Updated: May 2, 2020
Having successfully navigated their way in the music industry multi award-winners Richard Schrieber and Vikram Gudi have set up the new online music production school Protege to help musicians learn about the skills and mindset that can make the difference in today’s world.
In this interview we find out about what inspires them, how they made it in the industry and what Protege is going to do to help musicians in the industry.
Who are Richard Scrieber and Vikram Gudi?
Protege co-founder, Richard Schrieber, is a globally recognised multi award-winning composer whose tracks have been licensed worldwide for TV (UFC, Catfish, Got to Dance), multiple Hollywood film and high profile TV trailers (The Outsider, The Banker, Motherless Brooklyn) and countless international clients (Google, IBM, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler).
Protege co-founder, Vikram Gudi, is a multi-award-winning producer, music industry entrepreneur and leading sync specialist. He is the co-founder of Split Music, and founder of Mammoth Audio and Elephant Music. He has regular placements with Disney, Universal Pictures, Xbox and Activision. Elephant Music trailer music credits include Avengers: Endgame, Morbius, A Quiet Place 2, Watchmen.
What first brought you into the music industry and what steps led you to where you are now?
Richard: I first got into the industry in two ways; running creative music workshops for children and I managed to make contact with a music supervisor at Boosey & Hawkes who invited me to start pitching tracks for their music sync briefs. I used the teaching side to keep the money coming in so that I could pursue the composition as my side hustle.
Writing music had to fit around my hours of teaching music which actually worked out amazingly as it honed my teaching and communication skills whilst also practising working to briefs. I did this for about 7 years before I was able to take the leap and focus 100% on my music writing. All this while I had been working with Vik, who was also starting his career.
We worked together to build a strong and placeable music catalogue that would later form the initial releases from Elephant music.
It was this relationship that helped me to focus on projects and improving my music one album at a time. We worked on briefs for TV shows, advertising and movie trailers. Always improving our ability to write great tracks that were original and authentic. This led me into Trailer music where I was able to be truly experimental and creative - which is one of the reasons why I love trailer music.
Since getting into the Trailer music business, Vik and I have been writing music that serves the trends and needs of the trailer houses. As a result we have racked up 100s of placements and multiple awards for our work.
Vikram: I have been in bands from a young age so live music got me introduced to the industry - performing with experimental bands, playing guitar and making noise with Ableton.
The live music and festival circuit was my first taste of the real industry and I loved it, performing at Glastonbury at my peak.
I had a chance encounter with a music supervisor who was just leaving a job at Boosey & Hawkes and managed to sneak me in after a 5 interview process. I was blessed that I was managed by Natasha Baldwin who taught me everything I needed to know about publishing and the sync industry - having a mentor like that was my big break.
Working at a large publisher taught me about the 2 extreme ends of the industry and the indie nature of my job meant that I learnt everything from A&R, copyright, licensing, invoicing, sub-publishing and sync in a very short time. It was during this time that I had a chance encounter with Richard, which led to our writing partnership.
I felt I had enough knowledge to start Elephant in 2012 after just 4 years. Although I was mainly placing music on ads there, a move to LA exposed me to the world of trailer music. I started making some trailer music albums very slowly and I had some incredible support from music supervisors out there who I now consider close friends.
I met Pete in 2015 which led to the birth of Split Music, and then another chance encounter led to the start of Mammoth Audio.
Along with a lot of hard work, sleepless nights and crazy / risky ideas, the general theme has been jumping on those chance encounters with people I naturally click with.
Who are you influenced by and who or what in the music industry inspires you?
Richard: The people who inspire me are those people who are brave enough to pursue their own passions and really embrace their niches. I love to see people getting “weird” and creating interesting music and sounds especially when it is not necessarily something you would hear normally. You can hear and feel it when people are creating music that is authentically them; it has so much impact and power even when it is a solo instrument. It has taken me many years to realise that is what I am drawn to in other musicians.
Vikram: Industry wise, I’m lucky to have had some great mentors who have taught me some basic rules which I live by to this day. I’m constantly inspired by innovators who are ready to scrap everything and start again even when they are doing well - people that live for the process. Musically, it’s always been smaller acts and artists who are in it for the right reason and that make no money, but do it anyway, because they have a burning desire to. Smaller label who put out limited edition vinyl and consistently make a loss, band that tour with 10 players and ridiculous live set ups - I love that.
How would you describe the music that you typically create, has it changed over the years and how?
Richard: Oh it changes all the time. My bread and butter is trailer music. But depending on what brief I am working on or what mood I am in of course this can change. I generally try to write music that excites me and that I enjoy making, which if I am honest is pretty much anything from quirky Ukulele music, Post Rock, Organic sound design and Epic orchestral stuff. Basically anything that has a cinematic feel to it. That sense of narrative and scale.
Vikram: In the beginning it was guitar-based songs, and that turned into feedback drenched noise which was my sound for a long time. In the past decade it's been electronic music and music for film and TV but the experimental droneynoise aspect has stayed with me. What has changed is that I’m more into music which has an emotional connection now - and I’m conscious about what story a track is telling.
What is the latest project you have worked on?
Richard: We have been working on some string quartet based trailer cues aimed at thrillers; cool, classy and tense.
I love this type of work. Lots of fun especially when you get to record the musicians. There is an excitement about waiting for the session files to find out how the track is going to turn out.
The most recent trailer was probably Amazon Prime’s Hunters. They used a track of mine that is entirely drums; cool, epic swagger. It was tremendous fun to write as I LOVE writing interesting rhythmic patterns and combining textures.
Vikram: At the moment we are experimenting with various recording techniques. As we are in lock down I was keen to keep the production process going despite not having access to players. We are working on an emotional strings album but using a remote recording studio. I was quite uncomfortable with the idea at first but I feel we all need to innovate and adapt, and the first demos sound incredible.
We are also just about to start creating our second virtual instrument, I’ve been DJing a lot on Serato, plus a personal project of mine which is designing a valve amp from scratch.
What is the most enjoyable part of music production (what you do) for you?
Richard: Without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting and interesting part for me is generating the ideas; forming the progressions, choosing the sound palette, deciding how the patterns you use will develop to make way for an entire piece.
It is endlessly exciting and fun to just let my creativity free and see what happens. I have gotten myself a reputation in the Trailer Music world for being quite prolific (managed to produce an entire trailer album in one day) and this definitely stems from my enjoyment of coming up with ideas.
Vikram: I love bouncing ideas off other musicians. I love working with V1’s and the process of writing and finishing still gives me tingles. I love trying to find unique instruments and sounds that will give a track or album its signature sound and I love taking risks. One of our latest albums featured a Tibetan Throat Singer - everyone told me it was nuts but it ended up landing 3 trailers.
What is the most taxing aspect of music production (what you do)?
Richard: I can safely say the most taxing part is understanding your own inner critic and battling with that. I am happy to say that I can see it coming, or more like hear it coming, so I have techniques for controlling unnecessary negative thinking. Even so, not beating yourself up is certainly the most challenging part of it.
Vikram: I think it's knowing when a track isn’t working and moving on. This comes from being very honest and practicing active listening. Sometimes a track doesn't work and we waste so much time trying to save it when our energy would be better spent starting again.
What is your creative process like (how do you create your music), has it changed over time and how?
Richard: My process now has been dictated by the arrival of my children. Since my eldest daughter was 1 (five years ago now) I have been sharing childcare with my wife. This has meant that I have anywhere between 2-4 hours a day to write.
”My process now has been dictated by the arrival of my children. Since my eldest daughter was 1 (five years ago now) I have been sharing childcare with my wife. This has meant that I have anywhere between 2-4 hours a day to write”
This has been a huge blessing in two ways; I get to spend time with my children as they grow up, and I have had to become much more productive. Because I only have limited time to write I have had to make sure that I get the work done. This in itself has given rise to me focusing more on getting ideas out rather than perfecting the mix for example.
I generally choose my sound palette (set up a template) and then start recording ideas into Logic straight away. I have a saying that I must not edit my work when I am writing. This way I am able to write unhindered.
I usually have a sketch I can submit after an hour or two. I then send my tracks to Vik for feedback. As we have worked together for so long, we pretty much know what to expect from each other, so this process is usually pretty streamlined.
Overall each track probably takes 3 rounds of changes and maybe a whole day to write in total. I love the way I work and find it very cathartic; letting ideas out into the world feels like a release.
Vikram: It has changed dramatically over time. In the beginning it was just a guitar and a piece of paper - writing down lyrics and scribbling down basic chords.
Ever since I bought my first mac in 2005, everything has been computer based. Messing with Cubase, then Ableton, and now Logic.
When writing it was always an odd sound or instrument which would start the track, followed by beats and then arranging before adding organic instruments. There was also an emphasis on how it would work live.
“When writing it was always an odd sound or instrument which would start the track, followed by beats and then arranging before adding organic instruments. There was also an emphasis on how it would work live”
Nowadays it’s about working with as many musicians as possible and many simultaneous albums and projects. To achieve the output and content we are able to achieve which is upwards of 40 tracks a month, plus free sample packs, tutorials, videos, interviews, there is no way I’m able to be hands on in a DAW. Most of my production now is the role of a traditional producer - listening, critiquing, adjusting. the attention has moved from my hands to my ears!
What motivated you to set up an online music production school?
Richard: The problem with most music schools is that they don’t teach anything about mindset. There is often a distinct or complete lack of real-world projects, with no direct or tangible professional opportunities to match an individual’s initial investment. We wanted to make a difference to people’s careers by pooling our knowledge to help those wanting to crack the music industry.
Vikram: Honestly the most satisfying part of my job is when I meet a composer in a pub celebrating our latest sync, and they tell me they are ready to quit their job and do music full time. It’s a really tough time for everyone right now, but there has never been a better moment to maximise this special opportunity to compose from home.
We hope to inspire a new generation of composers and producers by teaching them the formula to establish stable careers from music. The motivation is to watch people do what they love for a living.
“We hope to inspire a new generation of composers and producers by teaching them the formula to establish stable careers from music. The motivation is to watch people do what they love for a living”
What makes the course standout?
Protege brings together the combined expertise of Richard and Vikram who have over 100 dual trailer music placements and multiple awards together.
The course teaches mindset as well as skill set, which are both essential in order to build successful stable careers in the music industry.
Six engaging hand-crafted modules, complete with direct weekly feedback from the tutors, make the course unique. The modules will last five weeks and each year the course will be tailored to fit the demands of the industry. This ensures students will only ever learn what is relevant, making it more likely to place their music.
The duo offer composers and producers the chance to gain access to their industry network to further a pupil’s success in achieving TV and film placements, providing a strong return on investment for anyone on the course. With Protege, any pupil can earn money from their music whilst studying and beyond graduation.
Each term will have weekly industry briefs set for pupils and every brief will have a specific set of learning objectives and will be supported by its own course and workbook. At the end of each week the students will receive feedback from the tutors, providing further opportunity for faster personal development.
The pupils will be given the chance to respond to any given feedback and the tracks will be produced and finished with Schrieber and Gudi.
Composers will be granted direct access to publishers, labels and libraries, and their completed compositions will be sent directly to the biggest names in the trailer, film, TV and gaming industries.
This A&R process is the core of the course; training aspiring composers to become professionals by putting them in real world situations during the process. The students will form part of the school’s buzzing online community, which is accessed through an online app, where they can upload tracks and receive feedback. The app will give the students access to all the course content, forums and groups, and will be the centre of the learning process.
Upon completion, the students will have a high quality and varied portfolio of at least 30 pitch-ready tracks, real world experience working directly with a music library and a certificate and an invitation to join the Protege and Elephant Music Creative Family.
Who is the course aimed at?
Budding music composers and anyone wanting to break the music industry, learn creativity, mindset and entrepreneurialism from home.
Where would students completing the course find themselves career wise and is there any support on completion?
Richard: As you know, Protege students don’t just learn. When they submit a track for a brief during the course, if we like it we will then pitch it to our global network of contacts in the TV, ad, and film trailer world. This means that they have the opportunity to get work placed during the course. So at the end of the course they may well already have placements under their belt. At the very least the students would find themselves with a minimum of 30 complete pitch ready tracks.
During the course they are part of the Protege community which they will always be part of even after they leave. This will mean that they have access to all the current and past students as a growing support network.
This isn’t just a course, this is a type of apprenticeship and network for composers looking to make a living from writing music.
People can sign up for the free taster available now or the full course starting in September (links at the bottom of this page)
What are the main elements of the course and key focus areas, what will you teach the students?
Within this course the main elements include:
● How to respond to briefs
● How to use track references
● File delivery and tagging
● How to respond to feedback
● Basic film scoring techniques
● Toolkit design and creation
● Writing and structuring music for advertising
● Writing and structuring music for TV
● Writing and structuring Trailer Music
● Writing for the piano/keys
● Writing driving percussion tracks
● Organic sound design
● Kontakt instrument creation
● Practical four-part harmony
● Working with public domain music
● Producing covers & re-records
● Understanding contracts & rights
● Productivity tips & tools
● Mindset tips & tools
● Work/life balance for music makers
There is a one week free course that you are offering, what is included in this course?
The free week is the first of 30 modules and includes 7 lessons with 16 topics and 1 quiz.
The lessons are:
Lesson Content (course overview)
Getting Your Ideas Going
Creative Idea Development
A Brief (industry standards)
And what's next (basically promoting the main course)
Topics include composing essentials like re-orchestration, stops & starts, reverse engineering tracks, and how to add variations.
It's a combination of downloadable PDF workbook, on-screen write ups, video lessons, and the one quiz.
What is the most useless talent you have?
Richard: Is there such a thing as a useless talent? Ok, I’d have to say that I can eat an inordinate amount of crisps in one sitting :)
Vikram: I’m double jointed so I can bend my thumb backwards at a 90 degree angle - freaking my school friends out to this day.
What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for music?
Richard: Hmmm, if I wasn’t doing music I would say that I would be in concept art for films; the incredible landscapes and wonderfully creative ideas are just astounding.
Vikram: I’ve always loved design - I love working with a sketch and seeing it through to the final finished physical product.
What has been the highlight of your musical career and what has been the lowest point?
Richard: Highlight of my musical career would be the first time I recorded with an orchestra for a Japanese film. It felt like the student in me who used to say “I’m going to be a film composer” had ‘made it’.
The lowest point was definitely when I first started out. My wife and I had just bought our first house and I turned to her and said, “you know what, I am going to make a go of this composing thing”, needless to say, I didn’t. Not that year anyway. It was a really tough blow, the realisation that I would need to put much more time and effort into getting even free work was quite depressing.
Vikram: The lowest point was my first year or so in the industry - I wasn't making any money and I was getting in trouble at work for partying too hard. It was a tough time as I couldn’t seem to make a proper breakthrough which I thought I deserved and was burning the candles at both ends. I very nearly quit the industry several times.
The highlight was being on holiday in Thailand and finding out we had won the Blade Runner trailer. My phone was exploding and I finally got to watch it on a beach, with a beer during an epic sunset.
How do you feel the internet has impacted the music industry and you specifically?
Richard: It has made the point of entry into the music industries much more accessible for a great many more people (myself included). I am very grateful for the opportunities that it has given me and continues to give me.
Vikram: It has only been a positive thing. It’s allowed me to work with composers from all over the world and it has levelled the playing field for some musicians in remote countries.
Our Spotify and YouTube revenues have been steadily increasing each year and social media has connected us with so many fans we never knew we had.
What is the most trouble you have gotten into?
Richard: Haha, I am pretty well behaved generally but I would probably say when I broke my Mum’s crystal bowl when I was practicing my cricket bowling indoors.
Vikram: Suspended from school hahaha
If you could only listen to one album from now on what would it be?
Richard: Caesura by Helios - I can’t get enough of Keith Kenniff’s work and that album is both cool and relaxing.
Vikram: Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin - I’ve listened to it over 100 times and it seems to get better.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Richard: Write every day, it is a muscle that needs using
Vikram: Don’t talk about it, just do it.
If you could change anything what would it be?
Richard: I would tell me from 2005 who started a composer’s blog to keep working on it!
Vikram: I would have taken piano lessons as a kid. I’m still terrible after decades of trying
Richard and Vikram: We both wish somebody would have offered Protege to us when we were starting out to teach us how to break the industry, introduce us to their network, teach mindset and practical tips on how to be efficient etc.
Protege cuts corners and allows a return on investment both in course enrolment and time.