Tunefruit Artist Spotlight: Justin Crosby

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Tell me about yourself.

I was born in Palo Alto, CA. I started playing music when I was 13 and grew up in a family of musicians. Many people in my family are multi-instrumentalists, so I was constantly surrounded by music growing up.

Did you always know that you wanted to do music?

I remember when I was younger a native american speaker came to speak at my school and they did a native american dance. I remember asking if I could play his drum and I did. That performance really inspired me. Also, that same year a music teacher saw me pick out a Billy Joel tune on the piano and she told my mother that I should pursue music if that was something that I wanted to do. For as long as I can remember, music has been the glue of my life.

Do you have any formal training?

I did take guitar lessons throughout high school. I then taught myself piano over the years.

How did you get your start in television and film production?

I was originally in a band whose tenure came to an end. I moved back home with my parents in New Jersey. I then ended up meeting a gentleman who was creating a student film. While working on the film, I subsequently met the video editor, who had already worked on some commercials. I started working with him doing some soundtrack music. Gradually, I started building a portfolio. I enrolled in Massachusetts College Of Art. That gave me 4 years to figure out how to establish a career in scoring. Luckily enough, it turns out that the cousin of my parent’s broker was an established composer who had done music for Dexter and Silent Hill 8.

I contacted him and he offered me a chance to come out to LA and do an apprenticeship with him. That kicked things off into gear.

In 2013, do you find it easy or difficult to make it as a film and television composer?

It’s both. It is very unpredictable. Most of my work is library work, which involves creating music for different companies and licensing it. That has been helping me a lot. I also listen to and create a lot of dance\electronic music. Experimenting with dance music helped me bridge the gap into film scoring. It allowed me to develop my skills creating music with software.

What is your main instrument?

My main instrument is guitar, however, I seem to spend most of my time in front of a keyboard these days.

What are your thoughts on the current technologies used to create music?

I think we are extremely lucky. Growing up, it was like half a million dollars to open a recording studio. It was so out of reach for the average person. With computers, anyone can learn to write and create music without breaking the bank.

What is your DAW of choice?

For electronic music, I use Ableton Live. The workflow in Live is great. For scoring, I use Logic. I could use either one but for some reason when I want to do something that is intricate and delicate I always find myself in Logic.

I take it you are on a Mac?

Yes – Snow Leopard for the operating system. I’m comfortable with that version. I have also dabbled with Cubase.

What are your thoughts on Tunefruit and how it is benefitting the music community?

I think it’s great. The pricing scale is very competitive and fair. The site is very easy to use and user friendly. From a composer’s perspective, the uploading process is very intuitive and simple.

Who are some the artists that you are currently listening to?

The first M83 album is always on heavy rotation. I also listen to a lot of rock when I am not writing. I believe that if you listen to the same stuff that you are writing you run the risk of becoming stagnant. I love the old classics that I grew up listening to like Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, Portishead and Massive Attack. I like music that I can just listen to as opposed to over analyzing it and breaking it down.

Any words on the current state of the music industry?

I am a member of ASCAP. Everyday we get emails with articles regarding streaming services and satellite radio. I think it is a double edged sword. It is great to be on the web and find listeners for your music. However, if I was in a band and concerned about radio play, applications like Pandora and others are increasingly lowering the rate for artists. It seems like the companies continue to make more profits while artist royalty rates with streaming services are getting lower. I thinking performance rights organizations and streaming music services will have to at some point come together and come up with a reasonable royalty rate.

What advice do you have for aspiring musicians out there?

Go for it! Keep trying and don’t give up. There are ultimately more opportunities out there for independent musicians because of the internet compared to when I was growing up. It’s about learning how to become internet savvy, using the web as tool to find companies to work with, etc. There are a wealth of resources out there that you can utilize to make it a full time career.

Where can we hear some of your material?

The best place would be justincrosby.com.

Tunefruit Artist Spotlight: Craig Ferguson

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Photo Credit: Tyler Kongslie

Our writer for this article is Cantaloupe. He is a music producer based in Atlanta, GA.  His current release is entitled Kebomusic Presents: The Experience.  When not making music, he is probably writing software or working out at the gym.  For more information, check out www.kebomusic.com.

What is your favorite sound?

I tend to favor organs a lot.  Mainly because when I am writing I can get a wide range of sounds out of it. Everything from a cartoon sounding piece or a texture that can become useful.  It’s funny because I am not even a keyboard player.

Wow!  What is your main instrument?

I am a guitar and bass person.  As a composer, the organ is a really helpful tool.

What inspires you creatively?

I really don’t take myself very seriously and I believe that is reflected in my music.  I like to have fun.  I like to write upbeat and happy music, so that type of mood definitely inspires me.

What about life?

For songwriting – absolutely. I am always grabbing phrases from regular conversations and incorporating that into my writing.   Sometimes it’s harder with instrumental music because I have to imagine an activity and then put that activity to music.  I suppose you can say that I am a visual writer.

Do you have any aspirations to come from behind the mixing board and in front of the camera?

When I am not writing and composing I do perform, so in that regard I am in front of the camera.  However, when I am performing my goal is just to put on a good show and not necessarily be “in the spotlight”.

Gotcha.  What are your thoughts on Tunefruit?

There are a lot of disorganized companies out there and Tunefruit has demonstrated very good ability to organize their media, payment is quick and customer service is great.

All of these Tunefruit guys have funny names.  What would your Tunefruit name be?

Since I’m from California it would have to be Avocado.

Describe yourself using metatags?

Whoa!  I absolutely hate metatags but I can try.  Let’s see – how about quirky and fun.

Our special grand prize for answering Tunefruit-related questions is a t-shirt. What size Tunefruit shirt would you like to wear?

I think I am a large.

Great!  We will put you down for a large.  Do you have a favorite DAW that you use?

I am a Pro Tools person.  I actually first started out on Logic and that was a great platform.  It gave me access to a lot of sounds.  Once I started doing more sessions, most studios were using Pro Tools so I made the switch.  I like how it resembles more of an analog environment.

How did you get into scoring films and television commercials?

Between performances I always had a desire to write.  When I first started I didn’t have a particular formula down.  It took me about a year of trial and error to get things going. After that I started to get some material out there and some of my music was being used.  It was always part of my long-term career plan.

What’s next for you?

I am going to be writing new material and releasing it.  I will be start by releasing a proper single and seeing how that goes.  I am also interested in licensing new songs to different markets.  Most of my music is licensed to cable and it has opened a lot of doors for me.

Do you have anything to contribute to the analog vs. digital discussion?

Well for one I am an analog snob.

Aha!  So you are an analog snob and yet you are using ProTools? How does that work?

I think it is very difficult to be completely analog.  Even though I prefer analog, I have a hybrid setup.  Some of the Waves plugins are OK however there is nothing like using real tape.

Do you think you can still capture that analog “warmth” with digital plugins?

That’s a tough question – there is a lot of great gear out now that improves the sound before it gets into your computer.  I think you can get pretty close with digital plugins but there are some variables present with analog gear that can give you a great sound. I think the differences are so subtle that the average listener is not going to notice.

What were you doing before music?

Wow that makes me think back a long way . . .

That’s what we do here at Tunefruit!  We take you back!

I got heavy into music around the age of 11.  I played baseball a little bit, a few bad summer jobs but I pretty much went from music school to Los Angeles and started gigging and writing.   I feel very fortunate to have taken that route and not having to spend 5 years wasting away at another job.

If you were in another life, what would you like to attempt besides music?

I think I could improve the assembly instructions at IKEA.  Those are really hard to understand.

Is there something that you would never want to do?

I really like being creative.  One of the reasons why I have remained independent is to have that creative control.  Any job where I have to do the same thing everyday and I have no creative freedom would make me miserable.  Like data entry?

Any commentary on the current musical landscape?

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the internet is slowly becoming television. One concern is will the advertising rates that were set for television ever transfer into new mediums like Hulu and YouTube?  At lot of the so-called “up front” payment websites, where commercials are shown during a web video, the rates are far less than a commercial that would air on TV.  The idea of a TV commercial may possibly fade away and we may just have web commercials.  As a composer creating music for commercials, if the rates are so much lower than television then it will be very difficult for composers to make a living.

What is currently playing in your car right now?

I don’t really listen to CDs much in the car anymore – I will listen to some indie radio stations or a station out of Philadelphia that plays indie music.  Most of the new music I listen to is through Spotify.

What advice would you give to the youngins’ out there who are aspiring musicians?

You have to know what your market is and what you are writing for?  My niche is more southern cable shows.  A lot of people who may be struggling to break in perhaps have not figured out what their strengths are yet.   In regards to composing music for television, you have to watch a lot of television to find out what sound would work for different shows.  Plus, hope the television show doesn’t get cancelled before you submit your material.

Right!  Where can we hear some of your work?

I’m on about 32 shows at the moment.  Cajun Pawn Stars, American Pickers, a few Bravo shows, Interior Therapy are some shows that I am on or have been on in the past.

Want to hear and license one of Craig’s tracks? See all of his available tracks here: Island of Awesomeness

Go to www.craigfergusonmusic.com for more information.

Catch up with Craig on Twitter: @SLMixing