Sean "Orc" Adams is one of the most unique musicians in Connecticut's underground metal scene. For many years, folks knew him by his Lord of the Rings-inspired solo project ORCumentary, where he sang about the downfall of elves and men accompanied by a keyboard and a backing track. His live-streamed Super Bowl 2019 halftime show even got shared by Loudwire and Metalsucks!
Then as a founding member of melodic metal band Virus of Ideals, Adams showed New England there were more sides to his musicality than just subjugating Middle Earth. In 2019, he expanded his endeavors to include studio work for other bands. Read to find out about the services he offers and how he is building up this creative side hustle!
Metalhead Money: Before we get to keyboards, what is your main hustle/day job?
Sean "Orc" Adams: I work as a technical writer in the engineering field, creating instruction manuals and similar documentation.
MM: Tell me about your studio keyboard side hustle! When did you get started with this? What kind of projects have you worked on so far?
SOA: I started doing studio work in the summer of 2019. Frustration had been building due to frequent setbacks with my band Virus of Ideals, lack of direction with my solo project ORCumentary, and balancing music with my day job. I felt I had no control over my musical destiny and was getting seriously depressed; I knew I had grown so much as a musician in the past few years but I had almost nothing to show for it (hadn't released any recorded music since the Virus of Ideals EP in 2016). It felt like part of me was dying because I had no idea where to direct my musical energy.
I was no longer content for things to stay as they were and vowed to take music more seriously. I was inspired by what some creatives (not just musicians) were doing using Patreon and whatnot, and my eyes opened to the possibility that a full time living could be made without touring. I had no idea what to expect when I first started offering my services as a studio keyboardist, but I got a few gigs right away. It helped keep the musical part of my brain active and has been a big part in helping make some crucial upgrades to my equipment and pay for upcoming musical projects.
I've worked with some great bands, including Mourn the Light (traditional/doom metal from CT), Novarium (goth metal from VA), Into the Coven (death metal from CT), Karma (Kamelot tribute band from CT), and Imperial Omen (black metal from California). Most of the work I've done is adding keys to existing songs, but a couple times I've created symphonic intros/interludes (for live shows) and I've even done some acoustic re-arrangements (piano and strings only).
MM: Do you typically record at the studio with the band, or record on your own and send them the track? If the latter, what kind of DAW/equipment do you use to do this?
SOA: I record at home and send the tracks to the customer. I have a desktop computer I use only for recording purposes. I've been using Reaper as my DAW and my Roland Juno GI keyboard for recording (mostly in midi). At the moment I have a solid collection of virtual instruments but I’m always looking for new ones to take my sounds to the next level.
MM: Do you offer any music-related services aside from tracking keys?
SOA: I can also help with songwriting, lyrics, drum programming, screaming vocals…I even produced/engineered for a band that needed a place to record keyboards for an outro on their album.
MM: What is your musical background? Education, past and current bands...
SOA: I took piano lessons for 11 years (age 7-18). I started ORCumentary (comedic LOTR-inspired metal solo project) in 2006 (age 17) and that's how I learned to perform in front of a crowd and to write music. I've put out 3 albums and an EP so far and played over 150 shows all over New England and beyond.
I started Virus of Ideals (full band, melodic death/symphonic metal (think Nightwish meets Dark Tranquillity) in 2015 and while we've only put out an EP, we are working hard on our debut album and have gotten some huge shows despite being relatively new.
I've had some brief stints in other bands over the years but the biggest highlight not related to my main projects is playing keys as part of Daisy Berkowitz's band (Marilyn Manson founding member) for a one-off show a few years ago. I learned a full set's worth of material in less than a week and it was an amazing experience.
MM: How do you advertise this hustle and find gigs?
SOA: So far I've been just advertising on social media along with word of mouth.
MM: How did you come to a rate to charge for this type of work — is it per hour? Or a flat rate per song/project?
SOA: I played around with a few different types of rates but once I had a better idea of what my average customer was specifically looking for and the actual amount of work I was doing on each job, I was able to modify how I charge accordingly and I have a consistent system.
As of right now, I have a flat rate I charge for keys on a song up to a certain length. If the song exceeds that length, the price goes up a bit. For example, recording keys for a 5-minute song will cost a bit more than a 4-minute song. The pricing format is similar for me doing a keyboard re-arrangement and intros/interludes, but both of those take more work than just adding keys to an existing song, so the rate is higher.
MM: How has the pandemic affected this hustle, if at all?
SOA: Business has been slow these past few months. While the pandemic likely had an impact, the blame can't be put entirely on that, as I'm focusing on the ORCumentary album and am not promoting my services as much. Once recording is done, I will have more musical time to devote to studio work and I’ll definitely promote this more aggressively.
MM: What are your goals for this project for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
SOA: I am taking some courses to help formalize my business a bit more. I'm hoping this will help me reach more people and get more clients. I’ve only done keyboard-related gigs so far, but I’d like to see about expanding my portfolio by getting different types of gigs. I also want to get back into the rhythm of doing keyboard and vocal covers to continue to showcase my ability.
MM: What's the best way for someone to get in touch if they are interested in hiring you?
SOA: Sending me a private message on any of my socials or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with something to the effect of “keyboard work” in the title.
Connect with Adams and his projects:
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