Notes of passion are composed throughout every piece of Sam Billen’s entrepreneurial melody. But it’s the most recent crescendo in his career that has him thanking the Academy.
“It sounds cheesy, but it’s actually pretty cool,” said Billen, composer and founding partner of Primary Color Music, detailing the experience of guests who step foot inside “The Oscars Experience” at the newly opened, Los Angeles-based Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
An intense but gently-melodic cinematic score composed by Billen and his team washes over visitors to the one-of-a-kind, immersive exhibition — putting the KCK-based custom music production business, its sister-company Post Haus, and its talented team on display for the world to see as they step into the role of momentary movie star.
“You are surrounded by video screens with a fake stage,” Billen continued. “Your name comes on the screen and you have an Oscar you get to hold. It feels like you are on the Dolby Theatre stage.”
Click here to learn more about the on-going exhibition, which opened at the museum last fall.
The opportunity to create something so magical isn’t new for Billen. He and his team have composed pieces for major corporations and brands that include Adidas, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, AMC Theatres, and BMW, along with such local companies as Hallmark, Garmin, and Boulevard Brewing Company.
“I grew up in a household of music,” Billen said, recalling his formative upbringing in Topeka where his father worked writing jingles.
“My dad definitely laid the groundwork for me. I think there is a way the Billens interact with other people that lends itself to the advertising industry.”
Ultimately moved by the music of his father’s success, Billen recalled how he first attempted to pursue his talents as the member of a college band. The experience quickly proved out of key for the composer who returned home to Kansas where he founded Primary Color in Lawrence as a passion project while working for the University of Kansas.
“I realized that I hated touring — and I kind of hated playing live, but I loved sitting in the studio and producing musical content,” he recalled, noting in 2014 his wife made a deal with him: he could quit his job at KU if he could match his salary making music.
“I hit the threshold that year,” Billen said proudly, looking fondly back on the years that have followed — and the roughly 2,000 compositions they’ve produced while Primary Color has scaled into a global operation.
Click here to read more about Primary Color, its sister company Post Hause, and its Farmhouse studio — a full studio inside a farmhouse.
With such success belting louder and louder, the sound of Billen’s upbringing gets sweeter and sweeter, he said, noting a recent project allowed him to bring his father out of retirement to make one more Billen-dollar run at the jingle game.
“I found one of his cassette players with recordings of the jingles he made and it almost brought me to tears,” Billen said, noting he hopes to someday replicate the feeling with his own children.
“Growing up, people used to say what I do is just selling out. But in my adult life, everyone says the opposite. People comment that I have a career in music — and that it’s a dream. I’m pretty thankful for where I’m at.”
Enter The Oscars Experience
“Ever dream about accepting an Oscar? Now is your chance! Step into The Oscars® Experience at the Academy Museum and be transported to the stage at the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night in this simulation.”
“Hear your name called, accept your award, and receive a video capturing your classic Hollywood moment. Visitors experience this with truly immersive audio in Dolby Atmos.”