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

Late Night Anonymous: Strange Drink Orders, Questionable Taste Buds and Bad Bar Etiquette

Rowdy parties, annoying drunks, terrible tips, bad decisions, strange drink orders – these are just some of what bartenders and bar employees must deal with, especially later in the night. And they have to be equipped to handle it well. They are also the folks who have seen it all. In this light look at funny stories from around town, we asked some of DC’s bar employees what their most memorable late-night customer memories were. This just-for-fun piece showcases some anonymous drink industry memories of late-night shenanigans that have left their mark.

Extra Hot, Please!

This beverage director at a trendy local hotel bar is accustomed to helping guests stumble back to their rooms after last call and is therefore used to some unusual asks. But this harmless one really brought the heat.

“We get a fair amount of weird orders, especially later in the night. For a week, we had an elderly hotel guest come down after dinner and ask for warm London dry gin, neat. We actually had to put it under the espresso steamer until it was hot.”

Avant-Garde or Bizarre?

Taste buds can work in strange ways, and we all have our own idiosyncrasies. But at what point do they go beyond being “interesting” to just weird?

“We once had a guy, a regular at the time, who would add hot sauce to his glass of water. No kidding. As a Mexican spot, we have a range of salsas and house-made, bottled hot sauces, and he would try a different one each time – in his water, that is. His favorite was the green chili salsa, medium hot.”

Boom, It’s a Magnum!

Another beverage manager proceeded to tell us about this episode. We can’t tell you where this happened, but we can tell you this is an upscale bar in DC with a great – and expensive – wine list.

“It was a busy night at the bar, as we had multiple large parties seated and bottles of wine were flying off the shelf. There was one group celebrating a friend’s recent engagement, and they were going all out on some really nice, expensive bottles of wine. About two hours in, one of the guys came up to the bar and asked for a magnum bottle (1.5 liters) on his tab to toast his friends. Great idea, right? So far, yes. I said I would bring it right over, but he insisted that he would take it back to the table. Now, this was a pricey bottle, so I said, ‘I need to go and retrieve it and will bring it to the table with glasses.’ But he was persistent and said he would wait. I brought it back and opened it and handed it to him, and he started to walk away while I got the glasses ready on a tray to take to them. The next thing I heard was a huge shattering sound and a collective gasp. He had dropped the bottle.”

Loaded Tots

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a plate of fried food at 2 a.m. to soak up the evening’s indulgences, right? But literally soaking it up might be just a tad much.

“By far the oddest combination I have seen is a customer who ordered tater tots and then added on – I should say really doused them – with a shot of Jägermeister. I don’t know if the guy was drunk and mistook the shot for ketchup (he did ask for that too and it was right next to the shot), or if it was intentional. He did finish up the tots, so I guess it was good. I don’t know. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think I want to do it.”

Pickle Juice, Pickle Juice, Pickle Juice

No order-shaming here, but he probably didn’t wake up with a hangover the next morning…

“We have specials at the bar every night, and on this particular night, it happened to be a pickleback: a shot of Jameson chased by a shot of pickle juice. It’s pretty popular and we were selling a lot of them that night. This guy came up to the bar with a couple of his friends, and they all ordered picklebacks. But then he wanted to customize the order [with] an entire glass of pickle juice instead of just the shot. I wasn’t sure how much or how big of a glass he wanted, but he told me that instead of a beer chaser, he wanted a pickle chaser. So, I gave him a pint of pickle juice. But here’s the best part: the three of them did another two picklebacks that night, and he had a pint of it each time!”