Chris Boardman Music Blog: Top Ten Myths about being a Film Composer - #5

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top Ten Myths about being a Film Composer - #5


I don't need to be concerned about the business of music-

You can call me "Schroeder". I spent my youth playing the piano incessantly. I started writing songs when I was about 9. Most every waking hour I had a radio blaring in my head. I couldn't stop it. So, I spent all my time pursuing that which I could not ignore...making music.
Because I had developed skills as a musician and was gifted with talent, opportunities presented themselves and I started working as a musician at 14. By the time I reached college I was a "working musician". Even so, my goal was not to make money. My interest was always to find a way to stay immersed in the process of making music. This desire to led me to find a way to leave college at the first opportunity. It wasn't long before I left school to go on the road. I didn't really care how much they paid me- I probably would have done it for free!

Setting myself up...for disaster.

Fast forward to years later. I had been working steadily for years...not because I had a great business acumen but actually in spite of it. I had an employable skill, was dependable and, for the most part, easy to work with. Things were great- until there was a problem with the business side of things. Because I had not paid attention to "the business of music"  I found myself totally unprepared to deal with problems related to business.
 The constant dilemma for the artistic person is to "balance"their need for expression with the pragmatism required to make a living. In a perfect world I would wake up every morning and joyfully make music all day. "Oh... what a wonderful world it would be."
Unfortunately the business or "your"  business has to be taken care of just like any other responsibility. If you have support staff:  business managers, agents, managers, copyists, programmers, tech support, musicians, accountants, they have to be managed. You must be in control of yourself to be able to manage your working relationships effectively.
A few things to consider:
  • Not everyone is a "friend".
  • Confide only in those you trust
  • Be clear and focused about the job you are asked to do- if you don't understand...ask questions.
  • If you are going to subcontract or look for help be "specific" about what you expect from them.
  • Use the golden rule with everyone you work with. This is terribly important. Your reputation precedes you. If you rip someone off, sooner or later it will come back to you. Conversely if you treat everyone with respect and integrity you will have more time to spend on music rather then wondering what people are saying about you or how to cover your tracks. This is now more important than ever due to the transparency of the internet.
To manage your team effectively you need to be comfortable with basic business principles such as:
  • reading contracts- fine print too!
  • understanding the "actual"  roles of all those involved (agents, managers, copyists, etc) and how they relate to one another
  • knowing how to budget your time and money.
  • understanding the "market value" of the services you provide.
You may be wondering about why business acumen is important? Today not only are we required to be expert musicians- we also have to create and manage a personal "brand". I'll go into branding in a future post.
The takeaway from today's blog should be: understand business to the extent that you can operate effectively with those you work with and take care of yourself in the process.
Don't kid yourself: this is difficult for everyone! 
But- it is not insurmountable.

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