Based on ideas born from a reading of Jean Bodin's 1580 academic work "De la Démonomanie des Sorciers" composer Don Bodin paints a suspenseful musical landscape fueled by ideas of witchcraft, demon possession, sorcery, lycanthropy (werewolfs) and vampires.
Drawing inspiration from modern film composers such as Wojciech Kilar to romantic composer Modest Mussorgsky, Dæmonololgy is comments on the folklore and myth of the occult with deep, dark brooding orchestral arrangements.
I am thrilled to announce the launch of SampleLibraryReview.com a new resource for composers and music producers. I created SLR as a way to share some of the great tutorials, reviews, demos and reviews that I have found very helpful as I create music for a living using virtual instruments, software synths and sample libraries.
Visitors to the SLR site can submit video and audio links of their own demonstration music, reviews and walkthroughs as well as suggestions they have found helpful on youtube, vimeo & soundcloud.
Check out the site and let me know if you have any suggestions as well develop it.
Are you creating your first demo reel or updating your portfolio?
It is important to understand that putting together a demo to showcase your ability takes different skills than the actual work you will do if you get the gig!
Below I share 5 Tips I am thinking about as I set out to create a new demo reel for myself.
At the beginning of the week I made the blog post Reviewing the Past, Planing for the Future in which talked about how I reviewed my music for commercials, created a playlist of my favorite scores of original music to see what I could learn.
Today I am going to talk a little about how I approach the Demo Reel as I am preparing a new reel for myself.
I have a lot of experience putting together portfolios with photographers, graphic designers and illustrators. For a composition reel I believe many of the same principle apply. Helping other artists is one thing but curating a portfolio / demo reel for yourself is a little more difficult. You need to be objective.
By following these steps you are more likely to think through the process rather than get wrapped up in the emotions that happen when trying to sell yourself and review your own work.
First step is defining the purpose for making a reel.
So focus in on the WHO. Who is your audience?
Then focus on the WHAT. What do they need?
Now you can tailor your reel with a purpose to show your audience that you can do what they need.
In my upcoming marketing push I will be seeking out new advertising clients to work with. I will be contacting directors, producers and other production/ad agency creatives. For me, I want to make a demo reel that not only showcases my music for advertising experience but also showcases my favorite styles of music to write it, because in my experience YOU will get hired to do something you have already proven you can. If you want to market to different groups, then make different reels / portfolios!
Make it as short as possible while still giving a good overview of your work. You may only get a few minutes of a new contacts time. The decision makers are often overworked and putting in 60+ hour weeks. Keep it brief. Believe me, if they like what they experience reviewing your work they will remember you.
3. FRONT LOAD / BACK LOAD
Front loading is the concept of putting your very best work first. The work that you are most proud of, the work that has a wow factor. Impress in the beginning to keep their attention. Impress at the end to leave them with a bang.
5. CUT ALL THE “FILLER” – INCLUDE ONLY YOUR BEST WORK
Just because you front and back load your reel / portfolio doesn’t mean the center is just filler. Any work that does not show a clear strength you have that your potential client needs should be cut.
4. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Incorrect spelling, sloppy transitions, clicks, pops, these all will reflect back on you and your work.
5. HAVE IT PROOFED
Having another set or eyes/ears review your work is invaluable. They will catch things you don’t.
Sometimes, by just showing someone a demo I can tell what works and what doesn’t before they even make a comment. It’s like you are able to see it through their eyes/ears.
BONUS: SEO & THUMBNAILS
Everything is online. So why not think about using search engine optimization on all the parts of your reel / portfolio.
Over the last year I have gotten a big increase in traffic to my site. I believe this is because I have pretty good SEO. I am ranked number 2 on a google “commercial composer” search and I have kept very busy scoring dozens of advertisements and sharing those on youtube, twitter, facebook and soundcloud. I try to load all of these with descriptions of the work, contact info and links back to my website.
Thumbnails can say a lot. Create or choose your thumbnails carefully for your portfolio / demo reel. Your potential clients will most likely see this one image and remember it. I got my thumbnail done!
I hope this is helpful. It really helped me just putting it all into words. I’ll post the reel when I get it finished.
Gotta run – I just got an email with a new edit from my client so . . . back to scoring!
I had a quiet morning in the studio. The main project I am working on right now (4 distinctly different sounding cues in a 2:30 second promotional film for Sprint Business) was sent out to the client. I got some positive feedback and I am waiting for notes.
I had a chance to do something I rarely get to do: Review my work.
I absolutely love working on spots and promo films. I love collaborating with other creatives, creative directors, art directors, editors. I thrive with deadline pressure and I always try to deliver the very best score for any given project. But to be honest, I didn’t know if the outcome of the musical work still had my compositional “DNA” in it. After all, I am writing in many different musical styles, specifically to fit a products demographic.
Reviewing my past work.
I went through the last couple years of my custom music / original score for advertising clients and narrowed down what I did and didn’t like about the music.
I made a playlist of the Top 12 favorite scores I had created for advertisements (youtube playlist link) and then reviewed them as a collection. Although I know the value of the music working properly along with the VO and sound effects, when creating the playlist I used version without voice over when possible, so I could just listen to the music.
I didn’t judge the music based on the visuals, I just listened.
I narrowed down the last couple years of work on spots, commercials, branding and promo films (over 50 projects) down to just 12 Favorites.
I heard little things I would change if I had the chance. But I wasn’t to hard on myself for those things, after all, I wrote, programmed, recorded, mixed and mastered 90% of these projects . . . a few in less than 48 hours. And I had passed the real test. All of the clients I had worked for have asked me back to work on more projects!
This exercise was one way for me to review my work for advertising clients that I felt was the most rewarding musically and see if I had any take-aways that would help me moving forward.
What did I find?
What I discovered is that even though I love writing in many different genres ( like the Yamaha Outboard promo composed in a Brazilian style) I am still drawn to dark, dramatic hybrid orchestral-electronic score as a listener. You know, spy music, sci-fi music. This is the style I set out to establish my career with on Greed, Lust and Cloning – my very first composition demo, turned album, that has gone on to be licensed for usage in dozens of TV, film and commercials.
I am frequently asked what my favorite music to write is. Hybrid Orchestral/Electric used to be my go-to answer. Lately I haven’t had an answer at the ready. I familiar with so many Hybrid composers who my style differs.
And I always feel the term Hybrid Orchestral / Electric score is so vague. I guess I need a new elevator pitch!
Theme is King
Everyone of my Top 12 has a clear theme. I am drawn to the most melodic or clearly defined rhythmic themes of my past work. Some I even caught myself singing along to. And the spot I won the Hollywood Music in Media Award for best Score for a Commercial Advertisement, Verso: Features, I even found myself doing a little dance.
Contrast Makes the Moments
Just as there is no forte with out pianissimo. There is no drama or excitement without musical contrast. If you want to end big, start small. The best example I found was my work on the Land Cruiser 150: Safety film. This plays into the hybrid orchestral / electric by contrasting the “real word” parts of the film with more “real world” instrumentation, then in contrast when the world breaks down to a CGI environment, the music focuses on the electronic instruments used in the score.
Although the Sprint Hit the Ground Running spot and the cartoon series Toyota: Reasons To Own Series are the only work presented that a little of my quirky side comes out, I’m ok with that. I realize that jazz isn’t for everyone, especially when your making commercials.
I am taking away a re-newed since of what my “favorite” kind of music to write / listen to is. As well as that my main sound is: thematic, hybrid score with defined theme and dramatic contrast.
I got into scoring because it is what I love to do. It is painless. I have re-written a cue 11 times for a director and enjoyed each part of the process. But by doing this review I am more clearly defining what styles I love to write. If I can convey “this is what I love to do and this is how I love to do it” more clearly, perhaps hope my unique voice will resonate with creatives on the same frequency, seeking out just the kind of music I love to create.
But most of all I think I learned I need to write a more compelling elevator pitch.