A dream come true! I’ve always wanted to be featured in Entrepreneur Magazine. I didn’t think it would happen so soon. Thanks to all the editors and staff for the superstar treatment. A shoutout goes out to Dante Gagelonia, writer Candace Quimpo, Rocel Junio and Eileen Ang of Entrepreneur, photographer At Maculangan, Tricia Miranda, Jeni and Nick of FED.
What were your previous jobs?
BMG Records (which became Sony Music, home of the Eraserheads, Lea Salonga, Francis M., Rivermaya, The Company) as part of the marketing department. Behringer Audio as product specialist. Diversitec Philippines (official Apple distributor) as training manager handling education accounts. The Beat Magazine as contributor. And in-between these jobs, instructor at U.P. Diliman College of Mass Communication, DLSU College of St. Benilde, La Consoclacion College of Manila and St. Mary’s within a span of 11 years.
Why niche in TV music scoring?
It’s always nice to hear your music on TV or the web, especially for programs that are shown daily or weekly. The most rewarding thing is when people recognize your work and actually watch the program faithfully. Or better yet, when you hear them humming the music you made, you know you’ve done your job!
It all began with the love for TV and movie soundtracks. As a kid, listening to the themes of Doogie Howser, L.A. Law, MacGyver, Star Wars, Superman, E.T., etc. made me say: “Hey, I want to do that too!” There, I just revealed my generation. Haha. I would play these themes repeatedly on the piano, wishfully thinking of the time when I’d make music for the world to hear.
My first official gig was when I was asked by a college batchmate to score their animation thesis. It wasn’t easy back then because we would directly record to VHS in one pass. So everything had to be in perfect sync from the time the record button was hit. But the difficulty and precision it required trained me to create music cues that seamlessly worked hand in hand with visual elements.
Did you try to do other kinds of business before settling on this?
I would engage in any type of project that required music. From doing minus-ones for friends, jingles for small businesses, government radio ads, videoke music, audio-visual presentations—all of these humble beginnings helped me improve my craft and allowed me to work with different kinds of people with different needs.
I still do the occasional minus-one for friends (which I only do for super close friends). Weddings, I try to avoid. I’d rather just sit and watch. But I do love collaborating. If you (dear reader) have anything in mind, shoot me a message!
Who helped you in your business?
My family and network of contacts, friends with backgrounds in the biz, agencies, marketing and creative companies. Taking broadcasting (instead of music) in college also proved to be a wise decision because a lot of my contacts are from the university. I do get hired sometimes by my former students which I consider a great honor because I now consider them my peers.
What is your physical work set-up?
A desktop PC, laptop, piano, synthesizers , studio monitors, a couple of mics, guitars, and tons of software* for editing, creating and manipulating sounds. I can also be mobile if necessary.
* My main choice of DAW (digital audio workstation) is Cakewalk Sonar. I use it hand-in-hand with Sony Vegas, Acid, Sound Forge, Garageband, Audacity, and hundreds of plug-ins and software synthesizers.
Do you have need for technical assistance?
Having extensive knowledge of computer hardware and software is crucial. In an industry that is deadline-intensive, you can not afford a technical breakdown in the middle of a project that you can’t fix yourself. Having back-ups of data is a must.
How do you distinguish yourself from others like you? What has been your edge?
I am fortunate to be one of the people making music for TV shows. Having worked behind-the-scenes as a producer, writer, director, editor, marketing guy in other projects made me understand how the industry works. Being well-acquainted with technology, education and design also keeps my knowledge relevant.
Do many people niche in TV music scoring?
A lot of known composers get commissioned to do TV scores but I think it’s rare for musicians to stick to just one thing since music is everywhere.
What other business-related challenges do you face because you work alone?
The flexibility of time is both a blessing and curse. I guess any artistic professional has difficulty adjusting to a fixed work schedule. But it’s important to maintain self-discipline and develop a system to avoid anything that can hinder the project timeline. I live and breathe (and love) deadlines.
How does your work impact your industry? Who benefits from your services and your scoring?
In the world of media, music is a big part of branding. It creates a distinct sound which people identify a product with. The recall it creates and the emotion it evokes, allow for more effective selling. Think…the Magnolia ice cream cart in the afternoon. That familiar melody signifies its presence and makes us crave for ice cream, right?
TV networks and small-to-big media companies are starting to see the value and lawful use of original music. It’s true that, as a cheaper option, you can use preset music from royalty-free music libraries but that forces you to conform to an existing piece of music versus something that is customized to your needs. When you use instrumental music that everyone else is using or has access to, then you can kiss your uniqueness and identity goodbye.
This is why it is a privilege to collaborate with media practitioners who put a high premium on original music scores to give their end-product an exceptional image and sound. Our local TV ads are proof that given a proper budget, Filipinos are capable of world-class productions. Movies and some TV shows are catching up too, but not as fast as some of us would like.
How do you see your business growing?
I am currently marketing to international outfits. Aside from creating music libraries for gaming, web and other applications, I hope to score films soon. Sound design shall also be part of the next pursuit.
Can you share lessons you have learned with other would-be music scorers?
As a musician for hire, you must be adaptable. Those small-paying jobs will always improve your skills and build your portfolio. While big-budget projects are financially-rewarding, artistic fulfillment is always priceless. But do keep in mind that, as an entity that is also considered a business, you must know the value of your work. Create reasonable proposals, compute for a feasible budget, and if possible, let someone do the paperwork for you.
For music scoring, you can’t limit yourself to just a particular genre of music. One of the best investments you can make is to widen your music playlist. Listen to various forms of music especially the ones you tend to ignore. Understand it. And if you can’t, at least appreciate or find out why people like it. If there’s one thing I learned working in the music industry is that nothing is baduy. You have to see what works for different kinds of markets so you can tailor music suited for them.
What tips can you give them to help them be successful?
You don’t just have to love what you’re doing but you also have to love and understand the industry you’re part of. There are dream-clients who will allow you to “do your thing” and you can express your creativity however which way you want. But there will be those whose vision you have to understand carefully. Music is very subjective and almost impossible to describe in detail so listen well to your client’s needs before starting to write.
I do believe that whatever talent you have must be used to the fullest. Find ways to enhance those skills and as a gauge always ask yourself: “Is this my best?” Your answer should always be “yes”.