In this edition of The Compressed Interview, I had the opportunity to ask Asbjoern Andersen about his career in audio. Asbjoern is a composer and he is also founder of A Sound Effect (the world’s largest site for independent sound effects), and the co-creator of Soundlister. Along with his team, he also runs the Audio Jobs newsletter and Audio Jobs groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
This is what we talked about:
Threshold: Getting Started
J: How did you get started in audio? What was your first job and how did you get it?
A: I started composing as a hobby in the 90s, as part of what was called the demoscene. We were essentially a bunch of young people from around the world who enjoyed working together in making music, coding and drawing. Sometimes it was just to showcase our skills, and at other times we competed in actual contests.
A guy I knew from the demoscene had landed an audio job at a game developer, and one day he asked me if I wanted to have a go at composing the intro music for a children’s game they were working on. I was absolutely thrilled and couldn’t believe someone would actually pay me to have fun, so I was all-in on that.
That was the beginning of many years as a freelancer, composing for games and doing built-in ringtones for a number of mobile manufacturers around the world.
Attack: Things to discuss
J: What is your most unexpected experience in the industry?
A: That A Sound Effect has grown to become what it is today. I started it on a whim back in 2013 because I wanted to help make it easier for people to find independent sound effects – and then it’s just evolved from there.
Release: Talking about the good stuff
J: What has been your favorite project to work on and why?
A: I’ll have to pick two highlights here: In terms of composing, some of my absolute favorite projects were to do built-in ringtones for mobile phones: They were short and sweet so you could try out a lot of ideas in the creative phase, and it was pretty mind-blowing – and frankly humbling – to think about how many people got to hear them across the globe. Hearing the tones I’d composed playing “in the wild” when I was in the supermarket, at the gym or just generally going about my daily life was a pretty crazy experience.
The second one was starting A Sound Effect and growing it into the community site that it is today. It’s been a wild ride, and it’s a lot of work – but even after all these years, it continues to be fun and inspiring to work on.
J: Can you let us know a little about your creative process? Anything about the technical process?
A: I’m a big fan of improvising and simply trying things out – in that sense, from a creative standpoint, doing what I do now with A Sound Effect (and the many related projects) shares some similarities with composing.
I’m also very curiosity-driven and spend a lot of time keeping an eye on and thinking about what’s on the horizon in terms of interesting projects and stories in the community – and when I spot something, I try to move as fast as possible to amplify and boost it so it can reach and help a larger audience.
J: What are the biggest life lessons learned in your personal life and professional career?
A: Well, there are many, but here are a couple:
- Launching and expanding A Sound Effect has made me acutely aware that I’m not an expert in everything – so I’m a big believer in teaming up with others who have a different skillset than I do, and then let them do what they’re good at.
For example, when I started the site, I could spend hours and hours trying to fix something on the webpage, only to then accidentally break it in new and spectacular ways. Since then, I’ve thankfully been able to bring in others who can help with things like that (who can fix it in a matter of minutes) – so I can focus on things where it makes more sense that I spend my time.
- I’ve also come to realize that I’ve been extremely lucky to be able to work with something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing for so many years, and to do it with some brilliant and inspiring people – from composing to running the site. That’s in no way a given, so I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do what I enjoy, and hopefully help make people’s creative lives just a bit easier and better in the community.
I hope you like this interview as much as I did; I truly admire Asbjoern’s work and experience and believe everyone can learn a lot from him.
We’ll read each other again a couple of weeks!