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The Plight of the Invisible Composer

For links to resources alluded to in this blog, scroll to the bottom.


While browsing on the social medias today I came across a rather depressing post by a composer about my age. Paraphrasing, he said:


I'm thinking about quitting music altogether. No one wants to perform my music or even my style of music [tonal orchestral]! It's a dead end! There's no hope nor chance for money! But I'm too old to be starting a new career, so it's kinda hopeless either way! Help!


Bleak, right?


I decided to lend whatever wisdom I could as one who has been (and often feel is currently) in the same boat as this fellow. First, I wanted to see what kind of music he was writing and what potential markets he could target. Immediately, I spotted a major obstacle in this guy's career heading:

Composer's can't get discovered unless they are discoverable
Don't hide yourself!

He was invisible.


I couldn't find him anywhere online except his Facebook profile, which didn't feature any of his own music. Couldn't find him on Soundcloud or YouTube, couldn't find his own website or blog, nothing! And I wasn't the only one either. I was able to locate a German classical music blog after a fair amount of searching, and he was mentioned in a post two years ago. A comment on that post mentioned how an admirer of his (I'm guessing from the context here, as the actual blog post only had his picture and no text) musicology work on Lili Boulanger couldn't find any way of contacting him either, other than to comment on this one particular blog post. I was originally gearing up to talk about how if his product (music) isn't selling, it's either the product's fault (solution: write better music, which is a whole can of worms we'll dive into another time), or it's the consumer's fault (solution: find a different consumer base or persuade current base). But now that I learn this little bit of info, I realize we gotta start at page 1. The following is what I commented on his post, and is taken from a mix of my own experience and a variety of others' experiences I've read about, watched, or listened to through various books, videos, and podcasts.

 

Where can we listen to your music? I can't find you online anywhere. So, there's something in itself, which leads to more things. Also, who are you pitching to? The top-end, super-professional orchestras might not be interested in new tonal music so much, but what about the orchestras in schools? Beginning and intermediate ensembles need tonality in order to teach, so there's an entire market there ready for the picking.


1. BE NOTICEABLE. Get your own website to showcase your work. It doesn't have to be anything more than a blog, which you can make using a variety of hosting websites for almost no cost at all. Show your music, your process, how you get ideas, and how you turn those ideas into creations. Try to be as regular as you can and share your posts on social media.


Social media is one of the best ways to promote new classical composers and new classical music
Those "darn phones" old people keep complaining about are some of your greatest assets.

2. BE SOCIAL. Get a YouTube channel, Instagram, and whatever the junk they're making nowadays. They're all free and are incredible resources to share who you are and what you do.


3. BE CURIOUS. When you meet with potential performers, ask *them* what they're looking for, putting their needs ahead of your own. If they buy your music or commission you, in a big way you become their employee and work for them. Use the music you've already written as a portfolio to show the kind of stuff you write, and then find out how your skills can best fit the needs of potential clients.


4. BE FLEXIBLE. Look up Benjamin Taylor. This guy writes music all over the spectrum and is making a great career out of it. He writes the intellectual, cerebral stuff that the hoity-toity academics gobble up; the high-soaring, emotional, near cinematic tonal concert works that will take any audience's breath away; and the (at first glance) simple and straightforward music that's easy to learn and fun to play, appropriate for 10-year-old kids. Darwinism applies in music: it's not the most talented or most educated or most inspired musician that will survive, but those most willing to adapt.

 

For all of you composers out there who are struggling to get noticed and discovered, remember that part of your job is to be discoverable. If you can get a good publisher in your pocket (like, say, I don't know, Two Bridges Music Press), they can help immensely. But no one knows your process, your music, or your passion as well as you. You can be your best advocate any day of the week.


Hang in there. The best is yet to come. Say nay to the naysayers. Illegitimi non carborundum.



 

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