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Passenger Profile Randon Purcell
Randon Purcell at work in his studio.

How important is it to have up-to-date samples and virtual instruments?
Well, this is a tough one for me, because I probably disagree with a lot of very successful TAXI members and other composers in some respects.

With television cues, I honestly don’t think it’s nearly as important as it is for trailer cues. For television cues, I think Dean Krippaehne is absolutely correct that you can get away with older samples and sounds as long as the writing and recordings are good enough. After all, he has proven that 100 percent, time and again, right? Anyone who has Dean’s books can attest to this!

With trailers, there is some truth to that as well – actually, a lot of truth. But, I think having up-to-date sounds and samples is also key with trailers, because they are often required to be cutting edge. And with regard to orchestral samples and realism, the newer libraries are just so much better than the old libraries. When you compare older orchestral libraries like East/West Orchestral Gold or something, compared to LA Scoring Strings, Spitfire Symphonic Strings, Jaeger or Cinematic Studio Strings, there is not much to compare. You get a lot more realism from newer libraries, so in that sense I think it’s extremely important. Also, a lot of the newer libraries are geared toward trailers, specifically, rather than just straight orchestral music. So, it gets you some of the huge sounding orchestral sections without having to layer and layer and layer and layer you get the idea.

Now, I’m a gear slut, as I’ve mentioned, so I know that I own way too many libraries for my own good. But newer libraries will likely save time, and when time is short, this becomes increasingly important. I’d be willing to bet that in the last two years I’ve said this at least 50 times: “Oh, I’ll just buy this because it will make my life way easier then no more purchases this year.”

"Sticking your music in any old music library won’t do you any good. I’d rather have 10 tracks signed to an amazing library than 100 tracks signed to a subpar library, any day."

It bothers me when I see TAXI members comment that they couldn’t get their music past our screeners, yet they got deals for the very same music on their own. Invariably, the reality of the situation is that the companies they signed with on their own are often lower tier music libraries that are much more lenient as to what they accept than the majority of companies TAXI curates for. Do you have an opinion as to which strategy might be the better way to go: the I’ll put my music in all the catalogs that will take it, or I’d rather be selective and work with fewer, higher quality companies?
This is where TAXI is so important. TAXI works with good libraries, so when you route your music through TAXI, you know it is most likely landing somewhere good. Sticking your music in any old music library won’t do you any good. You might get lucky, but odds are your music will just sit around and collect dust. Quality will always be over quantity for me. I’d rather have 10 tracks signed to an amazing library than 100 tracks signed to a subpar library, any day.

The same goes for record companies. I’ve known quite a few bands over the years who got a record deal with some rubbish record company that never had the time, money, connections or brains to do anything properly. These bands got stuck in contracts and in some cases totally screwed out of all their sales for years. When it comes to your music, your art, it is really important to shop it to music libraries and publishers who are going to appreciate it enough to want to push it to their clients.

"Just like composers have their strong points, so do libraries. I think it is really important to match your music to your libraries as much as possible."

It’s my observation that some of the best music libraries out there are not necessarily the best for everybody. Have you found that different libraries are good at getting placements for certain types of things (and certain genres), and while they may do landmark business for an orchestral composer, they could be much less effective for somebody who does acoustic guitar-based cues?
I’ve found this to be 100 percent true myself, particularly with the smaller boutique libraries. They’re generally working with music supervisors on specific shows, which then turn into other shows of the same type. So, if a library gets really popular for working with a lot of reality TV series, that’s the kind of music I’d want to send them. But I wouldn’t be sending over any hybrid orchestral trailer tracks. I’d send those to a library that specializes in trailer placements. If I were writing songs with vocals, I’d probably shop those to a totally different library. Just like composers have their strong points, so do libraries. I think it is really important to match your music to your libraries as much as possible.

I’ve seen far too many TAXI members get so excited when they get their first deal offer, that they go hog wild and send everything they create to that library because they feel appreciated and “loved.” I understand that, but I think that can be a bad strategy for the long term. Do you agree, and if so, why do you think the “They love me, so I’m giving them everything I create” is a bad trap to fall into?
I think for any of us when we start out, the excitement of anyone wanting to take our music can easily blur our vision and cause us to make bad judgments. When I got my first library signing via TAXI, I was beyond excited, and I immediately started feeding almost all of my music to that one publisher.

Just some of Randon Purcell’s many music placement credits.
Just some of Randon Purcell’s many music placement credits.

Ah-hah! Busted!!
Yep, guilty as charged. If I had to guess, I’d say many people have done the same.

You’d be guessing right!
Now, it was a good publisher that I first signed with, but still putting all the eggs in one basket is never a good idea. Then I went to my first TAXI Road Rally and heard you say, “don’t fall in library love.” Man, that hit me like a brick! I immediately stopped what I was doing and started pitching to more TAXI listings where I eventually hooked up with several other great publishers, some who have gotten me far more placements than the original library I signed with.

Don’t get me wrong – I really appreciate the libraries I work with, and I still send music to that original publisher I worked with. But I only send the music that I feel they will be able to help sell. Otherwise, I go elsewhere.

This is a business. Your music is your precious investment. If you had a million dollars, would you just stick it all in a single, low-interest savings account at your bank? I hope not. I think you would diversify and try to build your wealth with various investments. The same goes for your music. Diversify your library portfolio and work with the right libraries for the best return on your investments.

"The most important part is to fully understand the requirements. I read, re-read, and then re-read the brief again to make sure I really know the specific requirements..."

You’ve said that much of your current work comes from libraries you’ve got established relationships with, and the assignments they give you. Can you please give us a look into that process sort of a step-by-step, with a typical timeline, understanding the brief’s requirements, how you stay true to those requirements, how many revisions, if any, etc.?
Sure. It’s a bit different for different publishers and whether they are looking for individual tracks for a brief or having me write a full album of cues for them.
In the case where a publisher is looking for submissions based on a particular brief, the process is strikingly similar to TAXI listings actually. Submit, get feedback, if necessary make some changes and submit again. Once approved, send over final audio tracks, stems, sub-mixes, etc. In cases like this, I’d say about 75% of the time I get the tracks through on the first round, and the rest I make a few changes and get through the second time around. And of course, there are still those cases where the tracks just don’t work at all for the publisher.

Generally speaking, I’ve found the timelines to be very similar to TAXI as well, where you might have an open brief for a couple weeks, though I’ve worked on others that are open for months at a time too. I usually start by searching similar TV shows/trailers and listening to a lot of music, just to get me in the right mindset for the brief.

Most of what I do these days falls into the album of cues category though, which is quite different. It goes something more like this:
The publisher wants an album of a very specific type (hybrid orchestral trailers, orchestral adventure, children’s orchestral adventure, etc.). The publisher calls or emails to see if I want to do the work. I generally say “yes,” cause who wouldn’t? I especially like to say “yes” to the challenging ones, like the children’s orchestral adventure. Not my style, extremely challenging, but great for my portfolio and experience.

The publisher sends a very rough brief outlining the style. Most of the time, the brief is accompanied by audio files of other released tracks – not to copy, but to get an idea of what the publisher wants to get from me. If it’s a trailer album, the rules of trailers get applied (format, mixing, etc.), regardless of the audio examples I get.

The publisher asks me to provide a timeline for when I can complete the album. Typically an album is 10 tracks. Each track has to have a full mix, a mix without vocals/choirs, major stems (brass, strings, percussion, hits/risers, fx, woodwinds, choir, etc.). Each track has a 60-second and a 30-second version. I don’t like chopping a 30/60 second version from the full mix, so I generally compose those versions right from the start so I can get the starting and ending the way I like them while still fitting in the time restrictions. Typically, given that I only have about three hours each day to work on these, I provide an 8-10 week timeline for the work. In some cases, as much as 12 weeks if the orchestration is going to be complex.

Once complete, I send off all the mixes to the publisher for review. Most of the time, I don’t have any revisions to do, actually. I’ve worked with these specific publishers enough to know what is expected, so I’m fortunate that way. But when something isn’t quite right, I’ll make the changes as quickly as possible.

That’s really it. The most important part is to fully understand the requirements. I read, re-read, and then re-read the brief again to make sure I really know the specific requirements from the publisher. During the course of writing, I also compare my music and mixing to some of the example tracks. In fact, I will even utilize some tools like iZotope’s Neutron to compare my overall sound and mix to the example audio just for good measure.

"The focus has to be on delivering quality, every time, and that takes hard work."

Composers who are new to the “game” sometimes think that if they can just show the music supervisors and publishers how compositionally “brilliant” they are, they will get tons of work that they’ll have some sort of breakthrough moment, and everything will be easy after that. What’s your take?
I’d say that is a completely unrealistic and delusional view of the industry. Publishers are concerned with making their clients happy and getting lots of placements. Good libraries are also concerned about keeping their composers happy, which sort of goes hand in hand with making their clients happy.

In the end, you could deliver a track that a publisher absolutely loves. But if you don’t continue to follow up with tracks they love, they will not take them just because they come from a composer they have previously worked with. The focus has to be on delivering quality, every time, and that takes hard work.

If anything, I’d say this job gets harder and harder in many ways, rather than easier. The higher you climb, the more you are competing for high-end spots, and your A-game might not be good enough.

I like to think that my latest track is my absolute best work, but it’s still not nearly as good as my next track will be. I don’t focus on competing with other composers as much as I’m competing with me from yesterday. As long as I am better than “yesterday-Randon,” I know I’m on the right track.

Don’t miss Part 3 of this highly impactful interview in next month’s TAXI Transmitter!

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