Audio Network going from strength to strength in sports broadcast, film and more
Fifteen years after founders Robert Hurst and Andrew Sunnucks originated the idea of a music company that ‘made it easy and simple to license high quality music for films and TV’, production music library specialist Audio Network is continuing to expand its catalogue in new and exciting ways. SVG Europe joined Sunnucks on one of his many annual days’ recording at iconic London studio complex Abbey Road.
Fundamental to Hurst and Sunnucks’ founding philosophy was the creation of a completely new catalogue of compositions crossing musical styles and geographical boundaries. They also determined to tap the services of eminent conductors, technicians and studios, with music in a classical style to be recorded with real strings rather than the (far cheaper) samples otherwise so prevalent in the production music world.
Sports broadcast has been among Audio Network’s key customer bases, with productions including Match of the Day, The Football League Show, PGA Tours, Pokerstars and Total Rugby among those to draw on its catalogue.
Speaking to SVG Europe in the sun-blessed courtyard of London’s Abbey Road studios ahead of an afternoon recording brass and timpani, Sunnucks confirmed the unusual nature of Audio Network’s founding notion.
“This whole idea of keeping it real and live, using the best players in the world and the greatest studios was really not widely done,” he recalls. “We don’t force dance music producers, for example, to come here, but our philosophy is that when it should be real, it is real. Samples may sound great at first and do well for the first 2-3 years, but people get used to the patches and they eventually fall of a cliff [because they sound dated]. There is just something about real strings that does not date.”
Of course, contracting the cream of the London session player scene and taking them into one of the capital’s leading studios is not cheap. It’s also an approach that is not confined to the UK, with New York’s Avatar and Sear Sound among Audio Network’s other favoured haunts.
Every second in the studio counts, so rigorous planning is essential, but the strength of Audio Network’s profile across TV, film, advertising and corporate video confirms the validity of its approach. “Yes, of course, we do need to see a profit each year,” says Sunnucks, “but we are working on a long-term basis, 10-15 years or so, and so making this investment [is entirely justified]. And we are profitable!”
Crafting a catalogue
While this is obviously good news for session players and studios alike, it is also beneficial for Audio Network’s in-house team, whose priorities include the continual updating and refinement of a website that is “highly sophisticated and really our shop window to the world”. The database therein typically contains multiple mixes of each composition to give potential customers the greatest possible range of options.
For example, a three-hour session like that taking place on the afternoon of SVG Europe’s visit is likely to deliver “20 minutes of music, constituting 7-8 tracks of 2-3 minutes each,” explains Audio Network’s global head of music, Ali Johnson. “Each one will have a main mix, containing everything from beginning to end, then on the website there will be a variety of versions: for example, an underscore version with fewer melodic instruments, then other variations of the arrangement, then 30-second versions, short stings, alternate mixes and so on.”
Files can be provided in formats including .WAV and MP3, “and if the client wants specifically to have the stems to do a custom mix we can provide them,” says Johnson.
For composers, the idea is that over time they build up a substantial catalogue of pieces for use in all manner of media. “Some of those who have 200-300 tracks in the catalogue can be earning life-changing incomes,” confirms Sunnucks.
Out in the studio, where the day’s composer/conductor, James Brett, is working with impressive efficiency through a suite of compositions in a ‘cartoon gothic’ style, the sheer amount of work involved in amassing such a catalogue isn’t in any doubt. For the team behind the composers, the hard graft is also continuing, with its current priorities including a broader selection of non-US/European styles. “There are still many, many ways in which our catalogue can be expanded,” confirms Sunnucks.