Chris Boardman Music Blog: March 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Monday Musings: Scarcity vs. Abundance-Have we been duped?


Have we all been duped?

A component of 20th century business was the idea that scarcity could be manipulated and controlled. We were also systematically conditioned to respond to cost thus creating artificial  vs. organic value. Prices would rise if the consumer believed that fewer “copies” of that item they desired were available. In some cases this is true. Precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver are finite resources but the people who profit in the entertainment industry are the ones who control access to the item we desire rather than the creator of the product. 

The business of art is nothing more than selling a receptacle (painting, record, photo, movie) that enables the user to trigger their emotional memory. Great art will continue to engender an emotional response not because of the package it comes in...but from the emotional intent captured at the moment of creation.

Where does the desire for art come from? 

With billions of people on the planet it is safe to say that human emotion and our need to be connected is abundant . But the packaging created by a business to expose and create artificial scarcity is not. Good art (packaging) will capture your attention. Great art makes you feel.

Art as a product (a CD, DVD or painting) is physical but its value is derived from the emotion created by engaging with the art. And, the ultimate judge of the value is the user of the art....not the packager of the art. In social media one metric of value is determined by how often a piece of art (or content) is shared which suggests that art is a container of emotional value that is then transmitted from one to another. Sharing online has nothing to do with ownership. It has to do with our inherent human desire to feel connected. Social media platforms monetize access not ownership or distribution of a physical product. Value is judged by the experience created.

The challenge for the artist is not to create the flashiest physical container for their work. The challenge for the artist is to create value in the form of an experience that undeniably taps into the abundant nature of human emotion. People will do the rest...you need not be overly concerned about it.

The basic question for the artist is “where is the value? Packaging or emotion?”

You  be the judge.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Similarities between art and extreme sports


Believe it or not their are more similarities between extreme sports and creating than you might imagine. Athletes routinely create a state of "Flow" to enhance their performance.

Are you in a state of Flow when you create?

“Flow” is a psychological term defined as being a state of optimal consciousness. Normally applied to extreme sports I wonder if the most powerful and effective art is not achieved through the same state of being? From my personal experience I would have to say yes. Is it possible to apply practices used by athletes to the creation of music? Absolutely. I think it is essential for any creative artist moving forward.

Extreme sports require near perfect decision making because the stakes are high. It requires acceptance of limitations and the exploitation of personal strengths. Lack of awareness can be the difference between life and death. 

Is making art a life or death decision?

Music as a profession has been hit hard by disruptive technology and will continue to be challenged. Maybe it is a life or death decision after all?

If you watch someone who is about to jump off a bridge, free climb 2000ft or surf a 100ft wave there seems to be a calm about them. They are focused and relaxed. They are not distracted because they know if they aren’t ....well you know.

If you look at great performers they have a similar aura about them. Focused, relaxed...in the moment. Any person who performs at a high level has learned how to put themselves in a state of “flow” on command.




Watch how athletes prepare themselves in pressure situations. Most adopt a preshot routine to put themselves in a state of flow. Do you have a pre-shot routine before you begin to write? If you don’t you might consider creating one. The better decisions you make the more efficient you become and...the better art you will create.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Top Ten Myths about being A Film Composer #1-If I were just like John Williams life would be easy!


Truth be told? Creating a Top Ten List about art is a dubious and pretentious endeavor at best. My goal was to create a format to be able to share my life and experiences in an effort to spur your mind and help you on your way.

Dreams. Goals. Desires....

...we all have them. Maybe you want to be famous? Maybe you want to be rich? Or, maybe you have such passion for the work that all you want to do is to have the opportunity to be engaged in the process of doing it  more regularly.
If I were presumptuous enough to give you advice it would be these two things:
  • be yourself!
  • never, ever, stop learning
Think about it. There is only one of you. That, by definition, makes you unique. Celebrate and embrace your individuality. This is what will differentiate you from everyone else!  The hardest thing for any artist to do is to understand and be clear about who they are. Give yourself some time for reflection to figure out who you are and what you want to be.

What do I have to do to "make it"?

If there is a "myth" we haven't discussed it would being successful in life (let alone being a film composer) is not a destination to reach. It is a process to engage in! 
There will always be new challenges to face, hurdles to leap and mountains to climb. Embrace these as problems to solve. Remember that very few problems do not have answers....they may just be difficult for you to see. I am very confident that if you are engaged in writing music for film that you are a "creative problem solver". Learn to apply this special skill to everything obstacle you face and I guarantee you will be surprised at the results.
I've talked about branding, marketing and sales...methods to help you reach your goals.

NEWS FLASH!

There are no guarantees in the music business OR life! It may sound trite but remember that expectations not met create disappointments.
  • Be engaged in the process without attachment to a specific result.
  • Be in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or fantasizing about the future.
  • Be kind and generous with everyone you meet...you never know when they will re-emerge in your life.
  • Being an artist is a noble endeavor...one that feeds your soul and affects all who listen to your work.
Most of all: enjoy your life!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Musings: Is it possible to own music?


Art at its best is a transformative experience. Art can bring us to tears, make us laugh, make us reflect. Art can even be powerful enough to start and stop wars.  

Never underestimate the power of art or its value.

Value implies measurement.  But, who determines how that measurement is taken? Or what it is based on? Is it even possible to “own” art? And, if I have access to the “art” that interests me why on earth would I want to own it?

Access vs. Ownership- the dilemma of the information age.

Whenever we go to a movie, watch a live performance or purchase a song aren’t we buying access so we can be transformed by the message of the artist? Is it not the experience that is of value? 

Art has long functioned as a mouthpiece for those without a voice. It is the creative individuals who can coin a phrase, write a speech, or capture the times in a song who have unified our culture in the past. It is the human need to share these common experiences that creates value for the individual and the creator alike. 

Never underestimate the power of art to create a valuable common experience.
  
If we, as content creators, are trying to monetize our artistic endeavors we should remind ourselves:
  • to realize that the experience we create is the product we have to sell 
  • to acknowledge and embrace the value of the shared experience
  • to let go of the all or nothing “grab the brass ring” mentality
Focus your energy on creation of your art. The value will be determined by the quality of experience you create. You can measure it later.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top Ten Myths about being A Film Composer: #2-"My Music Is My Brand- 'nuff said".

What Is A Brand?

If I were to ask you this question would you have an answer? If I asked you to describe your brand could you tell me? Do you even know why it is important? We all use search to vett and verify everyone we met. If you see a strong consistent online presence chances are they have spent time thinking about their brand which translates into higher credibility and possible employment.
So how do you begin to build your brand?

Let me ask you a few questions:
  • What are your "Core Values"?
  • How do you support (pillars) your core values?
  • What is your "promise" (mission statement) to your customers/audience?
  • Where do you want to go? (aspirations)
  • If you asked someone to articulate who you are what would they say? (Brand Characteristics)
  • How do you work? Who to you work with? (Culture)
  • Describe your professional "personality".
  • Can you identify where your best opportunities are? Can you describe your image?
If you were to hire a branding company to help you sell your services these are some of the questions they would ask. They wouldn't be able to even start without knowing this crucial information. 

Your music is a commodity.

To be successful in marketing yourself you must start think of what you do as being a "product" that is bought and sold. Yeah , Yeah....I know this sounds hardcore. It doesn't have much to do with making music. Or does it?
Believe it or not, I still get uncomfortable when talking about my music and my career...even after all these years. I have found, through painful trial and error, that when I think of my music as if it were an inanimate object I am much more at ease and less self conscious. I remind myself that I am expressing my brand not myself. I can then focus on the other person and be confident. Never forget- it's all about connecting with who you are talking to.
What does that mean to you?

Think of your music as your "brand"-which is to say that "you" are different than your brand.

The questions above describe the basics of branding  a company, product or individual so that the reader or potential buyer can determine quickly (10 sec. or less) if you have given them sufficient reason to engage them in what you are offering. Doing this effectively requires you to be able to articulate your message (promise or mission statement) succinctly without hesitation. Rehearse your elevator pitch! It will give you a big boost of confidence. 

Why branding?

In recent times there has been much emphasis on "branding". You might think "branding" is cool graphics, great trailer style music, attention grabbing etc. Ever ask yourself how they come up with that stuff? (a great video describing what a brand is).
That being said: branding is about creating a shared experience that denotes quality, service and value that the user carries with them. To express these ideas to a listener, reader or employer you must be clear about the meaning of the message you are delivering. Here is an analogy:  to be a successful orchestrator one has to learn how to write in "in the language of the orchestra ".  Getting to the heart of who you are, what you stand for will make your sales process more effective.

What does this have to do with making music?

The more you work, the more chance you have to make music.
'nuff said.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Musings: Am I Good Enough?


Am I good enough? 

Whenever I hear this phrase I want to ask: “by what standard?”

The value of a person’s achievement can be rated in many ways...most often it is winners and losers with the glow of winning being the motivation for endless hours of hard work while the losers feel the shame and disappointment of defeat. 

Regardless whether you win or lose the race there will be another day, another challenge to face. And doesn’t this notion ignore the fact that the value of working towards a goal is what you learn about yourself along the way rather than the destination you are trying to reach? 

Am I good enough? 

What? To earn my praise? To earn my validation for your efforts? 
Being dependent upon the opinions of others forces us to take the safe and narrow path of least resistance and restricts us from attempting the truly risky for fear of being rejected. Who better to please but ourselves? Who better to judge our individual progress than ourselves?

All too often our artistic heroes  attract us by their sheer force of will and presence. And why is that? 

They don’t seem to care what others think about them. They just go their own way seemingly without regard to consequence or rejection. We find them irresistible and mysterious. Some call this charisma. I think of it as strength of character.

Are they (our artistic heroes) good enough?

Depends on who you ask. If you ask them they’d probably say rarely if at all. Despite their self-doubt and anxiety they push on...to feed the master of their passion-their inner voice.

Most every great artist I have known will find inspiration not from the mind but from the soul. It is the connection to the inner voice that distinguishes the exceptional from the ordinary. 

They know the difference between mind and body. They have cultivated a relationship with their creative energy (one friend even gave it a name: “Shirley”). They have learned how to embrace their connection on command. They answer to their inner voice...not the adulation or admiration of others.

Finding your voice is not easy. But, the irony is that it is with you every minute of every day. We just find it hard to listen and accept.

Am I good enough? 

The only person who can answer that question is you. Are you listening?

“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”
Buddha

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Top Ten Myths about being A Film Composer #3...The jobs will just come to me!


Who  sells your services?
Your manager? Your agent? Your publisher? Your friends? Sales happen organically...I'm a musician....not a salesperson.
Let me ask you a couple questions: Do you want to be paid for your services? Do you want to make a living by making music? Do you want to be respected for the work you do? Do you believe that you are worth the money you are asking for?
Like it or not if you want to make money at making music you will be much better off if you accept that you are running a business. And, like playing an instrument, the more you practice,  the better you will become.

Here is a dirty little secret:

You have to value yourself before anyone will value you.

What is your elevator pitch?

One of the hardest things for the creative individual to do is to succinctly describe and express who they are and what they want. If I were to ask you: "who are you? what do you want? "how can I help you?" can you answer in 25 words or less?
My attention is the most valuable resource I have. I don't like to waste it. Neither does a potential boss. When you find yourself in a networking situation have your elevator pitch rehearsed and ready to go. It's a sign of respect and competence. It will give you confidence too.
Much like a first date it will be apparent in a couple of minutes whether or not there is any possibility of a good fit. The thing to remember is that timing is everything. Nothing may happen at first...but- if you are successful at making a connection you leave the door open for something in the future. And, you never know, a chance encounter may be the beginning of a lifelong relationship. Be Prepared. Be respectful. Interpersonal skills are a must. I'm sure you know people who seem to effortlessly schmooze with anyone. Let me tell you- it is a skill that can be learned. I've found that listening, paying attention, being attentive are great skills to nurture. Remember: it's not about you. It's about the relationship.

"People work with people they know....who they feel they can have a relationship with.

There are the rare instances when someone will hire you because they "have" to have what you do....but that is the exception. And, even if they did hire you....they still have to get along with you.
How do I improve my networking skills?
Think of it this way- you would never dream of performing in public without practicing first? This holds true with networking too.
  • Practice your elevator pitch.
  • Ask questions....about them! Most everyone likes to talk about themselves.
  • Pay attention- make eye contact, have a firm handsake. Pay them a compliment.
  • Focus on how you can help them....not how they can help you.
  • Be authentic.
...it's all about making the connection.

How does this get me a job?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. There a lot of people out there. If you stay within those people you know your opportunities will be limited. And, you just never know where potential opportunities will come from.
Besides- you may not want to work with just anybody.
A successful creative collaboration requires intimacy and trust. It is next to impossible to share those amazing moments of discovery and invention without it.

"I have the artist's disease- I want everyone to love me."

Truth be told I hear "no" more often than I hear "yes". It took me a long time to realize that my self-worth didn't depend on what others thought of me. This is so important let me say it again: my self-worth doesn't depend on what others think.
This gave me the freedom to be myself and just go for it...and risk rejection. And, if someone says "no" then I just remind myself that "I must be talking to the wrong person".

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Musings: The most famous selfie of the famous...ever!


It was bound to happen. The Oscars and their advertisers have joined the dark side. For the first time in history an Oscar telecast incorporated a “selfie” distributed to the world over Twitter.

At first glance this may not seem significant. But, if you pull back the covers several issues come to the forefront.

Advertisers are desperate to find ways to reach an audience that doesn’t want to be bothered.

Every last one of the actors portrayed in the selfie seem desperate to be relevant and or share in a collaborative experience with billions of people. 

And, rather than elevate the craft and promote excellence the Oscars have descended from a professional class to the massive group of 2 Billion people who use social media everyday. If I were a cynical person I would say that the Wizard’s curtain has been drawn exposing that they are only people after all. Even Pharrell Williams wore ruby slippers! Greatness is no longer out of reach...it's at the end of your arm. 

Where do we go from here? 

The democratization of media creation will surely continue to erode the professional class but that is not a bad thing. Rather than have your media and movie experience controlled by the powerful few that dictate taste, you, the individual, now have the opportunity to shape the world as you see fit. And, if your message is powerful enough you will break through the noise and find your audience. No longer will artists be the pawns of those who flaunt their power and control.

Do I know where this will end up? I haven’t a clue. But this I know: art will survive as it has for thousands of years. 

At the end of the film “Monuments Men” President Roosevelt asked George Clooney’s character: “Do you think art is worth the loss of life?” To which Clooney said: Yes. I believe so. 

So the only question that need be answered: what is YOUR level of devotion?