When my husband, composer Scott Miller, and I decided to start our own music production company in Southern California, one of our biggest initial roadblocks was quite literally, roadblocks. When we started the company 10 years back, we originally worked out of our house in Redondo Beach, and he had a studio in Hollywood. We realized that having a studio space was only going to add commute time. He was literally spending two-and-a-half hours out of his day, each day, stuck in traffic on the freeway that could have been productive hours. Our situation just didn’t make sense. So we decided to convert part of our home into a studio space so we could do all of the work creating custom scores for movie trailers, television shows, music libraries and commercials much more conveniently.
In the years since, our company, The Hit House, has worked with an ever-expanding team of sound designers and composers, as we’ve created memorable work for major movie studios and multinational brands, all without an actual “corporate” office or dedicated sound studio space.
Ideas and talent are what clients seek you out for. Making their lives easy through good communication, and ensuring that their creative needs are met is the number one priority for success in today’s world.
With this in mind, I’d like to offer others starting out within the entertainment industry some tips for building a successful company for themselves without having to commit to rental physical offices.
Get Everyone On The Same Page
Perhaps the most important thing is making sure that everyone you are working with are all on the same software. Investing in that to ensure you all have the same technology and software will guarantee that you can all work together as a cohesive unit. As each of your people works within their individual spaces, you should consider using iChat and Dropbox to make sure everyone is on the same page and that communication is seamless.
iChat is pretty much the tool we use. It’s also a great way to be available at a moment’s notice for our music supervisor clients. Our composers and sound designers are constantly in communication as they create, and our producers are always available for questions/ thoughts and direction during the process. Once we’re ready to share with a client, we do an internal pass-through and mix before we upload.
Keep It ‘In House’
One of the reasons we have staff composers, instead of a whole bunch of freelance composers, is that the longer you work with any one colleague, the better you will come to understand them and to speak the same language. Our core team of sound designers and composers are one of the key reasons for our efficiency. I know that a number of our competitors use a tremendous amount of freelance composers, but honestly I think that must be even more challenging to get the right piece of music out by the end of the day.
Advances in the technology of musical instruments and recording gear also allows the team to do more with fewer people, eliminating the hassle and logistics of bringing in external musicians for each individual gig. When there’s a need to bring in a particular voice and unusual instrument, there is a wealth of talent out there in Los Angeles to pull from. However when it comes to the craft of composition and creation, collaborating with your team members makes the process smooth, and I believe, gets you a better result at the end of the day.
Less Rent = More Talent
It’s easy to fall into the “flash,” especially in LA, but if you work hard, you can maintain your company’s solid image in the entertainment industry without a professional studio space. In these days — with compressed deadlines and urgency — it’s vastly unusual for a client to spend a lot of time at the music company’s studio. Why build a Taj Mahal that no one ever visits?
Plus, not paying rent on a pricey space allows you to spend your money more creatively. We ask ourselves, probably once a year or more often: should we build bigger studios, or should we hire someone else? At the end of the day, investing in talent always seems to make much more sense. When it comes to creativity, people are worth exponentially more, and always will be to us.
Stay In Touch
You can have a business without offices and still feel connected to all the people you need to be connected with. For example, our crew gathers once a month or more for a barbeque or a dinner, as well as attending industry awards shows and social events as a group. We have such a great group of smart and talented people, it’s easy to build camaraderie and team spirits even though we’re not seeing each other 24/7. There’s nothing like working with colleagues you truly admire and respect.
This model of socializing together but working separately arguably will allow your company to become even more efficient than your competitors. What it allows you to do, honestly, in terms of customer service, is to be incredibly flexible. For example, if somebody calls me and says they need a change urgently and it’s 7:00pm at night, we can get it done. It’s not a matter of dragging somebody in from their house, going to the studio, opening it up, and working all night to get something accomplished. They are able to work quickly from their original base of operation, whether it’s their home or their own studio site.
The philosophy behind this no-office model gives you the enjoyment of leaving a Los Angeles freeway commute as a thing of the past. Given the urgency of timelines in the music production business, and how compressed they are, having everything available at your fingertips quickly is fantastic. I honestly think it ends up making us more productive than somebody who has to spend half of their work day hours stuck somewhere in a car on an LA freeway.
Sally House is the Co-Founder & Executive Producer with The Hit House (www.thehithouse.com) , a custom music and sound design company in Los Angeles. Recent work from The Hit House has been used in national and global television campaigns for clients such as Netflix, Google, Playstation, Lexus, Jell-O, Porsche, HBO, Honda, and The Ritz Carlton. Their work has also been featured in motion picture campaigns for Creed, Pan, Jungle Book 2016, Alvin and the Chipmunks Road Chip, Minions, Spy, Ted 2, and Pixels, among many others.