To Sustain A Career In Music
© 2000 Bruce Shutan. All rights reserved
a rising star to do if he rejects the life of a 9-to-5er but cant
quite get his rock band out of the garage and into the limelight?
Easy: fall back on another musical discipline or at least juggle the
two. And absolutely, under no circumstances, ever lose sight of staying
gainfully employed in the music business.
ask Joel Langley, who manages to score TV, film and multimedia projects
by day and crank up the volume in the clubs by night. His story serves
an inspiration to anyone whose musical talent and ambition transcends
dreams of rock stardom.
metro Washington, D.C.-based musician runs his own label (Green Goose
Records), publishing company (Green Goose Music, BMI) and Web site
in addition to fronting a band called The
Huge, which has recorded three full-length CDs of original music
since forming in 1993.
ultimate weapon," he says, "is to be educated about your
market and knowing the kind of work thats out there whether
its commercial composing, producing up-and-coming bands, lending
your services as a studio technician, or setting up a mini-tour for
your own band."
say in real estate, its all about location. "St. Louis
isnt the best place to be scoring music," Langley observes.
"You really have to go to where theres a commercial market
like New York, L.A., Chicago or Washington, D.C., which allows for
necessary face-to-face contact with producers." If live performance
is your preference, he points to thriving local music scenes in Nashville
and Austin, Texas.
advice to those who are feeling discouraged about earning a living
in music is to "make rejection your fuel. If you let it get you
down, then youre not going to last in this business. For every
success you have there will be 10 rejections, and for every time the
phone rings there will be times it doesnt ring."
not everyone is able to parlay their passion for music into dollars
and cents, but it sure pays to diversify. Langley has somewhat of
an advantage, having grown up equally comfortable singing along to
Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell, playing guitar, or writing lyrics to
fit a John Williams film score. He also has dabbled in every style
of music: from classical and country to rap, rock and punk.
he produced his first album (four more would follow). While earning
his masters degree in film and video at The American University,
he honed his composing chops by scoring films for classmates and his
own projects. "One of the elements I loved most was putting music
to film, which involves writing and visual symmetry," he says.
"It merged all my passions, with music serving as the common
years, he has scored a number of short films one of which,
"Camouflage," was showcased at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.
Langley also has composed broadcast and home video pieces for The
Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Animal Planet, as well
as national radio/television ad campaigns for Chiat/Day, Inc. and
several episodes of "Americas Most Wanted."
a creative standpoint, multiple musical involvement not only battles
boredom it also infuses the writing process with freshness and vision.
After finishing a time-consuming and challenging project as a commercial
composer, Langley enjoys the catharsis of writing a simple pop song
in the solitude of his room (Brian Wilson style) and appreciates the
synergy connecting both processes.
usually writing pop songs for myself, which is a pretty typical arrangement
for songwriters," he notes, explaining the difference between
his two crafts. "Its more of a creative outlet for myself.
You can do so much within the set structure of a pop song. The verse-chorus
familiarity is what keeps people listening to the radio, but there
are no boundaries in pop song writing. Its probably one of the
most universally accepted forms of artistic expression out there.
Theres not a country in the world where people who hear a song
wont get up and dance to it."
scoring commercial work, just the opposite is true. "A producer
has something very specific in mind," he notes, "but you
cant take it personally if he hates your first draft. Its
just a reference point, and you have to be professional about the
feedback and accept the challenge of being creative from someone elses
to avoid shrinking at the first mention of criticism is to "discuss
every possible detail to arm yourself with as clear of a picture of
what the producer wants, so that you dont miss the mark,"
he advises. "If your ego gets in the way, then you shouldnt
be in this business. Its all about shaping ideas, which may
mean turning down the distortion or changing the drumbeat."
started out scoring TV segments with just a Kurzweil K2000 keyboard
in his equipment arsenal, Langley now uses two Rolland samplers and
a guitar synthesizer. He also runs digital performer sequencing software
on a Mac G4 and mixes through a 24-channel Mackie board. "With
all the technology out there you can make your keyboard sound like
anything," he enthuses.
nearly every industry, Langley believes the Internet will revolutionize
composing. "There will be a lot more audio and music demand as
technology converges," he predicts. "All the interactivity
of the Internet will open up a lot of revenue streams for composers.
Its a vertical market that runs very deep."
project involved a three-note audio identity he created for his brothers
medical Web site to go along with the companys name and visual
design. Other areas that will be ripe for composers include educational
CD-ROMs and DVDs, according to Langley.
band never amounts to anything other than a regional act, he neednt
worry about keeping music in his life thanks to a successful composing
career. "At the end of the day its still about music and
whether the music conveys emotion," he says. The only time he
ever has to don a suit and tie is to music award ceremonies
never a stuffy office.
the Author: Bruce Shutan, an L.A.-based freelance writer, has been
playing the drums since 1970. He has performed and recorded in numerous
bands and occasionally pounds his cast-aluminum, Egyptian dumbek along
Santa Monicas chic Third Street Promenad. firstname.lastname@example.org