Commissioning bumper music

June 12, 2017

It’s sort of a long story, but I decided I wanted bumper music only because I found the right person to compose it. I don’t have much creative talent when it comes to music, and I never wanted something really generic on the show, so it was an easy decision to leave it off up until now. Plus, after asking around, a lot of people didn’t really care for music on other podcasts so that made it even easier.

Over time, however, I started to feel like I needed a little something. I think bumper music makes a podcast feel a bit more polished, and the audio cues are a great way to signal a different segment to the listener and draw their attention back. So I set out to find some music eventually.

At first, I scoured free music downloads on all sorts of platforms. I found a lot of really nice stuff that could have worked, but none of it really seemed to match the mood I was going for. 40K is an odd universe and, while some music fits it pretty well, nothing I was finding for free really did it for me.

Enter Jon Biegen

I had all but given up on the idea of finding music out there, but I couldn’t really justify the expense of hiring out for a pro. That is, until a friend of the show advertised their availability. IRL, I’m friend-of-a-friend acquainted with a guy that happens to run a podcast called Stranger Still, with a co-host that I didn’t know from Adam. I started listening just because I knew the guy, but pretty quickly I realized they were onto something. The show is short and punchy, and it offers a fantastic mix of hardcore knowledge bombs and interesting trivia, alongside some legitimately hilarious banter and no small amount of bad puns. I highly recommend you check out the show.

Seriously. Right now. Go listen to Stranger Still. Or check out their website to see the cute art Nick makes for each episode. It’s short, and surely you’ll find an episode that appeals to your interests in their ever-widening catalog.

It was cool to hear my buddy Nick on there, but it didn’t take long to realize the show really worked because of his co-host, Jon, and the interaction between the two of them. Through listening to the show I learned Jon had a long history with the music industry, and had composed the really catchy bumper music they used on the show.

He did a lot more than that, as it turns out from some mild stalking, er… internet research, and one day Jon mentioned  he was available to do commissions. That was about all the encouragement I needed to reach out and ask him about it.

How do you explain what you’re looking for, with music?

Extremely accurate model of me explaining my ideas to Jon. And like three other random (but ethnically diverse) people for some reason. Except I wasn’t at a podium. He might have been sitting down but it all happened over the internet. Also, I’m fat but I think my head is a little bigger than that.

I work in a creative job. I have experienced the frustration of working with people that can’t ever seem to put their wishes into words and it can make the job much more difficult sometimes. This process was a real eye-opener for me, because I was the difficult client in this situation.

I don’t really know how to talk about music. I guess I can point to things I like, but then I have to over-explain which parts of it I like for fear Jon would pull some other thing from the song that I didn’t care for. That made me want to not mention recommendations much. Instead, I tried to give him ideas about moods and feelings and general sounds, which was pretty hilarious at times. I also knew he liked working with chiptune stuff (which I like a lot), and as a joke I said something about mixing chiptune with trap beats, but really evil-sounding. To my surprise he was like “I can work with that” and he sent me a draft not long after. It was fun and a great start, but not quite right. Now I had to think about how to explain changes and that’s not easy either.

I ended up taking what he started with and trying my best to articulate ways it could be made more grim and baroque, and a bit less flippant or fun. That said, I didn’t want to lose the energy level and there was a nice melody that would end up surviving the entire process. 40K is just hard to explain to people. I ended up sending him to the new warhammer40000.com website to look around, and that did the trick. Like any great creative, once he knew the overall aesthetic he was able to translate that to a language that spoke to him.

He came back with a really badass version that retained a certain intensity, but with all kinds of nuances. Jon captured the brutality of galactic war and the decaying opulence of the Imperium perfectly, in my opinion. The mix of strings, harpsichord, choir, bells, digital sounds and electronic drums, plus glitch-heavy electronic elements and the pounding thud of machinery creates an atmospheric and moody piece that works well as a show bumper, but frankly happens to be one of the best sonic explorations of 40K I’ve heard to date.

 

Here’s the full, unedited song. Enjoy!

Want to hire Jon?

Jon Biegen

He looks pretty cool, because this is a fancy black and white photo.

I would, if I were you… He loves doing music for podcasts, and he listens to a ton of them. He can also create music for all kinds of other projects if you have something in mind. He’s easy to work with and you’ll find his energy and enthusiasm infectious. Trust me.

Reach out to him in these places (Millennials have so many social pages!):

Jon Biegen’s official website 

Soundcloud

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Twitter

Facebook

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