The Heavy Melody/Heavyocity team in Studio A, L-R: Dave Fraser, Neil Goldberg, Mark Kaufman and Ari Winters
Musicians need extra inspiration today, and not just when they’re playing their instruments. In New York City, where overhead is high and the competition intense, creativity must play out as strongly in the business realm as it does in the recorded one.
David Fraser and Neil Goldberg founded Heavy Melody (www.heavymelodymusic.com) to be a distinctive audio-for-picture house. After six-and-a-half years in business, they have a solid track record of music/sound design/dialog production for trailers, TV, videogames, mobile apps and artists (Volkswagen, Campbell’s, Bioshock II, The Chronicles of Riddick, Grand Master Flash, Damage Vault). But having a diverse reel isn’t necessarily enough anymore.
“Our approach now is to create different ways to produce revenue streams, ones that weren’t previously around for a typical music house in New York City,” Fraser says. “I know a lot of struggling composers with previously flourishing companies, and now the ad revenue is gone. People have to fight over a diaper commercial.
“We’re changing how things are done so that we’re more agile in an increasingly competitive industry. To be succinct, there are no rules in this industry anymore. What I mean is that if you’re a musician today, you have a good idea, and you’re really ambitious, then use technology and work hard, no one can stop you from developing it.”
Fraser and Goldberg’s determination to do something new resulted in the creation of a composing/sound design-oriented virtual instrument named Evolve, and a sister company, Heavyocity (www.heavyocity.com), to manage, distribute and promote it. “In one sentence, Evolve is a virtual instrument that inspires creativity and streamlines productivity,” says Goldberg. “It has very modern melodic elements for film, TV, videogames. ‘Music meets sound design’ is a phrase we like to use. It’s not traditional; it’s fresh and exciting.”
“We developed Evolve because we weren’t that satisfied by some products on the market and we thought we could do it better,” Fraser says. “Launching Heavyocity gave us new opportunities, and both companies have fed one another equally.”
Believing that they could design a virtual instrument that would have superior sonic elements and workflow for scoring to picture, the pair began burning the midnight oil to produce new samples and loops for Evolve. In addition to recording in their well-equipped studios in the Fashion District, Fraser, Goldberg and composers Ari Winters and Mark Kauffman would go out with field recorders to capture real-world industrial and natural sounds. A more intuitive system of mapping within the Native Instruments Kontakt interface was laid out, as well.
“We were developing it over several years,” explains Goldberg. “We were making this instrument with every spare second we had, in between working on our composing — but you don’t get money until it’s out there, so it’s a gamble. In the end, we had to devote hard-core time to complete the instrument because we were the guinea pigs for our own product. We knew that this virtual instrument would work because it was working for us.”
With available GUIs out there like Kontakt, the onus is off developers who don’t want to worry about creating a whole new playing interface along with their sounds, let alone being responsible for the inevitable OS updates. “NI will license their sample engine to play back your samples, whether it’s a beat slice or a melody. You have to put your content into it, and then you can customize quite deeply. Ari really delved into the project and figured out the scripting.”
Evolve went to market in 2008, and so far seems to have been getting a warm reception from composers and sound designers, with brisk sales leading to the 2009 release of a follow-up instrument, Evolve Mutations. “If anyone is interested in doing this kind of thing,” Fraser says, “you need something unique — something that people who create music will be interested in. There are lots of VSTs out there, and with the Internet you can download something from the Netherlands, and be using it 15 minutes later. It’s a global marketplace. So it’s really about the idea, initially.”
A lot of important new business skills needed to be developed alongside of the concept. Notes Goldberg, “We had to learn about a lot of things: making a retail product, marketing it, the day-to-day accounting, getting distributors as far away as India and Japan, getting visibility for it — all those factors. Those are not the fun part of it for musicians. But that was the reality. Once we launched this thing, it was time to let Frankenstein out of the cage and guide him appropriately.”
With a musical instrument company now firmly integrated into their music production practice, the Heavy guys can see how all of their beasts are feeding each other.
“We used the head we made for Heavyocity to think about Heavy Melody,” Fraser says. “Sound designs and compositions are a product; how do you market it? There are a lot of similarities: getting yourself out there, meeting people, spending every moment you have trying to make new connections and networking. It works really well for both companies.”
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