Monthly Archives: April 2008

the social musician

I wonder whether I revel in the online social tools because I’m, well….not very sociable. Not a party bloke. The truth is I’m a disciple of the God of social media and I reckon getting stuck into blogging, myspace, facebook, rss, podcasts, ning and the rest has helped my business grow. That, and google ads maybe.

I don’t need persuading that I DO need to express myself online, but if you’re not sure, check out the more eloquent expert at This advice is directed more at musicians as commercial artists (doing gigs, selling songs) but the argument is equally compelling for the vast numbers of musicians who survive in media music, session music and music services. I recently asked a NY producer why he blogs and he put forward an argument that I subscribe to: people get to know you much better with a blog than a static website. Sure, the website can present the brand, but the blog connects you with the person.  The blog does what a drink’n’chat does, on a global scale.

I’ve also been able to show diversity in the service I can offer – I think that variety would look confusing on a static website.

As well as my work as an arranger and string player, I’m involved in some education projects, particularly related to (you guessed it) elearning.  And I’m looking for stories.   I’m doing some research to find out how creative industries professionals are using web tools in their business and I wonder if you could respond?

Do you use blogs, social networks or IM to connect with your clients,  and service providers (like me!)?  Do you publish your work online – (video, audio, podcasts, photographs, text) in social spaces (like YouTube, MySpace and Flickr)?  Do you collaborate, using google docs or wikis?  And most importantly, what benefit do you get from using these tools?

If you have a moment to respond, please tell your story by posting comments on the research wiki (just hit the discussion tab).

This research is part of the SPLICE project – to explore the technological practices of creative industry professionals.

What’s in it for you?  Maybe you’ll get some ideas from others to improve your own development.

the sweetest feeling

It was one of those days (yesterday) when I really felt a part of both the creative industry and the global community.  A day when all aspects of my endeavour came together sweetly – my passions for social web tools (for connecting and learning), the evolution of creative industries  and string arranging!  Looking back through the mails, messages, activities and chats, this is how it panned out.

Over night mails came from Ken Lewis (producer based in New York), asking about a sample recreation, Jen (my agent in Toronto) about Samplebase (Los Angeles) and an enquiry about strings (from Moscow).  There were notifications about discussions on the student social network I run (a Ning service) where John Blaylock (singer and writer for International One – now signed and recording debut album) was the guest host.  He totally rocks!  A band in Los Angeles were also enquiring about strings – found me with a google search.  Ken Lewis later agreed to trade some string work for a guest host slot on CCM Music (that is quite a coup!).

I spent the morning answering mails and prepping a presentation about web tools for learning, for staff at Mid Cheshire College.  A quick bit of fiddle practice (trying to get some jazz standards together with guitarist Jason Brown) then off to do the presentation (always a bit stressful) and found out more about the new Creative and Media diploma which is embracing the convergence of skills that all CI practitioners need to wake up to.  As part of the event, we posted a comment on Ken Lewis’s blog – his blogging is a great example of how to reach out from a website, not just present information.

Email updates also about some UK work – a hip-hop project, a movie (my old friend and extraordinary composer Richard Mitchell) and recordings for radio idents.

I’m chipping away at a long term project for Tim Duncan – preparing arrangements and scores for an ice ballet (to be recorded in Moscow end of May), so managed to put some hours in on this.

I just wanted to capture the satisfying feeling of all the bits falling into place!


A music student asked me some questions about composing for a research project and although I’m not a composer (apart from dabbling in library) I have been a fly-on-the-wall of several composers – it’s a fascinating process!  Most of my contact with composers has bee in media music – for film, TV and games.  It is not music for its own sake, rather it communicates and manipulates in relation to visual imagery and story telling.  I feel that movies and games are the natural home of contemporary music (OK, not exclusively) as these media offer a place to bring together every musical influence without prejudice, so in movies and games (both designed to play on our emotions to the utmost) we see more influences and genres mashed-up than in any other arena.

How do you become a composer?
The inventor Thomas Edison left us with many life-changing inventions, plus a cliche: “genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration”.  It’s a maxim that suits any creative process.  Composers not only have to generate musical ideas, they need the self-belief, determination, courage and commitment to carry them through, and that covers not only the crafting of ideas (arranging, producing, recording) but the strength to establish themselves as credible composers with the people who will commission them for scores.

Sure, to be a composer you need a knowledge of musical language and a willingness to develop musical ideas, but just as important is the passion to carry those ideas through and convince others of their worth.  This is a character trait – dogged determination and confidence in yourself.

Not all the composers I know have come through a formal musical education – the self-taught route is just as viable, as learning comes from experience.

Why did you become involved in composition?

Any creator must have an overwhelming desire to create – a drive that leaves them in no doubt that they simply have to do it and cannot imagine stopping.

What type of projects does a composer work on?

The commissions are incredibly varied; any media that tells a story and manipulates emotion.  Radio, tv, video, film, web-based, theatre.  LIbrary music is still a huge business – still music for media, but trying to pre-empt the brief with off-the-shelf compositions to fit imagined scenarios.

Where does a composer work?
Most composers I know do very little on paper any more – possibly some sketches.  They work at a piano keyboard linked to a computer, recording and developing their ideas in digital audio software (Cubase, Nuendo, Logic, Pro Tools, Sibelius and others), so the working environment is a studio.

Is the income of a composer reliable?
Income for a composer has a front end and a back end – commission fees at the start of the process and royalties in the long term.  Although any freelance work is inevitably ‘unreliable’, once a composer has established an identity and credibility, income can be surprisingly reliable – particularly if they build a long term relationship with commissioners (such as film directors, documentary makers, library music publishers or games producers) as the composer becomes part of a team and grows with the rest of the group.

What are the ‘working hours’ of a composer?
I think all of the composers I know have at some stage gone without sleep for days on end!