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TMCP 013: Dealing With Failure

In this episode. I want to deal with failure…still dealing with the failure of this windy recording. I promise I will get a shield for my mic for future recordings haha :/

Transcript

Hey guys welcome to session number 13 of the trailer music composer’s podcast.  Could I have a little bit more mid in the bass please. 

Music.

One with one microphone.  Who loves to say the Italian word ‘braggo’.  Welcome to the trailer music composers podcast.

Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the trailer music composers podcast.  In today’s episode I wanted to cover something I hold quite close to my heart.  Not necessarily in a good way.  And it’s the age old how to deal with failure, and I don’t mean like failure as in I’m no longer going to write music.  I’m not going to be a trailer composer, I give up because I failed at everything.  I mean the small knockbacks that you get on a regular basis as a composer, well I do anyway.  And they take the form of submitting a demo that the publisher or whoever you send it to doesn’t like, and all the way through the scale up to you working on a custom job for a trailer and you get all the way to the very end and the finish line is in sight and the trailer falls through or had a complete 180 which is sadly very common. 

And I guess I want to deal with this because actually this was the biggest blow for me, and actually the thing I found really hard to deal with as a composer, you know my career obviously started, without sounding seedy, in my bedroom, playing guitar, writing music.  And my harshest critic was myself which admittedly at the time was quite a mean critic, but all I dealt with was I would write a piece of music and be like great, let’s write some more, great let’s write some more.  Occasionally I would bring my mum in and she would be like your the best composer ever, and you’re just saying that you’re my mum you’re meant to say that.  And then all of a sudden you get, obviously I went to university and although I wasn’t doing a music degree per se, I was doing a creative degree where you submit your work for review and that was quite a lesson.  Having your work critiqued by other people as a musician, it’s not the same as when you’re in a band and you play to your friends and your friends are like you’re totally awesome.  I don’t know why my friends are mildly American, they weren’t, far from it.

Even when I went to the ACM and studied electric guitar, they critique your song writing occasionally, and I was pretty good, so the critiquing I got was always pretty favourable,  it was always like hey, great idea.  How about this, how about this.  So you know it was great.  But then even at university it was a little bit hard to deal with, but it was when I got into the real world of composing which is submitting work to professional paying clients and waiting with baited-breath for their feedback. 

And this was the first form failure took for me, which was never hearing anything back from anyone. You send, you eagerly await Leroy at Least Music and you’re thinking this is the best, you know I’m going to be a successful composer within the next week, and you send away five demos and you hear nothing.  You know sometimes you wouldn’t even get an email response saying got them.  So you know the kind of keen bean I was, I’d email again, just checking you got my email and they’d say yes we did.  And then a couple of says later, just checking, you’ve not heard anything.  Obviously I kind of imagined myself wearing braces with big thick dark rimmed glasses, which at the time I probably was wearing. You know hunched over my keyboard with sort of sweaty anxiety about when I was going to hear from the clients.  And it took me a great many years to get used to and step back from that process.  That first form of failure which is no feedback is not a bad thing. 

So if you’ve sent a track to a musi8c consultant, publisher, editor, director, producer.  If you’ve sent it to somebody and they haven’t got back to you, obviously I do advise checking that they got it if they haven’t, but you know most of these people are incredibly busy.  And if they haven’t got back to you it doesn’t mean your rubbish at all.  It means that they are very busy.  And if like everybody else on this planet you are wading knee deep in emails constantly like they are, you will understand that you know what, especially if you’re receiving unsolicited demos or one of many demos for a pitch you’re not going to reply to all of them.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad it might just mean that they’ve got a terrible workflow, or like I said they’re incredibly busy.  But that took me years to stop taking personally when I was sending them off thinking, obviously I’m not cut out for this music career you know, why do I even bother, you know I’d almost have like this little post send off tantrum every time.  Obviously I wouldn’t email that, or I wouldn’t tell anybody that I worked with that I was having this minor sulk, but it was just my ego going through a process of maturation, it was being taught the valuable lesson of patience.

Like I say, I do advise double checking that someone has got an email, we people don’t get upset about that, especially if you’ve got good email etiquette, hello thanks for your time, just checking you got the email, that’s not just oi where’s my thank you letter.  So yeah just first lesson there is patience guys, and this is I still say this to myself, especially on doing custom work, I get that sort of itchy trigger finger with the sending email button, you know, got to check, got to check, got to check, you don’t have to check, just send and release you know.  To quote my daughter’s hero at the moment ‘let it go’.

Now I didn’t recover from this for a few years, but then this was the next one.  And again this is ‘failure’ because none of this is actually failure, it’s essentially dealing with your excessive musician ego, which lets be honest most of us have.  If it’s not front and centre it’s locked away in a closet somewhere.  So that’s our ego battling.

And then this one, it was battling feedback.  Now I’ve talked about feedback in another one of the episodes, but this is a huge one for your ability to work with other people.  Dealing with feedback, and I still remember that feeling of almost outrage when someone would email me feedback, you know how dare they criticise my music.  This is my music, I am the musician and composer here, I’d sort of climb aboard my high horses on soap boxes and rant from the tall ivory towers of being a composer.  Only to realise that actually that got me nowhere, if anything it just put me in a bad mood. 

Dealing with feedback, all you need to do again is let it go. It’s not your piece of music if you’re pitching it to a track.  And I know some of you are going oh hold on it’s technically yours.  I’m not talking about copyright here, I’m talking about supplying that service, and I’m talking to myself as much as anybody here.  Remember you are supplying a service.  And whenever I’ve hired other creatives to do my work if I’ve asked them for feedback and they’ve got all shirty with me, which lets be honest has happened, I’ve gone ok not going to work with you again, even if you’re the best artists or musicians, whoever it was even if they are more talented than everyone else, if they didn’t work well with feedback I wasn’t going to call them.  And that’s the same with us composers you know, and dealing with other composers myself these days, if you are, even coming down to email etiquette.  If your email etiquette isn’t great, it’s not that nice to work with someone who isn’t particularly polite in an email.  That’s just my, what’s that word, something that irritates you.  But anyway that aside, if you can’t deal with feedback and can’t respond to the feedback positively.  And I don’t mean that like emailing back going on I’m not changing this as in actually not making the changes that are requested, then you’re not really dealing with the situation you’re avoiding it.  The situation is you’re supplying a piece of music, yes Richard that’s me too, and you need to listen to what is being said without emotion and without that ego.  So that’s the second lesson here is listening. 

So the first lesson in dealing with failure is patience because that idea of failure of not hearing anything back isn’t failure, you just need to be patient, second one, this one we’re just talking about now is listening to what’s actually being said when feeding back on your music.  You know even if it’s really bizarre and you don’t understand it, try your best to listen, it’s not failure getting feedback it’s a process.  So if someone criticises your music in the process of producing a library track or a trailer track, whatever it is you’re producing is not a bad thing. 

So moving on to the third and this one, this is the one that really knocked me for six, this one, and still does knock me, but I bounce back a great deal quicker these days.  This one is dealing with not getting a placement and specifically not winning the custom placement. 

Now any of you who have done custom work for trailers will understand me when I say it is a very painful process when you don’t get the job.  And being brutally honest it hurts you know.  You’ve spent all this time working towards this thing and you can’t help but imagine the scenario of winning this grand trailer only to find out which way or the other that you didn’t get it.  It’s upsetting.  I’m not going to beat about the bush guys. It is upsetting.  And it’s the same when you pitch a track for an album and that doesn’t get chosen.  I feel that’s not quite as bad because when you’re itching for a custom for a trailer, you’re working with the editor, the supervisor, whoever it is you’re dealing with directly on the trailer. And you’re thinking this is, I’m at the finish line, especially when you get an email saying yes this has been approved, you’re like ah this is happy days, you’re laughing, job done.  You start buying sports cars, well I wouldn’t do that but you know, you know you basically start prematurely celebrating, only to find out that you didn’t actually get that job.  And you’re going to, I’m not sure how you’re going to respond to this but the way to deal with it guys, I should just have called this episode let it go, shouldn’t I, is to remove the emotion from it and try and see the lesson from it.  What lesson can you learn from it?

So I recently had some custom work and it got so well received that they said they were going to want two trials, which was amazing, I was like great, in the end the trailer did a 180, so my tracks were dropped as was the cut, well to an extent the cut.  And at the time I was like ah man, you know I was pretty upset about it.  But all I did was take a step back and ok what can I learn from this?  And I just thought about how it could improve and how I could do better next time.  And essentially again I am part of a creative process.  The fact that my track didn’t get chosen does not reflect the quality of my work or the quality of me as a person, it just reflects the decisions being made at the top aren’t in line with the brief I was given.  And that’s plain and simple, sometimes the brief changes.  And it’s brutal but it happens it really does.

And sometimes obviously I’ve kind of said that I don’t really want to do much more custom work because actually you know custom takes time.  You could be working on one track for a week, maybe more, and those of you who know me and know my writing, you know I like to work quickly, so I kind of think to myself ok if I work a week doing one track one  custom that I don’t get I could have written five tracks to a whole lamb in that week.  And that whole album could get me a plethora of placements.  So this about you know for me it was a choice of being efficient with my time.  So the customs going forward that I only do are ones directly related to me or my existing work.  And that was the lesson I chose to take from that. 

So you think about if you don’t get that custom job remember guys you are just a part of the process.  That’s no reflection on you, no reflection on your work, do not take it personally, do not let the emotions override.  Yes you can feel them, feel sad, feel annoyed, but don’t let that dictate the way you move forward in a negative way, i don’t want to do this anymore.  I’m not very good, I shouldn’t even bother.  That’s just lies your inner critic is telling you.

So those are the three sort of major ‘failures’ that I have experienced as a composer.  Obviously there’s another one which is tracks not being chosen for albums. But to be honest with you if a track gets chosen and one track doesn’t I’m often usually in agreement with the publisher as to whom has decided which track goes on where.

So the main takeaway guys is have a price, make sure that you’re listening and think about the lessons you can learn.  Again these are, this is more of a life lesson for the podcast more than anything else.  So think about the positives and how you can take them forward.  So I try to take everything in my stride, if I do not win a job, if I do not get picked for an album, if I do not do this, that, who cares I’m going to carry on doing what I’m doing, that is spending a whole lot of time each day writing.  Brilliant.  I am a composer after all.  What I choose to do with my time is compose and play trailer music as well which is actually a wonderful distraction in those low moments of the cycle.

So keep moving forward, keep ploughing on, keep persevering through all of those ‘failures’.  You know and looking back I remember there was two particular jobs that I thought I’d won and I heard right at the last minute that I’d lost them.  These were two trailer one campaigns for Hollywood blockbusters, summer blockbusters.  So I was thinking I was in the money. I was basically the don of trailer music and I lost both at the same time.  And at the time I downed tools, this was quite a while ago, I downed tools and I thought I’m not cut out for this, I can’t handle this battering to my ego, I still haven’t stepped back emotionally from the work I was producing.

In fact it’s not really until I started teaching other people to do the job I do that I’m releasing how emotionally invested I was in the early days of my career.  And I’m sure some of you probably recognise that too, in a band that’s all that  is, just emotions and teenage angst being thrown around the room, because you’re always laughing so much emotion and ideals into what you’re writing.  And yes it’s good to have emotion going into your music, you know, but I like to think of it as mentioned for a positive creative aspect, an egotistical grab to win something.

Right now I fear that, on this cold windy day, I fear that I’m rambling again,  so I’m going to say thank you so much for taking the time to listen and I do hope that if any of you are experiencing setbacks in your career.  And I say setbacks again, again quotes, I’ve been air quoting all the time in this product. Setbacks.  Hold fast, keep persevering at your writing.  You know I should probably show you guys my earliest trailer demos because they were terrible, but I keep persevering, kept leaning, kept pushing forward because I enjoy sound and I enjoy creating music and always hold onto that, follow what you enjoy, and it’s good to take a break, go for a run, go to the gym, go to the spa, have friends, watch a film, get out of it if you’re getting too emotionally invested, just take a little bit of time out, or maybe listen to my podcast.

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen, if you want to learn more about trailer music, head on over to trailer music school, we’ve got loads of courses, community, sample libraries etc.  and obviously if you’re enjoying the podcast please leave a review and say how wonderful it is or give me some positive feedback that I can take on board.  And subscribe to the podcast please, go over to my YouTube channel and subscribe to the video because I have some awesome stuff there and you guys have a lovely day or night depending on where you’re listening.

Thank you guys.

Music.

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