Composers appearing on Gamers Listeners are not exactly a new thing, but it’s the first time we’ve interviewed someone from a game music label. Josh Whelchel splits his time between his two passions – composing music and running Loudr, a popular platform of distribution for covers (of video game music and more). While we focus mainly on Loudr in the interview, we also talk about the composer’s newest soundtracks: Oblitus and Scrolls, the latter created in collaboration with Mattias Häggström Gerdt.
Gamers Listeners: What is Loudr? What distinguishes it from other digital distribution platforms like Bandcamp?
Josh Whelchel: Loudr is a distribution and licensing platform designed to aid musicians legally sell cover songs, in addition to original content.
It differs from Bandcamp in a few important ways:
We legally license and sell cover songs, bandcamp does not support this at all. Basically, instead of requiring artists to pay a huge upfront amount of cash to cover estimated cover copies, we pay them as you sell you content. We handle all of the paperwork, everything. Turns out licensing is really complicated.
We split revenue for you! If you are in a band, or doing a one time collaboration, we’ll make sure artists don’t have to cut checks to those who they work with. We do this automatically during our reporting, and it can save you a LOT of time. I personally use this to make sure my collaborators always get a revenue share of soundtracks, and I usually throw a few $$ to my artwork illustrator as well
Loudr has those bundles! The idea of bundling music has really helped artists promote content, and is an easy way to increase sales. See how I’ve bundled Ravenmark and Gungirl 2 with the Oblitus soundtrack for only $10 on Loudr – something I can not do on other platforms.
Loudr has a fun history and commitment to the video game music as well which I find very unique.
Gamers Listeners: What made you think about launching such a site in the first place? Tell us about how Loudr came to be.
Josh Whelchel: Loudr is the successor to an effort to provide distribution to cover artists that was initially realized as a few different record labels, believe it or not:
Acappella Records was the first record label for acappella musicians. And, seeing as these guys love covers…
Joypad Records was a similar effort for video game cover song musicians (e.g. Smooth McGroove, Benjamin Briggs, etc.)
Gamers Listeners: What is your current role at Loudr?
Josh Whelchel: I am the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer – which means I’m responsible for development on the website, backend systems, business dev-operations, and pretty much anything that has a moving part.
Gamers Listeners: So do you currently see yourself more as a composer or as a person responsible for Loudr’s proper functioning?
Josh Whelchel: Tough question for me personally – I’m a bit of both, though day-to-day I spend more hours at the Loudr office.
Gamers Listeners: Briefly describe the legal path that an arrangement must follow before it can appear on your website.
Josh Whelchel: An artist simply has to come to Loudr, upload their sound recording (they must own or have the right to use everything in the recording, excluding the notes – this includes samples (obviously sample libraries are ok – i mean sampled from other songs etc.).
You tell us what song you are covering (e.g. Super Mario Theme) and submit your album.
Figure out who to pay
Obtain a mechanical license
Distribute the content to Loudr, iTunes, Spotify, etc.
Pay the royalties to the rights holders
Optionally, you can buy upfront licensing from us as well via Loudr Licensing, to remove the need to distribute.
Gamers Listeners: How do people holding the rights to the original tracks (composers, developers) perceive what you guys do? Are they willing to cooperate or perhaps they’re rather reserved?
Josh Whelchel: We have a lot of original artists on Loudr, myself included. Many of the VGM composers tend to hit Loudr and Bandcamp, a philosophy I also employ.
Gamers Listeners: Gamers Listeners sure love Game Music Bundle, it’s true. We especially liked the retro set, which contained several excellent works that had never been published before (Jazz Jackrabbit! Duke Nukem 3D!). Sadly, due to some kind of copyright hassle the collection was taken down. When (if at all) can we expect it to come back online? Are you planning to release similar sets in the future?
Josh Whelchel: Oh my gosh, I loved putting these together with our team!
The Retro Game Music Bundle was a project I personally spent a lot of time on – I hand converted most of the Adlib tracks on my old PC with an adlib card – I’m not kidding, we recorded right off the DOS machine! To speak to the takedown issue that occurred – we negotiated these rights with a party who claimed to own them — turns out they didn’t. We executed the takedown to comply with the original rights holder – which is important for our relationship in order to obtain positive relationships for the massive amount of content we license daily.
Unfortunately, we have no plans to bring back the taken down albums, simply because it doesn’t appear that certain parties even want us to proceed. It was relieving for me when I found out that we’re not the only people who’ve bumped into these issues with this content. I’ll leave it at that
Gamers Listeners: Let’s talk about your music. Recently, you’ve published the Oblitus soundtrack, which may be modest in terms of length , but when it comes to the sound and the atmosphere, it is different from your typical productions. What was the idea behind that?
Josh Whelchel: Yep! Oblitus is quite different from the rest – by design!
With Oblitus I was very excited to show off more of the Virtual Instrument I’m working on (called FMBlastr16), as well as the sound design I’ve been doing. (I really enjoy programming synths in Reason).
Oblitus is far closer to my ‘dream sound’ – at least at this age. I’ve done enough orchestral soundtracks that I’d like to start incorporating those concepts and ideas as strong compliments to my palette, rather than rely heavily on digital orchestrations to carry an OST – the payoff simply isn’t there.
Gamers Listeners: Together with Mattias Häggström Gerdt, you worked on the soundtrack to Scrolls, Mojang studio’s newest game. When working on the project, you also had an opportunity to collaborate with Dynamedion. Tell us more about this production. A project in collaboration with Minecraft’s creators must look pretty impressive in a résumé
Josh Whelchel: Haha – yes, I always love to tote the Mojang badge of honor Scrolls was a project that was mostly carried by Mattias, with the exception of a small handful of in-game tracks and the main theme.
Dynamedion was awesome – the project was heavy on orchestration and score prep-work. Only minor tweaks were made to the orchestration to fit the players, and the process was AWESOME and PAINLESS. 10/10 would work with those guys again!
Gamers Listeners: A few years back you were responsible for the production of game music compilations called “Songs for the Cure”. The profits were donated to the fight against cancer (American Cancer Society). 5 albums released between 2008 and 2011 made over $10.000 in total. Did you think about returning to that initiative or doing something similar?
Josh Whelchel: I think about this nearly every week. I’d love to return to creating these. The original albums had good traction outside of the bundle, but it was ultimately GMB where they saw the most light. Cancer awareness and fundraising is something that is very important to me, though I’m not sure if I’d raise money for a different charity if I returned to putting albums together like this – something I’d have to think pretty hard about. Let me know if you have any ideas!
Gamers Listeners: Even your first accomplishments as a composer were quite popular among websites devoted to game music (two interviews for OSV, one comprehensive interview for Game Music Online). Did that promotion influence the course of your career?
Josh Whelchel: Absolutely. I’m hugely grateful to the Original Sound Version team, particularly to Patrick Gann and Jayson Napolitano. The OSV pickups were important in the networking that goes in to getting gigs. It turns out, if people google your name, and find nice reviews, they might hire you!
In all seriousness though, this idea can’t be understated. OSV was not only a networking advantage, but a huge confidence boost. Years later, I’ve met these guys on numerous occasions at MAGFest and other conventions like GDC.
Gamers Listeners: Lastly, we’d like to ask you something about both Loudr and your own works. Tell us what you’re currently working on and where you see Loudr in a few years.
Josh Whelchel: Loudr is up to really exciting things that I can’t talk about quite yet. Like, really big things. If you take a look at our recent integrations with CDBaby and others, you might get a gist of what I’m hinting at. Basically, we’re in the business of helping musicians, and that’s not changing.
As for myself and music, I’m working on the score to Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, and working on a few other fun side projects when I can spare the time. I’d really like to continue posting more and more videos to my YouTube channel as well this quarter – something I’ll do as I flesh out these projects.
To close – thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you guys! Cheers!