I was talking with a friend, who, on behalf of his brother, was asking for advice on getting into the industry. Specifically, his brother is the musician in the family while my friend is a more traditional businessman who sells product. My pal asked me, “How do you determine what to charge? I know that in my industry I have to do an analysis of what a product costs me to produce and how much profit margin I need to make to survive. If a music mix takes a certain number of hours and you can determine its cost to show the client, why can you not get people to pay for that?” This inevitably led to the train of thought that you charge what you are worth — a topic we have discussed here at SCOREcast many times in the past. But upon further discussion, I determined that in advising his brother on how to charge for his work, there was a fundamental problem in their approach. They were focused on selling the wrong product.
What Are You Selling?
Answer this question for yourself. As a composer, what product are you selling? Think about it. Answer honestly in your head before you read on.
…(Queue Merv Griffin’s “Jeopardy” theme)…
Did you answer “music?” Did you answer “a film score?” Did you answer “fully produced tracks?” “Original compositions?” Well… you are wrong on all accounts. What is the product you are selling? The product you are selling is YOU!
It is a fundamental shift in how you look at your business. It’s why some composers can charge seven figures and perhaps you can not — those composers are worth more. But if you are frustrated because you feel the fully produced tracks on your demo are just as polished and unique as those composer’s then you are taking your eye off the ball. It is NOT about your music. It is about YOU. You are the product. ALL of you.
Of course you produce music, but that is only part of it. You also make the director feel like his or her movie was the best thing made this year. You also solve problems with a positive and professional approach that makes people want to be around you for months at a time on a project. You also communicate well and deliver on time and on budget. There is so much more to it.
The challenge in setting a price for your music is really just determining what YOU are worth to the client, rather than what your music is worth. A Blu-Ray can be purchased at the nearest store for about $15-$20 USD. There is a value assessment to that product that the market has determined and can sustain. But with us, our value changes — sometimes overnight. If your movie hits #1 in the country, all of a sudden you’ll be worth more. It is not like your music is any different today than it was yesterday before your film hit number one at the box office, but the value of having you on a future project is now much more valuable to a producer or director. It has nothing to do with your music.
The honest truth: If you are having a hard time getting your fee up it is because the industry does not feel YOU are worth that. If they felt you were worth the money, they would find the money to cover your fee. It also plays into Deane Ogden‘s frequent posts about the culture of free. If we agree to free gigs, we are simply affirming to the industry that we are worth… nothing.
In conclusion, the next time you re-evaluate your business plan and try to determine what your fee is, remember what it is that you are actually trying to sell. Also remember that you are not a composer looking for a job, you are a business looking for clients. It is a subtle distinction but an important one. It shifts the dynamic of where you sit on the ladder with your clients.
The product is not your music — the product is YOU!
[sncallout type="announcement"]Leave your thoughts on this below. I would love to hear your take on what makes YOU a valuable product to your clients. — Brian[/sncallout]