Last week we talked about the actual writing of the music, which is a crucial piece of the puzzle. But there are other puzzle pieces that need to fall into place in order for you to have a successful career. For instance: people need to know you exist, and you are wonderful at what you do. Specifically, people that hire people like you. In my case: filmmakers, documentarians, video game developers; basically any creative that wants music paired with their product. You need to market yourself. This week the challenge is the burning question: Who are you and why should anyone want to work with you?
A great percentage of the creative population struggle with the very concept of marketing since we have a hard time simply believing in ourselves. There’s the battle with self-doubt, and the constant temptation to compare yourself with others (never ends well). When you are worried you don’t measure up, how do you convince other people you are the right one for the gig?! Regardless of the stage you are at in your career, whether you are right at the beginning or years in, you need to believe that you deserve a seat at the table. As cheesy as it sounds, step one is believing in yourself and your product. This is where “fake it ’til you make it” really applies. When you have to pitch, whether it is in person, in email, through your website or social media, you have to present a confident front. Acknowledge your anxiety about your abilities to yourself, then set it aside and pretend like you actually are the badass you want to be.
The great business writer Seth Godin recently published the book This Is Marketing which is a fantastic read. I highly recommend it for all freelance creatives. I am not going to do a book report here but one foundational concept he discusses is that you need to approach marketing as solving a problem. Not blasting everyone in the immediate vicinity with your music or how generally awesome you are, but communicating how you can resolve someone else’s need. Problem: music needed for a film. Solution: I write music for film. This is a very basic interpretation of this concept. Read the book, he goes much deeper.
People need to be able to easily discover you and what you do. Let’s take a moment to talk about your website. You have one, right? In this era of social media (which we will discuss at length in a moment) it is tempting to not actually have a website but I highly encourage you to do so. This is a space where you have a lot more control of content and presentation than your Facebook or Instagram page. When people go to your website they are generally there for quick information. They want to find out four things: who you are, what you’ve done, how to contact you and what your product sounds/looks like. Everything else is gravy or potentially clutter they have to sort through to find the key points above. Your website should be clean, straightforward and easy to navigate. Flashing things, loading things, too much information – all this could work against you if it gets in the way of discovering the core content.
Here are my personal opinions on websites. If your music autoplays it is a massive turn off. Keep your website and all the content therein up to date! Think carefully about how you present your music. Soundcloud used to be a solid option but now it is very unreliable. When someone listens to one of your tracks on soundcloud it may then play someone else’s track right after, advertising a different music creator! Not cool. Use a player that gives you complete control – I highly recommend Reelcrafter which was built by composer Sam Hulick who is also an excellent software developer. There are other players available where you can control every aspect to make it cohesive with the rest of your website. This is the key aspect of your website. It should be attractive and easy to use.
Having a bunch of different playlists I think also looks messy. Have a core playlist on your website that truly represents you, the music you love to compose and therefore the kind of gigs you really want to land. When you pitch on a project, that is time to send a specific playlist that represents the genre and style that is perfect for that project. (Again, check out Reelcrafter. So great for pitching.) You should have multiple playlists ready to go when opportunities arise, but I don’t believe having them all available on your website is necessarily the way to go. Keep the website clean, straight forward and professional.
OK, Let’s talk Social Media. We all have a love/hate relationship with this arena. For me I choose to love it because it is an amazing (and free!) tool you can use to communicate to the whole world who you are and why people should work with you. The problem with social media is that it can so easily become a way to turn people off who you are. You must be careful and thoughtful with every single post.
As I emerged into the film and media world as a composer I considered the challenges of social media and came up with some strict rules for myself. I decided that every post I did would be public, because at the end of the day, the internet is the internet and even if you mark something private, or to friends only, you just never know. Everything I posted needed to reflect what I would want a client to see. Because they will! You better believe it.
Then I thought carefully about what aspects of my life I wanted to represent on social media. When you go onto my FB or Insta you will learn a number of things about me: I am definitely a composer for media and a score supervisor. I post about everything I am doing in that world. But you will also see that I really love my cats. I am a walk-aholic. I enjoy baking bread. I love hanging out with my people. I throw a FB party every time it rains in LA. Here’s the thing: when someone wants to hire another person, they want to hire someone who is likable. Someone who reads authentic. Someone who is easy to be with at 2 a.m. when you are rushing headlong into a deadline. Someone who won’t complain or overreact.
It is so easy to post on FB or Twitter exactly what is going on in your head at that moment. But I encourage you to take a beat before you post. Let me share with you some things that I see all the time that would make me not want to hire you. Posts where you ask questions about things you could easily google. That makes me feel like you cannot independently problem solve. If every post is a negative statement about something in your life, with no mention of what you are proactively doing to resolve the issue, that makes me think you are a complainer instead of a doer. Posts where you broadcast your ignorance on an issue. Consider keeping that to yourself. Ignorance is not a badge to wear proudly. Posts where you complain about drama in your life. If you are bringing that to social media, you will probably bring that into the project you are working on as well, and no one has time to deal with that. Posts where you announce that you are about to delete a bunch of friends. That one for me reads as pure drama. For better or worse, social media is a very stark representation of you. If clients don’t know you, they only have those moments you place online to figure out if they want to work with you.
The best things I witness on social media is authenticity paired with humor. A wonderful composer and pianist friend of mine, Bobby, is constantly cracking me up with his social media posts. They regularly make me laugh out loud. I don’t know how anyone could see his social media feed and not want to be around him. His posts make me happy to be a part of the social media-verse.
Positive authenticity is perhaps the biggest challenge of social media. I am simultaneously encouraging you to be yourself and to edit, but I do think it is possible. The best thing about you is that you are YOU. Not that other guy, or that girl. YOU. Do you own an adorable but odd looking animal? Are you passionate about spelunking? Are you (like me) obsessed with the Great British Baking Show? These are all great avenues for people to connect with you on an authentic and fun level. When I check out your Insta and FB I want to get to know how fantastically weird you are.
While I am aware that social media does not show the whole story, I think it is completely fine to try and present the best aspects of yourself. If I am in a horrible mood and struggling to be a good human, I am not going to put my bad vibes on the web. No one needs that. I don’t even want it! The other side of that coin is that people use these platforms to become vulnerable and open up the conversation on something really hard, like depression or having a miscarriage or their struggle with addiction. The most powerful moments are when individuals use that extremely difficult thing in their life to connect with others and perhaps help someone else who is silently going through the same thing. Again, this is positive authenticity. People trying to connect and help other people. It’s stunningly beautiful and uses the social media platform in the best possible way.
Let me say it one more time: be positive. When people go through my social media pages I want their spirits to be lifted. I try to post fun-loving thoughts, and good things I am trying to integrate into my life that will hopefully inspire others to do positive things in their life. Yes, politics is a disaster right now, and there are massive issues in the world. The heart breaking stories that appear minute by minute in the news are overwhelmingly depressing. But my job is to create music, so my goal is to put good things in my psyche so goodness comes out in the music I write.
People want to work with people who are positive, driven, and innovative. Not people who stand still and complain about everything that is wrong. I have a filmmaker friend, Laura, who wanted to cut down on her time on social media but let her feed know we could be part of her mailing list. So I signed up. Now every single day I get an email from her called “Love Laura” which has a positive thought paired with a great quote. I freaking love it. It is so great to start my day with her email. Also: pure marketing genius. Do I want to work with her? YES! With my social media I too am trying to put good things out there into the universe so other people can also be aided in their creation of good art. This might sound very airy-fairy but for me it is very a practical thing. Good goes in, good comes out.
Finally a great way to connect with others is to support them. If you want to make your way into the world of video games then start supporting the indie game community on social media. Re-tweet gamers, engage in conversations, nerd out, have fun! If you want to be in the world of Film then engage in filmmaking communities, like posts, participate positively in conversations. THEN show up at screenings, and bring a bunch of your friends along. Engage authentically and follow through. Be real, be present, be active. I recently scored the film for a producer that I had been friends with on FB for years. We had never worked together before 2018 but have been an active and real part of each other’s lives through social media for a long time. It was so cool to see the progression from FB friendship to filmmaking collaboration. We met in person and had a meal together after we wrapped our project last year. Hilarious, but this is the new reality with the wide reach of the internet.
I hope this blog post has been helpful. I am very aware of how challenging social media can be. Talk about the pitfalls of comparison: you open up your feed and immediately you are slammed with what everyone else is doing. I definitely struggle with the jealousy and the FOMO. That’s real, for sure. But please remember that you have a fair amount of control in this situation. You have control over what you see – you can unfollow whoever you want. You have control over what others see of you. You have control over how much time you spend there, and how you spend that time. This is a platform, use it to your advantage. You can use it to promote yourself. You can use it to help others. You can use it to be a positive part of your creative community. You have an opportunity every day to make someone else feel better, feel supported, feel heard.
So: who are you? Why is it is fantastic to work with you? I can’t wait to find out.
- This is Marketing – Seth Godin
- The social media accounts of people who make you laugh and feel good. Learn from their awesomeness.
- Other creatives’ websites – check them out and see how you can make yours more user friendly.
- You – please be brave enough to share yourself with us.