An M-Audio Fast Track Pro, cooking nice meals, hand drums, and asking, “What would it sound like if…?” Our sister site AudioJungle is a royalty-free stock audio site that helps musicians earn money. In this interview series you’ll learn about those musicians, their gear, and their AudioJungle experiences. Today we meet Chris Gear (OhmLab).
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?
Well, my name is Chris Gear and I am from Portland, OR here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Currently I am nearing the end of a year-long break, I make music and assist others with projects.
I will probably make a return to a daily grind soon though. Most likely in the form of a social web editor, technology consultant, marketing director or continue offering training to businesses and individuals so I will still have time to focus on my music and endeavors like AudioJungle.
Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?
Currently I belong only to AudioJungle. I may put out some Tuts at some point, but for now I'm very happy to be a part of the wonderful and thriving community of AudioJungle.
I sell songs across all genres, podcasting themes, loops and have just launched a secondary OhmLab project focused entirely on logos, idents and effects targeting all those branding and gaming projects out there. You will find these available for download on AudioJungle within a week or so. And hopefully soon you will begin to see more field recordings, it's all about finding the time...
How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?
I have been making music since I was a small child. It has always been a passion of mine, and I truly enjoy knowing that it reaches other people and touches them in some way. Whether it makes them dance, inspires a new project or adds the final polishing touch to something they have already created, I'm happy to be in the mix. It still kind of blows my mind when I think of my music helping to bring another person's work to life. I have worked in radio and TV, so I know just how difficult it is to find something to integrate into your own projects and have it work the way you hoped it would.
Describe your home workspace.
It's a constant battle of what needs to be done to finish the polishing touches, and spending the time using the space to record. My main computer is a 24" iMac, which I usually control with a Wacom Intuos 3 pen-enabled tablet. I use an M-Audio Fast Track Pro (for most projects) as my main interface. My primary keyboard is an AxiomPro49, my other controller is an Axiom61. (Not pitching anything here for M-Audio, just used to work very closely with them, so I had amazing access to quality gear at a low cost) ;) I also use a Roland TD-12 v-kit and keep my Mapex Mars Pro Series kit close by, as you can see. A Yamaha acoustic guitar, a bunch of different hand drums, various percussion toys and a Zoom H4n HD digital recorder round out the collection.
Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?
Well, first comes the creative brainstorming process. I consider what I have wanted to make, but haven't done yet. That usually lasts all of a few seconds, because I am always wanting to try something new. If I have been inspired prior to walking into the studio, I roll with that. If not, I allow my mind to open up and start asking myself some pretty incredible questions. Like, "What would it sound like if...?" or "I wonder what would happen if I..." or "Why doesn't anybody mix these sounds...". I tend to lean towards new innovation in hybrid sounds and creating new genre bending fusions in music. I guess it may stem from my days as a classically trained chef, when I was known for my "unique" approach and style in the culinary arts scene.
When beginning a new track I may start with a beat, a melody or just an idea of what a scene might include that I want to try to score. Of course the scene is non-existent, or at least I'm unaware of it at that point. It is quite common for me to try several things that seem like they will be the focal point of the song, only to have them all wiped away and replaced with something I never expected to appear. Sometimes I take ideas from those snippets that have been discarded and build a whole new song around them. Each song is different, the way it ends up being created. I guess it's kind of like painting that way.
The final stages are always the same though. I listen to each track several times on different headphones and speaker systems, just to see how different people will experience the sounds involved. This is usually where I am the most critical of my work, and many tracks are never uploaded, either out of frustration or a thought that something just isn't quite right and might work itself out later.
What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?
Perseverance and creativity are a great place to start, but an open mind and a drive to succeed are really the things that carry you through the days and across that finish line. You can't know everything, and should therefore be open to other people's feedback and opinions. We are all learning. And if you aren't, you may not be paying attention.
I guess one of the most important lessons you can learn in any business, is that you aren't in business for yourself. You're in it to serve your customers. If not, it's just a hobby. If you don't know what they truly want and need from you, they will go somewhere else. It really is that simple. I can buy a widget from anyone, anywhere. But I choose to buy it from you because of the relationship and what it offers me. I feel it is more basic than supply and demand. It's very human at its core.
You have to be able to think both critically and creatively at the same time. And there is also the fact that if nobody knows you have something to sell, you will never sell it. You need to engage your audience, be an active part of the community and market yourself intelligently. This is slightly different for every case, but the basics still apply. Always be positive, be honest, be accessible and approachable, be productive, be accommodating and leave your ego at the door.
What do you do to market your files?
I do my best to upload a few tracks a week to keep a steady amount of exposure within the AudioJungle community, I have a website and blog, I use Twitter, Facebook and other social services, I attend local meet-ups and industry events and I engage in my fare share of guerrilla marketing tactics as well. ;)
I also pay close attention to the trending of online activity and traffic sources, and track my analytics. If you keep doing the same thing each time and it doesn't work, it never will. You need to be willing and able to change your approach completely, if necessary. And this requires you to have a working knowledge of how, why and where people find you. I engage in real conversations with people whenever possible, asking them for their unfiltered feedback and ask how I can better serve them in the future, knowing full well that I am not perfect and want to get better with every transaction made.
What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?
Wow this question is much tougher to answer than expected. I guess because I become so invested in each piece I release, that it is hard to get away from that. So I will name three that have received some feedback that stuck with me.
Children's Storytime is a track that I never anticipated recording. It is a far cry from my normal style and it surprised me just how much I liked it once I heard it up on the website. People enjoy it and I am looking forward to seeing how it gets used in their projects.
Ancient Club keeps coming up in conversation over the past couple week, so I feel I should include it here, too. It kind of sums up just how ridiculous some of my brainstorming questions/sessions can be at times. This track is the result of some downright silly questions, like "What if aboriginal tribes had clubs out in the middle of nowhere, back in the day...?" I know. And yet I still get songs out there that people seem to enjoy. Go figure. :)
Hidden Agenda is one of those cinematic tracks I have available through AudioJungle that is full of mystery, intrigue and a whole lot of tension. I find that music like this paints such a vivid image on its own that you can't help but be drawn in. So it's no wonder how much life it can bring to another project. It has a simple repetition to it that seems to fit nicely into all kinds of scenes. People tell me it sounds like a song from an X-Files episode.
Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?
Dang. That is a tough question. I am constantly blown away by the talent you can find here, and am actually quite proud to be a part of it. I think my favorite author varies from day-to-day honestly. Today it is Tim McMorris. If you asked me yesterday or tomorrow, I'm not sure what my answer might be.
What do you do in your spare time?
Spend as much time with my beautiful and loving wife as possible. You can usually find me cooking up a nice meal, out in nature, in the company of good friends, or seeing a good show and I am constantly on the prowl for something new to learn. I guess I'm a bit of a knowledge junkie.
This has really been a lot of fun doing this interview. Thank you for having me here, and thanks to all of my supporters out there that make it possible for me to keep doing it. I really do appreciate it!