Meet Wendell Hanes: ‘The Best Known Unknown Producer’
Award-winning Composer Wendell Hanes sits down with Indie Loop
It’s the music you hear that puts you in the mood to spend. The soundtrack that breathes life into advertised products. It’s the melodies behind the commercials that affect your attitude and a part of the reason why consumers flock to the stores. While you don’t hear about the musicians behind the scenes who greatly influence your spending habits, it’s still one of the most important and competitive jobs in the music industry, just ask Award-winning Composer Wendell Hanes.
When an unfortunate car accident left Hanes homebound for an entire summer with nothing to do but dabble on a keyboard, he realized his gift truly lied in the music. It wasn’t long before he’d be working as an apprentice for Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule stacking chairs on the weekends…but his journey didn’t end there.
Eventually, a friend’s connect landed him a meeting with a commercial director, which was his key into the industry. While they’re no longer friends, Hanes laughingly remembers, “You never know who’s going to be the turnkey for your career.”
Fifteen years, and 700 ads later (and counting) Wendell Hanes, owner of Volition Sound, is one of the most sought after composers in the game. So what is it about Hanes that makes him the best? “I listen to everything in music most people don’t hear. I hear it in layers and create different messages for each picture. You never know what you’re going to get from me,” says the accomplished composer.
If competition is based on success then he’s already won, yet Hanes is still referred to as ‘The Best Known Unknown Producer.’ So, I asked the Brown University alumnus how he feels about the lack of recognition from the public, “It bothers me,” he says. Although very well known in the music industry, “You don’t know when you hear a Wendell Hanes beat because in television they don’t put your name on it,” also explaining that his conscious decision to get out of the record business after completing four successful records for Sony was because “Making beats wasn’t what was going to sustain my career.” I can’t say that I blame him either, especially when 95% of everything on television has been underscored.
As a music supplier, his job is to create material that will satisfy all needs, which can be challenging, says Hanes who also emphasizes the importance of consistency. “The turnaround expectancy is a lot faster. Record producers and beat makers might have 3 months, 6 months, maybe even a year to work on an album, whereas in the world of television, the clients need it done right away. Time is of the essence,” declares Hanes who also makes the comparison to the fast food industry. “Imagine all your clients coming up to the drive-thru window wanting fast service but instead of ordering Big Macs, they’re asking for filet mignon. The demand is way higher. We've got to make hits by tomorrow morning.” Hanes continues, “In records if you get one hit—that’s their goal. Winning one commercial doesn’t mean anything. The goal is to win 50-100 placements a year.” Not taking anything away from artists like Kanye who he admires for speaking his mind, or Jay Z for never letting anyone take his crown and for having the most commanding voice on the airwaves since Biggie, describing it as “signature as an instrument,” and Pharell for being able to walk into any music spectrum from country to cartoons and still make a hit; it’s just a different ballgame.
Then what about all the young ‘Wendells’ out there unsure of which road to take? “Sometimes you just know when you’re in the right place. If you put yourself in the environment of something great, something great will happen and you’ll know it,” insists Hanes. So that would be the one piece of advice you’d give someone trying to come up in the business, I probed. Hanes eagerly replies, “That and…Read my book!” Both in full laughter, he goes on to explain that the purpose for writing his 4-volume book series was to provide information because “Nobody wants to tell you anything.” He hopes to inspire others by sharing some of his secrets to success. One in particular (and free of charge): Build personal relationships! “There are people better than me, I can’t name them,” he laughs, “but you have to know people, like people, and they need to like you. You need people that will make you grow, like parents, mentors, and the ones willing to bring you in as an intern,” concludes Hanes.
Certainly makes sense! Okay, just one more question, I promise. He graciously abides. So, who is Wendell Hanes? He beams, “I’m a Composer, Brand Strategist, Author, and Owner of Volition Sound.” And musical genius…might I add! You just never know when you might be listening to a Wendell Hanes beat. You’ve been Looped.
You can purchase all 4 series of ‘The 30-30 Career’ by Wendell Hanes at Barnes & Nobles and Amazon.com.