Aspiring film-makers usually have a vision of what their finished product will look like, but frequently not the musical expertise to know what it will sound like – which is where Seb Jaeger and his company can help.
In 2014, Seb, a musician and composer, was working in the advertising industry when he had the idea of forming a technological bridge between two creative industries – providing film-makers with a library of music from which to add a soundtrack, via user-friendly software to manipulate it to suit their storyline.
With his company Filmstro, Seb hopes to give musicians and composers on his books a fair deal, while extending to film-makers a comprehensive package to create a reasonably priced, original soundtrack.
To get across his first sales message, Seb produced a video called Seeing Music. He explains: “I was working with creatives who weren’t musicians, but who recognised the power of music to communicate ideas. It became very obvious to me that the two sectors did not share a common language.”
The video was well received and Seb began to think how he could develop the idea further, to empower non-musicians to discover and produce a musical soundtrack for their films. So Filmstro was born and Seb, with a friend called Chris Young, began devoting evenings and weekends to work on the project.
By October 2014, they had developed a working prototype of the software needed to realise their dream of producing a library of original compositions for use in the film-making industry. Filmstro was set up as a limited company a few months later and Seb employed three full-time staff in a home office.
The early months of the business development will sound familiar to any young entrepreneur. Although many of the people Seb spoke to loved his ideas, he had a difficult time persuading them to provide the means to make it happen. As a result, he was forced to dip into his savings to cover start-up costs.
One of Seb’s first priorities was to find a working base and, as a former University of Sussex student, he contacted the Innovation Centre on campus to see if it could help. Studio and office space was found and Filmstro moved in a year ago. Seb was also able to take advantage of the services of a university mentor, who understood the difficulties of setting up a new business.
The growing range of Filmstro products online have since been downloaded more than 40,000 times, advertised mainly by word of mouth. The variety of users include teenagers making their first film, to the BBC – which has drawn up a licensing deal with their film-makers to use Filmstro Pro. Market leaders within the film editing software industry, Adobe Premier Pro, have partnered to allow a plug-in with Filmstro which was released in January this year.
Software developed by Filmstro offers film-makers the ability to alter the momentum, depth and power of music within the company’s library of original compositions. Seb explained: “It enables the director to manipulate the soundtrack to precisely what he or she is looking for, giving them the power to create the atmosphere, genre and build-up required by the dialogue or action.” Regular customers also include game designers who dip into the library to find just the right soundtrack for their product.
A common link between these Indie communities is that they have little or no money to spend, so they like the low monthly subscription offered by Filmstro for its software and services.
Work already undertaken by the company includes an advert for Skoda motors, another for Expedia travel and the World Wildlife Fund. Seb is also proud of having supported the new Samsung Galaxy with a promotional film soundtrack. Previously he worked on the music for the 2012 London Olympics, and has composed for Monarch Airlines and for Formula One racing.
Filmstro has a network of about 50 composers on its books, providing a broad spectrum of work. They are paid “a sensible, up-front fee”, says Seb.
Born in Munich to a German father and English mother, Seb has a long line of musical inspiration within his family. His grandfather was awarded a CBE for services to music, one uncle is a composer, another a musician and recording engineer, his aunt is a music therapist.
When he’s not dealing with musicians or film producers professionally, Seb enjoys listening to classical music and “a bit of jazz” and still performs when he can. He also plays squash regularly.
So where does Seb see himself in five years? “Our ambition is to become the next SoundCloud and for the Filmstro brand to be synonymous with affordable, adaptive music,” he says. As a former freelancer, I know first-hand how low the income is from writing traditional library music, so it’s really important to me that we remain a community platform and provide a fair deal for musicians and composers. Ultimately, we want music production to become democratic, so that our users can experience the joy of controlling an orchestra with their index finger.”