By Alex Distefano
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By Nate Jackson
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This Beat’s for Hire
Shockingly, Adrian Ross is one of the few who make money in the music industry
You’ve got a pretty diverse résumé. How do you describe yourself?
I’m a music producer, making hip-hop beats as a means of income, growth and working with other artists.
Did you start as a kid with music lessons?
My parents got me playing classical piano at age 4. At 11, I started playing the drums. That increased my ability to play the piano—rhythm helps with any instrument. You learn the grid of music. I enjoyed English classes in school, and putting that together with music and the ability to improvise rapping was an easy thing, but I’m not looking to become a rapper. Also, I have the ability to play entire songs on any instrument, much like Prince or Trent Reznor.
What does your company do?
I formed a corporation, SoundDaddy Productions, in 2005. I became very familiar with what’s called linear editing. You’re editing tracks of motion in time lines to create a final product. Doing that in video happens the exact same way. Instead of waveforms, it’s video clips. In Adobe Photoshop, I learned how to master graphic design little by little, and I started making websites. So as an added service for this production company, I do Web design and video production. I have to be well-rounded to work with bigger clients.
Speaking of well-rounded, it’s pretty unique to play in a black metal band and hip-hop groups.
It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed playing in the metal band Sanctus a lot. These guys found me while I was in college. I was in the pep band at Cal State Long Beach, playing at the basketball games. This trumpeter said, “Hey, my roommate is looking for a keyboard player.” I liked that they wanted an epic feel in the back of their music. That big sound is what I enjoy. Being in that black metal band gave me the opportunity to play and compose like that. The big transition came when I started producing a lot more beats in college. I started doing hip-hop shows as a DJ because I have the ability to scratch. The crowds were great, and there were a lot more girls. But the metal scene was a great young, aggressive thing to do, and I enjoyed showing off my skills. It’s weird how this industry works, as far as what’s popular compared to what’s technical.
By 2004, I had so many people in my studio who were [making great music] but struggling. I was so proud of the work we’d done that I wanted to display it somehow. I decided to create an independent online magazine. I was able to utilize my skills as a video editor, a graphic designer and a Web designer. I put it all together and created SoundDaddy. It’s a fancy portfolio in a magazine format.
Would musicians be smart to become as diverse as you if they want a career in music today?
The industry has made it so that, because of technology, everyone can make their own music now. Everyone can create their own videos. They can become popular stars in their own town, their own city. It’s come to a point where a song will cost $1, but the ringtone will cost $3.75. Those are only for the very popular artists. Since the industry’s become flooded, I realized that money’s going to be made with people attempting to create their dream. It’s a huge demographic. Everyone’s rapping. Everyone’s making music. Everyone wants to be a star. MySpace is the biggest proof of that. This is why I’m now leasing beats to up-and-coming rappers. I have beats available on SoundDaddy.tv, and people can lease the beat and use it for up to 3,000 sales on iTunes, or they can put it on mix tapes, MySpace, whatever they want. Legally, I’ll own the beats, but they have the license to use it with a contract I send them once they purchase it.
You also compose for films now?
I’m looking forward to expanding there. I’ve been able to break down film music to the point where it’s a formula. Whether it’s a comedy, drama or action film, I can break it down to what kind of sounds need to be used. It’s almost like baking cake—you know what ingredients you need for the kind of cake you’re making.