Altitude Music doesn’t just produce original music for top brands, they have become a brand in their own right.
Based in London, Altitude reaches worldwide to create recognizable scores for film, TV, ads, games and more.
We recently spoke with Director and Head of Creative Scott Doran about their process.
What musical background and influences does your team bring to a project?
“We all eat and sleep music. The office is a mash of tastes from classical to hip hop, the obscure and experimental, to the Beatles. We love it all and collectively we’re a musical encyclopaedia.
We’re experienced in every aspect of the industry and the process - we’ve been in signed touring bands, written film scores, Dj’ed both in clubs and on national radio.
We've worked in music licensing at broadcasters and PRS, supervised and scored hit films and big TV shows. We’ve worked on international advertising campaigns both as composer and agent, and developed audio identities for global brands.
We've staged workshops and presentations on music, sound design and how to successfully find the right audio fit for your production.”
Can you walk us through the scoring process for a recent project?
“One recent one I like is an ad for Philips, and although it’s a small online film, it’s been a huge success.
We ideally like to be involved during the early stages of the creative process but in reality, music is often the last consideration. In this case, the music was crucial to the creative idea, so we were involved from the beginning.
The idea evaluated the progress of the humble lightbulb in a typical living room, starting in the 1930s, then jumping forwards 10 to 20 years at a time. We see the deco and fashions evolve, and the music needed to follow this progress.
We brought in a couple of composers who we were confident could handle the changing genres specified in the brief.
The very talented Nigel Butler won the pitch, and we then worked with him to make sure each decade's theme sounded authentic, subtly recognisable so that the listener would identify the time and genre, and, at the same time, keep in tempo, melody and the production values of each era. I believe the turnaround was about 48 hours, which is pretty standard.
One bit of advice for anyone getting into composing for commercials is that what you deliver first time round must be pretty close to a finished product, if not completely finished, mixed perfectly, synced to the picture (if you’re given one) and at the correct volume.
So often composers place their music too loud against a voice over thinking it will help sell their music. It doesn’t: the creatives will just think the music doesn’t fit.
It must sound like a finished track because half of what we’re looking for today is the ability to make music that sounds fresh off of a commercial record, but produced within one or two days.
It can be hard when you’re asked for something as good as a Mariah Carey hit, knowing she’s written 10 albums to get to a few hits, spent millions on studios and producers, and you only have 2 days…”
Future Composer is an Official Media Partner of The International Music+Sound Awards. Stay tuned for more about this exciting event honoring outstanding music and sound design in the media.
The third International Music+Sound Awards, the only global awards ceremony to focus on music and sound design in the media, are now open for entries.
Film, TV (programming and branding), advertising and gaming professionals worldwide are invited to become part of a music and sound celebration, which provides a global platform for the enormous number of talented individuals in this arena, to have their moment in the limelight.
The International Music+Sound Awards were formed to establish the criteria and standard for global excellence in music and sound for visual media, and to shine a light on those who create, source and commission it. They’re open to anyone involved in a film, TV show, commercial or video game, broadcast, published or released, between 31st October 2013 and 27th March 2015, where the music or sound design plays an essential role.
With past winners including Downton Abbey (Carnival Film+TV), Philomena (Switch Music Publishing) and Guinness (AMV BBDO) and jury members like industry authorities Klaus Badelt (Composer: Pirates of the Caribbean / Gladiator), Bond Composer, David Arnold, Mary Ramos (Music Supervisor: Inglorious Basterds / Pulp Fiction / Django Unchained), Josh Rabinowitz (SVP, Director of Music, Grey Worldwide) and Brian Monaco (EVP, Sony AMV Music Publishing), the awards are now firmly established as an important competition in the international calendar.
Nick Payne, co-founder, comments, “The Awards continue to provide a stamp of approval from leading industry professionals across the disciplines they reward and offer the incredible wealth of talent out there much deserved exposure. It’s a giant melting pot for the incredibly gifted professionals that provide music and sound design to the media industries on a global scale.”
From classical to electronic music, composer Boris Salchow has learned the value of being versatile.
His career began in Germany where he scored commercials and other television programs. Since moving to Los Angeles, Boris has created music for numerous video games that showcase his talent for fusing acoustic and electronic styles.
His latest project is “Sunset Overdrive”, a widely anticipated game released for Xbox One.
What was the collaboration process like for Sunset Overdrive? What can gamers expect from the score?
“Sunset Overdrive was very different than most projects I have worked on before. While you hear a lot of songs from cool bands in the in-game soundtrack, we were crossing all kinds of musical borders when writing the music for the cinematics.
I had an amazing musical swat team on standby throughout this project. I never knew what kind of musical style the next cinematic would need, so we had to be a lot more flexible than usual.
You will hear medieval tunes, punk rock cues, 1940s Hollywood moments and much more.”
You've had the opportunity to record at Abbey Road. What are some of the differences recording there versus other places in the world?
“The engineers and the players in London are among the best in the world. And Abbey Road obviously sounds amazing. Oh – and often overlooked but really crucial is the fact that it has its own pub inside!”
Born and raised in Switzerland, composer Giona Ostinelli knew he was destined to compose. Inspired by the film "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark", he soon followed his dream and began learning drums and piano at age 5.
After obtaining a degree in film scoring from Berklee and attending USC's Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program, Giona has received critical acclaim from the Cannes International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival and more.
His most recent project is the film "Two-Bit Waltz", starring Academy Award Nominees William H. Macy and David Paymer.
You recently said that it was important to use real musicians on your score for "Two-Bit Waltz". How did you incorporate those instruments?
"The score needs to emotionally move the audience by either making them laugh, cry, or even cringe in their seats. Having your music performed and interpreted by a real musician as opposed to just using samples adds an important human element to the score, which helps the audience to connect and relate to it.
It is true that the quality of samples is getting better and better each day to the point, where we can start to consider them as an instrumental choice rather than just a tool to help us create demos.
However, every tool has its purpose and should never be relied upon too heavily. I like to think about the relation of samples and live instruments in comparison to the use of CGI and actual models in films.
When you combine them together in the right proportion, amazing results can be achieved. An example of this perfect combination is the first Jurassic Park, which still to this day looks absolutely astonishing.
It is hard to achieve a great sound by using samples only, but when you combine samples and live instruments together, new fantastic sonorities can be achieved. That is why it was so important to record real musicians for the 'Two-Bit Waltz' score.
I try to record live as much as possible so that ten years from now, when listening back, I won't think 'Why did I only use samples?' "
Overseeing a music catalogue of over 80,000 tracks is no easy task, but keeping it stocked with fresh new talent is the bigger challenge for Jay Greenwood, head of A&R for Audio Network.
Part of that commitment to quality is Audio Network's "Undiscovered Series", an ongoing global ambition to find the best new composers, artists and musicians covering an eclectic range of musical genres.
How do you find composers that are featured in the Undiscovered Series?
"We discover new talent in a number of ways – via online submissions (we receive around 100 demos a week), through the music team's global network of music industry contacts, existing composers, musicians and by A&R scouting at gigs, events and online (blogs, social media and relevant music platforms).
Our Undiscovered Series then provides the new composers we select with a fantastic launch pad – introducing their music to our many customers and clients."
What types of tracks are most popular right now? What genres are trending?
"We cover every genre of music, so it's difficult to identify one particular type of track which is popular.
In very broad terms, orchestral music has always been a strong genre for us, and in recent years, dramedy, which tends to be quirky instrumental music, has been very popular. Folk and rock continue to be popular contemporary styles of music.
The reason we started Undiscovered was to help launch new exciting composers and artists working in different genres of music from around the world."