On Sept. 14, 2017, Ramachandra Borcar’s work did not go unnoticed at the Gémeaux’s technical and trade awards gala. He won two trophies for his work on the TV series L’imposteur, that airs on Québec’s TVA network: Best original Score – Fiction and Best Musical Theme: All Categories. Already nominated eight times in his career as one of SOCAN’s #ComposersWhoScore, the man known to some as Ram, the DJ and musician, definitely had a smile in his voice. “Believe me, it’s always great to win an award,” he says.

The production team of L’imposteur had created the ideal creative context for their screen composer. Because director Yan Lanouette-Turgeon and Borcar have known each other going back to their fruitful collaboration on the feature film Roche, papier, ciseaux – which won a Jutra Award for its soundtrack – music was involved very early on in the development of the series. Before filming even began, Lanouette-Turgeon sent a few scripts to Borcar so that he could get acquainted with the storyline. Then he sent rushes before even one episode was finally edited. That was more than enough to inspire a musical direction.

“For season one, L’imposteur was almost entirely shot behind closed doors with actor Marc-André Grondin,” says Borcar. “There are no parallel stories. That made this thriller incredibly intimate. I therefore didn’t want the music to be too big; I even wanted to create proximity. That’s why I used abstract instrumental sounds with a lot of rhythm played on percussion instruments.”

Borcar, who’s always looking to surprise, took the musical genre where it usually doesn’t venture in a thriller TV series. And that’s exactly where Borcar finds his joy: defying rules and innovating. “I didn’t want to do a traditional musical theme with harmonies and a 4/4 signature,” he says. “Instead, I chose to opt for a musical construct akin to a collage, a mosaic, with abstract sounds and a lot of effects. I dug into electronic, experimental and electro-acoustic music. That was my canvas.”

The next step was to dig into the story itself, to refine certain segments of the music. Borcar leaned on the idea that the main character has a secret twin by composing melodies that play around with the feeling of duality. This led to clarinets, electric guitars and trombones playing as a duo or calling and responding to each other discordantly. “In my mind, it’s the composer’s role to work with the story,” says Borcar. “I work in parallel with all the narrative elements, without twisting it, or needlessly distracting from it, yet always making sure the music has its own personality. I aim for the perfect union between image and sound.”

Ramachandra BorcarTo this end, he looks everywhere for sounds that will create a unique link with the story. He’ll sometimes use his collection of unique, self-made instruments, which he hunts all over the web, but mostly via inventors he meets at major trade fairs, such as the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants).

Having already crafted 33 musical themes for films, documentaries, and TV series (Un crabe dans la tête, Famillia, Le prix à payer, L’ange gardien), he decided a year ago, to split his time between Montréal and Los Angeles. That decision was prompted by being signed with the Evolution Music Partner agency, which represents him in the U.S.

“I’m not leaving Montréal behind, I’m just opening myself up for new creative possibilities,” he says. That’s all that matters to Borcar. This deep-seated need for musical versatility, this desire to work in many musical genres – he himself plays several instruments – is what stimulates him the most. “I don’t like things to be easy or repetitive,” he says. “My dream as a composer is to constantly re-invent myself, surprise myself, go where I wasn’t expecting to go, musically. And to work on projects that leave me no choice but to surpass myself.”

hard logoThe explosion of new media all around the globe – things like Netflix – has brought about a real change and growth in the production music industry over the last half decade.”

So proclaims Ross Hardy, a composer, former SOCAN staff member, and music publishing executive, founder and CEO of the production library/label hard, established in June of 2013.

“Ten or 15 years ago, you’d probably have to search through 5,000 tracks of music before you could find one that would have a vocal on it,” says Hardy. “Nowadays, production music companies and labels, like ourselves, represent very real and powerful opportunities for artists who are composing, or writing. There are new models out there in the production music industry that service artists almost like an A&R/management team. Production music is essentially becoming the new record-label model.

“In essence, every production music company is a record company and publisher in one, that’s what makes them so effective. It streamlines our licensing to film and television and other media, and allows us to control the masters and to control the copyright. The uniquely-themed compilation albums we produce are really no different than any other albums.  The main difference is that the main driver of our distribution is solely the media and not the mainstream music business.”


CraigMcConnell of/de hard

This is good news for SOCAN’s #ComposersWhoScore, as well as for “crossover” writers, artists, and producers looking for another revenue stream, and a way to diversify their creative offerings.

In some ways, the current vitality of the production music business is the silver lining to the storm clouds which had hung menacingly over the careers of many film and TV composers. “Five or six years ago, after doing lots of reality and factual entertainment television, I started to notice cues from production libraries popping up on cue sheets, and I started getting fewer calls from clients,” explains hard partner and President Craig McConnell, a veteran, award-winning film and TV composer, record producer and songwriter, and Screen Composers Guild of Canada (SCGC) board member. “This was now something I had to compete with as a composer, and I decided that I needed to start my own production music library. Innocent thought at the time, because I had no idea what was entailed.”

That dilemma was solved when a mutual friend at ole – where Hardy was working to build their first production music catalogue, MusicBox – introduced the two of them. When Hardy departed ole – he refers to it as “ole university,” given how much he learned about the music publishing business while he was there – he decided to start a label. He’d been a composer for so many labels over the years, had amassed a huge catalogue of music, and gained a wealth of knowledge about the business. One of the first calls he made was to McConnell. Within the first year, hard released 12 production music compilation albums and had distribution in four major territories.

hard’s new deal with APM
“Once we started talking to people about it [hard’s all-Canadian roster], ears really began to perk up. That’s when APM Music came forward and said, ‘We control the market share in Canada and we have very little Canadian music!’ says Hardy, referencing the fact that APM – a worldwide, Hollywood-based production music library player and custom music house – recently signed a deal to add hard’s repertoire to its catalogue. “The fact we’re 100 per cent Canadian resonates in the global market,” Hardy continues. “As a side story, it was always a contentious thing for Craig and I that the majority of the music from production music libraries used in Canada, even at our major networks, mostly originates with composers from jurisdictions other than Canada.”

“Three years later, we’re up around 50 albums, and a roster of close to 50 artists and composers with whom we’ve worked, all of them Canadian,” says Hardy.

Though most of the artists are well-established – the company has worked with six JUNO Award winners – hard still leaves the door open for emerging talent. “We’re really becoming an artist-driven label which supports new talent,” says Hardy. “We’re a record company and a publishing company, one and the same. We take pride in the fact that we have an offering here for artists who may not – or will not – see the type of market exposure that we’re offering. Their product could benefit from our distribution into more than 80 countries around the world, and placement into media productions to which they could only dream of being exposed. We tell our artists, ‘We’re not going to pigeonhole you. You give us what you do best! You have a blank canvas.’”

There are some technical parameters that have to be adhered to. To work with a company like hard as an artist, you have to have the ability to record your own works, professionally produced and mixed. “Twenty years ago, it was a tall order finding that kind of situation, but not so much anymore,” says McConnell. “You look at a guy like Skrillex. He makes his records on a laptop, from a tour bus. There are a lot of people out there like that, and not just in the EDM world, who have the technical expertise, with their computer set-up, to make world class sounding recordings. Those are the people we want to work with.”

One show was all it took for the members of Johnson Crook to realize there was something special going on between its four members. Shortly after meeting at Canada’s Music Incubator artist entrepreneurship program in 2014, Noel Johnson, Jared Craig and brothers Nathan and Trevor Crook decided to do a one-off gig at Toronto’s Cameron House; based on positive feedback from friends and colleagues, they decided to form a band and see where things went.

What followed were sessions that the band describes as “freeing,” especially since there weren’t any deadlines or musical limitations. It allowed the band to bring an array of influences to the table, from Stevie Ray Vaughan and The Eagles to contemporary artists like Terra Lightfoot and Leon Bridges. As a result, the band slowly began crafting a sound of their own, rooted in country, folk and ‘70s rock, but with a heavy emphasis on their strongest asset: harmonies.

This was all captured live off the floor on their debut full-length recording, The Album. While the project explores love and heartache, there’s also an undeniable Canadian theme that runs throughout its lyrics, which stems from each member’s experiences growing up in small towns (though all four members are based in Toronto now). It’s something the band is unabashedly proud of, saying they’re not concerned with being “too Canadian… When travelling across the country and playing in so many different cities, we’re always made to feel at home. While the landscape changes, it seems like we’re always playing for our friends and neighbours.”

One of those friends now is iconic Canadian rock musician Tom Cochrane who, after hearing their track “Mr. Nobody,” offered to record it with them. “Tom was incredibly generous,” the band says. “The song already had a lot of vocals going on, and his voice and phrasing fit in seamlessly.” Just another harmonious step forward for the band.