Orange County native Adam Gubman has been writing, composing and arranging music for television programs, theme parks, video games and commercials since his adolescence in the 1990s. Gubman, currently a partner at Moonwalk Audio, discussed his career journey and opportunities in the musical areas of modern production at a visit to Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College on Feb. 12.
When Adam Gubman visits Disneyland, goes to a movie or watches the latest TV shows, he is likely to come across some of his own work as a musical writer, composer and arranger. In a career already spanning a quarter century, the 39-year-old has written for Disney, Blizzard Entertainment, NBC’s “Today” show and others, with his work appearing in video games, blockbuster films, TV shows and commercials.
“I’m a producer, an engineer, an orchestrator, a voice-over-director, a copywriter, a lyricist, a performer to some degree, and the highest paid white rapper in Ladera Ranch where I live,” said Gubman during a Feb. 12 visit to Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College, sponsored by the Center for Entertainment and Hospitality Management.
Gubman works with Cal State Fullerton’s own Joris Hoogsteder, a master’s alumnus who studied music, as his junior composer and fellow partner, and sound designer Alex Cox. Gubman’s work makes it possible for today’s leading entertainment companies to create memorable experiences to millions of viewers around the world.
“There is a whole team behind the record, and every member of that team takes on different roles for different projects,” he said. Finding and retaining the most trustworthy professionals for this team is essential to the success of the final project.
“If I’m going to hire someone, I want to know if they can hang,” he said. “Because I’m creating a team and a family, bringing them into my home and giving them access to sensitive information and unreleased information that may never see the light of day. I need to know that I can trust people who I bring into my fold.”
Gubman’s Journey: From the ’90s to the Smartphone Age
For Gubman, his career began after high school, when he conducted market research on Los Angeles area producers and then reached out to these professionals by email. After an initial opportunity, Cal State Long Beach would be the next step on Gubman’s journey, where he attended initially for an elusive love interest but ultimately completed his undergraduate degree. Today, Gubman recognizes a university education, regardless of the discipline pursued, as an essential qualification for members of his team.
“I will never hire someone without a degree,” he said. “Not because they are more educated than the next person or know more about music, but they have managed to focus and study over a period of time, investing in themselves in a way that will benefit their career.”
Video games have been Gubman’s passion since childhood but did not feature in his career until 2006, when he worked on his first game, “Pirates of the Burning Sea,” through a referral by his friend, “World of Warcraft” composer Jason Hayes.
In video game production, musical talent is paid per minute of completed music. These days, the average is between $1,000 and $1,300 but can vary from as little as $700 to as high as $2,000, depending on the project and client. Eight years and more than 500 video game credits later, Gubman quit SomaTone, seeking an employer more in line with his values.
“I decided I was only going to work for folks who I liked as a person, had my best interest in mind, and had honesty and integrity in their work,” he said. “That’s something that’s not difficult to come by, but you have to look for it, because in any industry, there are a lot of people who don’t have those things that are so essential to a business.
“Who you are as a person matters way more than the kind of work you do,” he reminded students.
Gubman focused on mentoring new entrants to the industry and producing library music, non-customized compositions used for television programs such as reality shows.
A meeting with film composer Chris Lennertz, arranged by Gubman’s late brother-in-law, would be pivotal in the development of Gubman’s current career trajectory.
A Look at Gubman’s Career Highlights
With a wide-ranging discography and numerous credits, Gubman has had no shortage of moments to be proud of. Highlights that Gubman points to include the song “This is Me” for the movie “Greatest Showman” and the soundtrack for the film “Sausage Party.”
Returns can take many forms in Gubman’s business – not all of them financial. Sometimes it can be another opportunity to demo. Sometimes it can be a new relationship that will blossom into opportunities in the future.
“What I’m concerned about is whether this will be a business-building relationship,” he said.
Gubman is currently working on demos for new shows at Tokyo Disneyland. If the company buys the song that Gubman has produced, it will mean more money – and more clout – as time goes on.
Royalty money is sporadic income, which is why Gubman advises stashing it away in an investment account, rather than spending it. These extra funds can help during hard times, he said, which was the case when he left SomaTone.
“We all feel very emotional about music and consume it very quickly. We feel like we own it. We feel entitled to the music in our iTunes library,” said Gubman. “It belongs to all the fans, consumers, video game players or filmgoers who enjoy it and decide to make it a part of their life in whatever way they do that.”
Launching Your Career in the Entertainment Music Space
Think working in entertainment music might be for you? Gubman told students that there are no shortage of roles in this space. And with Los Angeles being a major center for the industry, Southern California young professionals are in the right location to explore this passion.
Unlike the cutthroat competition endemic in many fields, entertainment business offers a different vibe, he said, especially in the video game field. “A lot of us sort of compete with each other, but we all adore one another,” said Gubman. “A lot of my best friends are my direct competition. We are making things for other people to take joy in. And what we bring to the world in these experiences should be reflected in the way our companies interface with each other. It shouldn’t be a negative thing.”
There is also a strong commitment to providing opportunities to historically underrepresented groups, such as women and people of color.
“We want to be able to say that we have done our best for our community in the best way we can,” said Gubman. “In any business you’re in, you have to be conscious of that. 2019 is a great year to be able to redirect your focus on those things.
“The music industry is so diverse and a team-oriented industry,” said Gubman. “Musicians have other writers they work with, producers, mix engineers, recording engineers, people who set up the mics in the studios. The studio culture alone has dozens of gigs for people who want to record music.”
There are also roles relating to accounting and budgets, as well as sound designers, who are paid per sound, such as the edited noise of the slam of a door.
On the more technical side, there is great demand for audio programmers, efficient in C++, who use audio tools to interface with composers.
“If you want to make money in video games now, learn how to be an audio programmer,” said Gubman. “People are in need of these constantly, and there aren’t very many of them.”
For More on Entertainment and Hospitality Careers
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