What is the best thing about composing music?
For me hearing my arrangements and compositions performed. As a performer, perhaps the enjoyment and audience response.
What is the hardest thing about composing music?
Composing music shouldn’t be hard, it should be enjoyable. Perhaps long tedious hours of practice and rehearsal, but this is necessary with anything in life if you want to be successful. Maybe getting a second performance of your composition is the hardest.
How important are public performance royalties to you and in keeping the NZ music world ticking?
My music is performed and recorded all around the world. Any performance royalty cheques are small and insignificant. Record sales, especially on the Internet are far more rewarding. Having my music performed or heard is more important to me than royalty cheques. I wrote jingles for money, over 500 hundred of them.
From the first notes of a song through to a completed mastered recording, on average how long does it take you to write and record a composition?
If a song takes me longer than 5 minutes to create, then the song will feel contrived. To arrange, notate and record, can take weeks or months depending on the complexity of the arrangement. Depends if it is to be a demo or a ‘final’. As a record producer, I can spend days just on the vocal tracks or the mixing of a final. I usually allowed 12-15 hours to write a 30 sec. jingle for start to the finished, recorded, on air product, but then I am using experienced session singers and musicians. Inexperience takes time. A point here to remember, is don’t expect your recording engineer to be your producer. Two completely different professions.
All costs considered, on average how much does it cost you to write and record a song or composition?
It costs me nothing to write a song, only time. If it is a commission, then I will negotiate a fee, depending on who it is. This also applies to arranging. I have done hundreds of arrangements for free. The same with record production. In my TV days, arrangers were paid by the bar. To record, once again it depends on the complexity of the arrangement, what extra musicians are required, like brass or strings, vocal groups and the varying studio hirage costs. Usually paid by the track, always negotiated. Now if you have your own home studio???? It was cheaper for me to go to the Czech Republic, hire an orchestra, with conductor, producer and engineer, to record an album of my orchestral music. I hired them for a week to record 80 minutes of music. I did the final mixing back here in Auckland. I shopped around the world for the best deal. Easy to do by email.
Over and above money you make from music (public performance royalties, live performance, licensing and CD / digital sales), do you have to supplement the cost of writing and recording music with money you make from other sources?
Of course. Unless you are a successful commercial jingle writer, and I was, there is not enough work in this country to make a reliable, sustainable living, without perhaps performing and teaching. Writing jingles was not always consistent. Even in my TV days as a fulltime arranger for television, I supplemented my income, as a teacher.
Why do you do what you do?
I did enjoy the thrill of conducting symphony orchestra all around the world for some 40 years. When I played in pop bands, sometimes it became tedious and I often wondered why I did it. As a composer and arranger I enjoy hearing my compositions performed and recorded.
What is the most helpful songwriting or composition tip you’ve learnt?
Don/t expect every song you write to be a hit or even slightly successful. Don’t put out into the public domain, anything that you personally, are not 100% happy with. Don’t make compromises.
What are three artists / bands you are excited about at the moment?
I have always been into film music and there a number of composers that I really admire: Horner, Badelt, Zimmer, Goldsmith. Morricone. There is a wonderful Auckland born film composer working in Hollywood, Graeme Revell. Check him out.
What are you working on at the moment / tell us about your latest release / project?
’Dardanelle – Rhapsody for Orchestra’. A Turkish commissioned, 20 minute work for symphony orchestra and choir, to be performed at the Turkish Gallipoli celebrations, 24 April 2016. And still very active as an arranger, music director (children’s musical theatre) and record producer.
I have written and published last year, a book of my memoirs, while conducting orchestras in 20 different countries, over a 40 year period: “From the Podium”.
I have started on a second edition, “My Rock ‘n’ Roll Years”.
Where can we access your music / links?