Venice, CA—The close-knit staff at Butter Music and Sound’s West Coast facility work hard and play hard. Visit on any given day and you will likely find them enjoying a communal lunch on the spacious second floor patio, which includes an outdoor kitchen. But as soon as lunch is over, they’re back at work, crafting a TV commercial campaign for one major brand or another.
The full-service music company was established at its present location, barely a block from Venice Beach, a little over six years ago as a West Coast offshoot of the New York-based company. There is also an office in Berlin, Germany.
“We do everything from original music, music licensing from our own catalog, and music supervision to sound design for any moving picture,” explains executive producer Annick Mayer. Previously senior producer at Butter New York for four years, she relocated to help launch the West Coast division.
“We have a really good balance between the space that we need to work and entertaining space for clients. We also represent a small roster of bands for sync and have had some of them play showcases here.”
Butter Music and Sound provided original music for this spot for Clash of Clans, “Builder Leaves.”
While the majority of the work is for advertising, she continues, “we’re picking up work in TV and film as well. We just got a TV show called Bless the Harts on Fox, an animated series that we’re doing original music for. And Chip Herter, our director of sync, has been doing a lot of sync licensing for TV and films. So it’s across the board, music and sound for moving picture.”
Mayer has led the team on some significant projects, providing original music and licensing for, well, pretty much every brand: “We work with all the major ad agencies in the U.S., so everything from Google, Airbnb and Clash of Clans to Comcast, NFL and Geico.”
Compositions that don’t make it into a campaign are made available through the company’s library. “We can give our clients access to this bespoke music written by super-crazy-talented composers and license it for a more affordable fee,” Mayer says. “And if we happen to somehow have a slow day—which is not that often—our composers will write something for the library specifically.”
Business is Booming at Butter Music and Sound, by Steve Harvey, Sept. 29, 2012
There are three composers at the Venice facility, including Robbie Gardunio, creative director Max Schad (who recently relocated after 18 months at the Berlin office) and executive creative director Tim Kvasnosky, better known as Tim K. An almost 30-year veteran of the music business, Tim K. has worked on projects by the likes of Sam Sparro, David Frank of The System and Morrissey. Indeed, virtually everyone on staff has a parallel career as a recording artist.
Each composer has his own room, with access and tie lines to a shared live space and a vocal booth. The live room certainly gets used, says Tim K, “but we mostly do stuff in the box.”
Schad and Gardunio use Pro Tools, while Tim K favors Logic Pro. “Malayna [Ellis, production coordinator] and Stone [Irr, producer] also have Logic Pro and do edits, laybacks and things like that,” says Tim K.
Favorite software includes iZotope products, and all three composers lean heavily on composition libraries. “We’re big Spitfire Audio fans,” says Tim K, “and we use all the usual suspects for plug-ins. We’re all on Universal Audio. I’m a UA artist.”
The composers are constantly recording tracks through the collections of microphones and mic preamps in their respective spaces. Schad has even gone the extra mile, building his own API, Neve and Trident clones from Seventh Circle Audio kits.
“I’ve been here since February and I’ve done 200 tracks for specific projects already,” says Tim K, who favors a Rupert Neve Designs Portico II Channel. “As a creative director, I try to have at least one mic open on every session. It makes a big difference. I use a [Sennheiser MKH] 416 to record vocals— that or a Shure SM7B.”
“We’re recording vocals and guitars every day,” chimes in Gardunio, who also favors the 416. “It’s really directional and gets rid of the room. I use Neve clones for vocals and APIs for acoustic instruments.”
Focal monitors are common to every room. “I’ve been working with Focal since 2003. I had one of the first pairs of pro speakers in the country,” reports Tim K. He and Gardunio use Dangerous Music monitor controllers, while Schad’s room features a unit from SPL.
Stone Irr’s second album, Performance, was released Sept. 20, 2019, on bright yellow vinyl, black vinyl, CD and cassette via Darling Recordings.
Despite those amenities, “We do a lot of mixing in headphones, surprisingly,” says Tim K. “I was never a headphone mixer, but these guys do it all the time, and I’m blown away by what they do. Robbie is 25 years old and his ears are so good.”
The New York office is best known for classic comedic commercials, says Tim K, while the Venice facility specializes in a younger sound that hews closer to today’s musical trends. “We have eight hours to crystallize the sound of some song on the radio. When you do that every week, you see the trends and the techniques, and find things you can repeat, which is great for our chops.
“In one week, we’ll do country, bluegrass, classical, hip-hop. It’s so much fun and always a new puzzle. Every week, we’re learning—and we still have to find the device within that instrumental palette to create tension and tell the story.”
Social media is driving a trend toward shorter spots. “It used to be :30s and occasional :60s and :90s,” he says. “But now we’re doing a lot of :06s. You have to get straight to the point; you slam into the vibe and that’s it.”
Butter Music and Sound composed the music in this spot for Sennheiser Momentum.
There is no substitute for the storytelling abilities of composers such as those on the Butter team, Tim K believes. “I think there will always be a place for original music. Libraries are going to continue to get more varied, but that doesn’t affect the kind of stuff that we do, where we have 16 points to hit in a 30-second spot with varied tempos. They’re still going to need us to do that.”
Butter Music and Sound • www.gimmebutter.com