The Self-Promoting Composer, Part 2
It’s Chatter tag-teaming day! Before you read another word here, you should first read Dan’s super-duper post relating to composer self-promotion on the internet, because I am spinning off on some of the points he brings up. The topic was specifically requested by one of our regular NewMusicBox commenters, who wondered about how composers promote themselves on the internet.
As we all know, the internet can be a wonderful, amazing thing for a composer, musician, or artist of any sort. But it can also become your very worst enemy, depending on how you use it. I know that for me it has been incredibly useful, and my career would not be close to where it is without it. It has also taken a few years to figure out how to use it in a way that feels comfortable for me. As Dan states in his essay, it is ultimately up to each one of us to decide how, and how much, we will use it.
Although I do think it is very important to take advantage of the internet and the various social networking options out there, I, like Dan, admit to being a relatively conservative user. There are much more creative ways for artists to harness the power of the internet, but for the purposes of this article I submit myself as an example of “composer self-promotion middle ground.”
My personal inventory of internet activity looks something like this:
My composer website.
This is ground zero for my composing life. All paths ultimately lead here, and this is where one can find all the gory details about my music, such as program notes, audio samples, etc. I keep it as up to date as humanly possible.
Years ago I balked at joining Facebook when this dude named Rob Deemer, who I barely knew at the time, invited me, and I managed to hold off for about a year until I caved in and signed up. Now I love it! I keep it simple and maintain a normal profile page (as opposed to a “fan” page), where I share a mix of professional and personal information.
At first I didn’t see the point, but now I find it invaluable for the sheer number of great articles and interesting information people share! I do not link my Twitter feed to my Facebook account, because the two beg different styles of posting information.
This was a good thing a few years ago, but I am so close to jettisoning my account due to the painfully clunky interface. Nevertheless, it’s a quick and efficient way to let people hear your music.
I post music-related photos (among other photos in my stream) that link to the relevant information on my website, be it a concert, recording, program note, etc.
As you can see, this is a pretty basic roundup of services. Here are some principles around their use that I always keep in mind:
Share information and insights that you honestly find interesting, useful, funny, weird, etc. Things from the outside world as well as things about yourself.
Are you 150% psyched about whatever that thing is you are sharing? Because if you’re not, then no one else will be.
As this article states, the world is a small town. Of course stirring things up a bit is perfectly fine, but respect and common courtesy—in my humble opinion—is essential at all times.
We all have bad days, and there is nothing wrong with sharing that on occasion if you feel comfortable doing so. However, endless strings of negative talk are bound to cause trouble. No one wants to work with someone who constantly complains or who speaks negatively of others, or of themselves in public.
I am very much of the opinion that composers and musicians should help and support one another. If someone does something awesome, or if you find something amazing that others will be interested in, share it! Link it, tag it, write about it, whatever. Let go of expectations about whether such favors will be returned. You might be surprised at what happens.
This may look like a lot of work, but the reality is that I don’t spend a ton of time doing it, because I would prefer to spend my precious free time actually making music rather than talking about making music. Plus, I don’t view it as “self-promotion” as much as connecting with colleagues and friends in the musical world, which is quite simply fun. When it stops being fun, I will be happy to sign off.
What has this activity wrought? Performances, increased score sales (these two obviously go hand-in-hand), CD sales, residencies, commissions, and possibly most importantly, being part of a musical community much wider than that of my own geographical location. That last part feeds all the other things.
But please keep reading because this is so, so important:
Ultimately, no matter how expansive and powerful the internet may be, the reality is that it will never, ever take the place of personal contact. It might be a useful vehicle for getting to know someone and their music, but in the end, the most important aspect of building one’s musical career is making a real-time personal connection. Nothing can take the place of being there; of shaking hands, sharing a coffee or a cocktail, or showing up to an event. I actually find this to be the very best and most fun part of the entire process!