Demo Music

The Desecrated Sanctum - Christian Andersson

Rise Of An Empire - Christian Andersson

Christian's music can also be heard at his website Craze.se or streamed via Spotify

Technical Section:

 

(Adam) Ok so for the tech heads; can you tell us the spec of your PC/MAC?
(Christian Andersson) I have a 2.9GHz Intel Quad with 4GB RAM, Windows XP 32 bit. Yeah… I know I should upgrade… but I’ve finally got a stable system where I can set up projects of considerable size and render the audio files without too much trouble, so I will stay with this system for another year, or so.

Which other hardware couldn’t you live without?
A good sound card, giving low MIDI-recording latency is important. I have an old SoundBlaster Audigy Pro. It was a top-of-the-line sound card from Creative… 10 years ago…J …  but it’s still good enough for me.
A couple of good studio monitors are essential to give a true sound picture. I have a couple of M-Audio active sound monitors. I was considering “Adam A-7”, the more expensive variant, but I will buy those when I am rich and famous. Listening through headphones is nice, but it can fool anyone to believe that the music is flawless, when instead there are a lot of weird sounds and bad balance in the track.
Since I am playing around with sounds to get inspiration and also trying to get inspiration from finding “harmonic paths”, a MIDI-keyboard is a must. I have an 88-key M-Audio MIDI keyboard. I need the 88 keys to fully utilize some of my instrument banks that have key switches.

Which DAW (Cubase/Logic/ProTools etc) do you use and why do you prefer it?
I use Cubase 4 Studio. The strategy: learn the tool, learn to cope with the bugs, and if the system is stable enough and there are no missing key features – stay with it! I am sure that Logic and ProTools are equally powerful. My advice: learn to use your tool in an effective way. Even simple things as learning the keyboard shortcuts for the common used actions will make your work faster and more effective. Major version upgrades or a complete change of tools will for sure bring a new bunch of bugs and the productivity will go down temporarily.

Which Virtual Instruments do you currently own and use?
There are so many talented composers out there today and I guess this is a bit of my competitive edge, so I will keep this a bit short, but I have a variety of tools. It’s certainly true that, as some people say, it’s hard to find everything that you need in one brand. For example, East-West SoundsOnLine has some great sound banks. But so has IK Multimedia, and Native Instruments. So I use a little of all of them and after a couple of years of experimenting, I’ve found some favorite instrument patches in each of them. For example, one sound bank may have a very pleasant harp sound. Another bank has an extremely expressive violin, etc. When I connect with individual composers and share experiences, that’s typically what we talk about: “Wow, have you heard that violin in THIS and THAT sound bank? It’s totally awesome!”.  J
I do want to mention that all of my Virtual Instrument’s are original, and I’ve spent around 4000€ so far. It may seem like a lot of money, but on the contrary, it’s EXTREMELY cheap! I mean… for those money, you get a full size private orchestra (actually several of them!), you get singers, you get professionally recorded ethnic instruments, you get fantastic drum loops that can be combined indefinitely, and I could go on and on. Today, you can sit at your home PC and if you do your homework all the way, it’s VERY HARD, almost impossible, to tell if you’re using a library or a real orchestra. I know that a lot of people will disagree, but actually, today’s virtual instruments are that good!

If you were only able to keep 3 – which ones would you pick and why?
Well, now we are stumbling in on my competitive edge again J… but I will at least share some great brands: Nexus, EastWest and Kontakt are some of my favorite brands, and I would probably keep 1 instrument each from those brands.

Are there other plug-ins and software you feel are essential to you?
I think that Cubase comes with a lot of useful plugins, like reverbs, equalizers, etc, but I also think that a good wave studio program, something like WaveLab, is a must-have for all kinds of operations that can be useful on raw sound files. GoldWave is another cheaper variant that I use, but it’s not one of the best.

 

Music Business:

 

You have signed with multiple music licensing agencies. I first came across your work on LisnMusic. Which Music Licensing Agencies are you currently signed to?
First of all, this is a bit of a sensitive subject. My advice to other composers: when you are trying to sign with a library, don’t say “I’m good, because, I’m already an accepted artist at X other libraries”. Even if this could be a sign of the quality of your music, it’s also a sign that your music is competing with the new site [you are applying to] already at other sites, and that your music is not as “fresh and new”, as some sites want it to be.
Since many of these agencies are competing against each other, I feel a bit reluctant to give out names which are also why I don’t share them on my home page. I have been turned down from joining a music library just because of being signed with other libraries. So instead of talking too much of this, feel free to Google for “Christian Andersson+ Music” and you will find me at a couple of sites.

How much of a cut do such agencies take when your music is used and what are some of the pros and cons of being signed to them?
50% is what many take from sync fees, and then many of them collect the publishing share while the composer gets the writer’s share. The obvious advantage is that those agencies will pitch the work for licensing opportunities. It may take years before actually getting a song into a film contract, but at least the chances increase. It’s more or less impossible to get “discovered” just by having an own web site with music (or MySpace, etc).

Which pieces have been most successful in generating licensing fees at craze productions and why do you believe this is?
I think that “Buccaneer’s Song” will be my most successful so far because it’s in the song list of 20 TV channels worldwide, but I have not received the yearly royalty payouts for it yet, so we will see about that. But if I don’t count that, “The Desecrated Sanctum” has been licensed 3 times which is nice. It’s a very strong trailer like song, being consequent in style while at the same time having an edge out of the ordinary.

Is it really true that 3 of your ethnic/world music songs were pitched for a Bollywood film with a Kamasutra love scene?
Yes, they were all picked up by a major song library, and as far I as know, they were pitched for this film. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that specific contract. But the songs are now with that song library, ready for use in future deals.

Do you have any advice for our readers who hope to get their music accepted by Music Licensing agencies?
I have a couple of things that could be valuable to know, but don’t take my advice for the absolute truth. I’ve been in the industry in a couple of years, and here’s what I’ve learned, more or less the hard way.

  • To get accepted:
    • Make sure you have at least 5 really good demo songs.
    • Make sure that you LOVE these songs yourself. If you don’t love your own music, why would anyone else?
    • Make sure that there are no details that you can improve. If you can improve a song before sending it – do! 
    • Spend at least 1 full week to find out and read about all the licensing agencies where you can send your music.
    • Spend another full week to write personal emails and letters with demos to at least 50 different music agencies
    • Expect a response from 10-15 of them, and maybe you will get accepted at 5 of them.
    • And then: repeat with more agencies. Be persistent and don’t give up! J
  • Don’t sign bad deals!
    • Register your work with a PRO (Performance Rights Organization) before you sign any deals. Then you can get royalty payouts if your music is used in film/TV. If the music licensing agency does not mention a “PRO” in the contract, it’s probably not a serious music agency.
    • It’s great that someone is accepting your songs, but read carefully through the contract before you sign!
    • My advice is to stay out of exclusive licensing agencies, unless you get a super cash deal with them immediately.
    • Don’t sign with cheap sites that license your music for 10-20€/ song while they keep 50%. It’s far too little money back to you.
    • Don’t sign with sites that are royalty-free-all-aspects, including broadcast royalty-free. It’s often the royalties that can give a lot of money.

Once again, this comes from my own experience. Some people may not agree to what I say here, so it’s always good to talk to other composers to get some more opinions.

You mention a little about building business relationships and networking. Other than your website, music licensing and competitions, how else have you been promoting yourself?
I have found some game developers by googling for game dev forums. My first business relation was through the “remix.kwed.org”, a C64-game-music-remix site where a game developer found my music and then ordered 3 new music pieces from me.

You were once a software developer (though you’ve always been involved in making music). Can you tell us a little about how and why you made the leap from one career to the next?
I have a master degree in computer science, and I have worked 12 years at Ericsson in Sweden as a C/C++ programmer. Programming and music have actually one big thing in common: the logic. Harmonies are built on logic. Computer languages are logic. But then, again… music is so much more emotional, passionate and soulful, so I’d say except for the logic thing, it’s very different to write music compared to coding software. When I worked at Ericsson, I also composed music at home. Maybe that was my way of escaping the very strict and logic rules of programming into a world of emotions where my creativity had no bounds at all.
One day, something happened to me. After writing one of my old songs, “Haeksman’s Forest” (which is awful… I listened to it today), I suddenly felt something really special. When I wrote the middle part of that song, I did it from a sudden vision, and the vision almost became exactly true – it was just the lack of quality instrument banks that stopped me from achieving it. Even when I listened to the song today, even if it sounds awful, I could still feel that vision in my heart, and I got tears in my eyes. After writing that song, I knew I could put together good stuff – great stuff – if I could just get the tools for it. So I started to purchase sound banks of higher quality. My next big piece was “The War March”. I wrote that song after listening to the “Age of Conan” sound track, and I felt “Wow!... this is almost film music, and I wrote it!”. So after this, I have a feeling that my life, my soul, is made for writing music. Doing anything else is just a waste of time. Yes, these are crazy thoughts, I know. But I also know it’s true! J  And after getting this feeling more and more often, I finally decided to quit my full time well paid job at Ericsson to get more time with the music!

Your site has a very flexible price plan which caters well for indie games and small productions. You receive lots of praise from clients about how much they get for their money.  How did you originally decide what to charge for your music? Also how did the current global financial climate affect that decision?
It’s really hard to find a good price level. For a start, it was mostly about finding some customers at all, and to find out which pieces are suitable for video games, and to get some feed-back on it. But I still think that licensing music to small indie game projects is quite rewarding. It’s tough to reach the big players in the video game industry, and I love those small projects, because they are, just like me, living a dream of creativity – and with that comes a lot hard work that in the end may not pay off. Today, I charge a bit more for my work, and when I write completely new pieces, I have to charge more than I did in the beginning, now that I’m trying to make a living on writing music. But for licensing existing pieces in my portfolio, it’s a lot about the personal contact I get with the team. If it’s a nice bunch of people that can show me a serious project, I will be happy to become a part of it.

 

Creative Process:


You have a great sense of humour about your work. Your website’s News column is full of light hearted comments, stories, artwork and useful information about how and why your music came to be. Where do your initial ideas come from? What inspires you?

In a way, I think that music cannot come from nothing. So all my previous memories from music, from childhood, from TV, from games, etc… all that contributes somehow when I come up with something new. So it’s probably valuable to listen to other people’s music to get inspiration. However, now I am in a phase where I listen very little to music – I even try to keep away from it. More or less, it’s only when I watch Film/TV that I try to pick up how other composers do, what tools they are using, etc. So I don’t want to listen to other people’s music right now, but instead I want to shape my own style from what I already have. Actually, I have a film at home that I’m very curious to watch… but I can’t make myself watch it: “Clash of the Titans”. I have a feeling that it’s just my type of music, and I don’t want to get too many ideas from that film since I don’t want to get a feeling that I’m “stealing” ideas. Better to not know anything. J

Anyway, to give you some more background, I have grown up in a family where my mother played the church organ, and she had several choirs, she taught piano lessons and she also had a group of singers and flute players that did rehearsals in our home. So I think the classical music from my childhood is always in the background, contributing to my visions and inspiration. One of the greatest sources of inspiration is probably the many years of computer game play. There are so many games with totally fantastic music – miraculous music! All the way from the old Commodore 64 computer to todays fantastic game sound tracks, like Gothic 3 and Age of Conan. Today, when I sit down and write something, the inspiration is often a combination of memories of harmonies that I’ve heard from childhood and computer games together with some excellent music instruments from a high quality sound bank that can give me a completely new and fresh idea. Sometimes, when I walk around in the apartment, or when I go for a walk, I can suddenly hear a cool beat and maybe a mighty horn, playing an irresistible theme. So I hurry up to my studio, I start up Cubase and record it with my MIDI-keyboard. That’s pretty much what happened with my song “The War March”!

And how do you record these initial ideas and plan your piece. Choose your weapon: Pencil and manuscript, PC or other?
I have tried many things. I have used pen and paper, but it’s a bit too slow for me, and I sometimes lose the vision if I only have it on paper. I even tried “humming” it into my phone in recorder mode. Afterwards, when I tried to make something out of that humming sound in the studio, it felt like some recording from a mental hospital… so that didn’t turn out very well. It works best for me when I run into my studio, start Cubase and record a sketch with the MIDI keyboard really fast.

How does an idea develop into a finished piece, could you describe the typical process for us?
If I have an idea, I often pick a string section to get the harmony paths set while I play the lead in the same track. To get the harmonies right is the first thing. Depending of the style of the song, I sometimes use harp, choirs or horns instead of strings to find the harmonies. That’s how I sketch the initial idea. So I often work with string sections in the same way as some other composers work with piano. It’s just that piano is seldom used in my pieces, and if I use a piano sound, I often lose my vision and inspiration for a symphonic/classical piece.
Then I extract the lead and put it in a different track.
When I have the sketch ready, it’s up to my initial vision to tell me which instrument will play the lead. If I don’t have a clue, I play around with some favorite instruments until I find something nice. If I have extracted the lead to a separate track, it’s really super easy to just load some different instruments to that track and try out some stuff really fast. Sometimes, that’s a clarinet for a childish and happy little song. Or it could be a Stradivarius violin for some moody dramatic song, or a powerful horn for some dark and gothic. And actually, I don’t have a very specific order of adding the rest of the instrument tracks. Sometimes, the percussion and drums come in early and sometimes, I wait a long time before I add it. So it’s a lot about what my initial vision of the piece tells me. For example, if my vision is very detailed about percussion, e.g. if it includes sleigh bells, I add it early on, to make sure I don’t lose that part of the vision.
So do I work my way from beginning to ending? No… most of the time, I try to find an interesting path among the harmonies or a cool theme from a wonderful solo instrument. That becomes the core part of the new song and the sketch from which I build the rest. So often, I find myself with a new cool song – all tracks are there, and the theme is fresh and interesting, but the song has no beginning or end…!  It means that I’m often working with the composition from the middle, and outwards, towards the beginning and end.

The influences you quote include a few RPG video game composers. (Eric Heberling - Elder Scrolls 2: Daggerfall and Knut Avenstroup Haugen - Conan: Hyborian Adventures), How have you been involved in video games across the years and how has it affected your music?
My involvement has mostly been from playing those great games and I love RPG games, because those games really brings you into another world – the player gets the chance to shape his own character. To bring a player into another world, the music plays an important part and I think video games is one of the finest art forms: it combines design, literature, art and music, all one form. For example, a game like Daggerfall – it was really like walking around in a medieval village. You could go into a library in the town and read tales in the books there. Every morning, there was a theme being played, and you could really hear how the whole town woke up and the sun started to warm the streets. It’s like walking around in a wonderful picture and hearing that picture speak to you through the music while you at the same time read a wonderful poem, being the story of the game or the literature within the game. So the music is really important when creating the atmosphere, and that’s why I have picked up so many ideas and so much inspiration from all those great games I have played.

Favourite game in the last decade? (Had to ask.. haha)
It’s a tough one. The games that have consumed most of my time have been EverQuest and World of Warcraft, even if the music in those games has not left a big impression on me. However, instead, I would like to mention “Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures”. That’s my favorite game, music wise, from the last decade.

How does your approach differ depending on whether you are writing for yourself or commercially?
The strictest way of writing music is when I get an ordered piece. Then I have to follow the customer’s requirements, which could be some exact length, some mandatory instruments, some moods or tempo or maybe even aiming for a SoundsLike-example-song.

Another less strict way of writing, but still focused, is when I have my mind set on writing for future licensing deals of some specific category. Then I aim for a target style and mood, and try to keep to that.

If I write only for myself, I just go with the creative flow and let things happen. “Tales from the Forgotten Monastery” is a piece in that category. It’s changing moods a bit too much and it’s not so easy fit into many commercial usages. But the positive thing with that method is that I can often extract several new songs from one “wild creation”. “Tales from the Forgotten Monastery” became two new songs: “The Desecrated Sanctum” (which I have licensed 3 times), and “PeacefulThousand OaksForest”.

 How did you learn about orchestration and arrangement?
This probably sounds awful to you. Actually, I have just played around and experimented until I feel that everything sounds good. And of course, it has taken several years to reach the level where I am today, and I have still much to learn. Having a good knowledge about harmonies (from guitar and piano playing) and then experimenting and trying to get things like “the vision in my head”, that’s really all I do. I have played the piano for many years where I have practiced to find known melodies without knowing the harmonies and then done some improvisation while getting a feeling of how things are built up in the music world. I think also that the years I played trumpet in a jazz band has contributed to my knowledge about harmonies and keeping every instrument within “the harmonic boundaries” to make it sound good.

Which aspects of your music have you worked most to improve over the last year and how have you gone about it?
I think I have improved a lot on the details. 3 years ago, I sometimes worked 3-5 hours with a song. Today I know it’s impossible to achieve something original and something of professional quality within that time. Today, I spend 10-40 hours per song. I work a lot more with the details today, and I listen to my songs in 4 different sound systems to make sure that all the instruments sound great. I also spend some time with final mastering to get the sound even better. And then I think more about commercial potential today. It’s great to just go with the creational flow sometimes, but if I want to make a living as composer, I can’t just create my own art forms all the time – I need to continuously write new and fresh pieces of very high quality that can be used by video games, film and TV – still, of course, with my own personal touch and style.

Can you name any other resources you’ve found useful while improving your craft?
I have been more or less active in some Swedish composer’s forums. But my experiences from composers’ forums are not all positive. Sometimes, people there tend to complain on the tiniest details, which can sometimes make your self confidence fall down to the bottom of the bottomless depths. So it’s all about finding the right people to get comments from – honest feedback that focuses on the right things. However, I’m probably kind of an introvert composer. I like to listen to my own stuff and contemplate around the result and evaluate it myself, and maybe compare it to some other music pieces that I adore, e.g. how can I make my overall sound become as professional as Knut Avenstroup Haugens soundtrack for Conan?

If you had to pick, which three of your songs are you proudest of?
The Raving World Orchestra
Rise of an Empire
Tales from the Forgotten Monastery

Finally, which piece of music do you wish you wrote and who is it by?
It must be “track 23, Cimmeria” from the “Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures” soundtrack. It is written my Knut Avenstroup Haugen. I totally adore that dark, gothic and majestic style - a fantastic piece.

 

If you wish to contact Christian Andersson or find out more please visit his Website: Craze.se