Archipelago Entertainment: Creating Immersive Musically Driven Audio Experiences

By Amit Chowdhry • Oct 3, 2023

Archipelago Entertainment is a company that creates immersive, musically driven audio experiences for games, brands, and artists. Led by multi-platinum producer/composer Ross Lara, Archipelago’s composers, sound designers, producers, and engineers have created custom work for Epic Games, Meta Music, Sounds of Red Bull, and countless films and independent games. The company’s tracks have been chosen by Adidas, Microsoft, Delta, Walmart, and more. Pulse 2.0 interviewed Lara to learn more about the company.

Ross Lara’s Background

Ross Lara

Lara grew up splitting time between Washington DC and Breckenridge, CO. And Lara said:

“I bought my first piece of music equipment when I was 13 (a Numark CDN CD Player and a Behrigner 2-Channel DJ mixer) and my passion began from there. First, I started DJing and eventually realized I wanted to create music as well. My formal education was at Full Sail University in Orlando, FL where I learned a lot and met some people that changed the course of my career and life.” 

“The journey continued with moving to Atlanta to produce electronic and pop music. Through a series of fortunate events, I fell into writing, producing, and mixing K-Pop and began traveling to Korea on a regular basis. After some initial success, I started Archipelago Entertainment. The journey has taken me through multiple genres of music and many different roles within the industry. While living in Los Angeles, I had an epiphany of what I really wanted to do in music which is to produce and compose music for films, video games, and experiences. The pandemic created an opportunity for me to go back to my roots, the mountains of Colorado, where we built the highest-altitude Dolby Atmos studio in the world. Throughout all of this, I have blended my passion for the outdoors, adrenaline, and being present with nature and the people around me.”

Formation Of Archipelago Entertainment

How did the idea for Archipelago Entertainment come together? Lara shared:

“The idea of Archipelago is always evolving. You can pick any year over the past decade and I could have been in any one of 8 cities, working on a vast variety of projects, in totally different parts of the industry. The original idea was formed while I was on vacation in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. I had a moment, while being totally enveloped in nature when I realized I wanted to start a company that encompasses my 3 passions: music, technology, and adventure.”

“I then reached out to a good friend, now co-owner, Brian Shenefelt who was working in the corporate world at the time. Once we flushed out the concept, we started the company almost 10 years ago in a 350 sq ft studio apartment in Atlanta, GA. Since then, we have continued to evolve. Creating music has been the one true constant and always will be. Technology has played many roles, from the equipment we use to the companies we work with. Adventure has taken many forms, from how we get our inspiration to the projects we work on.”

Favorite Memory

What has been your favorite memory with the company so far? Lara reflected:

“That is really tough to nail down since there have been a lot of amazing journeys along the way. My first thought goes to any time that I was able to truly combine music, technology, and adventure. When I was just starting in music as a teenager, I wrote down the goal of one day making music for Red Bull. So, when I was sitting in Red Bull’s headquarters in LA in 2018 and we were offered a project, it was surreal. Moments like that are what keeps us doing what we are doing.”

“Another one that comes to mind is when I was able to go to Iceland last year with one of my best friends and bandmates, Dave Cook, to create an album for our group, The Spacies. This was something we had been talking about for the better part of our friendship, and we were finally able to do it. Being in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world was truly awe-inspiring and created one of the best collections of music we have made to date.”

“With those being said, there are a lot of other really cool memories that have been made from being in some incredible places and meeting some amazing people. Sometimes, if you just say yes, something unforgettable may happen.”

Challenges Faced

What challenges have you faced in building Archipelago Entertainment? Lara acknowledged:

“The basics for a lot of businesses: Money, direction, lack of experience. Money is almost always an issue for startups. We had to get some initial funding, spent it way too fast, learned from that, and grew from there. We had multiple times in our career that our bank account was close to 0 and we had to make some very tough decisions. On the flip side, once you do have some money, you then have to think about how much you spend on building the business (technology, travel, promotion) versus putting it away in casework slows down.”

“Direction was a constant battle (sometimes in a good way) for us for the first 6-7 years. We have had so many different ideas and concepts that we have tried to run with, including education tours, creating ad campaigns, library music, artist management, live music touring, sonic branding, writing camps, and more. We have also had so many IPs, including Studio E, SoundFlex, Circuit Score, Adventure Loops, TV series, and more. There were a lot of phases to our company that led us to refocus and move to LA. That is where the direction became more clear, and all of our energy and time and money went to that. We now live in CO and make soundtracks and immersive music for video games, film, and some of the biggest companies in the world.”

“Lack of experience is as simple as it sounds. We were in our early 20s and had no idea what we were doing in business or life (we still probably don’t). We have made many mistakes and will continue to. Learning and growth is key.”

Significant Milestones

What have been some of your most significant milestones? Lara cited:

“The big milestones correlate with the locations and phases of my career and Archipelago.

Colorado: First piece of equipment and first paid show.

Orlando: Education and meeting my first two real mentors, learning how to hustle, and my first paid production gig.

Atlanta: First charting single and #1 song

Los Angeles: Working with Red Bull, Meta, and my first video game.

Colorado (again): Building the Dolby Atmos studio and landing my first film.”

Customer Success Stories

Upon asking Lara about customer success stories, he replied:

“Any of the customer success stories revolve around getting that next call. We have tried to build a reputation of not just being great at making music but also being easy and fun to work with. There are not many better feelings than getting a call from a past or current client saying there is no one else they would rather work with on their next project. That has always been more important to us than how many plays or sales we can make. That and the memories and the friends we have made along the way are the real success stories.”

Future Goals

What are some of your future goals? Lara pointed out:

“Being able to continue to make music professionally is always one of the top goals. I want to be an industry thought leader on emerging technologies such as Dolby Atmos. From a business perspective, we have goals to do our first AAA title for both film and games in the coming years.”

“Archipelago also has a strong passion for inspiring and helping others. I have a vision of having “retreats” in beautiful locations where we help the next generation of creators. It would be amazing, for example, to have a cabin in the woods for a week with some great mentors helping eager minds while we also experience nature and eat some amazing food. We want to inspire more than just music. People should take chances, celebrate nature, be present, and embrace the people around you.”

Additional Thoughts

Any other topics to discuss? Lara concluded:

“Be open-minded, be present, be kind. Say your please and thank yous. Use technology, but don’t abuse it. Take chances. Ask for help. Always be learning and growing.”