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Am I an Artist or an Artisan?

Dec 23, 2023

I've talked a lot lately about the process of finding your own artistic voice.

But as some of you have rightly pointed out, that might not be the goal for everyone.

There's an entire industry around making music to fit someone else's vision. This can include music for film, music for ads, or any bespoke music made for a specific goal beyond the artistic expression of the person making it.

Amendment: to clarify, this largely depends on the level of creative freedom given to the artist on a project. I'm not saying all film scores are not art. I'm not saying commissioned work can not be art. It depends on whether the artist is hired to add their own artistic voice to the project and express their own interpretation, or whether they're been instructed to recreate a temp track or something specific the director has in mind.

For many of us who are lovers of film and game music, this might've been what set us on this path to begin with. This was certainly the case for me (which I'll talk more about in next week's Newsletter).


Bespoke work for its own sake


People need this kind of music. When there's a need for something, it's easier to find people looking for it. And of course, you can more likely find someone to pay you for it.

As Tony Anderson recently pointed out in one of my recent videos, we often create for ourselves and then expect other people to love it as much as we do. Unfortunately, this isn't really realistic. When we take a step back and review it without our emotional attachment, we see this.

Maybe some people reading this email love working on others' projects as much as their own. Re-creating music or musical styles that have already proven or been successful is often required.

This is a skill in itself.

But this is not art.

That's a triggering thing to say out loud for many people, but it isn't an insult. It's simply a different approach to creating something.

It's the approach of an artisan - like a craftsman of furniture.

A furniture maker can be a master at his or her craft. I ask them for a chair that shouldn't stand out and is comfortable to sit in. I probably won't be too happy if they show up with their own experimental "Legless Barbwire Lounging Device" (TM).

That might be a better expression of their artistic voice or style, but I don't want to sit on it.

It's not what I asked for.

Bespoke work to gain skills


You can do this kind of work as a means to an end as well. I've actually done this myself.

It's a great way to gain skills which you can then use in your own artistry.

After I had established myself as a lover of synthesizers, a couple production libraries approached me to make ad music.

At the time, this seemed pretty cool to me, so I did that for about a year.

But they wanted me to write synthpop rather than what I would typically make on my own. This forced me into a direction I would never have fully explored without that push.

As a result, I learned a lot about producing that kind of music. There are certainly elements that I still use today in my own work.

It's not an easy gig. There are tight deadlines and quick turnarounds, but it can be a great place to hone your chops.

I had the great pleasure of talking about this subject and more with Dave Kropf on the 52 Cues Podcast. I'll leave that here for you to check out.

If you'd like to learn more about the world of production music and the artisan approach, Dave's channel is an excellent resource!

Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:

1. Composition Concepts for Artists - an in-depth look at the process of composition with step-by-step examples SHOWING how and WHY I make decisions. You'll learn to take an initial idea and DEVELOP it into a finished project.

2. Understanding Synthesis - learn to design your own sounds starting with the basics of subtractive synthesis and progressing to more advanced sound design  with semi-modular and various forms of digital synthesis.

3. YouTube Membership - monthly livestreams featuring music making and sound design in real time. Q&As and exclusive videos only available to channel members.

4. One to One Coaching (coming soon) - work with me on YOUR own music. I'll help you take your track from idea to finished product, so you'll come out with a polished track or EP and any knowledge gained from walking through the process with me.