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Catching Up with TV Music Composer and SAE Institute Miami Alumnus Cosme Liccardo

There are many different avenues in which a degree in Audio can take you. Some graduates choose to tap into their talents as artists, producers, or engineers in the music industry, and some choose to apply their expertise to TV and Film.

This week, we caught up with composer, sound designer, television music producer, and SAE Institute Miami alumnus Cosme Liccardo, whose credits include hit shows on major networks like Bravo, Travel Channel, and Telemundo. A graduate of the Audio Technology Program, Cosme brings over a decade of experience in audio post-production and scoring for TV, Film and Advertising. Follow along as we get to know what inspired him, some of his biggest misconceptions about the industry, and the important advice he has for future composers and sound designers.

WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN AUDIO?

I was very involved in the music scene from my hometown Valencia, Venezuela. At the moment I wanted to play in so many bands and liked so many musical genres, that I found myself working at the studio producing local artists across the board, it felt like I had found my calling.

After a while I felt like I needed to gain more technical knowledge in the audio field, so I enrolled at SAE Institute thinking I would return to Venezuela afterwards. In the end, I discovered and fell in love with audio post-production, so I moved to the US with my wife and pursued a career in music and sound for media.

TELL US ABOUT A HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR.

I never imagined my music would be placed on shows that are watched by millions of people around the world every day, on networks such as Telemundo, Travel Channel, Bravo, E!, Animal Planet, NatGeo and others, or that most of my income would come from royalties derived from those placements. It still blows my mind that it’s possible to make a living this way.

That said, it’s a very powerful experience to score or design sound for a film, mix it in an actual mixing stage and then watch it on a big screen. Even if the films aren’t as far-reaching audience-wise, going through the whole process of scoring indie movies and/or bringing them to life with sound effects has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve been through.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE BENEFITS OF FORMAL EDUCATION IN THIS FIELD?

Learning the technical knowhow in this industry is key to delivering a quality product. SAE Institute helped me solidify a knowledge base that I would apply later on. I spent years trying to learn audio by myself and I was never completely satisfied with the results, but when I attended school I understood what I was doing wrong and it helped me tremendously.

WHAT ARE SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WORKING IN THIS INDUSTRY?

In my opinion, there are several:

– Commercial studios are the best starting point: if you have quality material you can show and you want to dive in the deep end, there are more ways to do that now than ever before. I’m grateful to have spent a year in a commercial studio as an intern and an assistant, but most advances in my career were achieved working for smaller companies out of my home studio. There are plenty of music libraries, game developers, indie or student film projects and ad agencies all around the world that need music or audio post and plenty of them accept remote freelance work.

– If you know all the gear, you’ll be the best: it’s cool to know your SSL’s in and out, it helps to know what microphones you like, it’s a plus to be able to handle outboard gear well and have plenty of plugins, but if you don’t develop your own taste and you don’t know how to deal with people, you won’t find work. Being likeable and fun to work with will get you more work than anything else.

– Being fast at Pro Tools is a must: Not in my field. It’s more about attention to detail than anything else. Sound Design is about adding reality and immersion to footage while scoring is about telling a story through music. That requires a developed sense of taste and a lot of practice, knowing absolutely every shortcut there is inside Pro Tools is not as important in that regard.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN THIS LINE OF WORK?

For future sound designers I would tell them what one of my SAE instructors told me in class: “You already know how it’s supposed to sound, you have hours and hours of TV and movies that taught you what that particular sound effect can become if you add the right layers to it and edit it correctly.” Learn to give the right “juice” to every sound you create, be that a footstep, a graphic swipe gory blood splat. Find projects you like, even if they don’t pay at first. Get your sound out there and word of mouth will get you more work.

For future composers and music producers: DO NOT GIVE AWAY YOUR WRITER’S SHARE. Royalties for music in a successful show can earn you a decent living, especially if that show is broadcasted through big networks. These royalties derive from work you’ve done in the past, so it’s work you won’t have to do in the future, think about that.

A standard deal with a music library or a publisher will take some if not all the Publisher’s share, that’s ok. Even if the client takes some of the Writer’s Share too, that’s ok, it might still be worth it, but never…ever take an exclusive deal that takes your fair ownership of royalties.

Also, if you write music for a movie or show for free, keep ownership of your masters. Make sure you sign a non-exclusive licensing deal so you can use that music elsewhere. If it’s a work for hire (client keeps the masters), make sure it’s worth your time or it gets you the exposure you want, but don’t give away all your writer’s share.

To learn more about Cosme, check out his website at www.cosmeliccardo.com or see his list of credits on IMBD. For more information about how you can pursue a career in Audio, visit us online or give us a call at 1800-872-1504.

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