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Photos: courtesy of Ian McLeod

Scoring Stories: DC’s Cleod9 Music

Ian McLeod, a DC native, grew up with a strong passion for music. However, his path diverged when he took an advertisement job. After a year of working in an advertising position, McLeod left and founded Cleod9 Music, where he could produce and compose music for films and storytelling. McLeod’s goal is to help clients tell their stories. 

Cleod9 Music provides filmmakers, businesses, non-profits and advertisement agents with custom music and scores. The team at Cleod9 recently finished scoring Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait, and the film won an Audience Award for the Documentary Feature category in the Austin Film Festival. They have also scored content for brands like REI and Nikon. 

McLeod’s work breathes creativity. When he worked under a larger corporate umbrella, he found his talent constrained. He was charged with choosing music that productions would use, but found the process difficult. He described the procedure as time consuming and cold. 

“This is all how Cleod9 started,”  McLeod explains. “Music was always my side hustle. Throughout college, throughout high school I grew up playing jazz in the city of DC. When you’re playing in those clubs, you’re not just playing jazz; you’re playing funk, go-go, hip hop and an array of different music. So, I quickly realized that I wanted to record that music and I started making beats. So, I actually sold hip hop beats to artists in high school. That’s how I paid my way through summers. And I continued that side hustle in college.”

After a year, McLeod left and started his own company, which is different from competitors because it is a relationship-driven business. McLeod knew how to make music, but he needed to make a mark for himself in the industry. 

“I did not even know how to start a company,” he says. “I actually took the first couple of months when I left my job, and I got together with probably 20 different business owners. I just grabbed coffee with them, and I picked their brain on how they started their companies. I just wanted to learn.”

A relationship-driven company means that the work creates deeper connections. Cleod9 Music is designed this way so clients know they can depend on the service for more than quality work. McLeod hopes to develop connections with even more talented filmmakers and big feature films.

“Our business structure is a good one because we are able to tackle a steady stream of commercial work, which keeps our lights on,” he says. “We want to sink our teeth into longer format storytelling. Like short-documentaries, long form-documentaries [and] feature films, because it really gives us the freedom to create something musically and to tell a story musically.” 

Music and scoring can make a commercial or video come to life. It adds another dimension to the medium, and adds a texture that contributes to the story. There are more than 500 original songs in the Cleod9 library, and McLeod’s team adds new music following every project. The deep library allows them to complete lower budget projects on a fast turnaround, which enables McLeod and his team to give bigger projects more time and attention. Notably, the process helps them work with first-time filmmakers. 

“Our goal is to grow our library,” he says. “We want to continuously update it with new music, and we want it to be a go-to resource for filmmakers, especially the DC area.”

Overall, McLeod is drawing attention to the broad spectrum of the DC music scene. His return to his roots, and the success of his company, shows his creative talent for business and for music. McLeod’s story is a story of determination, creativity and change.

 “DC is an underrated music scene,” McLeod says. “It just is. It is not considered a major hub like New York, LA, Nashville or even Austin. But, I think that there is a growing movement here, not just on the performance side, but on the composing side. Film making is a big industry, and it is really starting to grow in the city. And we are trying to help build that movement too. And we just wanted to be a go-to music source for all those filmmakers.” 

To learn more about Ian McLeod and Cleod9 Music, visit www.cleod9music.com.