Big Foote: From virtual to reality

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When brothers Sherman and Ray Foote started Big Foote Music in 1994, they intended to make the shop a virtual one, traveling from one studio to the next to compose original music for commercials and enlisting the help of friends and colleagues who could work in their own creative spaces. Ten years later, the company's studios and offices reside in light-filled rooms with inspiring views of New York's Union Square Park, and the Foote brothers schedule anywhere between five and 30 sessions with musicians per week, juggling jobs among nine resident composers. What changed, they say, was that they realized that collaboration works best in a shared space, and Big Foote is all about collaboration.

"What we wanted to do when we started was get closer to our clients and work in a creatively-focused way," says Ray Foote. "Having an environment in which people could feel creative was important. It was something that we couldn't have with a virtual studio." It was also something that became an integral part of Big Foote's work model. The company's creative approach-one that is rare in a world where copyrights and ownership are closely guarded-puts several of the shop's composers to work on each project. "We work well as a group," says Sherman. "We don't hire freelancers, we all work together and help each other out. We've taken collaboration to a level that improves our creative ability, because people are writing on so many different things. If the client wants me, for example, to write the spot, that's almost a challenge to us, but we'll give them that. But to provide a really good service is to provide a lot of music-not by talking about it but by showing different musical solutions."

Big Foote's musical solutions include songs for BMW, MasterCard, American Express, Cingular (including the cinema hit "Inconsiderate Cell Phone Man) and M&Ms (2004's "River of Chocolate" campaign featured five remixes of the song "Color My World"). Most recently, composer Christiano Jordao wrote a chipper violin accompaniment to an American Express animated spot, "Skydiver," and Darren Solomon brought a full orchestral sound to Cingular's "Family Tree." In addition, the staff all contributed to branded entertainment for four two-minute installments highlighting Tide, from agency Sideshow Creative and animation studio Flicker Lab. Branching beyond the short form, Big Foote scored a feature, the thriller Noise, and Sherman Foote wrote the music for two documentaries from marketing men Dan Klores and Ron Berger-The Boys of 2nd Street Park and Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story.

Presenting sheer volume with multiple options not only keeps composers on their toes, but it also helps to illustrate points that aren't easily articulated verbally. "The one thing that hasn't changed about music in 10 years is that you can't talk about it," says Sherman. "Words don't really give you everything that you need to have. Experiencing music is the benchmark. Hearing a piece or seeing a band, or going to Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group is something that you can't really talk about. You can say it was great or powerful or sensitive, but it doesn't mean the same thing as when they just do it."

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