Name: Wendell L. Hanes
Occupation: Music Composer and Sound designer
Location: Bang Music; New York, NY
Duties: Creating music and sound designs for television commercials
Salary: $50,000 to $500,000 “There’s no ceiling,” says Hanes. He averages $15,000-$30,000 per commercial.
It was 70 degrees outside. Not particularly newsworthy except it was the middle of January. “Really?” responded Wendell Hanes. “I haven’t gone out all day.” That’s no news flash. Hanes is usually holed up inside Bang Studios in New York City, where he is the composer, sound designer, and co-owner, massaging melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and effects for one of his many television commercials or promotional projects. Hanes has numerous credits as a composer, an arranger, and a musician: Jaguar, Dr. Pepper, Mercedes-Benz, Kodak, Elizabeth Arden, and Jeep Cherokee, Heineken’s “Birth of Scratchin'” and Miller Lite, among them.
“Sound designers take weird and ridiculous sounds and put them up against the picture,” Hanes offers. “With or without the music4like the Nike [Freestyle] commercial where all those cats are dribbling the basketball. They made it musical.
“The music is the magic,” he continues. “Musically, you’ve got to change up every three to five seconds because we’re fighting people going to the kitchen, the bathroom, and talking to their friends.”
The original plan: Having interned at USA Today, Hanes’ aspiration was to be a television journalist. He had game, too, on the basketball court as a guard and found the possibility of dribbling for the NBA luring. Those dreams were dashed by a car accident. “Messed up my whole face,” he states. “I had low self-esteem, scars all over the place. I had plastic surgery a couple of times. I’ve grown into it now, but I thought I was going to be deformed.” He began reconsidering his future.
What Now? After graduating from Brown University and locking up a couple of remixes for Epic Records, Hanes felt he could make his mark in the recording industry. Nothing ever materialized, so he accepted a job in research for a documentary film company. His restlessness led him to Spike Lee’s filmmaking workshops in New York, where he volunteered to set up chairs.
“I figured if I put myself around the right people, at some point, they have to recognize me.” Hanes met Lee’s assistant editor Leander Sales, who helped him secure an apprenticeship at Lee’s film production company 40 Acres & A Mule in Brooklyn, New York.
Turning Point: On recommendation from a commercial director, Hanes joined Version 2 Editing, a television commercial editing company in New York. “This was a big break for me. Coming from Spike’s camp [the owner of Version 2 Editing thought] that I was bigger than I was. I wasn’t going to tell him differently,” Hanes jokes. His advantage was having the ability to film edit and compose music. “I pretty much created my own position, where the editors would edit to my music.” Hanes was able to impress advertising clients such as Dentyne Ice, Certs, and VISA with a complete production before they had an opportunity to visit the music