Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

As promised — the ad music!

A few weeks ago, I posted about a great opportunity I got here in Albuquerque to create the music for a new ad campaign by the New Mexico Lottery, celebrating their contribution of $500M to allow students statewide to attend any of our state universities tuition-free (given a minimum GPA).

A still from one of the six ads in the campaign.

I promised that once the ads were finalized, up and running, I’d post some of the music so you could hear a little of how the process worked (I got permission to do this written into my license agreements).

So here you go (192kbps mp3s): This is a collage of four of the five drafts I did, taking anywhere from 3 to 6 hours each to produce — not quite broadcast ready but offering different possible directions. The basic guidance I’d gotten was no straightforward guitar or piano, an organic/natural sound, an uncluttered arrangement (just a few instruments), and something cool and edgy.

Of the drafts in that collage, the ad agency and Lottery commission chose the last one. You might remember from that earlier post that I liked the last one best, but neither the production house nor I expected the ad agency and the client to go for it. Backward ukulele, sampled ukulele, and backward piano over a mellow but swaggering hip-hop beat. Who knew!

Over that foundation, I then created five different melodies in different voices; they chose one using kalimba (an African thumb piano). Awesome. Then I did two choices of endings for them. In short, I worked hard to provide something they’d like.

Here is the final version of the music, and here’s an example of the videos (beautifully shot/produced by halflife* digital). The excellent ad agency supervising the entire thing was Kilmer | Kilmer | Marshall | Duran.

What a great way to wrap up 2011 and begin 2012! Oh, and I got paid for a Breaking Bad webisode placement this week, too. Very cool. Not every week will be quite this much fun, but weeks like this make the hard work worth it.


The Rally, and the Tally

For the last few years, I’ve spent the first weekend of November attending a music-industry event called the TAXI Road Rally. If you’ve read this blog since it started this summer, you’ve heard of TAXI; it’s the independent A&R company I use. As part of my membership, I get two tickets to the Road Rally, TAXI’s annual convention.

It’s… well, not to sound all fanboy about it, but it’s pretty incredible. Keynote speakers for the last few years have been hot tickets like Jeffrey Steele and Kara DioGuardi, and legends like Charles Fox and Lamont Dozier. Panelists include folks like Kevin Kiner (composer for CSI: Miami, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the brand-new Hell on Wheels), seven-time Grammy-winning producer Rob Chiarelli, and on and on. It’s three jam-packed days of classes and panels on everything from current vocal processing techniques to how to use social media for your band, to how to get past writer’s block. This year, Kiner actually scored a scene from an upcoming CSI: Miami episode as a panel session. Pretty informative (and funny – Kiner’s a riot).

The Rally Hotel's lobby, after hours – spontaneous jams of all shapes, sizes, genres, ages and hair colors. I'm at far right, soaking up the love (and a little bourbon).

I suppose it’s just like anybody else’s convention: you come away exhausted and – depending on what you accomplished, or didn’t, in the last 12 months – some mixture of all fired up and inspired, and downright despondent that you aren’t progressing quickly enough. You get a million great ideas, but you also overhear a guy at the bar talking about having had 273 placements of his music so far just on one cable network. If you haven’t, that can sting no matter how far you’ve come toward your own goals.

I’ll interject here that the Rally consistently provides an undocumented, unscheduled perk: a huge dose of love and support from fellow TAXI members, who befriend and help one another online throughout the year and then have a massive hug and lemme-buy-you-a-drink-fest once we’re together in person. Without fail, newcomers each year are stunned by the support and encouragement they get from people who are, in some cases, the competition. I adore my TAXI friends. They make a famously solitary occupation feel practically communal.

But anyway, back to the hard stuff – if you’ve been following along here at Composing Kitchen, you can probably guess how I felt coming off the conference: I’m not doing enough, and I’m not doing it quickly enough.

That’s how it feels. But… really? Let’s take stock for a minute. Just since leaving my job in July, I’ve had three pieces of music used on TV and one in a Breaking Bad webisode. I’ve signed music with three more libraries and have been asked by an indie label for a genre-specific CD. I’ve produced about 50 unique pieces of music. Some of those are short show-theme bits, but most are song-length, and most have homes already (that is, they’ve been picked up by music libraries). One is sitting, as I type, with an ad agency, because I tackled the type of high-bar, quick-turn opportunity that used to scare me to death. I’ve started scoring a local documentary and am in discussions regarding a feature film for early 2012. This is when I’m not busy teaching two university courses, freelance writing and editing, serving on the board of the New Mexico Post-Production Alliance, and being a decent partner to my sweetie.

I started this adventure in mid-July. I knew that the risks probably had nothing to do with actually going broke and starving, but instead with taking on too much non-music work to cover the bills and winding up still short on composing time. That’s exactly what happened, and I have to make peace with that and honor my commitments.

So it’s not perfect, yet. It’s not 273 placements. But if I’m completely honest with myself – and I try really hard to be – I can say it’s working.


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