Ad Break Anthems

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18 February 2014

Composer Of The Month | Tom Player | Lost Track Productions

by Chas de Whalley

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Tom Player is a British composer whose work can be seen on screens all over the world. He writes for adverts, film trailers and for fun. Working primarily in music to picture, Tom is best known for his pieces for Infiniti, Game of Thrones, Ikea, The Sunday Times (“Elaina’s Theme”), Jaguar, Sony Playstation, Google, TK Maxx, Morrisons and more. He has worked with award winning Hollywood composers such as Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi and Lorne Balfe, and continues to collaborate with established, and upcoming, producers and artists. Marrying classical credentials with a modern mindset, Tom is as comfortable with live orchestras as he is with synthesizers and sound sculpting – aspiring always to create music with the sort of emotional intensity and resonance which will leave a lasting impression. Tom has received awards for his trailer music, and is currently putting together his debut orchestral / electronic hybrid album for public release in 2014.

  • What is your musical background and how did you get into the Sync business?

I come from a music loving family. My mum’s a pianist and music teacher, so naturally I chose the only instrument she couldn’t teach, which was the cello! After studying Music & Computer Sound Design at the University of Surrey, I worked in film music for a few years, with Richard Harvey, Hans Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi and Lorne Balfe. It was a great learning experience, and definitely helped me understand what “Hollywood pressure” is really like. Subsequently I went on to work at Cutting Edge Group, as global sync manager, both in London and LA, where I made lots of contacts and met some great people. My prime responsiblity was to promote film scores for adverts, and film trailers. Where we didn’t have appropriate catalogue I began to write on demand. Composing work gradually overtook the desk job, so around 18 months ago I decided to make the jump and set up Lost Track Productions.

  • What sort of personal characteristics/skills do you need to be successful within it?

You have to be a good communicator with the ability to work under very tight deadlines and deliver on time. You also need to have great stamina, and above all, really care about what you do.

  • Which TV ad composer past or present do you most admire and why?

I don’t really have an exhaustive knowledge of TV ad composers, as they are rarely in the spotlight. However, I definitely rate the enduring theme tunes like Have I Got News For You (Big George), Newsnight (George Fenton), as well as current composers like Guy Farley, Mark Sayfritz and Walter Mair. My good friend Owain Llwyd is an incredible talent also. Thanks to sites like Adbreakanthems it’s much easier to find out who did what.

  • What difference does a well-chosen piece of music make to an ad – and do agencies and brands always understand that difference?

Try muting your TV and putting your own soundtrack over the top. You’ll realise that the right piece of music is completely critical to the feel of the ad. And it’s not just for ads, but the right music is essential for films and documentaries too. A well chosen piece of music, be it composed or pre-existing, combines with the picture in a really magical way. It brings momentum, reason, emotion and tone to the picture and elevates the whole experience in a powerful way. The more important the message is to the agency and the brand, the more importance will fall on the music. Every single agency I have worked with understands this implicitly.

  • Who are your key clients?

All of them!

  • Name your most successful Syncs?

Everyone will have a different definition of what a ‘successful sync’ is. Personally, I’m delighted when a track I’ve composed goes on to have a life of its own beyond the advert. Then people can try and track down the piece through places like Adbreakanthems! That way you’ve not only met the client’s needs and written a track that works, but something that also resonates with the audience. It’s really gratifying.

So far, my recent track “Elaina’s Theme”, for The Sunday Times Culture supplement, has had a phenomenal reception. I’ve been interviewed by The Sunday Times, there are remixes on the horizon and loads of people have reached out to me on Twitter.

Another huge sync was for Infiniti’s “Follow That Instinct”. It was so much fun to write. I worked with Walter Campbell from TBWA (who must be the most awarded art director in London) as well as the incredibly talented Christopher Hewitt and Dave Bass from Wake The Town. It was a dream team.

The brief was constantly being pushed in a more aggressive, unique direction, full of character and tension. It’s so inspiring when the creative director says “Make the sound of a freight train, crashing into 30 timpanis, on the side of a mountain”!

“Follow That Instinct” is an advert I think will most definitely stand the test of time…it’s still going to look incredible in years to come. There’s a good buzz in the industry at the moment about it.