Your "big break" may never happen.Jan 06, 2024
As many of you know, about a decade ago I graduated with a master's degree in piano performance, and thought to myself...now what?
I had been studying composition for several years as well, and I knew I wanted to write my own music. I also loved film music and video games, and found that whole world intriguing.
Unfortunately, I was from Mississippi - not exactly a bastion of the entertainment and music scenes. I knew nothing about how to get into that galaxy - much less that world.
So, of course, I took to the internet where I learned two things.
It was all about "networking" and who you know
I needed to move to LA and take random film directors out for coffee
Hmm. That sounded terrible. But I guess that's what I'd have to do.
I had business cards made. I started cold emailing local directors from New Orleans or Atlanta who might have a short film in a local(ish) film festival. I went to a couple film festivals where I knew no one and felt as out of place as I've ever felt in my life. I even took a trip out to LA to....pick out the coffee shops where I could take these make-believe directors? I guess??
There was a major problem.
I had nothing to show anyone. I only had hastily-made business cards from Vistaprint and a half dozen "cinematic" demos I had written in my first few months learning Cubase.
That was it.
Put yourself in the director's shoes. Would you hire me?
So I was lacking in:
Skill at the craft
Proof that I could do the work
For a couple years I desperately continued to try to get some kind of work. After all, I NEEDED that work to prove that I could do more work!
Why wouldn't anyone just GIVE ME a chance!
I had spent most of my life in the academic world, and I was still waiting for an assignment.
But none came. Not. One.
Don't wait for opportunities, make your own...
In early January 2016 I was ready to give up. I had torn my labrum weightlifting and after surgery was in a sling for 6 weeks. Couldn't play piano or organ, couldn't lift weights, couldn't do much but sit around and play Fallout 4.
It was one of the lowest points in my musical life. I felt directionless and hopeless.
But one day after I struggled to open the milk and pour myself a bowl of cheerios, I sat down to watch YouTube. I liked to watch studio tours of other musicians who had all the gear I felt like I needed in order to make it.
I stumbled across a tour of Olafur Arnalds' studio. That video changed my life.
Not only was I exposed to a style of music that I had no idea existed before that. I realized something that changed my entire perspective.
Olafur Arnalds was scoring films, but he wasn't going to independent film festivals to take some director to coffee. Directors were actually coming to HIM.
They wanted him to sound like HIM, because he had spent the time establishing what he had to say as an artist. He had a sound. He had a voice. And he did that by MAKING his own music FIRST.
This got me thinking, "I could probably do something like that too."
Maybe if I spent my time learning about the technology I was trying to use as a means to an end and got so comfortable that it became a creative tool for me.
Maybe if I made more music for myself to see what resonated with me and what I enjoyed making. That would probably come across for the listener too if I could figure it out.
Maybe I could just focus on putting one foot in front of the other as an artist. I could see if my work resonated with a few other people too.
This approach would help me fill my two biggest gaps.
I would develop the SKILLS by constantly working on my own music and developing my own voice.
I would have tangible PROOF from my labors that I could produce something. I was building a real catalog that had the potential to attract the right people for the right projects.
I no longer needed an assignment. I had a vision. A purpose.
I got jobs. People found my music.
I've had the opportunity to score projects because the directors liked what I was doing. This also worked out well because they wanted me to sound like me on their project - I didn't have to do things that were out of character for me.
But as life often goes, it turned out I enjoyed recording and releasing my own music more than anything else.
That's something I never would have discovered about myself if I had continued to wait around for someone to give me a chance all those years ago.
Generate proof for yourself. You don't need external permission or an assignment to do that, just internal direction and focus.
In the words of Ryan Holiday, "I don't need faith in myself. I have evidence."
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.