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How To Podcast: Music Composer - Thomas Ragsdale Q&A

Every so often in this business you work with someone who just gets you.

Someone who understands what you're trying to do, where you're going in the creative process and can see the bigger picture of what you hoping to achieve.

Thomas Ragsdale is one of those people.

He's plenty of accolades to his name as a music composer. Films, documentaries, commercials and a back catalogue of his own electronica just for kicks...

As a producer, finding the right music for your project is essential. It can set the mood, it can leave a final word and it can sprinkle some magic on even the most lack lustre of audio recordings.

But just as crafting your story takes time and planning, so does finding a perfect match when it comes to the right music for your podcast.

Budget dependent, the world is your oyster. I've used the full plethora of options for my own projects. From creating BBC radio jingles on my ukulele in my bedroom, to craft editing pre-composed beautiful soundscapes on arty storytelling documentaries... From borrowing friend's band's instrumental versions for podcast theme music, to working with someone who is a little more refined and professional on specialist music composition - such as Thomas.

When I approached Thomas to buy-in music for two of ASFB Productions' major podcasts in 2018 he was more than happy to offer support. Not just for financial reasons, but because he actually cares about where his music is going, and looks to work with projects promoting good in society.

His piece 'Flowers Of Yorkshire' was featured as our theme on our podcast series for Age UK & The Big Lottery Fund - Discover Brightlife.

When I looked for some moody, serious, melancholic, piano music for 'The F**k It Moments' podcast, his track 'Dawn' - originally composed for Dominic Brunt's film 'Before Dawn' - first haunted me for days. But it was perfect. Just the mood I wanted to ease listeners into some hard-hitting intimate one-to-one conversations.

So with his expertise in mind, it seemed apt as part of my 'How To Podcast' blog series that we hear a few wise words from Thomas. I dropped him an email with a few questions to get a better insight into what we need to ask as producers and what an earth a music composer does...

Music Composition Q&A with Thomas Ragsdale:

Yorkshire based composer Thomas Ragsdale

Question: What information do you need when people first get in touch?

I like to get a feel of who the film maker/podcast maker is and what kind of emotions they want to get across in their footage/clips. Then I can get deep into 'enhancing' everything with music. I also like to know what kind of people are going to be viewing the finished product. I like to know what the ideal audience is going to be and how they should be feeling when they're listening or watching.

Question: What are some of the best projects you’ve worked on and why?

Definitely the bleak stuff! I've worked with Adam Curtis on his BBC films, and that's always amazing to be a part of as he does very interesting things with the sound. He cuts everything up and makes a big collage of music. Earlier this year I worked on a BBC documentary 'Searching For Shergar' based around the troubles in Ireland and that had me conjuring up serious amounts of dark ominous drone, which I obviously loved...

Question: Theme music, stings, soundscaping – what’s the difference?

These days, the lines are very much blurred, and sound fx/music can be the same thing! Some of the best soundtracks I've heard are just weird noises processed in interesting ways. But generally theme music is something that's recognisable throughout (think 'Jaws' or the opening of 'Stranger Things'), stings are very short bursts of music that appear over the course of the programme and soundscapes are big washes of sound that *kind of* sound like environments of their own. Soundscapes are often used as underlying beds of music to compliment narration.

Question: How much time does the process really take?

Sometimes only a few hours, but it can be stretched out over weeks or months to get to a point where a client is happy. I have worked on a 20 second piece of music over 3 months as adjustments were constantly being made to the images and length of the commercial. Such as this Bulgari advert...

It's all totally fine and expected though, it's part of my job! When I'm writing music for fun or something I have total freedom with I usually take around 4-5 hours per track. I start to lose my momentum after a day!

Question: How do you negotiate costs – what factors do you take into consideration?

I always think about how the music is being used and the platform it'll be placed on. For instance, if a company stands to make £1m from my music I want a large cut of that! Everything is job specific and I look at each brief on it's individual merit. I do work for free or low cost if I like the project and can see a genuine passion from the other people involved, but I also charge higher fees for corporate work.

Here's a project I did for fun!

Question: Can podcasters buy rights to music you’ve already made?

Yes, of course. The best way to do that is drop my an email and we can chat!

Question: Any bugbears with us producers as a music composer?!

To be honest, I've never had any bad experiences! I'm very adaptable and I love writing music, so nothing has been a problem for me. I do know a lot of other composers who moan about wasted time and effort, but it's not my style. It's all part of the job and I don't view it any differently to that of a regular job at times! For more of Thomas Ragdale's work visit


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