MUSIC+SOUND AWARDS TALK TO...
Creative Director + Partner at
THE ELEMENTS MUSIC+SOUND, London
Read on to hear from ANDY CARROLL, Partner and Creative Director at THE ELEMENTS MUSIC, all about his distinguished career so far, the joys of working across different time zones and getting to the crux of a brief...
How did you get your start in the industry?
I was in a band signed to Virgin Records and my ex band mate was working as a locations photographer for RSA. He overheard a conversation about music between a director and producer on a McDonald’s shoot and butted in to ask if we could have a go. We won the job and I fell in love with short form composition.
From there it all happened pretty fast. Tony Kaye had directed a couple of our music videos and we approached him to write for his commercials. We did a Nike spot, ‘Can you kick it’ and won a D&AD for best music. From then on we were firmly in the game.
We became partners with Michelle Curran at Amber Music and went on to have 15 years of successful composition and sound design for globally award-winning advertising campaigns.
We had 6 fully operational studios in LDN and also in NYC and LA. It was an amazing time. We covered everything musically and had a world class roster of composers and sound designers. I could fill up a whole page about this!
Eventually the partnership came to a natural conclusion and I set up Population Music with my creative partner, bringing Dan Lentaigne on as a producer. We had so many wonderful friends and connections from our Amber years that the work flowed easily and we had a successful 3 years as a small, bespoke outfit working on brands like Nokia, Orange, VW, Mercedes, Diet Coke and we composed 22 albums of library music under the title ‘Twisted’ for Extreme Music.
I made the decision to set up on my own with Dan as Soundfly Music in Fitzrovia working for a further 2 years before an RSA job for FCB came up in NY. I loved being back in US advertising and felt the drive kick back in to revive my career in advertising stateside. It’s so huge and the energy and opportunity felt exciting to me again.
This led me to a chance encounter with The Elements Music in LA. I asked them to manage my US jobs and as a trial gave them a big job for Porsche directed by Mark Jenkinson, which we went on to win becoming the preferred supplier for Cramer Krasselt in Chicago for their Porsche account. We are currently on our 7th campaign for them.
In The Elements Music, I found the kind of ambition and vision I had been craving. Hard working, driven, passionate, a tight team with excellent ears! We formed an equal partnership in 2013 and I can honestly say it’s been one of the most exciting chapters in my career to date. Scoring for brands including Samsung, Dyson, Porsche, Audi, Mercedes, NBC Superbowl spots year on year. We’ve won awards for the VR wearing ‘Ostrich’ and original composition for Rankin studio, Clio’s, LIA’s. It’s been challenging and exciting in every way.
Next year we kick off with our new studio in Santa Monica which will be a multifunctional space for developing music, content and a hub for our film and production friends to come and hang out and plans for the UK to follow shortly.
Wow, that’s some career so far! It would be great to hear a bit about what the average day looks like at The Elements?
We work alongside the US extremely closely, so a day can be very long! From 10-3pm we tend to catch up on business in the UK time zone; admin, meetings, production, social and industry related events. No day is the same, we need to be flexible to accommodate jobs and although Dan and I like to work as a team and have a united front with clients, we often divide and conquer to cover as much ground as we can before LA wakes up and kicks in for the daily check-in round 3/4pm.
Often my day will go into overdrive at this point, especially if I am working on jobs in both time zones. We have constant dialogue via an internal platform for our company communications to make sure we are operating as clearly and effectively as we can at all time. We have 2 weekly company meetings, which can last for up to 2hrs. We are very on it, this is definitely one of our outstanding qualities as a team and makes us pretty ninja!
Today, for example, I’m putting together a quote to record a 16-piece big band at Abbey Road, taking a call with Dyson for a new spot and then going into the studio to do the last tweaks for a US client.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of working with a client to produce music or sound that’s right for their project...
For us it’s all about as clear and triangulated a brief as we can get. We are all about the relationship and a bespoke process, with a face at the other end. The relationship counts for so much because with it comes better communication. We distill a brief to get as clear a picture as we can; who’s commissioning it, client, creative, director? How many styles or routes to the story are there? We will then do a directional search, present a select and focused music search that won’t overwhelm based on our initial conversation and begin the process of honing in on the expectation and direction for the music. The feedback from this initial presentation will give us the coordinates of which way to go to develop the initial compositions.
Obviously every job is different and requires a different approach from using existing tracks from our Elements library catalogue to sourcing and licensing tracks via record labels, re-recording existing tracks or composing original tracks, collaborating with name artists. Sometimes we need to read minds(!) to extract a sonic vision for the client, as their understanding of music isn’t clear.
Once we have the scent of the process, it’s usually quite expedient. We have world class composers both in the UK and US and will select who we will brief out deliberately and stylistically. We present enough demos to offer several strong options and we can turn demos around with impossible deadlines with the timezone crossover working to our benefit.
What have been the most significant changes you’ve seen in the industry since starting out?
● The availability of cheap syncable Library Music and the amount available.
● The use of name artist back catalogues for re-record or licensing, as brand recognition via well known music has changed the way brands use music.
● The crossover between popular culture and branding. People want ‘authenticity’ and not ‘ad’ music.
● The changing landscape of TV and advertising. Same expectations often within tighter budgets.
● There are many more music production houses. Music for advertising was a specialised area, there are now many producers and artists writing music to picture. It has opened up the opportunity for there to be more creativity in the music we write and we get a bunch of amazingly talented composers with raw talent that we get to work with, which I love.
Lastly, how do you think a competition like The Music+Sound Awards impacts on the industry?
It gives a dedicated focus to Music and a platform for it to be celebrated as a vital part of the whole process of making a film.
It’s so important for our industry but also to inspire young people to consider it a realistic creative career option.
We are often miracle workers. We create a sort of alchemy turning moving pictures into emotional and empathetic films that can make a real difference. I believe the work I do is valuable and feel lucky and privileged to be doing a job I love so much.
Visit The Element's site to find out more... www.theelementsmusic.co.uk