Hey everyone. I’m looking for any advice and help in creating a plan for the coming year. In the next couple of weeks, so by New Years Day, I want to set out a plan for 2021 on what I need to do and work on to move forward and finally get a foot in the music biz; to finally start getting my music out there into the professional arena.
First, I know I still need to improve my overall mixing and mastering skills. I can hear my improvements, but it’s still not at pro level. I will still be studying and increasing my knowledge of music theory and composition. But my next steps are unclear at this point.
I will finally get registered with a PRO, but what steps should I take next? What are some good places to start? I’d like to do freelance composing, but I really don’t have the time and availability for that, so library/stock music? What are some good libraries to get started in? I’m not too keen on the trailer music formula, not good at it, and I drift toward doing more soundtrack style music. Should I start with streaming platforms?
I’d like to get your suggestions and ideas so I make 2021 the most productive and positive year of my music career!
Nice to hear your determination. Don’t have any advice because I’m an amateur myself but would be very glad to see your progress. Please update us along the way. I’ll be listening to your work. Have any YouTube channel?
Thanks Fredrik. I don’t have a YouTube channel, it was something that I was considering, but to be honest, I’m a music geek and have no idea how to make a video so that might be something to put into my plan.
That is a beautiful post / question. Sometimes that too many people completely ignore or procrastinate and never get the results they want. I’ll give you some things to think about and how you could progress, but first please write down YOUR specific goals, where you exactly are at now, what you did so far, how much time you really have and how long you’re doing music…maybe even more info. It’s necessary as as a coach/Mentor it’s basically the first step I would ask.
I would say my ultimate goals would be to 1. Have my music used for a film or game soundtrack (even if it’s just one or two pieces) and 2. Write a good classical concert piece that gets performed by live orchestra.
My immediate goals would be to start getting my music into libraries for licensing. As I said, I’m not good with doing trailer music and tend to do more “soundtrack” style music, so I would be looking to more stock music libraries that license more for TV ads or shows. I’ve taken courses on music licensing business and done some research on different libraries as well as looked at registering with different PROs. I’ve also started to consider doing an album of similar style music for streaming, like on Spotify.
However, I need to first get a bit better at mixing/mastering tracks, or at least mixing them and sending them out for professional mastering. But after that I’m not sure where the next step is. What are some good, legit libraries to start out, or should I focus on doing an album? My musical brain just wants to always do whatever comes to mind; today a string quartet, tomorrow trailer music, next week electronic, so what project do I focus on first that has a better chance of getting me where I want to be?
First of all, you are about at the same “spot” where I am in terms of music publishing and goals like “today this…tomorrow that”…as it comes due to the fact that I am not doing music full-time but more as my “professional side-hobby-type-like” if I can call it like that.
So this is what I would do as it comes close to what you actually want.
We both have here two options as I see it:
1.) Looking for libraries that had and still have placements for Film, TV and Games. You just need to research as there are plenty of them out there. The best option is to pick one that you feel fits best in your style you want to write and your current “level” that you try to compare to other “top” tracks of the library itself.
For me personally, there are three different library types (level-wise): Pro, Advanced and Beginner-Type-Like.
Pro is for example “Extreme Music”, “AudioMachine” or “GothicStrom”. As you don’t like your current level of mixing/mastering, don’t waste your time going for those libraries as the level is really only for people who know almost everything about music production. You won’t find people there who do music for 2-3 years. It’s kind of “Veteran”. You need to have a lot of experience and you need always to put out your very best music. The good news is that those libraries keep you in shape in terms of level, musicality and professionalism. The A&Rs there will very likely try to get the best out of you. They want you to succeed, as if you succeed, they will too. The bad news, because they push you, you need to be able to handle the pressure. If they don’t like what you are doing they don’t waste any time saying it.
Advanced are all other exclusive libraries that will more likely take your music if it already has a good solid standard. “Gargantuan Music” would be one for me. You can find really good tracks but there are tracks that I would consider as “okayish” which means that whoever did the track knows what he does in terms of music but lacks some more skills. So those would be the types of libraries I would consider for you to look out for. And by the time you improve, you can start to check out the “elite” ones. The pros are that you already have a solid level but you are not as under pressure as with the “pro-libraries”. And the advanced ones can still give you solid placements in TV etc.
Beginner-Type-Like it’s all others like Pond5, AJ, AudioSparx, etc. To be expected shouldn’t be a problem for you (maybe you are already there), but you can’t expect that those libraries will do anything for you at all. You need to have a lot of luck to get any buy-outs or placements, as the clients there don’t have the standards the other levels have. We will find people who are self-employed, who are doing wedding-videos, maybe super-small-games, YouTube, etc. Yes, you will find good solid tracks there, but the question is always: “Do I want to have my music be placed in a wedding-video and get a $20 sync-fee, or do I want my music to be placed in a good commercial that will possibly get me a $1-40k sync-fee?”
The higher your value of your music, the more professional libraries you should try to find for it. I could do hundreds of tracks on that level and maybe even better a year but I don’t want to waste my time on wedding-videos. But it doesn’t mean it’s not “worth” it. If you have a simple idea that you know is fine for a YouTube video or similar like that, put it there. But if you have a solid track you worked for weeks, don’t de-value it to be placed there and get 20 bucks. As I personally think that making exclusive tracks for your clients on a royalty-free license can make you much more money in the long-run than waiting for the same tracks to be found on the sites that have hundreds of 1000s of tracks. My opinion.
2.) Theoretically, it’s possible that every level could bring you a placement in TV, film or game but it’s not up to you in most cases. You are NOT the one to decide where your tracks will end up. So I think the approach to contact people straight-away who are already in the business is the fastest way to get you a placement. I’ve already said it in another post but just go on Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever is out there and start asking the people who do TV shows or Games if they need your help. On Instagram is super easy. #filmmaker#filmproduction#indiegames etc. lookout for those where you are interested in. Study their work and write in your message why you liked the work they’ve done before. Don’t just say: “Hey there, I see you do video or games, I have music. Do you want to do business with me?” There are so many people who don’t understand how to approach people the right way. Don’t “sell” yourself, instead offer your help. Like me: I offered my help for an indie game development team. I didn’t even send any samples. Just asked them politely if they need my help. That’s all. 2-days and I already had a Zoom-Call with the team. So it’s possible.
That one depends only on you and your willingness to really make it happen. In theory, one of your tracks could get a live-re-recording with an orchestra. It happens with trailer music and soundtracks. But here we speak about the highest level of production again. The chances are very low that you will ever make it even as a professional writer. Possible of course, but it’s not up to you. The library decides if an orchestra will improve the quality of the track if they want to invest the budget etc.
But what you can do again is, start looking for orchestras that are somewhere near your location. Start with school orchestras and write a message to the music director/conductor if he could imagine that the kids will play your music. Here, it only comes to the organization from your side. You need to take control over it and plan everything out. Writing music that would fit the level of the kids or someone else. Orchestrate. Print out the sheets. Organize schedules, rehearsals, etc.
It’s all possible, but I always like to say/ask: “How much do you really want to put in?” Is your willingness higher than your time, work, effort…? If you want to do it, then it has to be. Simple. In a lot of cases, it comes only to time. You can’t expect that you will do things like that with only 2 hours a week workload. You need to put everything you want in perspective.
This one is only for making and gaining fans. That’s it. You will not nearly make the money out of it as you and all others would like to. The market has changed, so we as creators need to change as well. But is an opportunity if you want to find fans who will book your shows if you want to consider doing that path too.
Don’t wait until you’ll get better. You will never get as good as you want to be. That’s the nature of winning people. Winning people are the ones who do instead of waiting until the time will come. The time and the moment will never be perfect. And when you think it is, you will most likely already miss the moment where you had the chance to succeed. Remember: Nobody expects you to be good or perfect. It´s only you. Keep doing what you did, analyze what things made you improve faster and keep on implementing them into your daily work. Most people wait for opportunities. The ones who succeed are the ones who create them themselves. At least they try too, as they will never be any guarantees for your work, effort, the time you’ve put into something. But when it strikes, you are at the spot where you always wanted to be. “You made it.” No matter how big or small. No one can ever take it from you anymore.
*Professional mastering. Forget it for now. It’s not worth it. It’s only worth it for an entire album. Learn and understand the principles of mixing and mastering. The more you put time into it, the better you become realizing what mistakes you did yesterday. Your ultimate goal is to hear what mistakes you’ve done in the last tracks you’ve put together. There is NO production where I can’t find any mistakes that I did. Every track of mine has mistakes, music-wise, production-wise, and I am a professional. But that’s not what counts. What counts is that you accept that you are not perfect and try to improve day by day, track by track. Eliminate the mistakes you did yesterday and you will become great! You just need to be open-minded and be ready for the challenge to reflect on what you did well and what you didn’t do well. Focus on your strengths but always improve your weaknesses!
Things I like to implement into my workflow…
1.) Try to do something with music production and study every day. Even it’s only 15 min. I do it. It’s better than saying: “Pff, 15 min. That’s waste of time.” No, it isn’t. It adds up and after a year you are days/weeks ahead of yourself the year before.
2.) Having a notebook where I write everything down that comes to my mind. It doesn’t have to be done on the same day. But after two weeks where I don’t know what else to do…I already have something -> It’s in my workbook. It helps to not procrastinate and get things done that improve you!
3.) Work for 30 minutes more than you have to. All others quit at 8 p.m., but you add 30 more minutes. After some weeks you are already far more ahead of yourself if you have quit at 8 p.m. It’s not being a workaholic. It’s more for your psychological state-of-mind.
4.) When you work with someone, give them more than you have asked for. Example: I was asked to produce a commercial (music-production). I’ve sent them not one track, but two. People see your effort and appreciate it because they see that you care about their project and you want them to succeed. Instead of one option, you give them two. It doesn’t mean you need to write always more music, but it can be something else. Did they give you 5 days deadline? Make it 3 or 4 days. They will be amazed. Wow them. Show them more than they expect. (Like my answer…I could write 10 lines about what you could do…but I take more time and try to make it more clear, precise and hopefully more valuable.
5.) Set deadlines by when you want to achieve something. Make it realistic. Better to take and plan more time, so instead of 4 weeks, do 6 weeks. So you are not stressed out if you didn’t make it after the 4th week. But if you do, you reward yourself.
6.) Critique yourself and try to be as objective as possible (“Ego” left the room), but don’t forget to reward yourself. If you don’t reward yourself, here and there, you will lose interest in the process and will quit without noticing it.
7.) Enjoy the process. It’s not about becoming the best of all. It’s about to become your best self! Don’t compare too much what others have accomplished, or achieved and you haven’t. Instead of being jealous, try to find out what they’ve done to make it a reality. Even if someone who has much less experience than you have but has more “success”, don’t blame him that he has luck or whatever…Remember: “Smooth seas don’t make good sailors.” It’s about your process, not only about the end result. If you never enjoy the grind, you will never enjoy the ending.
Probably I could find more things…but I guess that’s cool for now. I hope you can take something out of it. Ah…one more…8.) document your success aka. your achievement, so you can always look back and see how much you’ve already have done so far. Super important for self-confidence!
Awesome! Thanks Alexey, this really good advice and I will take it all into my plan. At this point, that’s what I need to do is research libraries and find the ones that are, intermediate/beginner. The instructor for the music licensing course I took said that the best option is to put as much music as you can into multiple libraries, some non-exclusive, one real good exclusive. But true, you need to write literally hundreds of pieces for this. I think one major part of my plan needs to be focused on one style for music for a while, rather than bouncing all over, like creating an album. I think that might help my workflow, since I often start one one piece, get a different idea, then move to record those ideas without finishing the first piece and then come back to the first one a month later
Yeah, I had now the same issue, as I was asked to write for a trailer music publisher a full album, however, as I got a lot of different things in between, I had to give up for now. An album is just a different story compared to writing just one or two tracks for a library.
You need time. You need a plan. You need hell a lot of patience and endurance, otherwise, you’ll end being very frustrated and not satisfied with the process. Remember: “It’s about the process…” That’s what I wrote to the AR manager. I am not satisfied right now to keep on doing something that I don’t enjoy at the very moment.
However, I personally think that the album idea is not very bad. It’s a lot of work, but if you got like 10-12 tracks that match each other in the overall concept, you can then approach the publisher and say that you already have something to show and that you offer them your music to better their catalog. I think that mistake I did. As when I have approached the publisher I wasn’t prepared to start writing an album in about 3 months.
Again, I repeat myself, but you need to put things in perspective. Is it worth it to invest the time before you know the deal? How much time you have? There is much more. And sometimes we need to have a social life too. It’s not always about making music all day and forget about your friends and family. I personally don’t do it for the sake of money. I do it because I have a joy making it. Not because I am forced to do something other people want me to do. Of course, if you are paid upfront or are involved in a paid project, well, that’s a different story. But in the album scenario, it’s about finding the right mood and making a realistic plan, so you are not always under pressure. You can always make your own deadlines for something.
If you want to start making videos, a good free editor is Lightworks. It has the basics of everything you’d need: transitions, keys, color correction, titles. And it’s not too hard to learn. Not too different from using a DAW, it’s just layering tracks.
My Mac comes with iMovie included, which is Apple’s video editing app, but I don’t have any video recording equipment or know where to get any free to use images/videos that I could put on a YouTube channel as the background or video to accompany the music. I really need to research how YT handles music copyrights and all, since I know artists they’ve given copyright strikes to for using their own music
Thanks Alexey and all for the advice and links. Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:
First, I’ve enrolled in a few extra courses on film/game composition and the basics of getting into that industry. These are taught by some high-level professionals with loads of experience with hours worth of course material.
Second, I will continue to study further into composition and orchestration so that I compose in many more styles than I’m capable of now; I’m focusing also a great deal on synthesis so that I can improve in the hybrid/trailer style.
Third, I’ve decided that I need to start getting my work out there more than just SoundCloud, so I’ve chosen to do a YouTube channel, put music onto Spotify and BandLab. While this isn’t for monetary purposes, it’s more for getting more people to hear my work and increasing the chance that some indie game/film producer might come across my channel/music and maybe contact me for some work. I realize that’s a long shot but the idea is this:
If I do 5 or so tracks in a specific style, in this case, I’m thinking like game composer Cris Velasco, who’s done the big time with God of War, Bloodbourne, Soul Calibur and Assassin’s Creed, for example, and put those on Spotify, then people who listen to his tracks may eventually have mine recommended to them, since they are the same style. This will by no means be easy, or do I believe will get me some huge following in a short time; it’s just one aspect I’d like to try.
Third, I’m targeting the first half of the year to do this and then looking at what the trend is in views/plays and how I feel about the quality of my music, composition and production-wise, I’m looking at the second half of the year to start reaching out to music libraries.
Last, as far as live orchestra performance, which is probably the hardest, my niece is the first chair trombone in her junior-high school wind band. I expect that she would continue playing into high school, so there may be an opportunity there to write some concert music for them, however, I’m leaving this as a very long-term goal, as I want to make certain I can write quality compositions first, so as not to embarrass myself
So that’s it. Thanks again for everyone who’s helped me out in any way over this last year here and I’m a bit pumped up to get on with 2021!
Happy New Year to you and all others here too! Wish you health and success with all what you do!
@MaestroX I think that all your goals are realistic. I don’t see anything that should stop you to accomplish your goals.
One tip for you when you work with courses. Remember: Knowledge is very important, however, it’s important to still practice what you’ve learned. Back in the days I’ve bought extra courses to my education but have realized that without digging in and re-doing what the lecturers said and did, its almost useless. Especially things like mixing but even like different types of music you still need to refresh at times to stay in the game.
What I mean by that is: There are thousands of people who are at theory but when you ask them to do something in real life practice, you quickly see that it’s all theory what you’ve been told.
Here and there I personally came across those things when I thought students in music theory, because some people asked liked: „Why is that important for me?“ And when you can’t answer it straightaway you realize that you teach theory only. So some things I had to re-think and started to focus much more how the guys could really use it in real life.