When I first started seriously composing stock audio on AudioJungle last summer, many of the highest selling songs on the site featured the ukulele. Fast forward a year, and this really hasn’t changed. What once seemed like a trend has become something different…and I’m not sure what. Even this current national advertisement features a song from AudioJungle that’s over 2 years old, and has been sold over 1600 times (!). To say that the ukulele is played out and overused is an understatement, particularly in advertising. The fact it persists as the musical focal point of so many of today’s commercials either speaks to the public’s insatiable love for the runty instrument, or of a severe lack of creativity in advertising.
I found a great New York Times article on the ukulele’s popularity from over a year ago, and even then the article spoke of the instrument’s over-saturation in advertising. It also pointed out the possible origin for this craze: Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole’s cringe-inducing version of “Over the Rainbow”, a song I heard at virtually every wedding I did sound for while living in California (so we’re talking 50+, maybe?). The article goes on to tout the ukulele as the instrument for the non-musician, and while I’m not sure I’d go there, I will say that at this point it’s kitsch. Period.
While people may love the uke because of the warm feelings it helps generate, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A different approach will likely yield the same results, and will alleviate the risk of people tuning out at the first strum. So, please, if you have to use a ukulele, please do so in moderation.
Public understanding of the term “MIDI” hasn’t progressed as far as the technology has in the last few years, and that’s a blessing and a curse. I, for one, got heavily into composing when I realized how realistic-sounding some of these new programs were, and the illusion of having used real instruments is a very important element of my work. At the same time, though, I think a little further information on what exactly you’re hearing only makes the total package that much more spectacular.
What most excited me about advances in MIDI technology was the ability to finally be able to get realistic sounds out of orchestral samples. Most modern libraries contain samples that are performed by some of today’s top musicians at some of the finest studios, stages, and halls in the world. The amount of recorded detail is remarkable, and the fact you can alter things like mic placement is truly astounding. Throw in some high quality reverb, and you have a set of sounds that, when used correctly, will make even the most seasoned aficionado think they’re listening to a real orchestra. While these sample libraries do come at a hefty price, the things they enable a composer to do are well worth the cost.
It doesn’t stop with orchestral samples, of course. You’d be hard pressed not to find a high quality sample library either built around or including a specific set of instruments that’s professionally recorded, and exhaustively performed to include every realism-adding detail. With this in mind, it continually pays as a composer to look outside the box, and find the smaller companies that are on the cutting edge.
So, the next time you hear “MIDI” hopefully your mind won’t go directly to Nintendo theme songs or ringtones. You’d be surprised how much music you hear, specifically on television, is MIDI derived, and the technology is only getting better. However, it is important to remember that these sounds are just tools. The art is found in knowing how to use them.
As you may have noticed, nearly all of my royalty free music is available for purchase via AudioJungle, which is part of the Envato Marketplace. Despite the fact that they have a little more downtime than I’d like, as an author I find the site attractive, the music of high quality, and the community very helpful. Since purchasing my music requires you to sign up for an account with Envato, I wanted to highlight some of the best parts of a diverse marketplace that includes something for everyone.
The Envato Marketplace consists of 9 different sites which all sell a different range of royalty free products. Aside from AudioJungle, I have experience with ThemeForest and PhotoDune. ThemeForest sells HTML and CMS templates, providing an easy way to revamp your website without having to hire a designer or spend hours coding HTML. Want an example of a template available from ThemeForest? You’re looking at one! The amount of excellent content at ThemeForest is amazing, and the customer service you get from the designers themselves is an added bonus that really makes the service an outstanding bargain. Examples of products from PhotoDune are also on display on this site. Most obvious are the large, high quality photos displayed on the home page advertising my music. While PhotoDune is a new site, the images are plentiful and professional, and will surely provide options for those in the market for stock photographs.
Happy with your website or blog, and not in need of any stock music or photography? Try VideoHive for After Effects project files, video, and motion graphics. GraphicRiver provides Powerpoint themes, and Photoshop templates to spruce up your resume or business cards, for example. 3DOcean sells all things 3D for advanced modeling, and CodeCanyon provides HTML script for everything from plug ins to players to forms for your website. Looking for eBooks or “How To” guides? TutsPlus is for you.
So, please don’t sweat the sign up. Envato is a wonderful marketplace with a wide variety of quality items, and I’m sure you’ll be glad you took the extra few seconds to make an account when checking out.
According to Google, over 120,000 people search for “free royalty free music” A MONTH. I know, I know, everyone wants something for free, and when forced to decide between what’s free and what isn’t, they’ll normally choose the free one in many cases. While that’s perfectly understandable at times, I, however, do not understand the allure of free royalty free music for use in productions. As discussed in a prior blog entry, the value that music brings to your production, large or small, should not be overlooked or squandered. Music is unfortunately often pushed off until the end of a production when the budget is all but exhausted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be selective in what you choose. Take a step back and reexamine the situation.
To get the most out of music, your first consideration should be quality. You’re going to want the best music and the best production you can get within your means. Compare the free royalty free music you download to material found on AudioJungle, RevoStock, or other sites. Don’t be afraid to use your ears to determine what sounds better. Which songs are louder, fuller, more produced? Which pieces have more character or authenticity? Another consideration should be whether or not you’re OK with hundreds of thousands of other productions potentially using the exact same song you are, likely the case with most free royalty free music. Lastly, you need to determine if you can even use free royalty free music, as what I’ve found can only be used for personal or educational non-commercial productions.
So, that’s why I ask, “how serious are you about your project?” Music plays varying roles in different productions, and not everyone has the budget to hire a composer, so it’s important to consider your options to find what is best for you without cutting corners or accepting mediocrity. The response you get from your audience thanks to a great score or piece of royalty free music might be worth the relatively small amount you spent on it.
I noticed that on my website I don’t have any information about my physical location. I remember I tried to squeeze that in on an “about” page on my last website, but location plays such a small part in what I do that it wasn’t that important to me to proudly proclaim where I call home (even though, at the time, I was somewhat close to L.A.).
Be that as it may, my studio is in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, DC. Silver Spring is home to the Discovery Channel, many great Ethiopian restaurants, and an AFI Theatre for starters, and has been a pretty cool place since I’ve been here the past year.
However, thanks to modern technology, location hasn’t played a sizable role in my audio work thus far. I never met physically with the producers of many films I scored prior to actually scoring them, and phone calls and e-mails sufficed as far as communication went. Over great distances I have been able to successfully collaborate with many people on many great projects. This isn’t to say that physical interaction isn’t important. In fact, it’s preferable when possible. However, it’s not necessarily imperative in many situations I tend to find myself in.
The major component here is trust. When working with someone over a long distance, you have to be confident they are holding up their end of the bargain. This is one reason why composers who want to score big Hollywood films are expected to be there. The studio wants to keep tabs on you, and understandably so. On smaller scale or independent productions, this usually isn’t an issue. With so many people out there eager to succeed, its important to take every opportunity available to you in earnest, wherever they may be, and make the producer glad they took the chance on you.
My point is, don’t always look at distance as a negative. The person perfect for your production might not always be the closest. I embrace the opportunity to work with people all over the world, but if you happen to be in the DC area, that’ll work, too!
As an artist, I never want to think that what I do can simply be relegated to the background, but with music, that is often its place. Music provides atmosphere, and often serves to enhance visual mediums like film or presentations. Music keeps you company on your commute to work, and even while you’re at your desk, but often its role is secondary to driving, walking, or working. This concept is commonplace. I’m sure Vivaldi wasn’t composing “The Four Seasons” for doctor’s offices, or Sade for hotel lobbies, but that’s where you’ll find their music playing more often than not.
The fact that this “background music” stands on its own is generally moot. Instead of asking where John Williams would be without Star Wars, ask where Star Wars would be without John Williams. To varying degrees, the music and visual aspect are mutually beneficial. Sometimes one wouldn’t be what it is without the other. The right visual can bring out emotional content in the music that even the composer may not have felt, much as the right music can turn the accompanying visual into something incredibly memorable and poignant. So, please consider some of my music for the background of your production. I have full confidence you’ll be happy you did.
When I was putting together this new site, organizing all of my royalty-free music in my portfolio was a little overwhelming. The fact that the majority of these tracks were composed and produced within the last few months alone makes it even more surprising. While my catalog is by no means as large as some of the most successful authors at AudioJungle, there is still a lot there, and all of it I’m proud of. I’ve discussed the pros and cons of this in a prior blog entry, but now that I’m a few months in, I have had a little time to reflect on the influence it has had on my composition and production…As we all know, sometimes it’s tough to stay focused on where you want to be and how you’ll get there when the circumstances of where you are take so much of your time and energy.
Currently, the most important thing for me is to stay motivated. As we all know, sometimes it’s tough to stay focused on where you want to be and how you’ll get there when the circumstances of where you are take so much of your time and energy. Composing and producing royalty free audio has given me an outlet I can take advantage of today, and a way to share and diversify my portfolio with people all over the world. The fact that a growing number of people are using works I created as part of their own productions is amazing to me. It also allows me to showcase my ability to do different types of music, from electronic, to orchestral, to acoustic. Sure, I may do some things better than others, but it’s all a learning process, and there is no better way to learn than by doing. It is my hope that someday soon my commissioned works will outnumber my royalty-free work, but until that happens, keep an eye on my AudioJungle portfolio!