The Upload Hyposthesis

upload pic

A very good friend, and very talented composer colleague posed this to me just the other day. He said quite simply, “why do we even upload our music?”

And you know what?, what a great question.

Why bother. What is it you are trying to achieve when you upload a bunch of new songs or cues to a set on Sound Cloud or Hear his? What is that objective and do you really even possess a goal?

It did make me walk in a few circles weighing up the goodness versus the repercussions, so i have broken it down into sections and it is food for thought. Whether you see yourself as a recording artist, or a beat maker, producer, film or game composer, session player. Their are without doubt a myriad of avenues to have come from but we all arrive in the same places so what are the ups and downs of showing the world your wares?

Archiving and retrospective:

This is foremost for me personally, something i truly cherish and adore. Anyone whos familiar with my sonic ramblings ¬†will attest to the fact i love love to write music and maybe fair to say on a prolific basis. Its something ive done since my early teens when i was learning to play and compose.Id collect dozens of tapes, then CD’s of work. Collect EVERYTHING. Every idea, every experimental afternoon, every weird and wonderful new direction you attempted.

Archiving your work is for me, a big big must. Some will say looking back isn’t healthy, but i strongly disagree with that. I See it as an opportunity to reboot and re discover things you once did that you simply stopped doing. Some of the experimental risk “takes” from years back, herald some long forgotten gems.

The retrospective aspect is a big deal. It shows a line of growth in your choice of sound, identifying how your creative voice is blossoming and understanding how your engineering and production techniques are shaping. Sometimes you actually sub develop into a person you didn’t realise you could be, sometimes you have shed ideas and techniques personal to you like a skin. Not all growth is beneficial so its always good to look back say 6 months or a couple of years and sift through some tracks.

Vanity and Ego:

When you speak of this little combo, you are always going to incite feelings from creatives. Its the natural state of play to accept that with a passionate voice, their follows a few steps behind, your ego in some shape or form. To simply state you dont have one, is perhaps not only completely ridiculous but possibly points to the fact you know you do and its not in check. Or put it another way, you haven’t found a comfortable way to meter compliments versus critique.

Everyone, and i dont care who you are, from a successful film composer to the guy or girl bedroom producing and pencil sketching, has an emotional attachment to what they create and what you are trying to say. No amount of big production samples and boom and whooshes, cliche mechanisms and cop outs will cover a good composer from a not so good one. We upload our music because we also appreciate the power of connection.

The critique, but lets be honest, when its actually constructive, you’re all ears, when its from a source that just wants to beat you down, its not only unreliable, but fueled by something that isnt a concern for your growth as a composer, we find it hard to listen.

But it is a wonderful feeling when someone out there loves what you do. For us to sit and say, it bothers me not a single jot whether you like it or not, i think is a bare faced lie.

When you have spent a life loving music, and a life expressing it yourself, the thing you crave is a personal connection.

Being Discovered:

I know a fair few people out their who, when they have submitted their music to the universe, their has been a reaction. A positive and rewarding series of events from, “i just listened to a track you posted, we have a project we are gearing into for a new season, i think this is exactly what the tone of that show is, id like to ask if you would be interested in writing with me”

That exact paraphrased sentence is something ive received in my inbox a few times over the last 4-5 years now. It happens. And it is a wonderful thing to see happen. You are sending out tracks showing the world at large what you can do, and among the critique, the back slapping, their is some fantastic moments where your work now has purpose.

From a promotional point of view, would you prefer to be aloof and post nothing, or show your best work? Use a reel, or a very nicely built site to invite people to your front door and check out who you are?

Online promotion is now a very hard thing to get right. So many very clever marketing types, smaller labels and entrepreneurial upstarts have reined in the power of media promotion, cascading links to generate traffic and interest. Harvesting followers from one medium to exploit the other, other followers sub traffic flows into yours. Its a constant maelstrom of interest if you get it right, if what you have to say hits the right notes.

The saturation effect is what is now making it harder and harder to be heard. Right now, all platforms are at bursting point with play lists upon playlists, urging you for ‘likes’, a passing generic comment on a track you wrote that they didnt play so they can simply say “wicked track, some visit my page and like me”.

Its like all the dJ’s on the planet agreed to do this……..

Being Exposed:

Their are so many drawbacks of being an online chatty presence.If you send out a lot of chatter, music, comments, opinions, you are inherently exposed to someones mood that day and not all of it will be rational or ‘fair’.

The one thing the internet doesn’t care too much about, is fairness and equality .Ive had some serious reactions to some of my blogs via email or private message. Musically i do post a lot of tracks so by sheer volume, the ratio between music and ‘getting a strongly worded email’, is a high and unsettling number.

When i had failed to link up a couple of people via FB to my contacts in the industry, the heavens opened up and i was public enemy number 1, albeit for a day or so and then im pretty sure they got bored of me and found someone else to blame for their awful music, attitude and passive aggressive ‘im safe behind my computer’ warfare.

The simple fact is, the more of you their is out their in the 1’s and 0’s, the more you have to be very mindful of that content. The replies in music groups and forums, if you actually use them at all. You are always under scrutiny. Far from painting a 1984 Orwellian world, no it isnt that bad at all. But what you do, how you act, your offerings in any form to the world, will always receive judgement for better or worse, so being ‘seen’ is sometimes a fulltime occupational hazzard.

Just think on occasion, when you giving your god given rightful rant(much like this one), anyone can see it. A future client, your peers, people you might be working with right now, and if they think your an arsehole, thats not great is it?

Collaboration: 

This is maybe a bit left field in the scheme of things but community is a huge deal now.In the space of say 10 years, the inter linked community at large knows everyone. If you live in a genre or part of an industry, you get to know pretty much everyone out there. Having your music online has been a wonderful and deeply rewarding exercise when you hook up with like minded people. It spurns new ideas, you dont feel so isolated as someone walking into a room you call the studio, firing it all up “on your own”< coffee in hand and facebook fueled procrastinations abound. Being able to speak to anyone, anywhere and exchange ideas, is the biggest most relevant development in the online world.

For collabs, it means you can effortlessly send over stems of your tracks, have remote session work halfway across the globe, revise, rinse and repeat until you forge this new brilliant piece of music.

 

Its hard to imagine the way things were. Perhaps its not a concern at all if you were born in the last 18 years and dont know any different. We forget the world is brimming with people who haven’t suffered dial up and AOL online. Not everyone remembers sending out unsolicited tapes and promo packs to labels, arriving unannounced to leap upon an exec to listen to your work, hassling for airplay on a small local station spot, only reaching people via an endless stream of pay to play gigs in grotty venues and selling half a dozen CD’s at the door for giveaway money.

What we have now is an unprecedented open source, no rules platform. And its funny to then say, those who weren’t around for the hardships have embraced this freedom better than most . They simply see the opportunity in getting it right. Being seen and heard.

It makes me wonder, dropping some history to one side, the hang ups and fears, could we be using all of this more intelligently? Do our old habits and fears die hard?

 

Single Systems – Yes they work too

I have been an avid single PC system user in my setup for years now. I have adopted this for quite a few reasons but i wanted to break into this as, with many reoccurring convos on builds, i wanted to reassure at least a slice of the composer market, its not law to have a huge Mac and 2-3 slave pc’s and a small server room to write and produce your music.

It certainly sells itself glamorously when every Hollywood composer you admire has a room full of the best gear and maps their rig in such a fashion. But its handy to take into account someone elses huge operational budget might not sit side by side with your daily needs. Sure id love a huge network of rooms and studios, server rooms and “staff” helping me accomplish my tasks, but personally id find this all overkill.

Dont get me wrong, if i was scoring some truly huge work for a block buster movie and insisted in having a working template that takes 15 mins of scrolling to see it top to bottom, id agree.

But thats not how i work, and perhaps for some of you, just a few, it might not be how you work either. Im absolutely not trying to take a swipe at anyones working practice or belittle peoples choices. Thats never going to work, and frankly what someone else does or doesnt do, has nothing to do with me. Im not paying their bills so i def do not get a say.

But bearing in mind most of us arent cavorting over a duvet made by 50 pound notes or 100 dollar bills, you have to be mindful of your realistic budgets and a system in place that actually tailors itself around you.

Ok so things i dont do:

I actually dont run a big template of any kind. It annoys the crap out of everyone i speak to, perplexes my chums and yes it makes me billy no mates in the usual, ‘so how do you arrange all your sub groups on a 1000 piece template’ conversation.

But for me, it works and efficiently so.

I dont run a Mac and never have done. Despite having used them from time to time, i have just found a complete symbiotic understanding of PC’s. I love the fact its open architecture form allows me to piece together something really special for my needs, it doesn’t break the bank coming in at least half the cost of a Mac build. It actually doesn’t crash or go wrong. Windows pcs arent the old fumbling relics of 1996, they are like the Macs of say, a few years ago which i was told in a preachy way, “just work”.
Well i have no desire to constantly update an OS every so many months and spend weeks crying about all the things that dont work anymore.

Simple fact is, PC’s arent the troll under the bridge and haven’t been for a few years, you just assumed the status quo and followed the pitch fork wielding locals chasing it out the village.

Im an alien visiting your planet clearly as i have never used or wish to use VE pro.
Strike me down and cast me to the river of shame and wash my naive face in the water or righteousness,…or something like that. But i dont have that need right now.Ive been told a few times why apparently i do need it, but for the lack of its presence, no one lost their life and all my music was delivered on time and sounded marvelous.

Im currently more than happy with 64gb ram and an all SSD system. Its quick, it doesn’t stall, crash or randomly yank the steering wheel at 90mph and dump me in a ditch.It actually “just works”.
I tend to use a few small blank templates with common instances loaded in that i will def use. Some effects routings im typically always happy to see,some of those short templates have my external syths mapped, some are for comedic writing, some tension, organic hybrid stuff etc and on and on….

The very closest to a multi system setup id get, would be to just buy all this over and again and have a sister clone setup. But im not going to do that.

The reason i advise single systems to others ,is many fold and ive certainly got my shit in a twist above, so with a calmer less nerdy driven simmering fury, ill just say, dont make yourself broke cos you really didn’t want to feel the odd one out.You dont need to go Hollywood or go home on this one.

Another perfectly good reason i use these practices on a single system is, the highly changeable styles and genres i need to adapt to and respond to. I find it so much easier having a basic rough template which still demands i engage some thought, some practical choice making when firing up sounds and devices.
I dont really relish when everything is preset, when all the functionality and decision making has been made super efficient and rigid. It feels like some of that ‘fun panic’ as i call it, has evaporated in favour of work flow enhancements.

It all feels very corporate and machine like to me. On one hand we sob over some advancements which steal our musician soul, and then we happily embrace the process of relinquishing our creative control over to a bunch of boards, plastic and flashy led’s. Mind boggles….

It is all relative and i fully understand that before you erect a cross and nail me to it, i get it that you have composers who work in a much more orchestral environment these days, and dont crave long biblical loading times, starting from scratch, and running out of resources. But their are many exceptions and thats all im saying. Kinda……

 

 

Journeys with no end

Every one i speak to has a unique take on music. The education they have, whether this is a traditional scholarly route, or an exploration you took in your bedroom or jamming with your friends in someones garage. The way we all got here is a big part of who we are as creative people.

I have watched interviews and read books where you hear some say, you are always a sum of your influences, but its really nowhere nearly ‘linear’ and finite as that in any shape or form. We are a sum of our collective experiences, our moral stand points, our opinions and guilty pleasures. We are a sum of our environment, location, weather, relationships and our interactions with every single thing we touch each day.

Absorption is so very unique and this is what interests me when i hear someone elses music. The output is based on so many trillions of minute factors, you can pick out that persons voice even when they are perhaps unaware of having one. I mean, yes its very easy to turn up to the job and all use the same string libraries and “hybrid” preset effects and whooses, booms. But underneath the layers, we have something we arent always tapping into and maybe being individual is terrifying to some of us?

Its good to take those little personal risks. If we chose never to do this, nothing develops or changes. Its really ok to use your instruments, tools and effects in any way you see fit. Their was never a one size fits all in the first place. Convention and stereotypes are old frameworks we reach back to and check ourselves over with from time to time.

Tradition and practice, study and then finally, being judged and assessed by your peers or a mentor. The days that scare me more than others are the ones where you feel you have stayed in one place for far too long. It become not only very comfy, but you wrapped up lots of little reasons why its ok to chose the same way time and time again.

Maybe budget is a good excuse for not breaking rules? Is it ok to tread a very narrow route in fear of getting corrections and notes? Is it better to hide behind some familiar musical mechanisms that are both commercial and ‘safe’ than skip the beat and throw in some invention?

We know the sense of those statements but it doesn’t stop us being clogged up every now and then. I like to reboot on the weekend with new ideas. I often post some of these online and to be perfectly frank, they really are mainly for me to express something outside of my daily work needs. To write in a different way, to sound design and program, to arrange and gather in a way that for me, feels like im heading somewhere else.

Their is a divide in ourselves when we write as we spend time choosing conformity over risky invention and pander to the whims of todays ‘sound’ and not listening to the person we are.

Ive had so many lovely chats with other composers who quite often say, “im still looking for my own voice, i guess it will come out one day”.

But it saddening when you think of it like that, that it may just appear like a genie from a lamp and grant you 3 wishes. But then choosing to do something stupid musically isnt what you crave either is it.

One of the many methods or ways i try and employ that kind of growth, is to challenge yourself in many diverse genres as you can. Not only to grow, but to stay commercially fresh and able in a market place that has so many rich tastes now.It really doesn’t matter whether you write for games, tv, film, ads or writing pop songs. It is highly beneficial to stretch yourself and at least step in and out of some uncomfortable zones every few days.

I know a lot of the time your saying. “well i tried xxxx genre and it came off weak”.

Well for a first time, id say no shit. Of course it will sound weak. Others will have spent a large part of their live loving and absorbing this genre and you have merely wandered in clutching some trademark sounds and scant ideas. Its fine. Its what is meant to happen when you try a genre your petrified of.

But during this process, writing over and over, trying things that take you well and truly off piste, this will help you find a voice more than any other tactic. Its how to problem solve in very unfamiliar areas that leads to moments of innovation and growth. When you make some creative left turns and mix the track in a certain way, grabbing effects and solutions and not realising what to do, you trick yourself into some grey area that provides you with brilliant personal discoveries.

That has worked for me for as long as i can remember. I dont profess to be great at any one genre, but i certainly dont fear them. When you find a reason not to pursue an opportunity because its too risky, then how big is your lake going to be when you are fishing for new work?

The most accomplished composers you know all walk that line. People as magnificent as John Powell and Hans. They can and will write in any given genre and bring something to the table that tells you thats them doing it. That is how a voice is sculpted. When you allow it to go out and play for a while.

Never fear to do silly things. Dont hesitate when you’re dying to try something new, but telling yourself everyone else is better so i shouldn’t.