Since starting this series, I’ve been asked many questions about composing from readers just like you, and the most frequent questions I’ve been asked have been things like “How do I get my music to be noticed by more people?” or “How can I get people to hire me to make music for them?” It’s natural… you’re an artist, which means that a.) you want more people to see the awesome work you do, and b.) you’d probably like to make some money doing it.
Now, honestly, I don’t know how to answer this question for you, specifically. The answer for every artist is different. But I do have some advice, and while it might be a bit boring to read, if you understand it, it should help you. (By the way, unlike my other chapters in this series, this advice can easily apply to all artists.)
There are two keys to long-term success in an art form: what you know and who knows you.
What you know is all of your skills, your talents, your work ethic, your creativity, and your commitment. You should already be trying to get better in these areas. If you’re not, and you just assume that becoming a successful artist requires no work whatsoever, stop reading now. You will never be a successful artist (and if you don’t at least improve your work ethic, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful at anything… sorry to be blunt, but it’s true).
Who knows you is the part that I’ll be mostly talking about here. These are your contacts, the people out there who remember how awesome you are as an artist. This group includes your friends, your classmates and your coworkers, but due to the Internet, it could potentially include any of the seven billion people on this planet. It is due to the people who know you that you will find fame.
You need both of these. Simply being talented is not enough. Emily Dickinson was a poet from the 19th century who wrote her poems in privacy, hardly ever sharing them with anyone. It was only after she died that her poems were revealed to the world by her relatives as the masterpieces they were… she was a woman of much talent, but had an extreme case of making sure no one knew about her.
Being known by millions of people isn’t enough, either. William Hung was a man who auditioned for the reality TV show American Idol in late 2003. When his audition aired on TV, he became known around the world by millions of people… for how bad he was at singing. He got signed to record deals, he appeared in TV commercials… he achieved a higher level of fame than most artists ever will, and is now living in obscurity. He was well-known, but had an extreme lack of talent.
I’m fairly certain that you do not want either of these things to happen to you. Chances are, you know you have talent, and want to work to have even more, but you’re just having trouble finding the audience.
How do you make sure people know about you? Well, there’s no one solution that will grant you this. You’re going to need to be creative. Here’s some ideas (in a very random order):
- Is there a band you like? Make a remix of one of their songs, and upload it to YouTube (giving the band credit for the original song, of course). If you do that, and you do a good job, people who are already looking for their song may find you.
- Make music that other people want to listen to. If the music you make isn’t liked by anyone else, you’re not going to get more famous.
- Become the best at one particular thing. There’s a man named Sam Tsui who sings many parts of the same song on a stage and is hugely talented at it. For example, check out his Michael Jackson tribute. That style is his thing… find your thing, and perfect it. People are constantly on the lookout for the artists that are better than the rest at something.
- Join a musical group. A garage band, a local symphony orchestra, your church or school choir… if you’re around other musicians, you all become each other’s audience. Surrounding yourself with like-minded artists is usually a very good thing.
- YouLicense, and other sites like it, post up job opportunities. In the case of YouLicense, you can submit to one one project per month for absolutely free. If you aren’t doing this, why not?
- Find local contacts. People who know you and actually live near you are, in my experience, far more valuable contacts to have.
- Does the composing program you use have a forum? If so, is there a place on that forum to showcase your work? Put your songs online, and post them! I guarantee that you’ll get honest and constructive feedback, and perhaps even some contacts from it as well.
Will all of these things work for you? Probably not. But you have to try. In the words of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. The more people who know you, the better your chance will be to score. 1
Next: Chapter 14 – Humbled By Beethoven
Previous: Chapter 12 – Echo, Echo
- I feel like I’ve cheated a bit with this chapter. For some of you, I’ve only told you what you already know, and I’m sorry about that. Really, if composing music is your dream, you’re just going to have to persevere. It’s one of the hardest things about being an artist for a living. You probably will have to get a day job at the same time to make it work. ↩