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music for TV, FILM, RADIO
Last post Tue, Nov 16 2004 by bruceup, 61 replies.
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Posted on Tue, Nov 16 2004 16:55
by bruceup
Joined on Tue, Nov 16 2004, Scottsdale, Arizona USA, Posts 1
I'll share how I broke into both the radio ID jingle and the ad music business(which happened at two different times). I know this might not be how it happens for everybody, but maybe you'll be able to take something from my experiences:

While studying orchestration and arranging at Berklee in the mid 1970's, I got the nerve to approach one of my teachers(who was also a local jingle writer)about auditioning as a group singer(acting on a tip that he was looking for another guy for his regular group). He called my bluff in the middle of class and immediately sat down at the piano and said, 'OK, hotshot, sing'. So I did, and I got a callback to audition with his vocal group. The next thing I knew I was called for a paying session. For my remaining two years in school, I sang on a dozen spots for him, and in the process, was recommended to another local producer by one of the singers I worked with. That connection led to a studio owner asking if I'd consider writing some spec spots for a potential ad client. Those spots never flew, but I continued to take advantage of that situation and was able to put a respectable demo tape together. Knowing I was going to graduate in a few months, I sent my demo out to about 50 different music companies nationwide(jingle houses in NY/Chicago/LA and radio ID houses in Dallas, Memphis and San Diego). I actually got a serious response from an up-and-coming radio ID production company in Dallas, was flown in to meet with them(and audition with their regular vocal group). I was offered a job and moved there a month later. It was the beginning of what is still my number one source of income: writing/arranging/producing/publishing radio ID jingles for stations all over the world. I am probably the most widely heard composer nobody's ever heard of.

The second part of my 'breaking in' story happened after spending 6 years working 12/6 in the radio ID business in Dallas. I wanted to stop working for an hourly wage(which is how the ID biz is setup in Dallas)and had heard stories of ad music people making boatloads of money writing/singing national commercial spots. So leaving a great job in Dallas, I moved my family to Chicago to pursue an ad music career. I spent nearly a year trying to break in as anything I could get a session doing(singing, writing, playing, orchestrating, copying, doing frame counts and cuesheets)and after going through all our savings and being a couple of weeks away from having to move back to Dallas, my wife and I happened to run into the girlfriend of a major music house owner who lived in our apartment building having lunch at McDonald's. When she found out what I did(and that her significant other had my demo tapes)she apparently spoke to him about me, because later that night I found a storyboard slipped under my front door with a note attached asking me to take a shot at a Suzuki demo they were recording the next day. I guess I passed the audition because I started getting calls to write finals for them within a couple of weeks. That turned into a major source of residual income which was the stepping stone to me starting my own music house two years later.

I now live in Arizona, and thanks to ISDN lines and the internet, I'm able to remain in both businesses(plus writing library music)without living in a major music center anymore(although I do travel to record in LA, Dallas, Chicago and London). My advice to anyone trying to break in is to get experience at your craft any way and anywhere you can, move to a major music center when you're at the level of proficiency necessary to compete, and don't give up. If you're good and have the hunger for it, you'll eventually get your shot and the doors will open. John Williams' career started as a session pianist in Hollywood(he's on many of the old Mancini TV and film recordings)which led to orchestration and TV writing gigs. He didn't become the John Williams we know today until he'd been in the business for twenty years.
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