1st Quarter of 2019

It’s been a long while since I’ve updated my blog, and for that I must apologise.

2019 has been quite a year thus far. I know we’re only (or already) a quarter in.

I’d like to take this time to share what I’ve been up to of late. It’s nearly 2.00AM as I write this, so forgive me if I’m a little incoherent with my words. Nevertheless, the insomnia I so often face isn’t helping very much either, so I thought I’d go ahead and write anyway.

On the music side of things, I’ve been growing and challenging myself to study and write Trailer music. It’s a whole new world for me and I’ve probably never paid SO much attention to structure and production quality before. I’m really excited to share that despite this steep learning curve I’ve undergone, I’ve manage to sign with a couple of music publisher/libraries exclusively (but I shan’t name names for now). So yes, I’ve been writing for trailer music briefs of late. That in itself is time consuming.

I’ve also begun freelancing full-time. This decision wasn’t really made by choice to be honest. It happened rather circumstantially due to details I’m not really inclined to share. With that said, I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing game developers across the globe, creating audio assets for their projects. For a detailed list, I’ve updated my discography. It’s pretty crazy considering the fact that I’m based in Singapore and some of these guys hail from Barcelona, Tel Aviv Israel, Moldova, and Iran. The world is a small place indeed, and I’m so grateful for the referrals I’ve received for music composition/sound design projects.

I’ve also been given the chance to produce for more artists and am in the midst of working on a silent film (first time for me!), so I can say I’m pretty excited in general. Interestingly enough, I’ve also connected with a whole bunch of composers locally and internationally. It’s quite beautiful to see new communities springing up all over social media that offer unconditional support to everyone involved regardless of what stage they are at in their career.

However, we all know that life isn’t always rosy despite what we see on people’s profile/posts.

Anyone in the music industry (regardless of whether you do B2B work like me or if you’re a B2C artist) knows that there are always going to be more failures/rejections than green lights and success stories. My experience has been no different. It’s really difficult to fall in love with the process and the journey instead of the outcome of each pitch/experiment/project, but doing so is a must. There are no room for negotiations. Growth rarely happens in comfort, and for me, this has been challenging but I’ve somehow been putting one foot in front of the other, I guess largely by the grace of God and the support of my amazing wife.

Hopefully soon enough, I’ll be back with more updates. To whoever’s reading this, please know that I thoroughly appreciate you. Until next time.

Thank You, 2018.

Friends, I’m so stoked to share that “Legacy” is on the front page of Bandcamp’s “Best Selling” section in the “Film Music” and “Adventure” categories. In the “video game soundtrack” and “video game music sections, it’s on the second page!

You can still check it out here! Your support has been so valuable. I cannot thank you enough.

As the year closes, I’d like to share that I’m now moving towards freelancing on a full-time basis. I’m no longer working in-house for the company that I used to for the past 2 years. It’s quite exhilarating, but also involves loads of hard work.

I’m pleased to share that I’m currently scoring for another game entitled Galaxy Civil War. I can’t confirm when it will be released, but it’s exciting and rather different from VR Hero Sentry and any other game I’ve written for previously. As the name suggests, it has more of a serious Star Wars vibe, involving spaceships. I can’t say too much right now apart from the fact that the game will be available on PC in the near future!

2018 has been quite a year.

I’ve gotten married to the love of my life, scored music cues for TV shows I grew up watching (HBO, MTV etc), created soundtracks and audio assets for video games, joined an IMDB accredited team of 9 global composers that’s now in the midst of working out a contract with Water Music Publishing (Sony ATV/ Kobalt Music), began producing content for virtual instrument developers, consulting on audio branding with companies… the list goes on.

I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you that have shown me support in one way or another in this ridiculous journey.

Glory to God.

Here’s to the best days ahead!

On Landing Composing Jobs (Part 3).

Unsurprisingly, the “Landing Composing Jobs” blogposts have turned out to be my most popular series. I must apologise for the lack of updates. It’s been approximately a month, and I know I said earlier in the year that I intend to do a post every Friday. Well, life gets in the way. I’ve been overseas, busy setting up my home studio, taking up more composing work and have recently begun producing for other artists.

Today, I want to talk about a relatively touchy topic: Getting Paid Your Worth (while landing composition/production/audio engineering work).


Have you been asked to work for little to nothing? Ever been told how much exposure you’ll get if you choose to undertake a project? Are you still in this position? Well, I think most of us in this industry that are doing this either as a serious side hustle or professionally would have such encounters.

Many creative service providers struggle with increasing their prices or even charging. Here’s the bottom line: Charge what you think you are worth. Do not be afraid to ask for XX amount in payment in return for doing a job, and ALWAYS protect yourself with black and white contracts.

No work should commence before the terms of the contract are met. This can range from a signature for an agreed amount of money, fixed payment plans, publishing rights, downpayment percentages… the list goes on.

If a prospective client seems dodgy or unable to agree to those terms and conditions, do the necessary negotiation BEFORE you commence work. I CANNOT reiterate this enough.

Likewise, do NOT be afraid to say no or to pass on projects. This is a separate topic for another day, but I just had to leave this here. In the meantime, I’m going to bust some myths and share how you can respond to difficult clients:

Difficult Client 1: “We do not have a budget for music”.

Response: You need to know the nuances of this project. Would this project boost your portfolio even if you don’t get a financial or tangible return from undertaking it? Would this project consume so much of your time that you will likely have to put off other potential clients that might be able to pay you? If all the signs are telling you that this project will not benefit you in any way, perhaps it’s best to decline politely. Remember, you are a service provider. and not a charity.

Difficult Client 2: “You know that Bob Composer only chargers 1/3 of what you’re quoting us?”

Response: Thank you for letting me know. Please feel free to engage Bob’s services then. (No offence anyone named Bob). Can I be brutally honest for a second? Ultimately, there are a lot of people that charge a cheaper rate than me. So, why did you come to me? If the end goal is for me to add music to your commercial that could assist in spurring thousands to buy your product, should the price you pay me for me to compose bespoke music for your project matter in the long run?

Alternative: This is the first time we could be working together. Do you think it’s very fair to ask for a discount right from the very first project we embark on as a team? Do you want to start off our professional relationship this way?

Note: These replies might sound a little bit snarky, but I’m trying to emphasise a point. Please reword your responses accordingly. In a world where musicians constantly get asked to work for little or nothing, you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.

Next up, Myth busting:

Myth 1: “I’m just starting out, so I have to work for free”.

No. This is not true unless you lack a portfolio, SoundCloud link, or something to showcase your capabilities. Everything DEPENDS on how you sell yourself (or your services). As per any job application, if you can convince an individual or a company why they need your services or how much more value you can add to their organisation, you’re pretty much there. This is why even experienced composers can sometimes struggle to get work. It isn’t the number of years in the field that matters in this case. Everything boils down to your work ethic, confidence, networking, luck, salesmanship and more.

Of course, none of this matters if you can’t walk the talk. You have to be stellar at your craft.

Myth 2: “If I raise my prices, all my clients will disappear”.

This is probably one of the biggest lies I’ve heard from the freelance community. If you raise your prices, you will likely and inevitably lose some clients; the rapper who constantly raps about how much money he has in the bank, but for some reason cannot afford your beats or your other services, the poor student who has yet to graduate college, the self-proclaimed next big thing rockstar that wants to pay you in profits… etc.

When you increase your prices, you command a higher level of authority. Your prices speak about the quality of your work and the value you’re confident in bringing to the table. The clients you’ll attract thereafter will be people who take you seriously because of the prices you charge. Let’s pretend you are a movie director trying to get in touch with professional composers to score for your upcoming film. If Hans Zimmer quoted you $50 for a film score, would you be certain that he’d put his best foot forward in writing your soundtrack? Even though he’s Hans Zimmer, I’d still be doubtful.


What now?

The next time, when you’re talking to a prospective client, always include your rate card in your exchange, be it verbal or electronic. Yes, this applies even for the people “who have no budget”. If it’s too costly for them, they’ll let you know, or they might not even reply at all. If they can pay what you’re asking, that’s great! But either way, you’ve maintained your professionalism and they cannot fault you for that.

It’s not necessary to do the whole “Oh, try going to the supermarket and ask the cashier if you can get a carton of milk in exchange for exposure. I’ll share this with my community you cheapskate.”, as it is unwise to burn any bridges no matter how annoying the other party may seem.

Remember: Know your worth. You do NOT have to justify yourself to anyone. If a client is being troublesome, learn to deal with the situation professionally and know how to draw your own boundaries. This includes knowing when and how to say no and not being afraid to state your terms of compensation. This would hopefully result in better clients and bigger projects.


P.S. If you missed out on Parts 1 and 2 of the “Landing Composing Job” series, you can check them out here and here.

On Landing Composing Jobs (Part 2).

So the response to Part 1. was better than I expected, at least on the platforms and forums that I was privileged to share my experience on. Note: I'm trying to post on the page every Friday on a consistent basis, so check back weekly for new updates.

I'm waiting to meet a sound designer who chatted me up on this exact topic as I write this, and in the last few months, I've had the opportunity to assist producers/studio owners/composers in this area. I've also completed composing for another mobile game, but enough about me.

Let's get to it.


The Approach:

In Part 1, I addressed how to obtain the contact information of TV producers & Music Supervisors that are involved in Network TV. Here's the issue: just cause you've got your hands on an individual's contact doesn't mean anything if you don't know what to do with it. You've got to pitch your talent/resume/services forth in a way that doesn't turn the listener/reader off.

Key: First Impressions count. More than you'd ever know. Give off the wrong vibes and you'll automatically be blacklisted from the get go. If you've ever had a telemarketer, insurance salesperson or real estate agent call you, you'd get what I mean.

If you are fortunate enough to live in the same country as the person you're trying to get in touch with, that's great. For those of you in this category - call. A phone conversation is ALWAYS better than an email or text message. Tone and wording often get misinterpreted over these mediums. Your phone call would provide a more personal touch to things and reveals how serious you are in wanting to get your foot in the door.

Now, there's A LOT of people out there who do not recommend cold calling, but trust me - this is one of the best ways to establish a relationship with the people that matter. IF (or when) the person on the line shuts you down rudely, I doubt you'd want to do business with that individual either.

Now for the folk (myself included) who would rather rely on email because you get cold feet or stutter when talking on the line, or simply because you do not live in the same location as the people you're trying to reach -

Here's how to craft your email:
*Note - there are different ways to go about doing this. Some supervisors have specified their requirements, and if you can find them online, please adhere to what they've asked for.


Subject: Music Cues For XX TV Show

This study reveals that approximately 269 billion emails are sent daily. Career Expert Amanda Augustine of TopResume further highlights that "a typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters". Therefore, it's quite a no-brainer to suggest that if you want your email to be opened, it has to stand out from the pile and the best way of doing that is by being succinct and (politely) direct in your subject head.

Disclaimer: This example caters more towards composers cold emailing creative producers that aren't necessarily and openly seeking music for future projects. Producers or Music Libraries consistently open to submissions will have a certain format they'd wish for you to follow. In those cases, the subject header may be specified to look something like:

Subject: Composer-TV Show Cue Submission-Date

Body:

Dear/Hello xx,

(TIME TO FLATTER) I'm writing in to let you know that I've just begun watching xx show on channel whatever on a weekly basis and I've been hooked on to it ever since.
Talk about an episode you ACTUALLY watched and liked. Talk about the show's characters blah blah. Yes, you are in fanboy/girl mode right now.

(PRODUCTION BEHIND THE SCENES TALK BUT STILL FLATTERING - EASE YOUR WAY INTO WHAT YOU REALLY WANT) The epic storyline to the outstanding production quality to the music cues used in each episode is testament to the incredible amount of effort you and your team have put in to make XX show a success. (I am obviously exaggerating here and using excessively descriptive jargon that you should cut accordingly to avoid sounding fake or spammy, but this is an example and you get the idea, I hope).

The Pitch:

(GET TO THE POINT - It's not as though he/she doesn't know what you're after especially since your subject title states it all). As a professional music composer and sound designer, I was wondering if there was any way I could assist your audio department/music supervisor in providing TV cues for your show, or even on future projects? I'm fortunate to be able to work out of a professional studio and thus am able to meet tight deadlines. (If you are in the same city, ask for a meet up.)

Note that what I'm doing is OFFERING a service. I'm not saying "hire me because I can provide better stuff than the stock library crap you're relying on at the moment".

The Sign-off:

Thank you for reading this and I look forward to your reply! (Now - leave your phone number or a link to your showreel/soundcloud or whatever you'd like them to see in your signature, so that you do NOT have to ask for permission whether you can send in demos in the event you do receive a reply. If the people on the other end are curious or keen to know more about you, this information is already present and accessible to them.)


What will happen next?

In most cases, nothing.

Yes it sucks, but it's true. And the reason for that is because most of these companies already have partnerships with external vendors and production houses. Unless you're Hans Zimmer or something, it's unlikely that these companies would risk a contractual agreement to work with a relatively unknown individual. 

What CAN you do next?

Keep trying to contact as many people as you think would be beneficial to your career in a STRATEGIC manner. You can do followups (though not everyone likes to be followed-up on). Or you can keep a conversation going to establish a long-term relationship, which SHOULD actually be your ultimate goal.

Because if you haven't realised it by now, music licensing and placements very rarely happen overnight. Sometimes, these things take years and if you have a long-standing relationship with a reputable individual, you'll find yourself ahead in due time. However, if you're in this to make a quick buck in a short span of time, you're better off finding a day job.

The trick to this "game" is to ALWAYS offer value to the other party first before asking for anything. Make it apparent that you have a valuable skillset that you'd like to utilise for the purposes of helping and assisting others. Make no mistake though, the rejection rate in this field is VERY high, just as this email "template-guide-sample" does NOT guarantee a response at all, much less a positive one,  but ultimately, one good placement or better yet, one good relationship can elevate your standing in the industry significantly.

On Landing Composing Jobs (Part 1).

So over the last 2 weeks, fellow composers have been asking me how I've managed to end up scoring for Films, TV and Games. To be very honest, there's no surefire way, although I must say that there are HEAPS of ways to screw up and never land that composing opportunity you've been working hard for.

Let me start by saying that I don't have large amounts of experience composing or landing tracks in Films though I would love to someday. I do have a fair share of experience writing for games, network TV and brands, however.

Who is this blogpost for?

This article is written for composers and producers that are already stellar at their craft and are competent in churning out music of all genres in little time and are sick of pinning hopes on the music library placement circuit. If you aren't at this stage, may I suggest you spend the next few months or even years honing your craft.


Composing for TV:

To be frank, the information I'm sharing with you here does not guarantee results. That depends largely on the parties involve, but trust me when I say that you'll hardly find anyone else being so open with the "tricks of the trade" (whatever that means). In a nutshell, here are the steps:

  1. Watch TV shows that you enjoy & can see yourself writing similar styled music to what's already being used in their episodes.

  2. Start off with TV cues as they are the most generic and can be reused multiple times.

  3. Have a good catalog of such cues, and the next time you watch that TV show, stay for the credits and look for the music supervisor listed there.

  4. If the show is reputable enough, the music supervisor's email can likely be found if you trawl the internet hard enough.

  5. Email that individual & start off by telling him/her what you enjoy about the show and how the music used has inspired you as a composer to write similar sounding cues.

  6. If you are daring and confident enough, ask HOW you can write for the show and pitch it forth in a way that you are ADDING VALUE through the SERVICE of composing instead of going "yeah, I want royalties and bragging rights so your show is a great place for me to start and my songs will take your viewership to the next level".

While there's no guarantee of a reply and you can always follow up with another email or call after 2 weeks, this is me breaking down the "cold email" method towards "establishing relationships" that many veterans in the industry talk about so cryptically.


Composing for Games:

Landing video game gigs are in my experience, way easier than landing Film or TV gigs. The short answer is simple: contact game developers or companies and ask if they need someone to provide music or sound effects for their products:

  1. If you're starting out, look for indie game developers. "Indie" doesn't mean "free". Unless you are sure that composing for free would grant you some returns in the future, (such as composing for a game with new technology involved - i.e. VR etc), do not write for free.

  2. In the indie game circuit, there are indie game development companies, freelance developers, but there are also specialists who develop games on very niche platforms alone, and the largest and most obvious one would be the mobile game devs.

  3. Through your smart phone's app store, find a game you'd like to compose for (or confident that you could compose for). Find the company that made the game and get in touch with them. Most companies at least have a social media page or a website.

  4. Remember, pitch by OFFERING a SERVICE they NEED. Don't turn it around and make yourself sound thirsty or desperate. Music in games is extremely important, so if you can show why they need your compositional abilities, you've won.

  5. This is the game changer (no pun intended). If you can find a footage of a game scene/map/landscape etc. floating around online, get your hands on it, remove the existing audio and add YOUR own (be it a soundtrack or SFX)! Send it to that developer you're already talking to and watch what happens.

In a world where the bedroom producer/composer is king, and anyone with a cracked version of FL Studio or Ableton can write music, how does one stand out from the crowd?

The simple answer is by offering a service that your competitors cannot. Most game developers aren't rolling in cash. They would like to save as much as they can (as per any other company). If you as the composer can provide sound design services OR better: learn game audio integration software (commonly known as middleware), they'll have a higher incentive to hire you. Yes, software ranging from Unity, Unreal Engine, Wwise, FMOD and so forth.

I understand that there's a whole chunk of information here, so please take your time to read it. I'd probably expand more on this if there's more demand for me to, but writing this with a flu and a growing backlog of work has not been easy. So before I sign off, let me reiterate this final and important point:

DO NOT SUBMIT TO "PAY-TO-PLAY" SITES.

That means, do NOT submit to sites that have "music supervisors" listening to your work for a fee before passing it on to their mystical contact. I'm not going to name specific sites, but a google search will reveal many. I'm not saying these sites are fake and scams, but the chances of you making it through their "criteria" and "gatekeeping" methods are slim. I could go on about this, but that's for a different story.

Please leave a comment below if you've got any thoughts or methods on how else composers could get scoring gigs for multimedia!

Until next time, here's the promotional trailer of Hero Sentry, a VR game I composed for that will soon be released on STEAM, playable with the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive systems.

Greg.