How to Market Yourself as a Film Composer
In my first Stage 32 blog I talked about having the right attitude and why it is more important than skills acquisition, the importance of listening and ways of finding jobs. In part 2, we will now look at other ways of marketing yourself as a Composer in the worlds of Film, Animation, Mobile Applications and Animation.
We will also look at ways to pass on what you have learnt to other upcoming Composers. Keep in mind that these are not quick fixes – none of the following points in this blog are – these are LONG TERM processes AND takes a lot of work but over time they will provide solid evidence to prospective Filmmakers and Producers that you are in this career choice for the love of it and are in it for the long game.
We will start with social media and its use especially the bigger entities: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and a few others. Social media is just a tool, nothing more, nothing less and what you post can and will influence who may want to work with you and vice versa. Does that mean that you will be liked by everyone? Of course not! You will have varied views on your posts and opinions regarding musical tastes, composing, gear and everything music and non-music related.
What you must do is make sure that you constantly produce content of VALUE. That being said I am not going to tell you what is valuable or what to post. You are free to post what you want within your social media accounts. I can only explain what works (and continues to work) for me. One more important thing before we start. I am not giving you any ‘secret methods’ that people who succeed have used that was being kept from you. I find people who advertise ‘secrets’ very suspect and tend to stay away from them. As I said in my previous blog – knowledge is ubiquitous. Actions, taken consistently, are what counts.
There is one thing that you must do in order for people to at least pay attention to you. You have to market yourself CONSISTENTLY. This does not mean that you make bold claims that are obviously not true or that you ‘fake it till you make it’ – that strategy is rubbish by the way – but you have to make sure that whatever you put out there is the best representation of your work and your potential worth to whomever may be interested in using your services and skill-set.
There is a flipside to this long term strategy and that is showing people the various struggles within the Film industry and documenting how you are going about resolving various issues as you progress in your career. There are advantages to this in that readers, especially those with similar struggles, will become involved in your story and would be able to offer advice and strategies of how they overcame their career issues. You can build a strong community that way while learning from each other. Teach what you know and have experienced. Knowledge share is important.
Having a consistent message across all your social media accounts is essential for promoting yourself as a Film Composer. Filmmakers and Producers can easily see your works and worth and in doing so increase your chances of being on first call when they need your special skill-set. When I started my Instagram account in 2014 I made a conscious effort to post music related material, what I was doing in my career and my film work. Yes there are a few pictures of me doing other things that are not work related but I post online with the knowledge that whatever I choose to upload stays there – even if I decide to delete my account my posts may still be on a server or other people may have already taken screenshots and saved my posts on their devices to share with their online networks.
This is true for all social media accounts – we don’t own them – we ‘rent’ space there through our data. I like a certain level of consistency so that an observer can get a fairly good idea of the kind of person I am through my posts, over a length of time. I also changed my Instagram from a personal account to a business account so that I can keep track of the statistics. A good strategy is to create posts with your company logo (if you have one) and your face (people need to know who you are) with a sound bite on your opinion of some aspect of the creative industry. You can easily get that sound bite from your interviews (more on that in the following chapter). You can also use that post in your Instagram Stories and also place it in the ‘highlights’ section. There is also no harm in placing that post in your Whatsapp stories. Don’t feel ashamed about doing things like this. In this day and age self-promotion is VITAL.
Another tactic is to create a separate Facebook account for your business and promote your company/yourself from that account. This, in my humble opinion, makes good business sense as your message through that account will be consistent and you can promote a variety of Composer-related projects through it. The strategy for posts to Facebook Stories is the same as the previous paragraph. Twitter is also a good place for self-promotion as well. Of course, your Twitter account has to be consistent and show examples of what you are doing.
Here is an effective strategy: I use it to find composer related topics via hashtags. For example, I may search for #filmdirector. From the search results that appear I will read the top 10-20 results. Then I ask a question BASED on what they have posted. They may answer, they may not. If they do answer start a rapport with them and follow them – they may follow you, they may not. The main thing is that you are starting a conversation with them that may eventually lead to them looking at your Twitter profile and other links to see your work. Notice I did not say that when you start the conversation with them that you tell them that you want to work with them. Remember what I said in Part 1 of this series. You are not approaching them to look for a job. You are meeting them to ADD VALUE to their works. More than likely they receive a lot of requests from Film Composers to work with them and mentally Filmmakers tune them out. Don’t you want to distinguish yourself from everybody else?
Linkedin is very interesting to me. I’ve been using it for years and it is a great way to meet Filmakers/Producers/HOD’s in the fields of Film, Video Games, Mobile Applications and Animation. Make sure however that your profile has all the appropriate data and links to other places where you can be found, any awards etc. I also found this piece of advice especially useful – get and give recommendations if you can. There are a lot of fake Linkedin profiles around (remember when I was talking about ‘fake it till you make it’?) and to me recommendations are further proof that the profile is legit. You may be asking ‘Why would a Film Composer need a Linkedin account?’. It is a business platform, you are in the business of providing musical value to works and the movers and shakers in the various industries are on Linkedin. Go to where the eyes are! When you do make a connection, send an introductory message and wish them a great day – no asking for work. Then in subsequent messages – in a timely fashion of course, follow the same pattern as before. Show your value by your Linkedin posts and send them a private message to it via a link. Some of them do watch your message and sometimes answer back.
Become part of Filmmaker forums (the one here on Stage 32 is excellent), where you can network with like-minded people in your profession and have a good chance of meeting upcoming and established Filmmakers and Producers. Ask questions and bring value to the conversation. The same rules of courtesy and respect apply to this and all online forums. You would be surprised of who reads your works and more often than not readers may belong to more than one forum so news of you will spread.
Be bold and contact journalists and bloggers to be interviewed in their newspapers and online blogs. It may seem narcissistic but there is a dual purpose. They need material to write about and you need the exposure. I know the ‘E’ word is the bane of many a Composer. There is a chapter on that coming up.
I am an avid collector of everything that is said about me in the press. As Grant Cardone says in his audiobook The 10X Rule, “… money and power follow attention”. I have made it a habit of scanning interviews of me that appear in the newspaper, converting them to PDF and using the growing articles as leverage to get work. The same goes for online interviews where I collect the URL’s of each interview that has happened. You would be surprised at how that can build your portfolio and importance quickly.
Start writing a blog about what interests you the most about Film Scoring, working in the industry and any advice you can give to upcoming Composers – promote these blog links via your social media and use snippets of it with a picture of yourself and your logo (if you have one) across your social media platforms. This is the same method I use for newspaper and online interviews.
If you are fortunate that an entertainment company or entity asks you to be part of a round table livestream discussion with other Composers say yes (of course!!) and market the daylights out of the event. That kind of promotion of you is gold! Let everyone in your contacts know about it and encourage them to tune in and ask questions. It goes without saying that you keep a copy of that livestream and the date it happened as it can be used as leverage to get other events.
What you are working towards is to be seen as a thought leader in your profession. It goes without saying, but you also would have to be constantly composing music and have a varied catalog so that viewers can hear your works across social media. And now we have come to the word that has affected (or offended) every one who is just starting out, graduated from music school or looking to move up in the industry. That word is …….
The ‘E’ word. The bane of our profession. I recently came access the posts of a Director through Composer groups on social media who after saying that there is no budget to pay the Composer, wants the prospective person to compose music for an eighty ….. yes, 8-0 …. minute feature film with the promise of an IMDB credit and their name on the back of the DVD (which will be sold for profit of course).
Luckily the members of these Composer groups raised the alarm and called him out. The Director had to delete his post. He was also trying to audition Composers on Film websites. This was not his first film either. This in my opinion, shows a gross lack of respect (or lack of understanding) of what we do. We do not press a button called ‘Genre’ and the music magically comes out. This is WORK, actual and most of the time intense, WORK!
Luckily, there are safe solutions to this kind of ‘exposure’ which when combined with what I had mentioned in the previous chapters will give you much greater (and valuable) exposure instead of exploitation. One of the methods is rescoring previous works. Rescoring a scene from a film has a number of advantages from getting to work on quality footage to the practice of landing hit points while telling stories through sound. Prospective Filmmakers would also be able to hear your works against visuals. I am a big fan of a website called The Cue Tube where registered users get an ever increasing variety of footage to score on.
Entering film scoring competitions, both with and without entry fees, are also a good way to build your portfolio and add leverage for yourself. Sometimes the prizes are free software which is always a good thing. If you are wondering if I won any of those competitions the answer is yes, and of course, I made sure it was put on blast via social media.
I hope this blog was helpful for you. Remember that the cadre of Film Composers is growing every year so to be seen and heard you MUST do things differently and consistently. In my third blog in this three-part series we will be looking at something that is extremely important to us all whether we are a Film Composer or not – our health. This pertains to our physical, emotional and mental health during these interesting and yes, trying times. Feel free to comment and ask questions on what you have read so far in this and the first blog in the series. I’m looking forward to our discussions.
About the Author
Navíd (pronounced: Nah-veed) Lancaster is a Musician, Film Composer, Sound Designer and the owner of LANCAST, an independent company that composes the emotions for award-winning Films, Video Games, Mobile Applications and Animation. He is also a Stage32 Brand Ambassador and a Stage32 Community Thoug...