TMCP 001: How I became a full time trailer music composer

TMCP 001: How I became a full time trailer music composer

I get asked this all the time:

“How did you get into Trailer Music and how do you do it?”

I love this question. Mostly because I LOVE my job and I love talking about it. Hence me starting this podcast I guess. 

So I thought I would kick the podcast off with my story of how I got into writing trailer music.

It’s one of those ‘I didn’t choose to get into it’ type of stories. BUT, once I was in, I loved it.

Writing trailer music is amazing. You can be incredibly creative. You can earn a very good living. And you can work when you want for as long as you want. It’s awesome

Here’s the transcript (let’s view the mistakes in the transcript as a nice comical twist on what I am actually saying!) – also, how many times do I say um/Err/hmm…

I’m basically only adding these transcripts for comedy value, plus, you get the, um, gist.

p.s. Trello music is well, you can guess right!?

Rich: (00:00)
I often get asked, um, by students and friends actually, you know, how did I get into trailer music? You know, it’s, it’s a pretty niche job to be writing music specifically for film trailers. Um, and in this first episode I just really wanted to give you guys an insight into my story and how I got to where I am. Uh, and for those of you who don’t know me, where I am is, uh, I’m a full time trailer music composer. Uh, you know, I’ve won multiple awards and while I say full time, I’m not full time. Uh, I do it a few hours a day, you know, some days of the week. Uh, so I am incredibly blessed. Um, but I got here by working hard, uh, which is, you know, the same story of most successful people. Uh, but you know, I find it really interesting telling people my story because, uh, some people want to hit, have the magic bullet, you know, they want to hear that.

Rich: (01:29)
Uh, Oh, you know what, I, I just, I just find this one person and they got me a job. I landed like 300 grand sink and I was done. It wasn’t like that, um, you know, I could go back and go, well, it all started back when I was two and I started playing with pots and pans. Uh, you know, obviously I think I had a fascination with sound back then when I was two. Um, you know, constantly showing that photo of me inside of the pots and pans cupboard. And, you know, I’m quite happy to see that my kids go inside the pots and pans like cupboard. So maybe they’ve got a fascination with Sam too. Um, but, you know, I grew up listening to a lot of music. You know, one of my mum wasn’t sort of hammering out Lionel Richie and Abba. We have film scores playing, uh, specifically last of the Mohicans.

Rich: (02:17)
You know, that one’s stuck in my mind quite vividly. And, uh, Michael Nyman’s the piano film score, so had all this stuffs of ticking away in my mind. Uh, and at the time I D I, you know, you don’t really realize that, that you know, that you’re, you’re soaking up like a sponge. You know, at the time you’re like, Oh my goodness, would you turn that music off? I will listen to the Smashing Pumpkin’s come on. Um, you know, which obviously pumpkins are amazing and they have a huge part in my musical legacy. Uh, well legacy sounds pompous, but, you know, musical, uh, vocabulary. Um, so yeah, I, uh, I grew up with lots of music going on and, uh, at some point I started learning the keyboard. Uh, I didn’t, I don’t think I got very far because practicing as a 11 year old really wasn’t on my radar.

Rich: (03:01)
You know, I, I kept it up, uh, for a few years, uh, because I liked my teacher. He was really nice, really enthusiastic, and you know, I did like music. Uh, although, you know, at that point in my, uh, my music sized was somewhere around Janet Jackson and simply read. So, you know, I can’t vouch for my taste back then, but you know, the fact and that the most important part of it is that I, I just listened to what I like and I did what I liked and that was really important. And then what happened was my older brother, he picked up a guitar and was like, Hey mum, I want to have guitar lessons. Can I have those please? And he started having guitar lessons. And you know, obviously as the younger brother, I was like, [inaudible], I’m going to guitar too. So what I did was when he was out, I’d stay into his room and take his guitar and try and learn smashing pumpkin songs.

Rich: (03:51)
And you know, that was in my mind. That was the huge turning point for me was when I started learning how to play the guitar. It was like, you know, firstly, the chicks are gonna dig this. Uh, and secondly, I can play my favorite songs, you know, specifically I remember playing cherub rock. Uh, not the actual lead line. I had a little chord book, that’s all where the chords of it and you know, it was quite simple, you know, ease A’s and D’s. So I was very, very happy and I got my mum brother up into the room and I was like, Hey guys, look what I can do. I’m basically a rock star. You know, I saw Jamie out. Um, and that progressed, you know, I, I play guitar all the time. I joined some bands. Uh, and I started writing my own stuff.

Rich: (04:31)
Yeah. I didn’t know how to do it. So I just had a little, a tape recorder I picked up from a car boot sale, which I still have today. Um, and I just started playing music into it, uh, and recording it and, and that was my process. And then my mum bought me a four track recorder as a Christmas present one year, uh, which was a bit beyond me. Admittedly, I did manage to track out four guitar parts, but it was a real realization that actually, you know, I can’t play in time. That’s all I can write. Nice pots. But I cannot play them together. It sounded like some kind of a strange, uh, type or does LA effect. Um, so yeah, that was, uh, that passion for the guitar and B and, and music was stemmed hugely by Billy Horgan and the smashing pumpkins. And by me and my friends being in a band together, you know, playing covers of Nevada firefighters, uh, a small band called the llama farmers, you know, uh, we absolutely loved it.

Rich: (05:26)
We had a whale of a time and, uh, as a result of that, you know, I got to that point when I think it was about 18, I thought, yeah, actually, I’m not sure whether I wants to do what I want to do with my life. Uh, so I, I actually decided to enroll in an art course. Um, don’t worry, this actually makes sense when it comes back to it. So, uh, I was in the band at the time and I think I was, I think we, we, you know, we were, we’d all left school and we were all a bit like, uh, we don’t want to deal with ourselves. We took a year out. Do the band. Uh, but because none of us were particularly motivated to play live, we just ended up, um, uh, just practicing all the time, which was good. Um, um, but, you know, I mean, while I was at art college enjoying doing art and photography and illustration and stuff, and that was great fun.

Rich: (06:14)
You know, I met my, my wife there, um, you know, which was obviously magical. And then that was for me, that was the reason to be there. Uh, and then, uh, I decided to do a course, uh, at a college called the ACM, which was, uh, cademy of contemporary music, which was kind of like, at the time I thought what it would do would teach me how to play amazing guitar and, you know, be an amazing musician. Uh, which it did, you know, it was, it was absolutely huge for teaching me, uh, oral skills as, as an aura, as an AAU. I, you, my listening skills, uh, playing to a metronome, uh, all these things, they basically trained you as session musicians, which meant that after that year, I absolutely hated playing the electric guitar. I was so sick of it, cause they’d be like, you need to practice four hours a day, five hours a day.

Rich: (07:04)
You know, there’s only so many times you can play your modes without being insanely bored. So, because of the result, because of that, I was attracted to a course at a university in Brighton that was called music and visual arts. And it was, it was, uh, it was a combination of music and art. And I thought, well, I did an art course last year. I’m doing a music course this year. Maybe this is for me. And, uh, you know, and I had quite a stark realization that year that actually I didn’t want to be in a band because playing live and play with other musicians wasn’t the thing that I enjoy. The thing that I enjoyed was sadly sitting on my own writing music. Um, and that’s what I had been doing for years and years. Dana in my bedroom, just sitting and playing and writing music. Uh, and, you know, and at that point I, I had begun to realize the effect that film scores had on my life.

Rich: (07:56)
Uh, specifically at this point, Danny Elfman. So I started, uh, listening to Danny Elfman scores, uh, and trying to figure out, figure them out on the guitar. And I realized there was this whole world of writing that I didn’t understand. So I signed up to this, uh, university degree and I, luckily I got in, which was nice. Um, and I had an obviously amazing tutor called Connell Gleason. He, uh, this was a bit of a fanboy moment for me. He w he did some orchestration on star Trek and the next generation and had worked in uh, the States as an orchestrator and was an amazing composer. And yeah, the, the course was just wonderfully diverse. It’s taught you everything from using max MSP and logic to, uh, writing music for installations and doing in stations. Like I said, it was art and music and you know, we studied all these composers, we studied all these artists, we studied all these dancers.

Rich: (08:50)
It was fantastic. It was the thing that laid the foundations for me of like actually, uh, writing music. It doesn’t have to be this really sort of anal three minute pop song where everything has to be done in a certain way. It can be weird and it can be wonderful. And it was, it was great. It really roots to me this passion for sound and exploring noises, you know, cause some of the, some of the composers we listened to, you know, for instance, like the music contract movements where, you know, it’s just recording sounds and playing them out live and highlighting the crazy sounds that you are surrounded by every day. Um, I mean that was amazing. Uh, and as a result, I, uh, I started to focus on writing music whilst I was at this on this course and I realized actually I want to be a film composer.

Rich: (09:44)
I wanted to write music for things like Danny Elfman, like John Williams, uh, like John Barry. Uh, and I just am completely immerse myself in film scores. Uh, you know, I would in the evenings, uh, wast my, uh, my girlfriend was, uh, doing English literature, reading. I would sit there with my headphones, listening to Debussy, reading the scores, and I really taught myself a great deal about writing by studying schools in the, in the evening. And I had this little sort of workbook where I was, I had a, uh, a section on orchestration, so I studied orchestration. I actually had a, I was luckily at lucky enough that my mum, uh, was generous to pay for orchestration lessons with our local composer called a Roohan Curver cheque, who was an obviously amazing musician, um, specifically a sofa, Yiddish folk musician. And I mean, the stuff he had was a, he played was amazing.

Rich: (10:40)
And you know, I’d walk into his, his studio, which was like this kind of dark Amash to Tom whites with all these wonderful foreign instruments hanging on the ceiling and I’d never heard before. And that’s sort of say, Hey, look, Roohan I’ve written this. And he’d pull down this bizarre clarinet from some deep, deep dock area or in Asia and say, well, how about this? And hit play the line I wrote on this instrument and the magic I felt when I had him play. My idea, it was just, yeah, I can’t really tell you how, how magical that was filming. So I, yeah, like I said, I completely immersed myself in all this stuff. Uh, all the while thinking I’m going to be a film composer, underrated film composer. So I started approaching short film directors and all sorts of people just being like, Hey, I like, I’m a composer.

Rich: (11:29)
Can I write for your film? You, Hey, I’m a composer, can I write for your dance troupe? So I did some dance pieces, which were amazing and I did some short films, which, you know, once some amazing. Um, mostly because it was like I was saying, I’m a composer and I’m a film combined, but then I didn’t have the first clue about producing music on a computer. Uh, I, I had dabbled in logic, but that the point where I said, okay, well I need to have a recording system at home. So I got a grabbed a pirate copy of reason and cake walk pro. Um, and that was when I started to recording my own sounds and exploring production. I didn’t have a mini keyboard back then. So I used to write on my all my mini parts in with a mouse, uh, which at the time it seemed like magical because I’d gone from writing score, Wade spend however long with a pen and paper, writing it down and then having to hit hear somebody else play it.

Rich: (12:25)
I could wait weeks for that to happen, but this, I could click a mouse and I’d hear the sound immediately. It was just magic. So it loved to reason a catwalk pro. I had my first experience in sampling with cakewalk pro. You know, I got my friend Hannah around, she played some violin notes for me and I laid them on okay, what prior? And it was, it was just wonderful. I loved that. That’s part of my life. At the time of my life. It was, it was all play. I had this passion in my mind that I was going to be a film composer and I just played around with idea. Um, obviously when I left university it was a shock cause I was like, you know what, it wasn’t massive shock cause me and my wife went traveling for a several months, which was eye opening and wonderful and amazing all at once.

Rich: (13:14)
But when I got back we were like, yeah, let’s buy a house. And we’d saved up a tiny, tiny amount of money, bought a teeny little two up, two down. And I said, you know what, I’m going to make a go of this composition thing. Uh, and then after like two months of not hearing anything back from anybody not getting any work or anything, I realized I was going to have to get help. Uh, so I got a job, I’m teaching music and this was my career for, uh, seven years, you know, teaching guitar. I used to teach African drums tool. Basically all the knowledge I had accumulated up to this point, I taught to children in schools and I absolutely loved the job. And when I wasn’t teaching, cause it was only part time teaching jobs. I was writing, uh, and approaching companies about short films and all sorts, you know, and I was blessed that I managed to get some work right in corporate rabid writing for corporate films.

Rich: (14:12)
And that was like, this is amazing. I’m getting paid to write music. Uh, and that was again, massive, massive boost to my confidence and I just kept plugging away, plugging away, plugging away. In the meantime, one of my friends was doing a, uh, a show for a record label and they wanted some music, like 24, like Sean calories, a 24 music to walk on stage to, you know, really cool emotive music. And, uh, and I did that. And the lead singer, his girlfriend was working for a publisher called Boosey and Hawkes. Uh, so she approached me and said, Hey, send me in your demo reel. Uh, I do re-advertising, uh, and, uh, I started, you know, I sent, I sent in like this CD of, you know, 50 of my, my greatest works. Uh, and she sort of even emailed me back saying, Hey look, this one is fantastic, let’s get you in.

Rich: (15:06)
So I came in then signed up as a composer with them, which was just Epic. That was like, you know, I am going to be a composer, you know, I, this is going to be huge. A little did I realize that actually in that world, in the advertising sync world, you don’t get paid unless you get the job. So I was doing tons and tons of free work and that continue for years and years pitching endlessly. Uh, but the great thing was I was just learning my craft, pitching, getting feedback, pitching, getting feedback, all the while increasing the amount of sample libraries I had increasing, uh, the speed of my working. I even got a mini keyboard. It was very exciting. Um, and then that continued. But whilst I was working there, I, uh, I was also producing my own music just for fun cause I thought, you know, as you know, I want to write my own stuff side of this stuff called mr molecule’s quirky delights.

Rich: (16:00)
Uh, which was me playing the ukulele, whistling with a recorder. I think it was, um, and uh, a young man there was called Vikram Gudi and uh, he had just started a boozy and Hawks and you know, we got, got to talking. He, he said how much he loved my quirky, weird, um, ukulele tracks and we hit it off from there. And those of you who know me, you’ll know that me and Vikram, I mean Vick, uh, have a very successful working relationship now cause he then set up the company elephant music, which I signed to. And, uh, you know, Vic was my big break basically. You know, whilst I was teaching part time, I was sending tracks to Vic and Vic was starting to get me work that was paid. You know, I’d had one or two, I’d call them hits, you know, uh, speech marks hits.

Rich: (16:52)
Um, yeah. [inaudible] was like a cheese advert, which actually paid amazingly and that was like, yay, I N some money, uh, I can pay my way. And you know, I think me and Vick, our first one was like a 500 pound sink for a Hewlett pack out online advert, which again was huge for us both. I think that was our, both our first syncs together. So he set up elephant music and we, we’ve, we were pitching for stuff. He moved over to uh, LA for a little bit and came back and he said, you know what rich, I just want some piano music. People were asking for piano music, can you run out of music? And I said, vague, I love right. Pentameric I love it. So I wrote, there was at this time I also stumbled upon Spitfire audio. They had released, started releasing their labs, which then were donation where, so I donated to two pounds or three pounds, whatever it was to buy there.

Rich: (17:44)
It was called ven felt piano, but it’s now called the soft piano. I downloaded the soft and I was so inspired by this way to wonderful sound that I then wrote a five albums, 50 tracks in about three or four weeks I’ll send it to Mike. And he was like, ah, this is amazing. And he started pitching them all the while I was still teaching. I’d actually, um, start upping my hours teaching cause I, I was getting nervous that I wasn’t going to get any more work as a composer then. Uh, yeah. Then Vic was pitching all this, this piano work stuff and I was really proud of myself cause I actually loved the albums, loved the sound. And then a VIX suddenly sort of turned around turnarounds. Me, he said, let rich up of science state trailer work song gonna start pitching your stuff at trailers and we’re going to stop producing trailer albums and I want you to get on board.

Rich: (18:36)
And I was like, great. I, and I already know you. How did he try it? As I do a little bit, but uh, great. Let’s do this. And, uh, and it was at this time as well. I was sort of saying to my wife, you know, I don’t really want to do a teaching anymore. I want to be a full time composer. That’s why I feel like I’m supposed to be doing. I, I am, I’m scared to leave cause I don’t have any money. I don’t know what to do. And it was also the same time our daughter was born image and she was, yes, I was about, she’d just been born and I realized that she, you know, I want to be around my, when, when my daughter’s little, so I decided to hand in my notice, uh, teaching. And this is the wonderful thing about the universe and you’ll find out that I’m actually a bit of a, uh, a beardy weirdy as my dad would call it, but um, or crunchy, I think equal them in the States.

Rich: (19:31)
Uh, the universe handed me something. Uh, I had it in my nights, isn’t it felt like within a week. All of a sudden I got an email from Boosey and Hawkes who I still worked with at the time. Um, saying, Hey, this Japanese film is being produced at night. They like your stuff and want you to score the film. And, and I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m going to be a phone call visor. This is the drain. This is amazing. And actually scoring that film was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had in my musical career. It was fantastic. The easiest job I’ve had, they sent me a spreadsheets say of of the track and the, you know, the track they wanted and what’s what, so the track was the mood they wanted, the length of it and any other keywords do with instruments or speed.

Rich: (20:18)
I just wrote tracks based on that. They only gave me one change to make. And I think I wrote about 20 cues, like 60 minutes of music. Uh, and then as well as that, Vick finds me out and says, rich, we just landed two IBM adverts, uh, and it paid. I think they paid really well actually. I think in total I got 15 grand. Uh, which was like, Oh my gosh, that’s my next year’s mortgage. I’ve got a safety net for a year. So it was like, yes, I put this money aside. I, I had it in my notes at the same time and everything just fell into place. And from there I just started, I was still working with lots of other companies as well as Vic because I always been told, you know, diversify yourself because this, that and the other overtime, uh, mine and Vic’s relationship just got better and better working relationship with that is, uh, and he just started getting more and more work.

Rich: (21:18)
And I realized, you know, Pareto Laura, I forget what it’s called, the 80, 20 principle, like 80%. In fact, 90% of my income was coming from Vic, but it was only 20% of the time I was working. So I kind of just left everybody else and just started working with Vick. Um, and that’s where my days kind of changed to me and my wife, uh, sharing our days. And because I wasn’t working as much, I didn’t, I was earning well and I decided, you know, me and my wife going to share the childcare, so we’d split the days between us. And, uh, that’s pretty much how it has been since, uh, my daughter was one, so that’s sort of five years ago. Um, and in those five years, my career is absolutely rocketed. You know, I’ve won up to date eight awards. Uh, uh, know I get regular trailers.

Rich: (22:13)
I mean, usually it’s between two and four or five a month as I speak, which is, uh, where are we? November, 2019. So my career is absolutely amazing. And, uh, and what happened as I started to get successful, you know, and I started to get some money. This was very exciting. Oh, I could actually buy a car that’s not 17 years old. So what I did was, uh, people kept asking me, rich, how do you do what you do? Uh, and I, I, first of all, I, yeah, hard work, you know, and then people get passed to me. So I said, look, okay, I’ll show you. I went around to a friend’s house and I showed him what I do. I was like, you know, there’s that on the other one, I sort of laid out a trailer queue and he was like, Whoa, that’s blowing my mind.

Rich: (23:02)
So I thought, well maybe there’s something in this. Um, so I decided to see message, a few of my friends and a composer friends that is inspired to say like, Hey guys, I know write a course where you pay me to ride the course. So they all chipped in a nominal fee as like a kick out the kick up the backside for me to actually do the course. So I wrote this course called the trailer music course and um, the course basically kind of taught people all the ins and outs of trailer music, uh, you know, from warms to rises to structure to mixing and mastering. And I was very, very lucky to have Tybee Mason to agree to do mixing and mastering at the end of that course as well. It’s great. And here I am today. I have the tray music school, which I have, uh, students studying.

Rich: (23:55)
All the courses I have produced in writing trailer music. Uh, I get try to placements regularly, uh, and the, and it’s not just one style of music either. That’s a wonderful thing. I’m not just doing Epic on doing, you know, uh, stomp swagger, drums, endings, delicate piano. I am doing a doc sound design. I’m doing sort of thriller organic strings. It’s a wonderful world to be working in trying to music. You can be as creative as you like, as weird as you like because there’s going to be a film that’s going to use that music. If you watch all the trailers on Apple, on the Apple trailer site or Joe blow trailers, whichever one you watch, you will notice that actually trailer music isn’t just Epic music. Trailer music spends all of the genres, all of the styles, and you can be very successful if you understand the structures and the formulas.

Rich: (24:57)
Um, which I feel like I do. Uh, so yeah, and here I am today. He sat in my, uh, sat in my study, uh, recording this first session of the podcast, which, uh, my students at the trailer music school, I’ve been asking saying, you know, rich, we’d like, uh, we’d like, there’s no podcasts for training musicians or her, actually there isn’t, you know, I have a YouTube channel that shows people, so how to write what I do, how to do what I do. And, uh, and then obviously I have my Turner music school, which is more in depth kind of, uh, kind of group coaching, you know, teaching people to get better. And then if I do get better, then, uh, I help them produce an album and we pitch it to a trailer companies usually with FIC that mammoth or elephant. So it’s gone amazingly.

Rich: (25:42)
And, uh, hence the podcasts and that this, this podcast for me is, is going to be not like a dire ever trailer composer, but something, something along those lines. More like a thoughts that I can’t express on video. Well, I could express them on video, but you know, I, a talking head for me isn’t, you know, most exciting. And I love podcasts. Going for a walk in the woods with my, with my, um, my now three month old, I’ll be listening to podcasts, uh, driving the car podcasts on. So it’d be nice for me to deliver content to you guys who are on your commute, who are going for your runs. They don’t about shopping, they don’t ever learning and want to want to keep studying, keep learning about trailer music. So I will be delivering content about Trello music through this podcast. And in this episode I talked about how I got to where I am.

Rich: (26:38)
You know, there are obviously things I missed out, um, not on just because I don’t think you want to be dealing with all the minor details, but the general shift of, you know what, it was a side hustle for me for seven years, uh, before I went full time. That’s not always the case. You know, my friend Karen Birch diff much, much quicker. Uh, he was very, very focused. Uh, and his writing is very niche as well, and he’s an incredibly talented guy. So your story might be different. Your story might be like, Hey, uh, did you call us rich? In fact, some of my students have been like this. They did my course. They sold a track. Boom. They are now composers. Um, which has been amazing. So, so if you can learn anything from my story, it’s this focus on the things you enjoy. Don’t spend too much time doing the things you don’t enjoy because what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to play to your strengths. The moment I play to my strengths was the moment I start to become more successful. And that’s what you need to do. Follow your enjoyment. Okay? So if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to the channel and you can always pop on over to the Trello music school where you can read the show notes for this podcast. As always, thanks so much for listening and take care.

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