Help others – Help Yourself

Sometime way back in the mid nineties, we had this basic tool. I call mine AOL online lol. It was a dial up, slow arse means of wandering into dingy chat rooms, waiting for MSN news to load, not knowing entirely why your even using it, or maybe it was just more exciting than Encarta? But slowly and surely, we started talking to people on the other side of the world and doing things we couldn’t do before. We might have had a pen friend, a hard to reach relative or a passion for places we will never visit.
It opened doors. It opened so many do quickly, we became ‘online sentient’ in a peculiar way. Even today, when we are not buying crap from eBay or fighting over a senseless clash of personal opinion on a subject completely meaningless, we are communicating more than ever.
With this new era, and as technology and telecommunication advancements came to fruition with super fast porn,sorry broadband access, for a few quid a month, we can now work together, talk to someone face to face whilst watching a full HD movie that used to require a journey to Blockbuster.

The one thing i really like about the internet right now, today, is we are learning to accept one another and help someone with no tally or score sheet. Tutorials, walk-throughs and guides, You Tube videos, live webcasts, hangouts and more. Support groups by the score and an answer for nearly every question known to man via a voice activated search engine.
The time before this? Before we could just randomly ask someone 5000 miles away how to setup VE pro on a slave pc?
We kept everything close to our chest. As creatives, we shared very little in fear of losing an edge, losing your contact. You had to drive up and down the country, send out a million costly CD’s with maybe promo packs, setup meetings, phone calls and book expensive studio time for quite a simple session by today’s means.

Whole communities of composers would just be part of a small known clique. Its probably a sensible and survivalist way of handling yourself when you consider all those factors. The immense time and money price you pay to forge a career in an age where everything was a conscious effort. Maybe that is exactly why we shared so little. Not because it was so hard to do, but the effort that goes into breaking a new contact, massaging that deal?
The work on the table was effectively shared and by very few. Most of us couldn’t just jump on a flight to LA and expect to groom relationships or check out of LAX and be greeted by a suit taking you to a big studio, network etc.
But today?? Now we can hook up with anybody in a matter of minutes. The downside is saturation for sure. One giant global door that has no locks, no checks or clauses, no restrictions, no real effective Policing of your personal ethics and morality. At least not on a civility level of basic manners and respect.

The upside of this is the way we are embracing this big open door. This huge portcullis. We are more equal than ever and willing to hand out information to others. We can conduct full remote sessions with entire orchestras several thousand miles away, or have a full set of custom stems sent and then loaded into our DAW’s only hours after a Skype with someone.

So what does it mean to be willing to help? How does this work exactly?

For me personally, all that i have found from trying to give something back, is you need to remember where you were a few weeks ago, months or years. The early days when you were asking a million questions and finding everything so intimidating, you questioned if you would ever learn your industry.
The reward for all of that is really simple. Its not a monetary gain on any level, its not a means to get something buck free or start a spreadsheet on who owes you how much time and favours.

Its about teaching yourself something along the way. The process itself of being asked, is like asking yourself those questions and what they all mean to you. Its a means of growth.

You can overdo it like anything else taken to excess. If you spend too much time everyday trying to help someone else, your work and family life can easily suffer.
There is a balance you must strike and through some stumbles and silly mistakes on your part, you will find a happy medium of working with others and the time you need to stay afloat. If any of this sounds like too much hard work, i still think you would be missing the whole point.

As long as you work by some simple rules and guidelines, you can offer so much of your time and none of this should feel like an effort. Be upfront with people your working with and say, “im only too happy to help, but i will be busy during XXX days or after 5pm i tend to switch it all off and spend time with my family”

Maybe you can try a system where you can ask that person to leave you a bunch of questions and you will get back to them as soon as you can??
If its hands on creative help, that’s fantastic, but you still need a basic framework to operate under.
But i think the most important thing is, learn to walk away. Sometimes, just sometimes, no matter how many ground rules you set, what you think is fair and just, isn’t seen the same way to others.

I cant say everyone is in this like you will be. I cant promise you wont meet one or two people who just ask and ask relentlessly, forgetting those ground rules you mentioned, and become angry and disillusioned with you are no longer on 24 hour call.

Over the last 4-5 years, ive seen this quite a lot, but its human nature. For some, just a few, you will encounter those who only want to take, and are passive aggressive when you don’t come up with the goods.

You have to rise above it every-time. Chalk it down to something that didn’t work out, but don’t stop.
People aren’t inherently all bad, selfish takers. Never allow one bad experience mar this journey you are taking.

There are reasons some people dont want help even when they verbally ask you for it. Quite simply, its pride.
There is nothing worse a feeling for some, when they have to admit they need to ask but once they have that info, they find ways to disassemble who you are, what you know. Everything you say and stand for has no currency or credence and they are long gone.

It can however, work like a dream. Its all a little Utopian in a way, without having to mention it, to call out, but when the chips are down, its great when you see so many people selflessly lay down what there doing and come to your aid. Its not a pay it forward system, but i guess in an unspoken way, it has the right message behind it all the same.

If no one helped no one, all you had was your solitary wits, your sense of ruthless survival, we would end up in that world when we couldn’t reach anyone like we can now. It would descend back into a system of “pay me for my time” and thats it, doors closed.
I do like helping when i can. I like to stave off obvious problems. Stop your friends from walking into something, or a contract that will eat them alive. We have the time and love to raise a friend or relatives spirits, its the same thing when you reach out online in a community.

I tell my son he can do anything, that nothing is beyond his grasp if he works really hard at it. The teaching or ethic behind that is the same you pass on to others. No one ‘likes’ to see others hurt, failing or walking into certain danger. Its not about opening your diary and telling someone everything about you.
Its not giving up all your leads and contacts, offering them all your best production tricks and hints, sending them freebies or anything inbetween. But it is still a process of giving something.

I think it sends out the right kind of energy and vibes back into the world too. Im a big believer in creating that space, that world you want to live in where someone can just do something for you and want nothing in return. Where manners are second nature, and you can make time for people who may be just starting out or fumbling around for some sense and reason in what there doing.

Its not an easy thing to just let that part of you be so willing. Yes you will face those who will take a dig at you, undermine what authority you have to be helping, that you are far from qualified to advise anyone.
That side of it will actually never stop. Its the price paid for just putting yourself out there, so learning to ignore the detractors is a task in itself.
Usually, its spurned by jealousy and resentment born from comparisons to what you are doing and what there not doing. But dont give in! Always always rise above it.

When Something isn’t quite right – And how to fix it.

I remember a few years back when i wanted to begin writing music for commercial usage. I wont say “music for media” as no other generic bland label turns my blood as quick to be honest. I posted up a few of my tracks to a forum, and the response i got was unexpected and it did shock me.
It wasn’t high praise, a pat on the arse and a nod from your peers. It was a critique and a fair and brutally honest reaction to my work. You know what? It smarted.

I felt immediately like a failure. Day one out of the gates and i suck at this. Lets down tools and sit with a bowl of lemons all day.Well once you pry yourself away from a little self prescribed pity, the next step is making a big decision. Its a decision that will affect you for a long time to come. Simple put, do i take constructive criticism or do i basically say “screw them all, what do they know”?

Recently, i have had emails, ive read posts online with all manner of would be composers trying to strike out and wondering why on earth the industry isn’t clawing at their portfolio. What does one have to do to catch any breaks at all.
And the culture now is one of, i kinda deserve this shit. I went out and bought the latest string library, i bagged some amazing percussion samples, i have a decent DAW to construct in, so what gives??

Well heading back to our decision we made, if you chose to ignore anyones feedback when it wasn’t all sparkling and ego basting, then you are in for a very long haul experience.
I felt quite angry, how dare this person say it was written clumsily and that the form and structure weren’t remotely commercial, and the sounds were “ok” and the mix was so-so.
How dare this one person that i looked up who had spouted, and his accolades, his multi film scoring career, tv advertising back record, hugely successful tv writing and say to me i needed a lot of work and my music was a hobbyist at best.

But after what was a day of sucking on said lemons ^, i turned that corner. Well of course what he is saying holds water. Not only due to this distinguished career he had undertaken, but he had nothing to gain by just lying to me. I honestly couldn’t see any posturing in a new composer with weak material rocking this guys world where he would be making it up.
So i stopped making excuses. Ok so he said my writing structure was too song like, and i hadn’t written it for any seeming purpose. So is it for a show reel, scored work, tv placement etc??
Having played back my finest 3-4 i had to conclude he was 100% accurate in his critique. Id confused the issue with no actual target for the music. I wasn’t writing for anything, anybody, merely to please myself in the most self ingratiating, indulgent manner. There was little to no chances of anyone else liking it at all at this point.

But ive been writing for so many years, what gives??

Well its the story of just because isn’t it. Just because you have a lot of experience in one area in music doesn’t qualify you to leap headlong into the next.
It was fair to say there was something not at all right with my attitude at that point and the mechanics of the music on several levels.

So with a swift change of attitude, ie:not treating those you ask of to listen like lepers purely because there honest critique doesn’t gel with your ego.
And studying as hard as possible to understand what does what and in what medium.
Learning the rules of audio engagement if you will. Understanding how your music will effect the product your selling. Will a 12 minute epic opus show anyone you can write for promotional trailer work? – probably not.

Will a selection of full on rock tracks illustrate your ability to morph, to adapt and be versatile in a constantly changing market?
To understand what someone needs from you as a composer, writer, creative etc, is 90% of the battle. If you understand all those things, and you have the skills you built up over the years, making that transition isn’t going to be quite as hard.

What does get old and tiring is when you DONT change your attitude and adapt.

But surely i can write anything i want and eventually someone will recognise my amazing chops and sign me up and the rest is history?

I would imagine the sheer batting average for that philosophy is about as low as you can get. Maybe count them on one hand over decades. Dont allude to being the next Thomas Newman and just cant catch a break, everyone’s wrong, why are they listening?

There is a big difference between being heard and being acknowledged.
You know sometimes the music you have right now, this minute, is actually bad.
It can be just awful despite all our best intentions. Yes you are being heard but no one will take time out of a busy day to delicately tell you why you suck so much.

You’re going to have to self medicate and fix your own wounds.
If you start getting things right, if you work really hard, and i mean REALLY fucking hard, you invest in some decent sounds and equipment so your hands aren’t tied behind your back, you will get some feedback slowly but surely.
Ranging from, yeah i liked that first half, your programming is great. You might not win the ultimate prize of “this is a great cue, totally see this in XXXXX”

But just don’t blame everyone. the world at large when you don’t adapt. When you refuse to hear feedback that your family or friends didn’t make.

I read so many comments recently of why cant i sell more music?? Is it the market place right now?? Where else can i send my music??

How about you don’t for a while?? Maybe your not selling because your not listening or growing.If you still think everyone’s an arsehole and you deserve your spot, good luck with your other job and prepare for a life less gratifying.
For those of us who slept past decent education, myself being one of them, go and study. Less facebook less moaning, less blaming and study.
The main overall reason you are not selling music is 99.99999% all you, not your lame excuses.

Permission to Speak Captain. The unspoken rules of self promotion and internet manners.

Man with black tape over his mouthWe all know the required etiquette for waiting our turn in a doctors surgery. We know how to behave when we are in other peoples homes, places of worship, airplanes and just about any other convenience or public place, so it makes you wonder why we cant quite achieve that level of social norm online.

The world wide web was created sometime between 89 and 91 with Berners Lee sending out those first text body comms, and sparking something that would change our lives forever. Bearing in mind we have had some form of spoken language for millennia, and have  been creative artistic people since we strutted about in caves, you would think that a mere virtual place to chat and swap ideas, would be an innocent stress free medium and everyone would just get along.

The history of this globalisation ‘tool’ is still in day one infancy. No one knows less cares about being polite 24/7 playing by unofficial forum rules, being moderated and herded by over zealous site admin any more than they do when 18 and on holiday with there mates bowling across town like you pretty much own it.
You can take a tour of your community online and just like in ancient times, street preachers proclaim the end of days, how to live a clean life, tales of sorrow and woe and words of self appointed wisdom. Yes, the internet has so many opinions now, everyone and there cat, yes CAT, is a blogger like me, or a part time broadcaster who thinks there big view of the world needs to be followed.

Its the difference between advice and offering a perspective on how you have found parts of your life came out complete with highs and lows, versus loud belligerent ego herding you into there click. The power of this Un Policed social medium is no one really understands where the boundaries are and if everyone else is even paying attention. i mean theirs nothing worse than standing in line and the cashier pulls down the window curtain for the day whilst others are skipping the line and cutting in.

This is a new civilisation but realistically, its not even a good 15 years old. Most people just didn’t go online at all until 10 years ago as dial up moved to the side and allowed for life to move at a sensible speed.So bearing in mind, this brand new place that connects you to every culture, every good or bad habit you didn’t realise you had, is it any wonder that when we learn to use it to assist our lives or careers, we are either scared witless of breaking too many rules that others just impose at a whim, or we aren’t even sure how far your voice will reach. A lot of us are trying new ideas, ways to be noticed in our working career and we still aren’t harnessing what there is out there.

I’m not any level of an expert in web related promotion but what i have seen so far is, it is so colourful, fad/ trend driven, that you need to link all your promotion and tie it into something tangible.

Like a campaign for example.

Perish the thought we might collate all our ideas for a project and find a way to schedule some info once a week, tie in other media to generate easy cross platform promotion! lol

The simplest way to think of trying to have a voice online is to think numbers and the pyramid effect you need to actually reach people. You have something new to show people, you tag where you can, you also say check out some new artwork on Pinterest, or catch me on twitter for exclusive download links. i mean you can just link from a host of options and have them self circulate like a whirlwind effect, and the part that matters, everyone who has seen it and shows interest, is helping you by leaving there trail online too. They might tag a friend, re post on Tumblr or facebook,google+ etc.

Having a focused project like this is great cos lets says your releasing an album of trailer cues or a collection of your new folk pop tracks etc blah blah, you can announce something very cool is coming,and you cant beat adding an actual date with that.

Thats why movie posters, album releases,books etc all have that date stamp. Not just so you make a calender note, its cos it looks exciting. its physiological. Your hard wired to respond to things that you believe are important, even when its actually quite low key and unimportant.

Follow up on that date with a new date!! Show some artwork pics, a small blog about the making of your new movie, 4 track EP or whatever it is you want to generate some clicks from. Seeping out your media in an organised schedule means a lot to people.No matter what you might think about how bloody trendy and flaky we are all now, we still love to know “when its coming out though”??

A schedule is brilliant cos its training your audience to subliminally be in your eyeline roughly when you want to be seen.

Saturation

Now this is the one EVERYONE brings up a lot. How much is too much self promotion????

I have a bug with this topic and ill explain why. Now in any other real world situation, lets say you were buying radio tine, tv ad time, billboard posters, mag article space etc THE WORKS, how much does this really affect you?? seriously??

I mean are you REALLY that pissed off that you keep seeing an artist on tv? If you have that level of repulsion, to be fair now, it means you are so not there target audience and your unlikely to be swayed by any amount of super catchy tunes, what the band does for charity, and the last thing they ate for dinner, but if you vaguely like this kind of music, your keen, this is for you.

You get pulled in, the catchy tune gets under your skin, its the genre you love, and this new band is actually pretty cool so your responsive now to all the ads and radio play. Think about all the biggest bands or artists you adored as a kid, now can you recall you were never sick of hearing about them?? of course you weren’t, you had posters on the wall, you watched them on chat shows, on tv and in movies.

So why we have such a huge aversion to self promotion? Bearing in mind, as above, we are happy to skip the rules online cos frankly we’re just not sure it really matters cos its not real eh?? its just computers and online crap?? right?

We hate to promote cos we think a few relatives and peers (when i say peers i mean no one that will employ you, just 500 others who do the same job as you), will get so sick of this stuff, you might be……

 

drum fucking roll please………….

UNADDED ON FUCKING FACEBOOK.

Seriously?? This is what stops you actually promoting what you do? you and the rest of the entire world understand the concept of marketing.Your either spending millions driving it home or your buying into it. Does it really matter that a 100 of your composer friends for example have dropped you from there feed cos this guy is always on the sell?? Your trying to sell to an industry, not a stream of friends and buddies.

I just say to friends and family, if my shit drives you nuts, don’t stress, just unadd the feed.

Then you get this golden gem, “i only use my facebook music page to promote so it doesn’t annoy anyone”

Yeah cos there are 2 big things wrong with that statement. Firstly you aren’t really using the page, and most people aren’t actually doing what they claim annoys the crap out of you, and secondly, its so so short sighted to just lump all those eggs into Zuckerbergs basket. You have so many ways to communicate now you really don’t need to be worried about the world judging you on this one platform.

Dont you find that part funny? We worry about that kind of promotion thinking a million people will think im a schmuck when a million people is exactly what you want to reach!!?? Who gives a crap if the ratio of a million viewers equates to 800k think your work is mediocre and just annoying? Your could break that down over and over and if it leaves you with say 10,000 interested viewers who want to know more, they will do the rest for you. its FREE. They will re post to friends who DO like this kind of shit.

Your need to hone into a market and audience is so much simpler now. All the like minded groups, chat board, forums,social media sites etc will have trending, things we want to see. When you get some of this working for you, you have an army of publicists working for free who are talking about what you do.

As corny as it sounds, even when its not always good, when people aren’t saying great things about you, there still working on your behalf cos your reaching a huge audience and again, you can ratio that exposure down to some hard core followers.

If your looking for work, you do need to be inventive. You need to look polished, professional, punctual with your promo schedule and deliver something great as often as you can .Saturation only falls on its backside when you are screaming through a brick wall at the same time as 1000 others, all shouting at something that cant respond.And standing behind that wall is nothing like your target audience. Hand out some thrash metal CD’s and concert tickets to the retirement home down the street just for kicks, cos you know there gonna be great numbers……..

Saturation is when you start allowing yourself to feel self conscious whilst bombarding a tiny minuscule audience.

What i have tried to do, is meld networking into a way to promote something about what you do, and then as i said, link and branch this into other types of medium other platforms. Even when it seems there is no big immediate reaction, remember when your selling a brand or product, it takes the big companies millions of dollars, huge airtime and every trick in the book to make some of this stick, so don’t be shocked and all fucking upset just because 2 weeks or posting on facebook didnt bring about new gigs lol

Try forming a schedule. Write it all out and understand how and why your using other mediums and sites to create this machine.This entity that will take on a life of its own. I know that by looking at all the people i love to listen to and follow, 90% of all the work is done for them. I cannot go anywhere online in communities, enthusiast sites without seeing the same names coming up again and again.

But when you spend time looking at how much that person is contributing? its actually not a great deal. They just delivered some regular elements to there brand to your door on schedule and with some variety.

Blog posts, video blogs, teaser work, self promo congrats patting oneself on the arse posts, you name it, its all a piece of it.

As for tactics, you need to be honest and real with people, your audience and/or future Client but that’s just my take, my opinion and what im happy to live by. You wont have everyone playing house rules if we believe there are any! You will see so often, internet sociopaths, bleating on, but not giving an opinion, there crafting a way to make you feel small, to feel like any other way of life, way of thinking puts you on the outside, exiled.

All i will say as a signing off comment, only ever take what you need from people when they offer advice or an excerpt from there journey. It will only work for them in that exact dynamic blend. Your beliefs, your ethics, your sensibilities are your own and your big and ugly enough to work all this out on your own. You don’t need to be part of any gang, any club or click, so you never need anyones permission to speak per se, but the adage “opinions are like arseholes, everybodys got one”, stands the test of time!

As for actually daring to be heard, to promote what you do? Don’t be afraid to sell who you are and what s great about you.Let those numbers do what they do, you will grow your target audience the more you put into this. Just please please look beyond the safe FB haven and really exploit those platforms. There all making millions of dollars from YOU because your audience is there potential sales revenue for advertising etc

 

Taking Inspiration

I have had a nice break from blogging and this for several reasons has given me chance to work through this entry. Sometimes just having an opinion can cause quite an unexpected stir and i have certainly been entertained the last few weeks seeing all kinds of counter attacks and some lower base movements over what is, just one guy sharing ideas and thoughts. So without further ado, i want to broach the dark and sometimes unloving world of inspiration and ideas and underline this with the reminder, this is just MY take on music, the industry and how it has affected me. Some of you MIGHT find some elements useful. To either disagree with and know full well your method is better for you, or it may add a piece or two into your own melting pot.

I do write a lot of music. Ill state the obvious for some of you here but yes i admit i have always felt really driven to try as many new styles as i can, and to fear nothing. To the point where sometimes it plainly just doesn’t work at all. I mean, no ones perfect right?? Far be it from me to even suggest im a composer who has crept near a state of perfection! cos that’s as far from the truth as it can get. But lets start with how it makes you feel to write music.

When you delve into your earliest memories of listening to music and then your first ever jams to your fave record,  you might recall that fearless naive sense of exploration you once had.When your learning, and you have zero expectations, its probably the safest period of your musical life and the most adventurous and giving period too. You have no state of mind of looking for success or a gig. Your not comparing yourself or judging what you do. In fact self doubt in this formative stage is non existent. Its just FUN. You jam, maybe gig with a local band, you pick up instruments you can make sound truly hideous, and you give everything a go.

This for me is a feeling i try and latch onto when im writing now. From the age of around 13 i guess and im 38 as i type this. I try to remember that music is precious to me on my own terms without critical worry and scathing reviews, or judgement from anyone suggesting it simply isnt your best, or your work is selling out and hitting it low. I have written dozens upon dozens of product demos and during this time ill be honest and say they weren’t all great. Some of those tracks are so experimental and a bit out there, that some of the content would be tough to digest. But the important part is, i didn’t care of no one loved them. I just think its ok to be that kind of writer. To not be beating yourself up over a weird avant garde mentality in pushing for new ideas and sounds. It was ok when i was a kid, and its ok right now.

If you always second guess new ideas and new inspiration and bag it, shelve it before its even begun, then its no wonder you feel limited. You keep screwing the lid tighter and tighter each time so a piece of you doesn’t emerge and if you start developing an over critical view of all you create, then trying to write at larger volumes will become a pointless and most def fruitless pursuit.

I would happily find a specific thing i want to do, be it a genre style or mood i want to invoke, and write 20 cues one after the other to start finding that sweet spot. A familiarity and warmth. Like its a new home to you, and then writing more and more ideas for me personally, comes easier than just feeling so alienated in a new style.  You can spend weeks over 8 bars and sweat for the art and all power to you. I would certainly never suggest that someone who has the liberty and freedom to spend weeks per track is the bad guy. But life and your career needs a balance between how much time you can actually spend and what your trying to achieve.

Im fully aware that if i take a year out to explore a life long project , i wont be paying any bills during this time. We have no home and our small family would starve. So until i can do this, writing larger and faster is a survival tool for me, but also a valuable tool for growing new skills and developing instead of being stale and a one trick pony.

So how do you find inspiration for yourself?? What works for you??

Its always a highly subjective thing but i enjoy asking this question and i have hijacked lots of peoples methods for getting a release and learn to explore with greater yield and enjoy the down time in order to recharge and digest new things. The things i have heard and taken onboard i actually use in a juxtapose. And my favourite is this.

“Only listen to what you have done, what you want to do and stay original”.

This first part i do have a big interest in and it is something i can relate to. You can sometimes under estimate how completely brilliant your brain is. We assume that its all quite short term and secular. That we only take in what we focus on and study. But we all know this not to be true. As creatives we are aware that a life time, from birth to present day, we are absorbing every single sound that our ears detect.As i type this, a perfectly awful modern pop song is playing behind me in an ad break. Will i remember all the lyrics and chord progressions??? well i hope not!, but chances are its up there and its filed away without me knowing it may have some value later on.

Being true to your own exploration is def an undiluted affair. It makes you feel at the very least, like you are raiding your mental catalog for things that mean something  ‘to you’.At that point, the only person rolling there eyes and questioning, is just you. I also find all manner of retro spective listening to your older works a huge benefit. The forgotten tricks you left behind cos you just didnt see the value or the beauty in what you do.When you distance your ears from your music for even a few weeks, a re listen can show you places you need to goto. It helps you learn faster and it also keeps the inspiration and idea factory fueled and the fires still burn.

“You only listen to the work of your favourite composers,bands and songwriters”

This is the counter argument, except no ones actually disagreeing. Whether you chose to sit and study great music from others or not, as i said above, your taking in a huge volume of ideas and little sparks of new ones to come.It can help you a great deal for a myriad of reasons. One i find a productive boost for me is listening to certain types of music to understand arrangement better.Maybe pic up some new thoughts for production value. Some times you just get a idea from almost nowhere at all.So subtle can the suggestion be, you hear one train of thought, one snippet, and you have a whole new idea from this morsel.

I heard a track the other day by a great composer. He had used an electric piano to build up a sense of pace and also a organic feel in the mood. Now i pretty much raced to my DAW and its important to highlight the following. I then started riffing some ideas but at no point did i TRY and rip the original, nor was i interested in the mood and story of that piece. Its great but not where i need to go.But it gave me a small subtle starting point to head in a new place. Working with some cool delays and time sigs, the tiny reference to the cue i had was long passed but what emerged was a pretty good idea.

Its not stealing, its not ripping other peoples property. Its just trusting your instincts. You can find inspiration in so many ways when you hear other people writing their best. I get a huge buzz when i stroll through the hard drive and start loading up some pretty bizarre patches and libraries i had long forgotten. Just giving them a play through and in minutes, that sound you had written off as “never gonna be helpful, like ever in the history of my career”, now becomes the focal point of a new cue.

It doesn’t matter how bad you think a writing session can be, as i have said, no one at that point is hearing your work and your view point is skewed by self doubts. You spent an hour playing John Williams scores and now all your noodlings feel flat! Well thats got bad idea written all over it hasn’t it. Stop comparing.  How many times have you played through some new music and thought, this is all great production – wise, but i dont feel the emotion or where im going with it. Yet you can hit up other new tracks and you hear a much more understated arrangement with less bells and whistles, and just a 100 times more emotion and richness.Dont confuse listening to other types of music and composers with making comparisons. One road leads to complete doubt and worry and the other leads to some liberation and fire in your belly. I dont actively listen and think “my god that guy is just so much better at writing this kind of music”, i just feel like i have seen some new ways to adopt that for myself and self teach. Negativity in others is the biggest stone around your neck. When you kick jealousy out of the equation and just replace it with a hunger and interest to move forward, thats a healthy kind of envy and can create a positive surge.

So i do find both schools of thought a winner but in moderation and when you need to draw more from totally different people or to delve back inside the huge catalog of sound that is your mind, and dare to pull something out, whether you immediately recognise it as of great value or not.

Inspiration does tend to strike when you give it room to move. If you watch and listen to the behaviour of any child, you will see that from the age they can walk and talk and form sentences, they are already trying things for the first time. A small mind that isnt carrying around any worries about household bills, meetings, trying to catch the train, did i file all my taxes correctly? etc, They have a nice blank page to work with and a big handful of crayons. And despite the Jackson Pollock nature of their ideas and artwork, its still an expression without limitation. As you grow older, that space you have becomes filled with worry and responsibility and its a big shame we have to see this in our kids. We need to them to grow and be aware, but at the same time, your engaging emotion, and head space. The frontal head thinking that enables us to walk and talk, have an mp3 on our ears, clutching a paper in one hand, a umbrella in the other, already doing “mental math” over how your day will go and what you need to accomplish.

Children don’t do this. They simply are taught to take on so much responsibility, it absorbs all that frontal and immediate space. So this leads me onto the simple mechanisms i have used and many of my friends have told me to adopt. Taking breaks!!!! Its ok if your a one man machine on a mission to rule the roost and succeed, hurling cue after cue over your shoulder, but with no pauses or ‘jolts’, that head space we treasure, it becomes cluttered to breaking point.

Its pretty much a bottle neck and all the daily woes and struggles are just filling up that space allowing none of the long term magic to pass by. Those collected scraps of audio, the pictures in your mind, heart felt memories, the experimental moments of insanity, are all sitting behind a wall of daily fears and struggles.

So the jolt to unblock this can be as simple as a walk through a park. It can be going out for a drink and just laughing your head off till it hurts and tears fill your eyes, It can be something of such an intense focused nature, their isnt any place for clutter. I had the pleasure of visiting a great guy whilst in LA a few weeks back and i went shooting for the very first time. Now if you are of non USA heritage or upbringing, then being able to do this at all can be something a little tricky to achieve in your country or origin. But my word, the release from all the thoughts and fears was so crisp in my mind.

Complete focus on one very important thing = everything else fades away. You don’t need to always think, ‘i need to fuck off and go hug a tree’ when someone says, stop working and relax. It just means find your own ‘jolt’ and activate that part of you again. Unblock the path for ideas and new feelings.Take all the blogs and advice you read everywhere and tear it up. Find the morsels of info that can and will apply just to you.Cut and paste new ideas into your worlflow and never fear trying new ways to work. You can quite simply hit delete and start over!

Branding, Networking and Getting out There

My Metal Brand Perspective

Oh Branding……you taunt me so and place me among the shelves with the baked beans and tinned ravioli.How this word to me evokes a somewhat faceless, soulless position and at the other end of the scale i see myself with a cattle brand iron stamped firmly on my arse.

So what is branding to you?? Do you understand it and its importance??

Well 99% of consumers already know it all too well. We respond to advertising, we are saturated with new ideas, catchy slogans, logos, huge billboards, cinema and tv spots.And when we head for the supermarket, we are buying into the colourful packaged E number, sugar laiden produce with a confidence and certainty. We feel that we are almost getting that much better when we buy the well presented product with the jingle in our heads, whether you actually want it there or not.

So how do you make branding translate into what we do and what we are after??

Therein lies more confusion as we are all taking our leads from what we see everyday but im not convinced we are separating ourselves and our branding away from other markets in a way that says ” im  composer, this is my awesome music, now grab and knife and fork and taste the fucking sunshine” Already we are thinking of selling but sometimes we cross over in and out a little confused. Imagine how it leaves a client feeling??

So far be it for me to proclaim im a dab hand or master at branding because im not. I have tried some very simple logo ideas and what i have learned from this is only one thing. It pays to wear a half decent suit when you goto a meeting, so why not a presentable front door to your growing empire?

The tools for the job in hand are now many fold , and its hard to ignore the wealth of wordpress templates and flash driven home screens. The best way to research a good solid website for example, is to go and hit up 20 known composers and see what works for them. How the site is essentially quite simple and has just a handful of obvious pages to visit. You need to show off your history, a small bio giving an idea of the wonderful journey you took and a contact request form page.Above and beyond this, it can start to become messy. Maybe a news feed page from the home screen.

You often find great examples of how branding evolves when you look at a lot of established rock and pop acts over the years and to understand its not as easy as it might first seem .I can think of at least a dozen acts that were launched with great success that had only half a basis of an image, artwork for the singles and albums, the clothes and styles that would define them. It takes time and even the biggest and best examples tend to shave off a bit here and hone a bit there.

To have ‘some’ form of branding to me says, effort. I have rolled out of bed and made a conscience effort to be presentable and indeed professional. Your brand needs to lean towards the area of the market you are heading for. It seems like stating the obvious but i have seen a fair few sites that were massively noisy with way too much content and no clear means to just sample the wares and pick up contact info. I mean thats the main aspect imo, let me heard some work and let me contact you. Dont make me hunt through a sea of crap to do so.

Onto networking. Im thinking each part of this blog could have been the basis of an extensive series of ideas,  but i think you can make this too complicated and convoluted. Again, looking at how you respond as a consumer should tell you all you need to know about getting out there.

Looking at the way it used to be is an education it in itself. Bearing in mind that pre 1996 ish, next to no one was using the internet in any big practical way. We def were not uploading hours of music and having such a hands on experience as we do now. And bear in mind the dark age before the internet was the time when work was always local to you.

You really did need to live in the city you would end up trying to sell to. You had to be local enough to drive over to a studio, or tv studio, or at least be in a few miles so you can get a courier to race over finished DAT tapes and CD’s of the latest mix.There would be a desk somewhere with a 100 CD’s per week piling up, all with more lavish artwork than the next, trying to find a way to catch the eye.

I recall even resorting to home made presspacks with pictures, a t shirt, brochure and CD’sof my work. And all at great cost at the time. Just to run off a couple of dozen and including postage and time etc, it cost a lot!

No one would listen to you as you were giving them unsolicited work. You couldn’t get into a performing rights organisation because you had nothing aired on tv and to get anything aired, you guessed it……you needed a PRO!

It was a huge catch 22 and it made things next to impossible. It was really a case of being local and using the place you live as your hub. Getting into actual meetings face to face or else be forgotten and never thought of again.

So that was a slice of then, and we know that in this day and age, we are just a email or upload away from the other side of the world. Its painfully easy to connect and record. To drum up work, make friends, remote session, grab the skills of people who up until the last 10 or so years, you need to fly over with a ton of crap and work the session with them at enormous costs and usually all on you.We are all essentially spoilt brats and we know we are.

We have everything we could dream of that we had no chance of obtaining a decade or so ago.What used to be a huge desk, a wall of synths,a ton of outboard is now contained neatly in one box that remembers everything, is polished and instant and frees up the process unlike anytime prior.

So networking became actually easy to do now but unbelievably hard to make an individual impression or anything unique to you. The globalisation phenomena now positions you back on the producers desk like a CD stacked up and largely ignored.

So you need to think about the whole package. Combining your branding, your product and having some marketing tricks to play to steal the show, or at least for just a few minutes.

Everything in real world marketing is all based on one big component and thats scheduling and regularity.

There can be a right time and a wrong time. Ok globally thats complex but for the sake of what your aiming for , i would tend to think about promoting through the social networks around lunch time onwards for the people on the west coast of the USA. Im not going to cry myself to sleep at that point of certain territories dont see it at the right time. Im going to build this campaign to the point where others will re post and link to what you are saying and doing, therefore doing the work for you, overlapping all time zones and different days.

Its a seed you sow and the scheduling is very important. In the same way a tv show or ad campaign runs like clock work. Tv episodes that came up same time same place each week, its not just a booked slot. Its pitching to a demographic or who would be watching, the best time to show them and how much you show them.

Having a regular posting of new music, or a regular blog,website updates, gives people a chance to climb onboard.It also feels more assured and professional to take this approach.Having several different oulets for what you do also maximises exposure across all the platforms and promotes a natural state of overlap.

Lets say you have worked on a demo and beta test for a new sample library. It helps you in the first instance by having that association. You post up the demo, they post up the demo. You link to their you tube demo and tutorial work throughs, which shakes hands in a way with the friend who made that video. You tweet it with links to demo and vid, trending the new product.

Being a part of a community which is all very intertwined and connected to one another, is a big deal. You really have so much to learn from those guys. And you can make some great friends in the process. But in regards to networking, taking some time to repay that effort and support goes a long way. It is a little Utopian but it works. You show some interest and support your peers, they are inclined to take a minute or so on your latest offerings and spread the word with their friends and friends of friends and so on …….
If you leave out the community and abandon the venue in which you all reside, it will come back and bite you. No one likes a blow hard who just sells endlessly with their huge news and screw everyone else. Its important to know that the audience you are trying to hit isn’t ALL composers. I mean realistically composers don’t readily hand out their gigs to everyone anymore than a electrician or plumber would. And they don’t exactly spend all day hiring additional ghost writers. If they did, it would begin and end quite sharply.

So the power of the community i speak of isn’t exclusive to just us. Each one of us knows lots and lots of people. They all have minds of there own, make there own educated decisions based on whats out there. So they will see what you are prattling on about as that overlap of connections grows further and further afield.

Networking isn’t all finding clever ways to be noisy. It can be a way to solidify branding. To add depth and weight to the thing you are pushing. Networking is a way to find good players when you need them, the best software and tools you need, Networking is a virtual handshake to get you in the que to be listened to. It can used and abused quite easily as with most of the above mentioned vanity postings etc.

If you spend time being genuine and actually invest in OTHER PEOPLE, you will find this repays you along the way. I mean again with the Utopian ideal maybe but i have seen it working well. You spend some time and endorse, support and follow your peers, they do the same for you. To the extent you dont need to spend all day cringing over how great your latest blah blah is, our friends are recognizing this and are happy and willing to do this for you, as you do for them – full circle.

Being part of the community is one thing but its key that you aren’t a huge pain in the arse. That you don’t spend all day trying to bum along with the A set of Hollywood composers like you play golf every weekend or you chat about there family pics like you were there last Christmas. You really weren’t. You have to respect the personal space and friend bubble and genuinely build that association and friendship like any other in the REAL WORLD.

Make announcements and create some excitement. I mean again, its common sense isnt it. You get last minute teasers from your latest show and ad teasers, trailers saying something great is coming. Dont just blab endlessly about all the stuff your doing and how awesome you are. Meter your news. Create some pause and delay between pretty day to day stuff and super huge things.

Its human nature, people WILL  come back to find out! Its compelling. Oldest trick in the book maybe, but its a classic that hasn’t overstayed its welcome.

Rotate your news. Think about the content. our looking for potential new clients, growing the brand, creating a sense of awareness for your brand among peers(who share as above), and not being boring. Thats just the worst thing. You gained followers, people who want to keep coming back, tagging you, feeding of the excitement and then you go and post 5 cues on one day, tell the world about some ideas you have new projects, all on one day. over and over.

Saturation in the market is the biggest enemy, so contributing to it from inside your own tent? it is madness. Your audience will just block you and tire of you.

Networking is about joining all the pieces of the puzzle together. Its connecting all your platforms and creating a channel for your greatness to shine through. Lastly and by no means least, is attitude.

There is a difference between social and commercial energy in your attitude .No one on gods earth likes a negative person. It can literally dampen our day.Remembering the old saying opinions are like arseholes, everyones got one, thats what you sound like when you hit the soap box for too long, over and over. People switch off or worse, you become a self parody and recognised as a guy who is always looking for a fight or a way to kill any positive vibes and momentum.

Now being motivated need not mean power quotes from Socrates, Nietzsche, Plato, Oprah and ‘that guy who wrote all the 80′s Athena motivation posters’. It just means being positive. Convey the energy and enthusiasm you have when your loving music, loving the job. This kind of genuine love for what you do is highly infectious. I am constantly drawn to people who are passionate and so into what they do. It never comes over as a ego out of control. There just so damn excited about getting that far, your almost sitting next to them as they type. And you want to see more.

All of this may seem a weird way to network and you might be thinking this isnt what i signed on for. Its not networking to find new clients, But you are so wrong. So very wrong. It is about the complete package. The interaction, the content, the diversity, the regularity of information etc. There isnt an old telephone exchange with a terrifying 1940′s operator shouting at you as you beg to be connected to one line, its sophisticated, powerful, and still in its infancy.

No one has tapped this to its full as of yet due to the very nature of its evolution, which is just 100mph in every direction. But it should stop you. Just write down a basic outline of stuff you can post up, videos you can get online, promote those around you, make a schedule and just be on the radar once or twice a week. Networking and brand is a big thing for us. We mostly do not have staff, a PR or indeed PA. Most of us have to be all departments all of the time. So no, dont expect to have the formula that works for you in one day. No more so than expecting to become a first rate mixing engineer because you bought the Waves collection 6 months ago. Give it time and create that groove that sells you at your best

Making the Transition and Setting goals

A good friend of mine asked me recently about making a transition from one career to the next. This is something i can speak of and i think there is a core element of this movement that negates any previous vocation or position. That is to say, it doesnt matter what you’re currently doing, it matters where you want to end up.

Ill briefly explain where i was and then where i have ended up hoping that in some way, my words make some sense for you.I longed to be a composer for as long as i recall. Actually thats a lie, i wanted to be an active musician/ music maker in some capacity no matter what it took. So at the age of 15, we had a very special thing happen upon us at our secondary school.

We had a professional recording studio built onto the school. I mean that’s pretty amazing for a state public school and its only now in later years i realise what a privilege that was. So i spent ALL my time trying to duck out of all my other lessons and head into the studio. My mentor was a hugely experienced performer, composer,producer,arranger and MD. He had a catalogue of very big clients he had toured with, produced etc and i knew i was in a great position to learn.

Now from being asked to make half of Kajagoogoo cups of tea, stripping SMPTE on quarter inch and programming drums on some very random albums and sessions, i also got down time. A ton of down time.

So what would you do??? use this time , this precious time to the maximum and practice all your new skills, or would you toss it off, be a true arrogant teen and know better?? Well despite all those huge blessings,i was the fool. Fucking clown shoes i tell you. I had a guy who taught me every secret he knew about this business, showed me how to handle clients, and understand several areas of the trade i knew little to nothing about. My response was to fumble around with his eldest daughter and pretty much ignore his best intentions..

Fast forward a few years and i began my career in freight forwarding. This my friends took me right up till approx 2010 to understand and appreciate i needed a way back out. 20 years of lifting and carting around cargo and boxes. Loading trucks and all manner of hard graft shit. So i needed a way back into music. I’d bought and sold a ton of synths, screwing around with a single core pentium pc with a basic controller and a Korg Triton rack. I really just spent so much time not knowing what the hell i was doing that when i look at where i am now, i have NO IDEA how i got here lol!!!!

But the way it all started was this. i started listening again. to music, to people. And thats the biggest factor in all of this by far. you listen to those who do know what they’re talking about and you learn to research the market place and understand the place you wish to be a part of.

I stopped writing all the self indulgent, arty farty nonsense crap that only me, the missus and a handful of polite relatives would sit and nod to. I mean its fine if you want to be an artiste, a creative who has no compromise and wants to remain a true, free Yoko like spirit. But the price 99% of us pay, bearing in mind genius is a bullshit word smacked around the place all day long, is a life slightly more ordinary and progressive than this. If you only want to create “art”, then writing for tv, film, radio, advertising etc, really isnt for you at all. It is a job after all. And don’t be telling me its all just a utter joy day after day cos it really isn’t.

Its like it is for anyone who has to live from their musical earnings. From a rock band , big solo singer to a chap like me writing in humble means but making it work. ITS FUCKING HARD WORK. And no it doesn’t stop being hard work if you’re Jon Bon Jovi. Ok, so you get the Heather Locklears and a huge mansion, a pub in your garden and every luxury car and private jet you could wish for, but those work days are LONG and full of intense hours. Everyone works hard when it comes to finding any level of success. It’s not discriminating and it favours no one. So just get one thing perfectly clear. Making this all come together will mean stopping those excuses you keep posting all across Facebook.

The stuff you tell everyone why you cant. You’re just too busy to put in the work, or as above, you wont compromise your art. Well step 1 is quit. Seriously. If working savage long hours doesn’t work for you and everything you compose feels like you’re selling out, then you need to do something else. i dont know, fucking hug a tree, get some 9-5 job that doesn’t require anything above or beyond, but don’t even bother with music.

No one is telling you this?? Is this the advice you’re not getting from friends??? Well i’ll be honest and lay it out as i see it and as it applies to my findings and those around me.

So the big question, and lets for a minute assume we are doing something full time and want to find a way to get into writing music for a reason, a paid reason, and how to make this a transition that wont bankrupt you. How can you make it work.

Well as we have now got into how hard you need to work i’ll tell you what i needed to do, and you can do your own math and apply some basic tweaks to your hours etc.

I worked at least 40 hours per week. On a permanent night shift. Some weeks it is closer to 45-50 hours. I get home and try to get to sleep as soon as possible. By the afternoon i get up and within 30 mins i’m writing music. i write cue after cue., whatever it may be. Practice and push. Try all the styles and sounds you hear in tv everyday. Then you stop for dinner, then you have an hour or so to say goodnight to your very young child, kiss the other half good bye and back to another night shift.  Whatever you do now, regardless of what hours and shift pattern are, how many times you hit the gym or help out a relative to the shops, you are still gonna have some time left. But that time is called “sanity time” .

Now sanity time is what we humans don’t declare to others. Its a few hours but cos we use up so much of our time during a day, we don’t class these sanity hours as real time we can use. We just say to ourselves, if i write music in my only spare time, i’ll surely die. When in fact, it rarely comes close to a life and death tussle between a boxset of your fave tv show and that near death bright light lol!

You have to start saying, those few hours? i need to invest them . Like any saving or investment, time isn’t a commodity we see as a monetary asset. We don’t imagine “time” will pay the next mortgage instalment but in the long-term, and provided you work hard during those hours??? It is a huge asset worth more than any quick fix.

I spent a long time just honing up. Bringing back every skill i ever had. Remembering what everyone had told me and all the guys i brushed off when i was a kid cos i thought i was going to be the next massive Trevor Horn in my day lol. Then its a case of finding the work. Who wants this music?? Are they agencies, website opps? What are they and how do i get on board??

So you start having conversations again with those in the community. The people around you have pretty much every single answer you ever wanted to know, about EVERYTHING. Seriously. So get some names, some companies to hit up. For all the hours you wrote, gather your finest 3-5 cues and make a reel. A 30 second a piece reel collage to fire off. This is the most sobering and tedious part of trying to find a way in, and this part is perhaps the most hit and miss. Some will listen, others will plainly just not. But it takes a lot of rejections and some half decent replies to start finding a groove with what you are doing.

So you go back over and over, revising cues to make them work, finding new ways to get that technique down. And come up, resurface and try again, and again till you just simply wonder if this was all a huge waste of time. But here’s the thing, you’re prepared to work this hard, you are investing “time” and you are improving even if you don’t see it.

I strongly recommend retrospective listens of all your early works as you plot across this mission. Its healthy and its extremely telling. It shows you tricks you forgot or misses, it highlights the way it didn’t work to the way you know it now does. Its a big plus for any composer. So go ahead and cringe, but its a valuable tool for you.

If you spend the time listening to your peers, and keep your eyes and ears peeled, you will start to gather some decent contacts. Some ok companies to climb on board with. So after all the re writing and getting it right, you stand a great chance of them listening and not throwing the CD in the can or deleting your URL from their page. And it only takes one bite of interest to fuel you onto the next stage.

Having someone show even the slightest belief in your work can move mountains over night.

Now from my experience it was finding an advert asking for some ‘up in your grill’ high tension cues. I had swooned and re hashed some ideas based on a bunch of Bourne cues i had heard. i mean i got deeply into the punch of it, the surprise, the sharp mix and then i thought, well i have heard a ton of this on tv. Its everywhere. So i see this ad and it says a show on Discovery needs high tension action cues contact blah blah….. so i did. On the basis i have nothing to lose at all. I had already written a trillion ok to bad cues, so it was time to send off a few that MIGHT , finally, be in the ball park .The right format structure, the right pauses and edit friendly points. The strong ending sting etc.

And i had got this one right. I was asked to write 10 more of those as the producer was loving them. Great!  I get paid. I’m working full-time and being paid half decent cash here. What a bonus and should i just regard this as supplemental income?? Is there anything in this at all???

You recall i said about sacrificing your spare time??? well when someone does want you to write music and pays you, and its for a half decent sizable channel, those hours are going to be more intense. And the weekends??? That’s time you will invest too. You now need to start thinking about being better, faster and having some more current sounds and tools to do the job. So i did exactly that. I had a wage and some income i could spend on this stuff and slowly but surely i’m expanding this pallet and also writing more rounded cues. So you learn to trust your writer’s instinct and start becoming more efficient and more flexible. If its genres you don’t know, make them bloody genres you do. And do it fast. Spend more of those hours listening and honing.

Submit more and more and you will see you and the client base start to become mutually happy with the way things are going. So this all carried on for quite a long time. For me time is all supremely precious. Every hour and every day is a chance to meet at least one goal. So set yourself targets you can reach, but always present yourself with something you cannot do, and find bite sized ways of combating this flaw, for want of a better word.

After a year (that is an eternity for me btw), not only had i written a few hundred cues, but more and more were being placed, published and set to good use. Now this next part need not apply to man nor beast and i know i have written this publicly before but it meant a huge amount to me so for one last time, ill make it public once more.

My father in law became very sick very quickly. I had suffered the loss of my mother in 1998 so you would think part of me was amply prepared for a return visit from this serious illness but i wasn’t. It knocked me and my partner for six. It was something surreal in a movie or a compelling weekly show but it didn’t belong in our world. And you know what i’m going to say, so skipping forward for all concerned, my father in law passed and in a period of no greater than 5 short months.

I have a 3 nearly 4 year old son, a mental crazy busy career loading lorries and decent wage and prospects, but nothing at all in my heart. And for that first time ever, his passing hit me like a brick. I asked myself what i was waiting for?? When do we start living?? When is it ok to take risks and to run with it??? I have a mortgage, a hour consuming job, a life at home, so how do you make such a transition???

Rather boringly i revert you to the paragraph at the opening when i said you work hard. When you STOP making excuses about time, the art, compromise and the bullshit. i just sat down with my partner and a bloody good accountant and we talked about what it would take. I spoke to the head of the company i was writing most my music for and i said, what can i do to make this a full-time job?

I’m a lucky guy in one respect cos i had built up a lovely relationship with the boss. He had become a friend to me. And he basically said, this works for both of us – i get a ton of great cues, you get to follow your dream. So we both made the leap. I write a chunk of music per month and i get some upfront cash and my back end. I also write for several other libraries and i add in cues as i go, writing as much as i can.

The wage drop was huge, yes. The stress went up a fair amount too, but you already guessed as much. But this is over two years on from the big leap. I have my own company, i am paying my way, i am enjoying this job. Its what i was meant to be doing but can you just walk into this and not expect a huge change??? It will change you on so many levels. Your appreciation of yourself is no bad thing either, but you will see just how remarkable you are when you invest “you” into this. You use those hours, you earn less for a long time and you have to beat down a lot of doors with the promise of rejection.The bottom line is the following and i apologise for such a huge ramble!!!

Start using all the hours you REALLY HAVE. Stop making up lots of excuses about how you wont sell out or wont learn new things. Stop letting any and all negative bullshit into your world, onto your radar. start listening, believing and improving. The transition from one career or place to another is always going to be a risk. Life is a risk so get over it. You do only get the one shot and its never too late no matter what you hear. You can crossover from pretty much any industry and any commitment into a chosen musical career. But no one will do it for you, your bitching moaning and pity wont pay any bills, and it wont allow you to grow and become any better.

Negative people will destroy everything you have and all you believe in. Its about a life changing amount of effort and drive. Its about setting down some goals you can tick off. A long and constant series of small doable goals.When you tick them all off as you go and then dare to look back, you will have grown – trust me.

I want to break into a few more blogs about how to get some networking going, how to promote what you have and who you are, creating something and then building on this. And this is coming soon. I’m kind of on this big journey with all of you, my friends and colleagues , and i appreciate all the time you take to read this, and then come talk to me.

How to build your audio empire

I wanted to break into this subject and i have been scratching my head for colourful analogies, simplified methods and means to write at high volume.

And then it dawns on you, no one is exactly the same and the work we undertake is just as diverse. So this is a specific attack on sync music/ placement audio. Id love to be able to be the guy who tells you how to score 10 minutes per day, buy i am not that guy i will say by my own admission.

But writing say 3-4 cues per day for music libraries?? yes i can help and maybe give you a new plan of attack to build the stock you need to cover your immediate bases, and also give you the means to invest your time better for a continuous top up of new material.

So without further ado. If we assume for one moment that writing for music libraries is something you dont already do, this could perhaps motivate and help you more as we arent trying to break old habits for starters.

The biggest obstacle, and i say this due to a high volume of emails that seem to point to one specific area, is simply “motivation and ideas”.How do i begin to write lots of music when i havent got a ton of fresh ideas and what chance do i stand of writing say 10 in one week in this sorry state??

The main piece of advice i would give, as it has served me very well, is to try and watch as many of the likely show types you will be competing for. Now im not suggesting you get all up in your TiVo and start recording En masse episodes of here comes honey boo boo or a whole season of toddlers in tiaras. Nor would i say its an easy prospect to endure a whole cycle of Americas next top model if this isnt the kind of tv you would normally watch

But certainly program your head around a bit of each. Whether this be competition type shows, news based, comedic, shows with more a trend base to them ie:hip hop cues or the classic safe groove based cues that prop up many an episode of cake boss etc.

Get yourself a nice broad range of typical types you will need to write in. Research is everything as it teaches you the art of a simple but utterly effective cue that is respectful of a dubbing track ,is useful for editors and has some colour about it, an energy if you will.

Now the format for most placement tv cues falls into this. They tend to be as short as 1 minute flat. They can range up to 3 times that duration but a overwhelming majority serve their purpose up to a minute 30.

Why???? well its basic math for everyone here. A minute 30 is enough time to establish an intro, a 8+ bar main theme, some variation and build, a break down section, a reprise of main theme with a nice solid ending that can be cut to sting if need be.If you write long form, then you wont capture the in/out nature of the cue.Remember at all times the likelihood of airtime for your music is approx. 3-5 seconds and if you are very lucky and the scene calls for it, it can run over that minute, Drop back in later over and over as recurring motif of sorts for that episode.

But placement cues rarely run up to a minute.They just dont. Most shows can pack in well over a 100 placements and longer shows double this easily.So don’t be thinking a 3 minute cue gives you the glory.

The key thing in any cue is it has some variation, it does something. It can edit relatively easily and provide options for the editorial team.

Ok so you have swotted up on genre cue types and a working format. So whats next??

How do we go from being familiar with our market to writing huge swathes of music week in week out??? Well composing in any scenario is about building muscles.Its just as relevant to sit down and practice composing as it is to sit and devote time to an instrument. Learn its unique timbre and response to technique and dynamic.

The same applies to writing lots of music. You need to flex your musical muscles and then comes your ability to trust music a little more. You discover so many new tricks and techniques for moving a theme dynamically and creating something of “use”.

Now lets just eradicate the elephant in the room when it comes to all things “music for hire”.I get really annoyed when composers who excel at this market are criticized heavily for not being a real composer because there not scoring and therefore story telling. But this is just incredible bullshit. Its insulting and the proof in the pudding to this lifelong gripe is when good composers who haven’t written for this market come into it to “make a little side cash” and quickly realise its a lot harder than they thought. Ok so its not all going to get you an Emmy and the biggest networks and studios wont all start banging down your door, but its hard honest work and their is an art to it.

Skipping hint number one:not researching at all = A much more painful process of understanding your role. So ..well..don’t skip it!

What i find as the key to writing high volumes of this music, having understood my target genres, is to center at first on the ones i feel most charged and excited about.

So lets begin here and by all means nominate your personal strong suit and follow me here. So my choice will be action cues. Modern high tension, in your face action cues.

I want to end up with say, 20 of those. But that number in a row will bore me to tears plus im gonna run out of big ideas pretty soon. So its just kidology for the cure.

Divide this into sub genres and instruments. Write one at a mid paced tempo, grab your main instruments whether they include orchestral accents, string or horn beds and modern percussion etc. Take a look at the next cue 20-30 bpm higher, change key and start thinking about exploring all those libs you keep buying. You know those big sample sound sets you think will be useful and end up in the bottom shelf of the HDD for months on end. Start ignoring a huge template and start thinking immediate instinct.

You now have a couple of cues so lets try some more lighter tension. Break it down a little.Use some more sympathetic mid range instrumentation and create something less frenetic but just as meaty in substance. Work your way down the scale till you have some quite simple but effective tension cues. Maybe just some custom pulses, piano and accents. Light percussion and atmospheric beds. Now by the time you worked from ball breaking “look at me” high action cues and cruised into light emotive ones, you already have the best part of 10 tracks already.

Then grab the elusive and so misunderstood comedy genre. Now this ranges from bittersweet sickly Tom Newman dramedy to flat out Desperate housewives, very colourful and dare i say “twee” sign posted comedy, complete with plenty of comedic stops and pauses.

writing 10 cues in this style is not as hard as you would think. Is comedy easy?? not remotely, again do our research and practice those muscle building phrases and short ideas, but when you click and start to understand this genre, working from the very trendy sickly comedic style right across to blatant cartoon like styles, will give you an enjoyable ride and then , you look back and you have a set of 10 before you know it.

This is what i would suggest for a good 5-6 main genre types. Break it down into as many sub groups as you possibly can. identify at least 4-5 cuts into these sub groups and this gives you new ideas, new places to go.

Go compare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! lol ok next part. There is no law, no ethic, or no precedent that states you cant learn a thing or two by listening in to your peers. If you know half a dozen guys who place well into this market, do the sensible thing  and go listen to their work.

Not only will it give you new angles to apply to your thinking, it will show you just how far you can go. I mean its really limitless but seeing a few other guys doing this can give you a palette booster. It can kick start parts of your brain and make you that bit more adventurous with arrangement and instrumentation.

If you become bored with the genre you are on, you never have anything to fear. You go back to your big list of main genres, look at all the many sub splits and then run off 2 cues in that, head off to another do the same.

By fueling all those places constantly, you will be completely shocked at your output.

You combine all the tenets to this mission as follows.

you researched the market and endured the tv shows!. you researched and understood the format and needs of the cue in its duration. you listened to the cues that are placing and then you made it easy for yourself with a huge list of places you love to go musically, but will just constantly inflate your stock.

The cure for any overall familiarity for me, is to throw in a wild card once in a while. Hear something you are convinced you cannot do, and keep doing it till you can. Then you have another main genre to work with, its sub groups etc.bingo.

By the time you walk past a solid 12 months of this, its not unreasonable to suggest you have written anywhere between 200-500 cues. One years work alone. And this journey will hone the shit out of you, it will fast track teach you things you cant learn if you just take 2 weeks to write a couple of ideas down.

It makes it very easy to be under pressure when you write high volume. In fact your response rate is super sharp and refined. You have learned to trust your inner muse, you have all the tools in your head in place to overcome road bumps and musical problems.

You will become very well rounded and a much richer composer in mind if not yet in wallet! but having a good 500 cues, you are well on your way to a lot of success with placement.

The next thing will be understanding all the companies out there, the type of deal that will work for you, and making sure you get the maximum from all your work.

But that my comrades in arms, its another blog for another day!