Read the virtual version.
Chicago has been blessed with creative talents as Vapor Music learned first hand by recruiting top composer Benn Jordan to join their team. Not to be confused with Michael Jordan or Ben Gordon, Jordan is an accomplished composer with a reputation of creating award winning work and has helped Vapor Music arrive in style on Michigan Avenue. Their Chicago office is based in the famous Wicker Park neighborhood which grew from their main office in Toronto Canada. The company is known for its keen understanding of how music can make or break work and has surrounded themselves with some of the very best talent in the industry. We interviewed Benn Jordan and Vapor Music partner Joey Serlin about their success and growth the company has experienced over the 5 years.
SCREEN: How did Vapor Music get its start? What was your first project?
JS: Gerry Mosby, Roger Harris and Radke Films formed vapor Music in 2004. I was asked to join as partner in May 2006. I recognized that the company had a very solid core foundation. Strong composers, music supervisors, sales and marketing were in place. I was asked to bring a strong creative vision, and a drive to grow the company to the table. My first project was a Tim Horton’s spot. I was fortunate enough to have my track selected. I took this as a good omen.
SCREEN: How has the company evolved since its launch?
JS: The company has had tremendous growth since I joined Vapor in 2006. We are currently on track for our best year to date and have had to add a number of very talented people to accommodate the increase in sales.
SCREEN: In terms of technology, how are you equipped?
BJ: I prefer bouncing between new and old ways of composing and recording. One side of my control room has 2 quad-CPU PC computers and about 15 external storage drives that hold just about every sample and phrase library one could think of. On the other side, I have a bunch of analog and digital synthesizers from the 80’s and a tape machine. The real difference isn’t in sound, it is in the interface…and I feel like I’m the most creative when I can switch between them.
SCREEN: You have offices spread across two countries. What has been the driving force for your explosive growth?
JS: In December 2008, we completed the construction of a brand new studio facility, as well completely renovated our Toronto office. The Vapor environment was built with the client in mind. We recognize the importance of being comfortable. We also wanted to create a strong creative vibe. We are cutting edge in terms of technology. All the writing rooms are client friendly for on hand collaboration and interconnected to the main mix room. Regarding the Vancouver office, we were already doing a lot of award winning work with Vancouver agencies. In order to gain more of the market share we needed a local presence, so the decision to open a Vancouver office was an easy one. One of our lead staff composers/ sound designers was looking to relocate to BC, so it all came together nicely. Vapor is getting ready to launch a new interactive initiative, which will be Vancouver based. After we had firmly established ourselves in Canada, we had many discussions as to how to expand the company south of the border. We had a lot of success with music supply for both the US and European markets, and the time felt right for a physical presence in the US. We threw around the idea of LA and New York offices but were hesitant about potentially getting lost in the shuffle. Based on Its rich advertising history and community, we decided on Chicago. Not unlike Vancouver, we felt that creatives would take comfort in having a local presence to work with. Benn Jordan lives in Chicago and was the perfect choice to run our new Wicker Park office.
SCREEN: Your composer Benn Jordan aka “The Flashbulb” composed the music for Cannes double Grand Prix winner Dove “Evolution”. How has his creative input affected Vapor’s work or creative direction?
JS: Benn’s success with Dove Evolution was like winning the lottery for Vapor. Our name was attached to not only a double grand prix winner, but to an advertising phenomenon. It’s media attention lead to a number of international relationships and was a huge factor in Vapor’s initial success. Benn always brings a unique perspective to every project he works on. He is out of this world from a technical standpoint and a f#cking brilliant musician.
SCREEN: Of the work Vapor Music has completed, which project(s) stand out in terms of challenges to complete?
BJ: I have a lot of luck winning mnemonics and trademark sounds, but those seem to be the ones that fry my brain the hardest. How do you summarize every aspect of a 100 year old, multi-billion dollar corporation in a 2 second sound? I’ll spend more time thinking about it than working on it, but that seems to be the key. Of course the spots I didn’t win would’ve been my biggest challenge as well. I remember years ago writing on a spot for Tang to be aired in Dubai. It had to sound pleasant to the American agency people, but then sound pleasant to the people in the UAE. What sounds happy in Eastern music sounds mysterious and atonal to us Westerners. I wonder how that one turned out in the end.
JS: It’s usually the brave, award-winning work that is the easiest to work on. I think you can attribute it to confident creatives trusting you to do what you do best. It’s when there is open collaborative dialogue happening, that the best work happens. On the other hand, you sometimes find yourself going 3 rounds on a simple retail spot. I’m very proud of the Wiser’s whiskey campaign that we did for John st.. While there was a minimal musical component, the attention to detail in terms of sound design was challenging. I love working with people that push for the best. I also loved the VIFF campaign we did for TBWA Vancouver.
SCREEN: Has recent economic woes had any effect on the company in terms of new work and continued growth?
JS: We had braced ourselves for the worst when the economy collapsed but so far, so good. We are fortunate to be working with brands that thrive in this type of economic environment. Wal-Mart, McDonalds etc. Budgets are more challenged, but that’s to be expected.
BJ: It seems to me that automobile manufacturers and the like are taking their money out of production and pumping it into advertising, but I could be wrong. The music composing/licensing industry is volatile to begin with, so it is hard to judge how the economy has affected work. For 2 weeks I won’t get any advertising or film work, and then all of a sudden I’ll have more work than I can complete and won’t sleep a full night for another month
SCREEN: What “special” projects are you currently working on?
JS: We are working on a great new Nissan campaign for TBWA Toronto. Music plays a big part and the visuals are very effective. There is an exciting campaign for HSBC in the works out of JWT, which I am looking forward to.
SCREEN: What does the future hold for Vapor Music? Are there plans to open any new offices or add additional composers?
JS: I don’t see opening any new offices in the near future, but you never know. The great thing about Vapor is that anything is possible. In the short term, we will focus on launching our new interactive division. After a lot of hard work, we are finally cracking the gaming world. We just signed deals to work on some massive titles. The music supervision/ licensing division is growing at a very accelerated rate. There are a lot of long format projects to take care of, in addition to the weekly television series that we service.
SCREEN: If there was only one item you wanted our readers to come away with from this interview, what would be most important to Vapor Music?
JS: To know that Vapor is not a music factory. Our success is based on a unique point of view and attention to detail. Everyone at Vapor is very passionate about music. We know that music can make or break your work. We take that very seriously.
For more information on Vapor Music visit their website www.vapormusic.com
For more information on Benn Jordan visit his profile on Psymbolic
Bookmark/Search this post with: