The most exciting thing ever in entertainment is LA’s creative industry, and that’s largely due to the competition. In LA, everyone’s here for a reason and everyone’s trying to pursue something amazing. Being around that particular level of brilliance that’s abundant in LA pushes you towards the mindset of being the best at what you do, at who you are. Chris Hayman, head composer, producer and founder of Sonic Gods, explores how you, too, can have a stroke of genius. Chris makes it his mission along with his world-class team to create unforgettable music for your next big project.
Chris Hayman is a composer, music producer and creative director with over 12 years of experience creating immersive content. As the founder of both Sonic Gods (music) and Sentient Sky (production/post), Chris has brought together a team of some of the most exciting talent in the world, who have pushed the creative bar for companies such as DreamWorks, Mattel, Warner Bros, Sony, Universal, Disney, Unilever, Lexus, and Ubisoft.
Our guest on The Successful Pitch is Chris Hayman who has an amazing story of getting from England to the US and working with big companies like Dreamworks and Sony. His story of how he did it and his secret sauce of how he pitches himself to get hired by big companies is one that’s going to inspire you. He said he learned from his dad the importance of persistence and patience along with a little tenacity doesn’t hurt. He said he came to LA because he saw that this is where the creative capital of the world was. Being passionate about what you want to do and where you need to be is one of the lessons I learned from Chris. Enjoy the episode.
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Are You A Sonic God? With Chris Hayman
My guest is Chris Hayman who is a composer, a music producer and a creative director with over twelve years of experience where he creates content for some of the biggest companies like DreamWorks and Mattel, Sony and Universal. He’s the Founder of both Sonic Gods, which is music, and a post-production company called Sentient Sky. He’s brought together a team of people and they are always pushing the creative bar. Chris, welcome to the show.
John, thank you so much for having me.
I always like to ask people their story of origin. I’m sure people can tell from a little bit of what you said that you probably didn’t grow up in America. Can you take us back to somewhere in your childhood where you grew up and when you started having a dream of getting into the music production business?
I grew up in a very small town in England outside of Cambridge, which is the middle of England. I grew up to almost like farm country in a way and locked myself away while I was going to school and got into music. My mother was into classical music. My dad was into ‘70s rock. He would always be listening to records. She would always be listening to classical music. I fell in love with both of them and instead of watching TV growing up, I’d sit with my dad, listening into Dire Straits and Fleetwood Mac and legendary music and artists. With my mom, we would go to classical concerts. I formed a high level of appreciation for different types of music, just music as a whole and shortly became so into it that I started writing at a very young age.
I would say probably around eight or nine years old. That turned into me exploring instruments. I started playing the trumpet. It was my first instrument. I explored that to a pretty decent level until I wanted to expand beyond that. I was sitting at the dinner table one day and this is again very young and my dad noticed that I constantly was drumming on the table, he was like, “You love music and you’ve got this excess of energy, why don’t we go look online and see if we can find a second hand cheap drum set,” which we found one for £20, which is like $50, $40. It was a full drum set and we put it up and to this day I respect my parents for that decision because as everyone knows, drums are not the quietest instrument in the world. I quickly got very into it. I had a great drum teacher.
Through my teenage years, I was obsessed with learning instruments. I started learning woodwind instruments. I got more and more into composition, scoring classical music, and cinematic score type music, like film type scores. I loved listening to film scores and analyze them and rip them apart. Then on the other side, which is I figured is from my dad’s side, I also got into producing music. There are two kinds of different things there. Music composition is where your composing music, and you are doing that a lot of the time solo and then you bring in musicians to play music. Then on the music production side, that’s usually collaboration and it’s usually songs.
You produce something that has a song-like structure that’s maybe three and a half minutes long, four minutes long and a lot of the time it has vocals over it. I was doing both of those in parallel and I produced my first band when I was fifteen years old, my first full album. That led the way for my creative career. From there, it just took off. I went to college and studied music and business. My dad was an entrepreneur and that has played an absolute key part in my life in terms of the way I think. Even from the age of fifteen, I always had this entrepreneurial mindset in terms of what I want to do when I grow up as a musician.
I was going to ask you about that. Your dad was not in the music business, but he was in the entrepreneur mindset?
He was in a very random industry. He was in the building merchant industry. He worked for a company before I was born and came up as this building merchant type individual. He worked his way up at this company called National Merchants Buying Society in England. From there, he started his own company and took a complete left turn, and this is where I learned a lot from him as him being a mentor to me as well. He started a company called Carewatch, which is especially a home care company. If you imagine people coming out of hospital or the elderly and people who need care at home, assisted living basically. He started this company with barely any money, completely from scratch. In fact, I remember when I was young and going to school while he was building this company right from zero. It was hard times.
What do you think is the biggest lesson you learned from watching your dad become an entrepreneur, living that life?
The biggest lesson and even looking at him now is persistence, 100%. At the beginning, in the first year, I was young watching him do this, but it seemed like he was fighting such a huge uphill mountain ahead of him. He started on his own and it’s a fairly big industry, but the people he was going up against were like Goliaths in this industry. There weren’t any small startups that were doing this in England. He saw the opportunity in it. That’s why he did it.
I remember when I was young, we were painting his very first office. It’s very small and we painted the walls yellow. I was thinking like, “This is amazing that he’s taking a leap like this.” At the time, I didn’t understand it. I respect him so much because he put a lot on the line to pursue something that he believed in and he saw a future in and luckily it worked out. Another thing that I learned is patience. It didn’t happen overnight. He’s been building the company now for the last twenty something years.
That’s so important to underline, Chris, especially I don’t care how young or old you are, that patience factor can drive you crazy because you’re like, “By the time I’m 30, I should have accomplished these ten things and if I haven’t, then I feel bad about myself. I should be making this much revenue in my startup and if I’m not then I’m a failure,” and stepping back and saying, “This isn’t necessarily a failure yet, just because it hasn’t hit certain milestones by a certain timeframe.” In fact, another guest of mine said the same thing you said. He’s on the opposite end of the spectrum as far as age. Brian Smith is the Founder of UGG. He wrote a book called The Birth of a Brand where he talks about how it’s like a baby and no amount of rocking the cradle gets the baby to start running before it crawls first. That’s in essence what you’re saying to us.Key to success are persistence and patience. Click To Tweet
The thing is the way I’ve already had my mindset and it’s still difficult to this day for me because like most entrepreneurs, we want to rush to the glory as fast as we can. You have to take a step back. What I do these days is I try and make tiny steps of progress every day and I focused on that. That’s the main thing is as long as I’ve finished the day and I feel like I’ve made progress, even if it’s a small amount then I’m on my way to where I want to be. You’ve got to set realistic expectations as well to not get too far ahead of yourself with rushing to that finish line. To me, it’s all about daily progress and making sure that happens and that works for me.
I’m all about that as well. I tell people, “Let go of being a perfectionist and focus on being a progressionist.” It’s important to celebrate the progress. Otherwise, you feel like you’re looking at what has to be done as opposed to how far you’ve already come. The other key around that is to not compare yourself to other people. Do you find yourself doing that sometimes? You’re just that if you stay focused on your own progress, you win. We all have a tendency to start comparing ourselves. Have you experienced that at all?
I absolutely have and this is one of my big lessons of learning how to grow as a person. When I was coming up as a composer, I was constantly looking at the people that I respected and it’s like I want to be in their shoes one day. Then I would listen to their music and I would think, “I don’t think I’m ever going to be that good and this is going back quite a while ago now.” That was that classic situation of comparing yourself in a way where it’s not helping you. Now, what I learned from that was everybody is individual and unique, especially in the creative industry. You shouldn’t compare yourself to people. You should only take things from them that inspire you. Everybody’s different.
As long as you focus on being a master of what you set out to do in the first place and just focus on your lane and get inspiration from things around you, then you’re going to get to the goal that you are heading towards which in most people’s cases is success. That’s the goal. Whereas if you look at other people and start pulling in the comparisons of like, “I should be doing what they’re doing because that’s where I want to be or they’re the people that I need to be.” That’s the other thing, you don’t want to pull yourself away from who you are, because as a creative, who I am is the whole reason now I even get the work that I get.
How did you get from England to America? The Beatles did it in the ‘60s. There’s a little bit of history there. There’s a very small percentage of people that make that leap across the pond as it were.
I was lucky enough to be working in England, in London. At a young age, I went to college in London. I was making some headway in music in England in my career. I worked with Universal Publishing which as for my age was a pretty big deal for me because everyone else that I knew that was working there was a decade older than me. I then had a moment of reanalyzed the English market in music and I saw that it was very limited in England. There were limitations. The industry was very small. I wanted to see where I can go in the world that wasn’t going to restrict my dreams and aspirations at the time, which was probably music. LA, as I call it now, it’s the creative capital of the world. I set my sights for LA. I actually dropped everything in England. I had a career in front of me that if I had stayed in England, I would have done pretty well, but instead I decided to drop everything, come to LA and basically start from scratch.
Did you know anyone?
I didn’t know a single person. As I moved, I found a place to live in England on the internet in LA. I was like, “I’m going to get an apartment building. I’m going to find a big apartment building.” The idea is so I can meet a bunch of people that are in the apartment building and that will set me off. I found a place on the Internet. I get to America. I go to the apartment building. It turns out it’s in a part of LA called Korea Town. Every single person in my building spoke Korean and not English, not a single person spoke English.
I’m there, l don’t know a single person in LA or in California. Luckily it was just a six-month lease. Let’s say the first six months were a little bit lonely, but that was the start of an amazing adventure, which in a way, I wouldn’t have it in any other way being thrust into a new situation where you’re completely out of your comfort zone. I’m talking like completely. Luckily, I was still in an English-speaking country. Even so I was young, I was twenty and I didn’t have a full cup plan of what I was going to do in this apartment building in Korea Town and long story short, I started building my company from nothing and put my head down and started to meet people.
You start at this company, Sonic Gods. How do you get these major studios like Disney, DreamWorks, and Sony to hire someone so young when there’s so much competition?
It’s been the most exciting thing ever being in the creative industry in LA. That’s because of the competition. LA is such an awesome place because it’s the creativity. Everyone’s here for a reason and everyone’s trying to pursue something amazing and so being around that right off is great. Being around the level of brilliance that’s in LA was a reason right off the bat to have the mindset of I have to be the best at what I do and going back to what I was saying earlier, the best of who I am. That was my mindset. One of the big keys I’ve learned as far as these companies that I’ve worked with is a lot of composers and music producers completely struggle. I started a music academy. The whole basis of the music academy was what I’m about to say, which is you could be the best composer, the best music producer, the best creative in the world, but if you don’t have the right social skills, you are going nowhere. That was it in a nutshell and I didn’t know that right off the bat.Social skills are more important than creative skills. Click To Tweet
Inherently composers and music producers are usually introverts, and a lot of time very introverted, especially on the composer side. Their social skills are not usually the best and for me, I was in the same boat. I was okay, but I had to quickly learn how to be very outgoing and social, more than that, someone that could put themselves out there. Put what they knew and how to do out there. The reason I got all this work with all these people, that all are long-term clients now and they have been for a while, is because I’ve instilled that they can trust me to do an incredible job for them consistently and in a way where they don’t even have to think about it. They know what they’re getting from me.
How do you pitch yourself for the first to get that new client? What is it that you said that made them trust you?
It comes down to going back to being me and not trying to be someone else. That was the thing, I know for a fact that the companies I’ve worked with liked the youth factor of me. Some of these big clients I’ve got when I was 25 years old. My experience in music and the creative industry started when I was fifteen years old professionally. My composition and music production background has led me to have a very unique creative angle on how to create content.
You were helping them speak to the group of people they wanted to target, which was your age group, so it sounds to me like you had an inside track of, “I am the target audience, give me a whack at creating something that’s going to appeal to me that would then appeal to other people of my age.” Is that in essence what you’re saying?
That was it. One of the big selling points for me, and still is today the way I pitch, is when I talk to the company or talk to the marketing department or whoever it is, I say, “What does your company look like in five years? What’s the vision of your company in five years? What I want to do is form the creative for that five years and it’s done.”
Future pace your client when you’re painting a picture, when you pitch. Whether you’re painting to get someone to hire you, painting to get a new client for an existing company or painting a picture for an investor, here’s what’s going to look like five years from now and that’s what we’re focused on. When people can share that future vision with you, then they engage you.
That’s how I’ve been able to score these clients because I bring to life their own vision. They have that vision, but they don’t think about the creative side of it in terms of how to put that out into the world. When I show them the vision of the content with their five-year broad scope in mind, all of a sudden, they get excited about it. They’re saying that they need that thing because to achieve that five-year vision, they understand that they need that creative backing to be where they want to be in those five years.
What better company than my company to do it with the team that I’ve built over the last nine years and have experts in their various fields. We come in and we deliver next level content which is production and post production and music, based on the vision that they have for their company five years out. It’s creating that five-year vision and starting to build it now creatively.
Since you’re both an entrepreneur and in the music business, are there any similarities between business and music that you’ve noticed whether it’s rhythm or emotionally engaging people?
Part of the pitch is, for example, you have to sit with the director or producer for a film and you’d have to explain to them why you should be the composer for their film or what you’re going to do. It’s very much like creating the score in a way. When you sit down, and you create music or any creative project, you’re making something and you’re forming something that either people see or hear from nothing. You have to do the same thing when you pitched it to someone. When I sit in front of someone, I have to form something that they believe in and they hear a story or they see a story, it’s like an emotional connection through the visual or audio.
I definitely use the same skills I have creatively when I’m either pitching or talking to someone. In fact, the flow of what you’re pitching is like a melody. It’s like the thing that sits above and soars and then the team that you bring in is like the harmony that supports that melody. Everything I do, I always think about it in that creative way, which boils down to running my music brain. Whether it’s talking to people pitching, doing meetings, directing projects, things like that. It’s always using the same core skills I feel like I developed and had in me from a very young age. It always comes back to that core.
Anybody who wants to know more about you can go to SonicGods.net and follow you there. Do you have social media handles on Twitter that you want people to follow?
I’m on Facebook at Chris Hayman and Sonic Gods, and then on Instagram, @SonicGods. I’m about to start a new Instagram, which is going to be a professional content, photography content and that’s going to be @ChrisJHayman.
Any final thoughts for everyone on how to follow their passion and create something that’s successful, and yet still exceeding people’s expectations?LA is the creative capital Click To Tweet
I think this every single day now. To me, one of the most important things is how you are with people. That’s how you get any gig. In my experience, if you’re a person that when you’re talking to someone they feel comfortable around you and they understand you, then you’re more likely to get the gig than someone who’s awkward or whatever it is, even if you have the same skill level. In some cases, even if the other person has got higher skill level than you, if you’re the guy that they have a good feeling about, to be honest, that’s taken me to where I am now. I didn’t know that. It’s definitely not the beginning and it’s an ongoing learning process for me is how to be the best version of myself to other people. Then master everything you do and be tenacious.
People like to hire and work with people or invest in people that they trust, like and know. You’re certainly trustworthy and likable and you certainly know what you’re doing. It’s been a pleasure having you on the show. Thanks for sharing your journey and your secrets on having a successful pitch that allows people to say, “I’ve got to have that guy do my movie.”
Thanks, John. I appreciate you having me.
- Sonic Gods
- Sentient Sky
- Brian Smith – previous episode
- The Birth of a Brand
- Chris Hayman – Facebook
- Sonic Gods – Facebook
- @SonicGods – Instagram
- @ChrisJHayman – Instagram
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