Ok, ok. Possibly a contender for the most overdramatic blog post title about production music! But haven’t we all been there?
Making a full or even part time living from writing music can be hard. A lot of people give up on it. If you have points where it all seems pretty bleak – be that not getting replies from Libraries, hitting creative blocks or whatever – I want to share something with you that might make you feel better!
I got sent this interesting diagram from my friend who is a life coach. It’s called “The Emotional Cycle Of Change”. Check it out here:
As you can see, it notes that, with any new venture, many people normally experience 5 emotional states in a specific order. Let’s take a look at them and how they might relate to someone trying to build an income, or a career, in Library Music:
1.) Uninformed optimism. This is when we don’t know much about something, or at least haven’t experienced the whole picture, but we’re optimistic about what we do know.
With Library Music: This is often hearing of how people make full time (or part time) income, writing and licensing tracks from their modest home studios. (Which is true for many… …but read on!)
2.) As more time passes and we explore a path a little further, we’re next hit with “Informed pessimism.” Things start to turn out to be not quite as straight forward as they initially seemed.
With Library Music: Often the realisation that you’re going to have to write a whole load of tracks, the bar is high and that perhaps you’ve got more to learn than you thought. Plus you’re going to have to make a bunch of new connections to succeed.
3.) Valley of despair. This is as bad as it gets. Look at how at the bottom left hand corner of the graphic above says “Quit and repeat phases 1-3”. That’s because many people in life go from new venture to new venture, quitting when they hit the valley of despair. This is the point that you feel like you’re getting nowhere and never will.
With Library Music: I’m convinced, from all the people that I hear from, that the valley of despair nearly always entails some or all of the following:
*Tracks being consistently rejected by Libraries.
*Not hearing back from Libraries at all.
*Wondering if your music is good enough.
*Getting some tracks into libraries and receiving no return placements.
Let me tell you that pretty much ALL successful Library Music composers have experienced all of these… …many several times over! The “valley of despair” is a natural stage of this process. So take heart and don’t quit: instead, persist or adapt! Check out what’s going on in productions, musically. Are your tracks relevant? Does your music immediately conjure up what kind of shows it would be used on? Do you hear this kind of music on TV currently? (Tip: not a few years ago, but now!) Do you need a twist on your music? Can you combine genres? Keep going at things from different angles.
4.) Informed optimism. I wouldn’t say that this is always a moment of “I’ve nailed it!” (Though it could be!) It’s just the moment that you begin to gain traction. You see something you’ve done, some ideas you’ve applied, start to work.
With Library Music: Maybe you made some of those changes above. Or you had reason to believe that you were onto a good thing so contacted a whole bunch more publishers and ended up getting some promising new contacts. Perhaps you scored a few placements that did pay.
5.) Success and fulfilment. Here we go! This is the point things start really motoring!
With Library Music: You find a genre (or perhaps a few) that you write well in, you find contacts that like it, they place your music with some shows and you start receiving some income from it.
Interestingly, the bottom right of the graphic, right after the valley of despair, says “push through to success.” That really is key to getting there with your Library Music career. The valley of despair needn’t be the end of the journey and is a normal – even expected – stage. Keep pushing!
Have you experienced the valley of despair? Got any tips on how you got through it that might help your fellow composers and producers? Feel free to leave your tips in the comments below!
I’m somewhere between 2 and 3! But your course is helping me understand so much more of how I can push through 3 when I get there Michael!
Great to hear, Ryan! 3 is only ever temporary!!
Great article and advice! As a library composer, I’ve gone through all these stages and I know so many who have given up in the Valley of Despair despite encouragement from their peers.
Thanks for your valuable support and for sharing your expertise with other composers.
Great to hear that you’ve gone through it and come out the other side, Elna. Takes quite a lot of fortitude to do that. May you never see the Valley of Despair ever again!!
Great post! A quick but profound lesson for artists, for business and for life. Thanks!
Thanks so much, Rodrigo! Glad you enjoyed it!
Great article, and this definitely gives me some useful perspective. I’ve had an interesting journey through this curve. After years of the grind with seemingly no return, I hit the valley of despair pretty hard and felt like I was spinning my wheels for years. I actually quit not only library music, but music altogether and set off to pursue an entirely different career.
Then an interesting thing happened – all those years of hard work started to pay off after I had already given up! I started to see significantly increased royalty statements when one of the libraries I had been working with for many years was picked up by APM, then another library placed one of my tracks in the Super Bowl and throughout the regular NFL season, and finally I got offered a sweet custom scoring gig with a handsome up front fee based on word of mouth, even though I wasn’t looking! Seemingly overnight (but really more like over a couple of months), I went from the valley of despair to informed optimism. It’s a long game folks, but there’s gold in them hills!
I LOVE this story, Andrew. Thanks so much for taking the time to share it. I guess it really does show that anything can happen for you at any time, as long as you get those tracks out there. So happy to hear of your success! 👍
Really great article Michael! The more time I spend reading/learning about building a business, the more I realise how many people finally break through purely because they had the grit to just keep going. To keep creating (and, of course, improving bit by bit!)
It’s like that image of the guy digging for gold, and he gives up when he’s INCHES from the jackpot. If only he’d kept digging!
Hope you’re well mate!
Amen to that, Jonny!!
Great post Mike, insightful and concise as always