As part of our ongoing series of interviews with composers and producers who are making a living from their music, we caught up with Producer OJ (Ofer) Shabi.  He set up Soho Sonic Studios for music production and UPIA Music for music composition and publishing.  He provides music services in the broadest sense, covering areas such as music production and composition, recording services , sound design, mixing and mastering, event management and all aspects of music promotion.

After having started out as a sound engineer, programmer and producer for some of London’s best acts, he put all his skills together to form OJ Music. Since then he has worked with Sky TV, BBC, Channel 4, Nat Geo, MTV Def Jam, Universal Records, as well as artists like Nelly, Glen Lewis (NY Soul Sensation), Cassandra Fox (no1 in the UK with “Touch Me”), Mann (US Rap artist with hit single Buzzin’), Hill St Soul (Hilary Hill), The SuperBlondes and The Royal Symphonic Orchestra.

Based in Soho, London he has collaborated with a sea of very talented artists and musicians, and has composed as well as fully produced countless song arrangements. Throughout the years he has worked extensively with both Indie and major record companies, broadcasters, DJs, producers, singer/songwriters, original and cover bands from all around the UK.

We caught up with him to ask him about composing music to picture:

What’s the best way to understand a brief before you start a job?
I tend to look for references for similar briefs just se what general zone I’m in. wherever possible, I try and speak to the director – for me, the more information I can get the better so I might discover another angle that isn’t obvious.  I also like to ask if there is a track that the director wanted to use but couldn’t. Sometime clients get a certain track in their heads and it is difficult to dislodge it.

What’s the first thing you do before composing for a pitch? – I start thinking about tempo and mood and maybe listen to some previous tracks that I did.

What’s the most common type of frustration you get from a client? – “That’s not what we meant”! – normally when you get four or five references supplied to you that are not that similar.  In this case I normally pick my favourite – which is not always theirs.  The way to get round this problem is to try and get the client to be clear on what genre they are looking for.

Another common comment is often to do with composing sound alikes.  Try and be as clear with client as possible on how close to go to the reference track.  If you get too close to the track the client may love it but it maybe breaking copyright laws.

Do you have any words of advice for upcoming composers? – Never think about the money when you compose – do it for the experience and because you love it.  Don’t try and second guess your client, just make sure you are happy with you track – after all it could always be used for something else. Even if you do 5 pitches & none are taken you should be happy that you have five new tracks.

When you are very first starting out – try to find at least a day a week that you do only composing.  Think about building up you clientele and your PRS income slowly as they both take time to build up.  Also, think about making your own briefs and compose for them.  It always helps to have a clear idea of what you are creating before you start.

Well that’s all for now – let us know if there are any composers or producers you would like to ask a question to, and we will see if we can interview them…