The Sound Architect catches up again with Emmy-award winning composer Silas Hite who is hosting a Commercial Scoring Workshop (in partnership with iZotope) taking place September 6th, 9th, and 11th. The workshop will take place in-person in Los Angeles and is available for participants world-wide through web conference.
This workshop is designed to give insight and experience to musicians who are interested in writing music for commercials. The workshop consists of three, three-hour classes and a one-on-one career assessment and guidance meeting.
In the first class, participants will be given a real commercial to score, along with creative direction on how to begin. In subsequent classes the scores will be reviewed and constructive feedback and guidance will be given. Each class will also feature lectures and Q&A sessions to address the many aspects of the commercials scoring industry, from creative considerations, to budgets and contracts. Example lecture topics include:
1. The creative and business differences related to scoring commercials vs. films, video games and television.
2. The differences between music licensing, work-for-hire, and working at a music house vs. being a freelance composer.
3. How to look for scoring jobs, what you need to do to get them, and how to make the most of the music you have already created.
Here’s what Silas had to say to us about everything:
Hi Silas, it’s great to have you speaking with us again! How have you been since we last spoke?
I’ve been great, thank you. Busy making more art and music. I scored a hit Danish TV series called “7.9.13”, a horror comedy film in the states called “Smothered” and an as of yet unreleased mobile game. I’ve been scoring lots of commercials, and a few trailers for The Sims 4. I scored a short film for the 2014 Whitney Biennial, which is major honor in the art world. I was featured in the art and culture magazine, Juxtapoz, in February, which led to some more interesting opportunities to show my drawings. I scored a commercial that won an Emmy. Most recently I have partnered with iZotope to launch my commercial scoring workshop that I will be teaching in person in Los Angeles and as a webinar for people in other parts of the world. I’m pretty excited about that!
How did the commercial scoring workshops come about?
I am often asked to visit and give guest lectures at colleges and universities. Sometimes for an afternoon, a day, or even a week. I remember being a college student and being frustrated that it was impossible to learn how the music industry really worked in school.
I wanted to score games, films, tv and commercials, but there was no way to gain experience doing that. That was over ten years ago and really not much has changed. There are more film scoring classes being offered, which is fantastic, but they don’t really prepare you for the realities you will face in the business. I have yet to see or hear of a class that focuses on commercials, yet that is a major industry.
I want to give people a learning experience that is immediately relevant. I would estimate that I am scoring a film, tv show, video game or commercial (or combination thereof) 340+ days a year. This means that I have real-time, relevant information about how scoring works in those industries.
Why did you decide to start offering them to the public?
I think after speaking at a few schools, I began to realize the depth of the experiences that I had actually accumulated. There was something about verbalizing my methods that made me realize I had a lot of hard earned knowledge to share.
After teaching the weeklong workshop at Cleveland State last spring, I started thinking about the possibilities that technology has given us. There is no reason I need to be in person to share my information. I interface with 99% of my clients through email, Skype and phone calls. I’ve literally scored commercials on my laptop in airports and in hotel rooms. Location is not the factor it used to be when I moved to LA ten years ago to start my career.
How did you get involved with iZotope?
For the Whitney film, I used iZotope’s BreakTweaker. I needed really modern sounds and it was perfect for that. I mentioned my use of it in an interview I gave and iZotope happened to read it. They asked me to do an interview for their site and we built a relationship from there. I am happy to be working with them. They make excellent tools.
What can we expect to learn from taking a workshop?
The short answer is you’ll get hands-on experience scoring a commercial and you will learn quite a bit about the business and creative practices that accompany it. There is one assignment, 3 in depth lectures, and an optional one-on-one career assessment meeting session where I help you determine the best course of action for you to achieve the career in music that you want.
At the first class, I assign a commercial to score. I provide creative direction and simulate the real composer/client relationship. The attendees take the commercial home and score it. They bring it back to the second class and I review it, giving feedback and guidance to help it sound like a track that a client would want to buy. I will provide more instruction, changing the parameters (as clients almost always do!) and the attendees will take the commercials back for a round of revisions. For the third class, I will review these and offer final feedback.
Just to mention a few lecture topics, I will discuss the pros and cons of being a freelance composer versus working at a music house. I will provide information about each of those career paths as well as strategies to help be successful in either. I will cover the opportunities and challenges between scoring for commercials, film, games and TV, from budgets and contracts, to creative considerations. I will offer advice for what to do with existing music and songs you may already have written – how to use them in commercials,
how to get them in music libraries, etc. We will talk about publishing companies, cue sheets, contract pitfalls, what agents really do, royalties, etc. There is always plenty of Q&A because people always have some knowledge about these topics and lots of questions about them.
So say I’m an aspiring composer, why should I take the course as opposed to teaching myself?
I’d like to share a quote from an aspiring composer that took my workshop.
“I learned more in Silas Hite’s workshop than I did in five years of college. Whether it was techniques used to write music for media or practical knowledge about the industry/business, Silas’ workshop left me better prepared for my future and more confident about my career path.” – James Newberry, CSU Music School Graduate
You can’t teach yourself with experiences you don’t have and aren’t going to get. If you don’t have any experience scoring a commercial how are you going to get it? If you somehow get a client to let someone with little to no experience (you) practice on their dime, how do you think that experience will go? Do you have any idea what to look for in the contract? Or what you should charge? Or what the revision process will be like? Will you be dealing with an ad agency or the client directly, because those can be two very different experiences.
Much of the information in my class is not available on the internet or in books. Or if it is, it is certainly not all in one place and there is no one there to answer your questions.
What qualifies you to teach this class?
I’ve successfully scored hundreds of commercials for over ten years and have won just about every award you can win in the process. I’ve started my own music house, I’ve been an in-house composer working at music house with a boss, I’ve been a freelance composer working for music houses all over the world via the internet, I’ve worked with both ad agencies and clients directly, and I’ve co-scored commercials. I have really run the gamut of experiences.
There are samples on my website, if you want to see and hear my work: http://www.silashite.com
What kind of level should I be before taking the course?
If you want to do the assignment (actually scoring a commercial) you will need to be able to write and record music on your computer to some degree. I will also ask you to tie the music to picture. If you don’t know how to do that, I will help you.
You don’t have to have amazing samples or be a virtuoso. You don’t even need to know music theory. You just have to be able to write and record your musical ideas and email them to me.
If you want to skip the scoring assignment and just listen and ask questions during the
lecture portion of the classes, that is totally fine as well.
What do I do once I finish the course?
The one-on-one career assessment meeting where I help you determine the best course of action for you personally will give you a lot of ideas. My goal is to give each participant in the course concrete steps in the direction of the career they would like to have.
Where can I find out more?
You can visit: http://www.commercialscoringworkshop.com/for more information.
We hope you found the interview useful and let us know if you take up the course!
Want to hear where Silas Hite’s experience comes from? Here’s his commercial reel:
Keep up to date with Silas and iZotope at the following links: