone into a market and audience is so much simpler now. All the like minded groups, chat board, forums,social media sites etc will have trending, things we want to see. When you get some of this working for you, you have an army of publicists working for free who are talking about what you do.

As corny as it sounds, even when its not always good, when people aren’t saying great things about you, there still working on your behalf cos your reaching a huge audience and again, you can ratio that exposure down to some hard core followers.

If your looking for work, you do need to be inventive. You need to look polished, professional, punctual with your promo schedule and deliver something great as often as you can .Saturation only falls on its backside when you are screaming through a brick wall at the same time as 1000 others, all shouting at something that cant respond.And standing behind that wall is nothing like your target audience. Hand out some thrash metal CD’s and concert tickets to the retirement home down the street just for kicks, cos you know there gonna be great numbers……..

Saturation is when you start allowing yourself to feel self conscious whilst bombarding a tiny minuscule audience.

What i have tried to do, is meld networking into a way to promote something about what you do, and then as i said, link and branch this into other types of medium other platforms. Even when it seems there is no big immediate reaction, remember when your selling a brand or product, it takes the big companies millions of dollars, huge airtime and every trick in the book to make some of this stick, so don’t be shocked and all fucking upset just because 2 weeks or posting on facebook didnt bring about new gigs lol

Try forming a schedule. Write it all out and understand how and why your using other mediums and sites to create this machine.This entity that will take on a life of its own. I know that by looking at all the people i love to listen to and follow, 90% of all the work is done for them. I cannot go anywhere online in communities, enthusiast sites without seeing the same names coming up again and again.

But when you spend time looking at how much that person is contributing? its actually not a great deal. They just delivered some regular elements to there brand to your door on schedule and with some variety.

Blog posts, video blogs, teaser work, self promo congrats patting oneself on the arse posts, you name it, its all a piece of it.

As for tactics, you need to be honest and real with people, your audience and/or future Client but that’s just my take, my opinion and what im happy to live by. You wont have everyone playing house rules if we believe there are any! You will see so often, internet sociopaths, bleating on, but not giving an opinion, there crafting a way to make you feel small, to feel like any other way of life, way of thinking puts you on the outside, exiled.

All i will say as a signing off comment, only ever take what you need from people when they offer advice or an excerpt from there journey. It will only work for them in that exact dynamic blend. Your beliefs, your ethics, your sensibilities are your own and your big and ugly enough to work all this out on your own. You don’t need to be part of any gang, any club or click, so you never need anyones permission to speak per se, but the adage “opinions are like arseholes, everybodys got one”, stands the test of time!

As for actually daring to be heard, to promote what you do? Don’t be afraid to sell who you are and what s great about you.Let those numbers do what they do, you will grow your target audience the more you put into this. Just please please look beyond the safe FB haven and really exploit those platforms. There all making millions of dollars from YOU because your audience is there potential sales revenue for advertising etc


Taking Inspiration

I have had a nice break from blogging and this for several reasons has given me chance to work through this entry. Sometimes just having an opinion can cause quite an unexpected stir and i have certainly been entertained the last few weeks seeing all kinds of counter attacks and some lower base movements over what is, just one guy sharing ideas and thoughts. So without further ado, i want to broach the dark and sometimes unloving world of inspiration and ideas and underline this with the reminder, this is just MY take on music, the industry and how it has affected me. Some of you MIGHT find some elements useful. To either disagree with and know full well your method is better for you, or it may add a piece or two into your own melting pot.

I do write a lot of music. Ill state the obvious for some of you here but yes i admit i have always felt really driven to try as many new styles as i can, and to fear nothing. To the point where sometimes it plainly just doesn’t work at all. I mean, no ones perfect right?? Far be it from me to even suggest im a composer who has crept near a state of perfection! cos that’s as far from the truth as it can get. But lets start with how it makes you feel to write music.

When you delve into your earliest memories of listening to music and then your first ever jams to your fave record,  you might recall that fearless naive sense of exploration you once had.When your learning, and you have zero expectations, its probably the safest period of your musical life and the most adventurous and giving period too. You have no state of mind of looking for success or a gig. Your not comparing yourself or judging what you do. In fact self doubt in this formative stage is non existent. Its just FUN. You jam, maybe gig with a local band, you pick up instruments you can make sound truly hideous, and you give everything a go.

This for me is a feeling i try and latch onto when im writing now. From the age of around 13 i guess and im 38 as i type this. I try to remember that music is precious to me on my own terms without critical worry and scathing reviews, or judgement from anyone suggesting it simply isnt your best, or your work is selling out and hitting it low. I have written dozens upon dozens of product demos and during this time ill be honest and say they weren’t all great. Some of those tracks are so experimental and a bit out there, that some of the content would be tough to digest. But the important part is, i didn’t care of no one loved them. I just think its ok to be that kind of writer. To not be beating yourself up over a weird avant garde mentality in pushing for new ideas and sounds. It was ok when i was a kid, and its ok right now.

If you always second guess new ideas and new inspiration and bag it, shelve it before its even begun, then its no wonder you feel limited. You keep screwing the lid tighter and tighter each time so a piece of you doesn’t emerge and if you start developing an over critical view of all you create, then trying to write at larger volumes will become a pointless and most def fruitless pursuit.

I would happily find a specific thing i want to do, be it a genre style or mood i want to invoke, and write 20 cues one after the other to start finding that sweet spot. A familiarity and warmth. Like its a new home to you, and then writing more and more ideas for me personally, comes easier than just feeling so alienated in a new style.  You can spend weeks over 8 bars and sweat for the art and all power to you. I would certainly never suggest that someone who has the liberty and freedom to spend weeks per track is the bad guy. But life and your career needs a balance between how much time you can actually spend and what your trying to achieve.

Im fully aware that if i take a year out to explore a life long project , i wont be paying any bills during this time. We have no home and our small family would starve. So until i can do this, writing larger and faster is a survival tool for me, but also a valuable tool for growing new skills and developing instead of being stale and a one trick pony.

So how do you find inspiration for yourself?? What works for you??

Its always a highly subjective thing but i enjoy asking this question and i have hijacked lots of peoples methods for getting a release and learn to explore with greater yield and enjoy the down time in order to recharge and digest new things. The things i have heard and taken onboard i actually use in a juxtapose. And my favourite is this.

“Only listen to what you have done, what you want to do and stay original”.

This first part i do have a big interest in and it is something i can relate to. You can sometimes under estimate how completely brilliant your brain is. We assume that its all quite short term and secular. That we only take in what we focus on and study. But we all know this not to be true. As creatives we are aware that a life time, from birth to present day, we are absorbing every single sound that our ears detect.As i type this, a perfectly awful modern pop song is playing behind me in an ad break. Will i remember all the lyrics and chord progressions??? well i hope not!, but chances are its up there and its filed away without me knowing it may have some value later on.

Being true to your own exploration is def an undiluted affair. It makes you feel at the very least, like you are raiding your mental catalog for things that mean something  ‘to you’.At that point, the only person rolling there eyes and questioning, is just you. I also find all manner of retro spective listening to your older works a huge benefit. The forgotten tricks you left behind cos you just didnt see the value or the beauty in what you do.When you distance your ears from your music for even a few weeks, a re listen can show you places you need to goto. It helps you learn faster and it also keeps the inspiration and idea factory fueled and the fires still burn.

“You only listen to the work of your favourite composers,bands and songwriters”

This is the counter argument, except no ones actually disagreeing. Whether you chose to sit and study great music from others or not, as i said above, your taking in a huge volume of ideas and little sparks of new ones to come.It can help you a great deal for a myriad of reasons. One i find a productive boost for me is listening to certain types of music to understand arrangement better.Maybe pic up some new thoughts for production value. Some times you just get a idea from almost nowhere at all.So subtle can the suggestion be, you hear one train of thought, one snippet, and you have a whole new idea from this morsel.

I heard a track the other day by a great composer. He had used an electric piano to build up a sense of pace and also a organic feel in the mood. Now i pretty much raced to my DAW and its important to highlight the following. I then started riffing some ideas but at no point did i TRY and rip the original, nor was i interested in the mood and story of that piece. Its great but not where i need to go.But it gave me a small subtle starting point to head in a new place. Working with some cool delays and time sigs, the tiny reference to the cue i had was long passed but what emerged was a pretty good idea.

Its not stealing, its not ripping other peoples property. Its just trusting your instincts. You can find inspiration in so many ways when you hear other people writing their best. I get a huge buzz when i stroll through the hard drive and start loading up some pretty bizarre patches and libraries i had long forgotten. Just giving them a play through and in minutes, that sound you had written off as “never gonna be helpful, like ever in the history of my career”, now becomes the focal point of a new cue.

It doesn’t matter how bad you think a writing session can be, as i have said, no one at that point is hearing your work and your view point is skewed by self doubts. You spent an hour playing John Williams scores and now all your noodlings feel flat! Well thats got bad idea written all over it hasn’t it. Stop comparing.  How many times have you played through some new music and thought, this is all great production – wise, but i dont feel the emotion or where im going with it. Yet you can hit up other new tracks and you hear a much more understated arrangement with less bells and whistles, and just a 100 times more emotion and richness.Dont confuse listening to other types of music and composers with making comparisons. One road leads to complete doubt and worry and the other leads to some liberation and fire in your belly. I dont actively listen and think “my god that guy is just so much better at writing this kind of music”, i just feel like i have seen some new ways to adopt that for myself and self teach. Negativity in others is the biggest stone around your neck. When you kick jealousy out of the equation and just replace it with a hunger and interest to move forward, thats a healthy kind of envy and can create a positive surge.

So i do find both schools of thought a winner but in moderation and when you need to draw more from totally different people or to delve back inside the huge catalog of sound that is your mind, and dare to pull something out, whether you immediately recognise it as of great value or not.

Inspiration does tend to strike when you give it room to move. If you watch and listen to the behaviour of any child, you will see that from the age they can walk and talk and form sentences, they are already trying things for the first time. A small mind that isnt carrying around any worries about household bills, meetings, trying to catch the train, did i file all my taxes correctly? etc, They have a nice blank page to work with and a big handful of crayons. And despite the Jackson Pollock nature of their ideas and artwork, its still an expression without limitation. As you grow older, that space you have becomes filled with worry and responsibility and its a big shame we have to see this in our kids. We need to them to grow and be aware, but at the same time, your engaging emotion, and head space. The frontal head thinking that enables us to walk and talk, have an mp3 on our ears, clutching a paper in one hand, a umbrella in the other, already doing “mental math” over how your day will go and what you need to accomplish.

Children don’t do this. They simply are taught to take on so much responsibility, it absorbs all that frontal and immediate space. So this leads me onto the simple mechanisms i have used and many of my friends have told me to adopt. Taking breaks!!!! Its ok if your a one man machine on a mission to rule the roost and succeed, hurling cue after cue over your shoulder, but with no pauses or ‘jolts’, that head space we treasure, it becomes cluttered to breaking point.

Its pretty much a bottle neck and all the daily woes and struggles are just filling up that space allowing none of the long term magic to pass by. Those collected scraps of audio, the pictures in your mind, heart felt memories, the experimental moments of insanity, are all sitting behind a wall of daily fears and struggles.

So the jolt to unblock this can be as simple as a walk through a park. It can be going out for a drink and just laughing your head off till it hurts and tears fill your eyes, It can be something of such an intense focused nature, their isnt any place for clutter. I had the pleasure of visiting a great guy whilst in LA a few weeks back and i went shooting for the very first time. Now if you are of non USA heritage or upbringing, then being able to do this at all can be something a little tricky to achieve in your country or origin. But my word, the release from all the thoughts and fears was so crisp in my mind.

Complete focus on one very important thing = everything else fades away. You don’t need to always think, ‘i need to fuck off and go hug a tree’ when someone says, stop working and relax. It just means find your own ‘jolt’ and activate that part of you again. Unblock the path for ideas and new feelings.Take all the blogs and advice you read everywhere and tear it up. Find the morsels of info that can and will apply just to you.Cut and paste new ideas into your worlflow and never fear trying new ways to work. You can quite simply hit delete and start over!

Branding, Networking and Getting out There

My Metal Brand Perspective

Oh Branding……you taunt me so and place me among the shelves with the baked beans and tinned ravioli.How this word to me evokes a somewhat faceless, soulless position and at the other end of the scale i see myself with a cattle brand iron stamped firmly on my arse.

So what is branding to you?? Do you understand it and its importance??

Well 99% of consumers already know it all too well. We respond to advertising, we are saturated with new ideas, catchy slogans, logos, huge billboards, cinema and tv spots.And when we head for the supermarket, we are buying into the colourful packaged E number, sugar laiden produce with a confidence and certainty. We feel that we are almost getting that much better when we buy the well presented product with the jingle in our heads, whether you actually want it there or not.

So how do you make branding translate into what we do and what we are after??

Therein lies more confusion as we are all taking our leads from what we see everyday but im not convinced we are separating ourselves and our branding away from other markets in a way that says ” im  composer, this is my awesome music, now grab and knife and fork and taste the fucking sunshine” Already we are thinking of selling but sometimes we cross over in and out a little confused. Imagine how it leaves a client feeling??

So far be it for me to proclaim im a dab hand or master at branding because im not. I have tried some very simple logo ideas and what i have learned from this is only one thing. It pays to wear a half decent suit when you goto a meeting, so why not a presentable front door to your growing empire?

The tools for the job in hand are now many fold , and its hard to ignore the wealth of wordpress templates and flash driven home screens. The best way to research a good solid website for example, is to go and hit up 20 known composers and see what works for them. How the site is essentially quite simple and has just a handful of obvious pages to visit. You need to show off your history, a small bio giving an idea of the wonderful journey you took and a contact request form page.Above and beyond this, it can start to become messy. Maybe a news feed page from the home screen.

You often find great examples of how branding evolves when you look at a lot of established rock and pop acts over the years and to understand its not as easy as it might first seem .I can think of at least a dozen acts that were launched with great success that had only half a basis of an image, artwork for the singles and albums, the clothes and styles that would define them. It takes time and even the biggest and best examples tend to shave off a bit here and hone a bit there.

To have ‘some’ form of branding to me says, effort. I have rolled out of bed and made a conscience effort to be presentable and indeed professional. Your brand needs to lean towards the area of the market you are heading for. It seems like stating the obvious but i have seen a fair few sites that were massively noisy with way too much content and no clear means to just sample the wares and pick up contact info. I mean thats the main aspect imo, let me heard some work and let me contact you. Dont make me hunt through a sea of crap to do so.

Onto networking. Im thinking each part of this blog could have been the basis of an extensive series of ideas,  but i think you can make this too complicated and convoluted. Again, looking at how you respond as a consumer should tell you all you need to know about getting out there.

Looking at the way it used to be is an education it in itself. Bearing in mind that pre 1996 ish, next to no one was using the internet in any big practical way. We def were not uploading hours of music and having such a hands on experience as we do now. And bear in mind the dark age before the internet was the time when work was always local to you.

You really did need to live in the city you would end up trying to sell to. You had to be local enough to drive over to a studio, or tv studio, or at least be in a few miles so you can get a courier to race over finished DAT tapes and CD’s of the latest mix.There would be a desk somewhere with a 100 CD’s per week piling up, all with more lavish artwork than the next, trying to find a way to catch the eye.

I recall even resorting to home made presspacks with pictures, a t shirt, brochure and CD’sof my work. And all at great cost at the time. Just to run off a couple of dozen and including postage and time etc, it cost a lot!

No one would listen to you as you were giving them unsolicited work. You couldn’t get into a performing rights organisation because you had nothing aired on tv and to get anything aired, you guessed it……you needed a PRO!

It was a huge catch 22 and it made things next to impossible. It was really a case of being local and using the place you live as your hub. Getting into actual meetings face to face or else be forgotten and never thought of again.

So that was a slice of then, and we know that in this day and age, we are just a email or upload away from the other side of the world. Its painfully easy to connect and record. To drum up work, make friends, remote session, grab the skills of people who up until the last 10 or so years, you need to fly over with a ton of crap and work the session with them at enormous costs and usually all on you.We are all essentially spoilt brats and we know we are.

We have everything we could dream of that we had no chance of obtaining a decade or so ago.What used to be a huge desk, a wall of synths,a ton of outboard is now contained neatly in one box that remembers everything, is polished and instant and frees up the process unlike anytime prior.

So networking became actually easy to do now but unbelievably hard to make an individual impression or anything unique to you. The globalisation phenomena now positions you back on the producers desk like a CD stacked up and largely ignored.

So you need to think about the whole package. Combining your branding, your product and having some marketing tricks to play to steal the show, or at least for just a few minutes.

Everything in real world marketing is all based on one big component and thats scheduling and regularity.

There can be a right time and a wrong time. Ok globally thats complex but for the sake of what your aiming for , i would tend to think about promoting through the social networks around lunch time onwards for the people on the west coast of the USA. Im not going to cry myself to sleep at that point of certain territories dont see it at the right time. Im going to build this campaign to the point where others will re post and link to what you are saying and doing, therefore doing the work for you, overlapping all time zones and different days.

Its a seed you sow and the scheduling is very important. In the same way a tv show or ad campaign runs like clock work. Tv episodes that came up same time same place each week, its not just a booked slot. Its pitching to a demographic or who would be watching, the best time to show them and how much you show them.

Having a regular posting of new music, or a regular blog,website updates, gives people a chance to climb onboard.It also feels more assured and professional to take this approach.Having several different oulets for what you do also maximises exposure across all the platforms and promotes a natural state of overlap.

Lets say you have worked on a demo and beta test for a new sample library. It helps you in the first instance by having that association. You post up the demo, they post up the demo. You link to their you tube demo and tutorial work throughs, which shakes hands in a way with the friend who made that video. You tweet it with links to demo and vid, trending the new product.

Being a part of a community which is all very intertwined and connected to one another, is a big deal. You really have so much to learn from those guys. And you can make some great friends in the process. But in regards to networking, taking some time to repay that effort and support goes a long way. It is a little Utopian but it works. You show some interest and support your peers, they are inclined to take a minute or so on your latest offerings and spread the word with their friends and friends of friends and so on …….
If you leave out the community and abandon the venue in which you all reside, it will come back and bite you. No one likes a blow hard who just sells endlessly with their huge news and screw everyone else. Its important to know that the audience you are trying to hit isn’t ALL composers. I mean realistically composers don’t readily hand out their gigs to everyone anymore than a electrician or plumber would. And they don’t exactly spend all day hiring additional ghost writers. If they did, it would begin and end quite sharply.

So the power of the community i speak of isn’t exclusive to just us. Each one of us knows lots and lots of people. They all have minds of there own, make there own educated decisions based on whats out there. So they will see what you are prattling on about as that overlap of connections grows further and further afield.

Networking isn’t all finding clever ways to be noisy. It can be a way to solidify branding. To add depth and weight to the thing you are pushing. Networking is a way to find good players when you need them, the best software and tools you need, Networking is a virtual handshake to get you in the que to be listened to. It can used and abused quite easily as with most of the above mentioned vanity postings etc.

If you spend time being genuine and actually invest in OTHER PEOPLE, you will find this repays you along the way. I mean again with the Utopian ideal maybe but i have seen it working well. You spend some time and endorse, support and follow your peers, they do the same for you. To the extent you dont need to spend all day cringing over how great your latest blah blah is, our friends are recognizing this and are happy and willing to do this for you, as you do for them – full circle.

Being part of the community is one thing but its key that you aren’t a huge pain in the arse. That you don’t spend all day trying to bum along with the A set of Hollywood composers like you play golf every weekend or you chat about there family pics like you were there last Christmas. You really weren’t. You have to respect the personal space and friend bubble and genuinely build that association and friendship like any other in the REAL WORLD.

Make announcements and create some excitement. I mean again, its common sense isnt it. You get last minute teasers from your latest show and ad teasers, trailers saying something great is coming. Dont just blab endlessly about all the stuff your doing and how awesome you are. Meter your news. Create some pause and delay between pretty day to day stuff and super huge things.

Its human nature, people WILL  come back to find out! Its compelling. Oldest trick in the book maybe, but its a classic that hasn’t overstayed its welcome.

Rotate your news. Think about the content. our looking for potential new clients, growing the brand, creating a sense of awareness for your brand among peers(who share as above), and not being boring. Thats just the worst thing. You gained followers, people who want to keep coming back, tagging you, feeding of the excitement and then you go and post 5 cues on one day, tell the world about some ideas you have new projects, all on one day. over and over.

Saturation in the market is the biggest enemy, so contributing to it from inside your own tent? it is madness. Your audience will just block you and tire of you.

Networking is about joining all the pieces of the puzzle together. Its connecting all your platforms and creating a channel for your greatness to shine through. Lastly and by no means least, is attitude.

There is a difference between social and commercial energy in your attitude .No one on gods earth likes a negative person. It can literally dampen our day.Remembering the old saying opinions are like arseholes, everyones got one, thats what you sound like when you hit the soap box for too long, over and over. People switch off or worse, you become a self parody and recognised as a guy who is always looking for a fight or a way to kill any positive vibes and momentum.

Now being motivated need not mean power quotes from Socrates, Nietzsche, Plato, Oprah and ‘that guy who wrote all the 80’s Athena motivation posters’. It just means being positive. Convey the energy and enthusiasm you have when your loving music, loving the job. This kind of genuine love for what you do is highly infectious. I am constantly drawn to people who are passionate and so into what they do. It never comes over as a ego out of control. There just so damn excited about getting that far, your almost sitting next to them as they type. And you want to see more.

All of this may seem a weird way to network and you might be thinking this isnt what i signed on for. Its not networking to find new clients, But you are so wrong. So very wrong. It is about the complete package. The interaction, the content, the diversity, the regularity of information etc. There isnt an old telephone exchange with a terrifying 1940’s operator shouting at you as you beg to be connected to one line, its sophisticated, powerful, and still in its infancy.

No one has tapped this to its full as of yet due to the very nature of its evolution, which is just 100mph in every direction. But it should stop you. Just write down a basic outline of stuff you can post up, videos you can get online, promote those around you, make a schedule and just be on the radar once or twice a week. Networking and brand is a big thing for us. We mostly do not have staff, a PR or indeed PA. Most of us have to be all departments all of the time. So no, dont expect to have the formula that works for you in one day. No more so than expecting to become a first rate mixing engineer because you bought the Waves collection 6 months ago. Give it time and create that groove that sells you at your best