It’s a hoary, clichéd tale: Small-town musician with big dreams decides to leave the cozy comforts of home and travel to the big city to find fame and fortune.
Sometimes the story ends with our hero becoming the superstar of his or her teenage dreams. Other times, our starry-eyed protagonist finds disappointment, another aspiring entertainer waiting tables or tending bar or worse, wondering if it’s all worth the trouble. A few return home with their tails and egos between their legs and a few stories about their adventures in “Hell-Lay” or the “Rotten Apple.”
But not every creative person who leaves for the big city is hunting for stardom. Some folks simply want to find work doing what they love, even if it never makes them a hot property on TMZ who can’t walk through a mall without being mobbed.
Joe Minadeo is one of those. Minadeo, 39, is a musician and composer who moved to Los Angeles full time in 2012 and whose work has been used in various forms of media. He provided the soundtrack to the critically lauded documentaries One Day on Earth and Blood Brother, which won a grand jury and audience prize at the 2013 Sundance Festival. His musical hub is www.patternbased.com, where he keeps potential fans, collaborators and employers up to date on his past and present projects.
Minadeo played in and worked with bands in the Akron area, including the trip-hop-flavored Racermason, hip-hop collective Honeypot, rap band Poets of Another Breed, and the EDM (electronic dance music) collective Low in the Sky. He had already begun to take side jobs as a composer then, and licensed work such as patches and samples to Big Fish Audio, one of the largest and oldest makers of sample libraries.
But it was a Low in the Sky track that got the ball rolling. Using an Internet “bot,” Mindaeo essentially targeted people with specific music interests with an email pointing them to his Web pages.
That’s how he hooked up with Kyle Ruddick, director of One Day on Earth. “They found LITS on Myspace,” he said from his L.A. apartment and home studio.
Low in the Sky’s music, a mix of hip-hop and EDM grooves and layered ambience, is inherently cinematic, so Ruddick commissioned Minadeo to do the music for a short THX trailer called Amazing Life.
“It was definitely kind of a weird dumb-luck thing,” Minadeo said. “It’s funny because … all the people I have an affinity with, all kind of attribute their success to some kind of dumb luck. But I always thought that, well, your stuff had to be good, though. You made this good stuff and then this lucky thing happened, and the good stuff was in place to get recognized. Nobody would’ve ever contacted Low in the Sky if our music was [crap].”
In 2008, Ruddick commissioned Minadeo to score One Day on Earth, a documentary that captured the same 24-hour period in every country in the world. He flew to San Diego, began meeting people and making connections, which he says is an essential part of getting work.
“That whole experience of being out here and meeting people. You fan out from the couple of friends you have, they know somebody, and it’s a real organic thing,” he said. “I still use the Internet and contact tons of people that way and get jobs that way. But all the coolest stuff to me, because that’s what I enjoy and live for, is making connections and collaborations and bouncing stuff off of people.”
When One Day on Earth was released, Minadeo got to attend a special screening at the U.N. consulate, sitting in a room with diplomats from around the world listening to his music, which he found both “unbelievable” and “so cool.”
PatternBased.com is Minadeo’s online clearinghouse; he is able to send links to potential employers that allow them to peruse his entire library of music, to decide if they want to collaborate or to license a finished track. He keeps an updated spreadsheet with more than 300 licensable tracks, along with another 300 not-quite-done tracks waiting for he and his muse to finish.
“That’s the best scenario there is, because they already want it,” he said of licensing the finished tracks, including the entire Low in the Sky catalog. “They know exactly what it sounds like, there’s not going to be any confusion and it already exists so it’s almost like free money. It’s not really free money, obviously, but it feels like it.”
Minadeo also occasionally performs solo or with one of his many collaborators, and provides music for art or graphic installations, anyplace where multimedia creativity may be on display.
“I can do anything and this spot is [expletive] magical. I’ve written more music since I moved out here than the rest of my life combined, and that’s not hyperbole. I mean in this specific apartment,” he said, noting that his neighborhood is filled with hip, talented and creative folks including critically acclaimed EDM “it-boy” Flying Lotus.
Currently, Minadeo is on a cross-country trip he began in July, stopping in various cities, sleeping on friends’ couches and collaborating with anyone who is interested. Among the places he’s made music along the way are Nashville; Asheville, N.C.; Chicago; Juarez, Mexico; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and his hometown of Akron, where he’ll be until mid-November before he hits the road again.
“I’ve always had an aversion to rock stardom and I didn’t realize it as such, but it put me at odds with lots of bandmates over the years,” Minadeo said. “I always wanted to be in the background to some degree and I’d be more satisfied by recognition from peers or people I admire. That’s always been the most appealing form of attention I can think of, as opposed to people crowding or whatever.”
He’s grateful for the type of success he’s found and doesn’t feel the need to be the next big star.
“If you go further west into Hollywood, Santa Monica or the neighborhoods where fashion and TV and film are happening, it’s a lot more struggling actors and actresses and musicians that do want that pop stardom, and obviously they’re a lot younger,” Minadeo said.
“It’s just a totally different vibe. There’s a desperation. The time is ticking on them, and I never thought about it very deeply until I moved out here but … I’m lucky!”