For some reason, we creative types seem to take an instant dislike to the notion of Branding and Marketing.
We can’t be quantified or packaged. We’re artists, darling. Our art speaks for itself. All true… but all the art out there is vying equally for all of your potential clients’ attentions. And those attention spans are short and very demanding. If you want to make your art into a business, i.e. make money at it, you’ve no choice – you have to brand yourself and then market your art. No getting away from it.
And as film composers and sound designers, we’re usually selling art that’s yet to be created. So what might be a more effective overall marketing strategy is to think of how we can sell ourselves, our persona, our fun-to-work-with-ness, our attitudes to career and life, how you and I collaborating together will without a doubt create something more awesome than we could possibly have done separately.
So marketing is very important to the film music composer or sound designer. But it need not be boring, time-consuming or expensive. Marketing for us film sound creators can be quick, easy, painless, fun, interesting, and very cheap if you take a little time to think creatively about it. Even if you’re totally anti-marketing/branding/selling your soul, you’re probably doing some of it already without even realising it (I’ve talked about some of this in Personality Branding).
And… if it sells more of your work or your services, what you complainin’ about?
Here are all of the ways I can think of (so far) that a film music composer may market themselves. I’ve separated them out into whether I’ve used them or not, and how useful they’ve been up ’til now. Hopefully you can pick out a few to start forming an easy strategy for marketing your wares and yourself.
This turned into rather a long list so stick with it…
Marketing Stuff that really works – directly led to sales:
- Online portfolio website with music and contact details
- DVD Showreel ready to go upon request
- Tailored CD submissions
- Music licensing on other site which led to commissions
- Content marketing (fancy name for blog attached to website): writing blog posts about opinions and thoughts about my experiences. This is all about building a connection with audience, fleshing out a more thorough picture of yourself, what you’re like as a person to work with rather than just a faceless, personality-less, unknown quantity.
- Networking in person and seeing it as an opportunity to make connections for people with other people.
- Having an elevator pitch ready to go… then getting out of the way, asking questions, listening, really engaging in creating the potential for a new business relationship.
- Twitter for both forging new relationships and developing ones already made through other methods.
- Maintaining and keeping tabs on pre-made business relationships on Facebook.
- Word of Mouth recommendations from people you’ve worked with before. Isn’t as tricky as you might first think – be easy to work with, go above and beyond, add value, and make the client feel special (‘cos they are – they’re working with you aren’t they?).
- Working in associated roles – this is really a form of networking. The word-of-mouth that you can gain about you being a really cool person and being great to work with works wonders when you hear about new projects coming up and you offer music composition/sound design!
- Collaborating with other artists in relevant areas for free or as equally paid co-creators in order to raise both of our profiles.
- Doing really awesome work with awesome people on awesome shows with high profile venues/channels with massive audiences is worth its weight in gold (though this probably counts a word of mouth too).
- Giving away free CDs of pre-composed music to trusted filmmakers to license whenever they might like to in the future. Sometimes they’ll come back to you for a bespoke version or even a new commission.
- Participating on relevant trade forums.
- Sending showreel CDs out to local and national production companies. I actually did this without checking whether they wanted to hear it first, tut tut. Even though it worked for me, right at the start of my career when I was a little fraidy-cat when it came to cold calling, it was such a small response – 3 replies from 100+ CDs sent out – that really, I spent an awful lot of money that could have been saved just by making a few phone calls. Though you never know…
Marketing stuff that probably worked indirectly, though I don’t know for sure, or methods I’ve implemented so recently that’s it’s hard to say what effect it’s yet to have:
- Website SEO (search engine optimisation)
- Building a website with a CMS or ‘Content Management System’ (e.g. wordpress, joomla) that’s very easily update-able with news, presents a more unified site where the blog isn’t just an add on, and where you don’t need to go into the code to make site-wide changes.
- Asking for testimonials for your website – also reminds the client how great it was working with you.
- Following up with email note after networking meetings (‘great to meet you’ type stuff).
- Business cards handed out at networking events and included in showreel mailouts.
- Trade press and general newspaper interviews.
- Relevant website interviews.
- Writing articles for relevant websites (such as this one).
- Email signature including links to my latest work on- or off-line.
- Twitter-driven traffic to my website – these visitors tend to stay around on the website a little longer than the average.
- Scheduling tweets for Twitter to maintain a more consistent, steady online presence and reach more followers in all the different timezones.
Marketing stuff I’ve tried that hasn’t worked for me so far (but might for you… but it’s dubious, and if you don’t have time or money or energy, then maybe don’t bother):
- Private online music store selling mp3s and music licenses for media attached to my website.
- A website built on flash – very little search engine traffic at all as most of it can’t be indexed.
- “Faking it ’til you make it”/exaggerating your achievements/pretending to be something you’re not personality-wise – you get found out eventually! It’s so tiring to keep up the facade consistently.
- Following general marketing gurus and social media ‘experts’ on Twitter.
- Following lots and lots of people on Twitter – signal to noise ratio gets less and less favourable, even though your follow stats are high. They aren’t really a targeted audience.
- Premium, i.e. paid-for, online portfolio/cv sites – e.g. Productionbase
- “Working the Room” at industry networking events – no real, viable relationships formed as a result of constantly looking for instant ‘usefulness’ indicators in conversations, looking over shoulders at other people who might be more ‘useful.” This behavior doesn’t really give the best impression.
- Music “giveaways.” I tried this once and it didn’t work… but it might next time.
- Myspace page (although I didn’t put a lot of effort into it)
Stuff I haven’t tried yet so can’t say either way. But these tips might send your business into the stratosphere, so am not ruling them out yet:
- Professional logo design.
- Headshots/professional photography (technically I have but it was for a different business – a live string group – and wasn’t really the right style for what I wanted to promote for my freelance composition).
- Professional web design.
- Hired professional PR and marketing services.
- Email list marketing (round-robins, news updates)
- Using bookmarking sites and comments on other blogs to drive traffic to my site (not intentionally anyway)
- Paid-for ghostwriters for blog content.
- Paid advertisements – e.g. Telephone directories on and offline, in trade magazines, on relevant trade websites.
- Real-world thank you notes (vs email, which I actually do quite a lot).
- Professionally printed branded headed note paper, ‘with compliments’ slips, holiday cards etc.
- Pursuing the press e.g. having a press pack ready, calling the press with a pre-made story or angle.
- Video interviews/vlog (e.g. on your blog).
- Branded associated merchandise – hats, cups, tshirts, bags, stuffed animals…
- Reverbnation page (technically I’ve got a page. but I’ve not put anything of interest on it. So can’t really claim to be an authority on this one)
- Publicity “stunts.”
- Cold-calling production companies. (I take the easy route and ask my working friends and colleagues who I’ve met through networking or working alongside in related media who work at those companies, what’s going on there. So, technically, it’s warm-calling).
Final word – and this is as technical as I’m going to get…
As media composers and sound designers, we are B2B – business to business – rather than B2C – business to consumer. We sell our services or our previously composed music to producers of other media as raw material for them to sculpt into the product that will be sold to the consumer – the audience. So a lot of the advice for marketing for musicians you may find on the web or offline, unless specifically for media music composers and sound designers, isn’t actually that relevant.
Ultimately, rather than focussing on the product, we’re aiming to be service providers – you’re selling you: your working personality, your style of collaboration, your creativity-on-tap. You can’t really afford to just let the music ‘speak for itself’. That’s your past. What you’re selling is in your future. Who you are as an artist. Your creative soul.
If that doesn’t scare you then you’re probably in the right business. Go get ‘em, tiger.
Which marketing strategies do you use? What’s worked and what hasn’t? What would you add to these lists, and what points here are you inspired to take away and implement immediately? Tell us in the comments below.