By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—It’s probably safe to say that tens of millions of people in over 200 countries have seen Coca-Cola’s ad campaign, “Taste the Feeling.”
The ads premiered in Jan., 2016 and the campaign hit stride during last year’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The music for the uplifting, joyful ads, called “Anthem,” is the creation of Scott Fritz, a Chicago, Ill.-based film composer and songwriter and the co-founder of Space Camp, a global music production company.
“Taste the Feeling” is not the only place you may have heard music by Fritz without knowing it. Besides the Coca-Cola campaign, Fritz has lent his composing chops to Facebook shorts and Hollywood trailers. He has also created library music for Warner/Chappell and scores for workout videos by Beachbody, P90X, TurboKick and more, and has performed and produced for artists such as Nadia Ali, Cavalier King, Voice Of Addiction, Amirah Ali, and A Friend Called Fire, among others.
Last week Fritz shared tips from the forefront of commercial music via Skype with students of composition, performance and audio engineering in a master-class style forum organized by Erich Stem, associate professor of music.
For the students in MUS-X095, it was a rare opportunity to learn about the realities of composition and production from someone who has forged his own path in a notoriously difficult profession.
The sooner, the better
Fritz and Stem have been friends since childhood, and played in a band together in high school.
“I would practice a Mozart concerto on violin after school, and then head over to Scott’s house to play Led Zeppelin on keyboards,” Stem said.
While Stem moved on to a career in new music, Fritz moved to New York City and forged a career as a rock musician, and as a music producer under the company name Stranded On A Planet. His compositions and cues can be heard on ABC, CNN, ESPN and more.
During his presentation, Fritz showed clips from his work in a variety of genres and explained both the creative process and the business decisions behind the art.
Anyone with visions of composers penning masterpieces in quasi-monastic isolation and tranquility was in for a shock.
“When working on film trailers or productions for film end titles, I very often have no more than 24-48 hours to deliver the end product,” Fritz said. “The general rule is: the sooner, the better.”
In a competitive environment, being the first composer to deliver the music can make the difference between getting a job and losing out. Timelines are incredibly compressed. On one recent assignment, a short film score, a team of creatives in California was making video edits while Fritz was still uploading the music, delivering immediate feedback so that Fritz could make desired tweaks.
“Even the speed of my internet connection became critical at that point,” Fritz said.
The computer as instrument
Musical talent is a prerequisite, according to Fritz, but accepting the realities of the business is crucial to building a successful career. And these realities are increasingly driven by what is technologically possible, not what is creatively desirable.
“In the days of instant communication via text, email, skype, hangouts and all the rest, being punctual, reliable and available are huge staples of being a first call in the business,” Fritz said.
Going the extra mile doesn’t just apply to pulling all-nighters to make a deadline. It also applies to one’s approach to music itself. Technology may make for impossible deadlines, but it has also facilitated an explosion of niches for composers to work in. Fritz has taken this as a chance to grow as a musician, following his curiosity and the demands of the market into new creative areas.
“There is a need for literally every type of music in the world,” Fritz said. “The more styles and genres you can understand, relate to, enjoy and be passionate about, the more opportunities and jobs you will be able to perform.”
Most likely those jobs will involve computers and musical software that enable composers to conceive, edit and revise their work much more efficiently than in the past.
“The computer is an instrument these days, and knowing how to ploay it is as important as the piano, guitar or any other musical instrument—sometimes more so,” Fritz said.
For the “Anthem,” Fritz began with a simple piano part and orchestral arrangement, then added drumps, guitars, bass, synthesizers and other instrumental sounds until he had 90 tracks of accelerating music with, as he describes it, a classic presentation with modern edge and energy.
All of it was written to a pre-existing video cut that told the story in a quickening montage of images, so that a big part of his job was to sync the musical arc with the visual narrative. When that initial 60-second piece was done, he had to do the same thing to 45-, 30- 15- and 10-second cuts, to create the same ad for spots of different lengths.
It’s the kind of work that is only possible with complete mastery of technology—in this case a composing software called PreSonus Studio One 3, with drag-and-drop, timestretch engine, scratchpad, arranging and multi-instrumentation features—and partly as a result, it’s something that Fritz can call “fun” at the end of the day.
Listening to the market
Fritz has found success in the world of library music—the “stock” world of music, where brief compositions or cues can be downloaded for a given need, be it a workout video or a truck ad or the intro to a corporate training film on banking in Dubai.
By being willing to think in terms of what the market needs and wants, alongside what the artist within yearns to express, composers can be successful over the long term in a business that seems perpetually poised to stomp out one’s dreams.
For Stem, today’s spirit of eclecticism in music, so much a feature his own work as well as that of Fritz, is a boon to emerging composers.
“Encouraging students to go out and listen to music by living composers is one fo the best ways to get them acquainted with works that blur the lines between separate genres or styles,” Stem said. “Also, teaching them how to analyze and create music that blends different worlds helps arm them with the ability to do so in their own creative works.”
One of those students is David Neville, a freshman from Danville, Ind. majoring in composition for film and media, with the goal of composing for video games, TV shows, movies and anything else that involves scoring to a visual subject.
While Neville revels in the power music has to influence human emotions, he acknowledges the more prosaic challenges to music as a career, which include the lack of stability and extreme competitiveness inherent in the musical world.
“Along with being a composer, I want to have a family,” Neville said. “That’s increasingly difficult because of the composer’s stressful lifestyle.”
Neville found the presentation by Fritz very useful.
“It was nice to see a modern working composer, and how he works,” Neville said. “It settled a lot of my worries to hear that there are a lot more avenues to travel than I had originally thought.”
Opening a window on those possibilities for composers, as well as students of performance and audio engineering, is central to Stem’s mission.
Today’s musical world is not built around a few dominant disciplines, but a vast array of career possibilities. Stem believes this might make it harder for musicians to make up their minds and choose a discipline, but easier to carve out one’s own niche or to occupy an existing niche that is not overcrowded.
As Fritz and Stem both have shown in their own work, variety is the key to success.
“Being a versatile composer is not only important in terms of expanding your creative possibilities, but also in terms of widening your career opportunities,” Stem said.
Homepage photo of Scott Fritz by Bethany Fritz.