I’ve been a music and audio freelancer for over 30 years. Over the course of a pretty decent career, I’ve been able to do a lot of different things at the “A” levels of the business. I’ve always been interested in why some people seem to cruise along from great gig to great gig, and so many others with just as much raw talent are unable to put together successful careers. For the last 10 years, in addition to being a freelance composer/songwriter/producer, I’ve also been a full time professor of Music Industry at Drexel University. Part of that job is to help prepare students to face the “real world” and the prospects of employment that face them out there.
One way of doing that has been creating a course called Music and Audio Freelancing. That course required that the kids took some time to really think about what they were going to do once they left the safety of the university environment. Did they have a plan? Did they have the social skills, the time management skills, the financial know-how to manage themselves as freelancers? Did they know how to conduct themselves in an interview? Did they have an understanding of the competitive nature of the world they were entering, and what was expected of them there? After a short while, it became clear to all of us that the answer to almost all of those questions was a resounding “no.” Given those answers, I began to develop course materials designed to help the students ready themselves for what lay ahead.
After teaching the course a couple of times, I realized that there was a real need for this kind of discussion. There are literally thousands of schools teaching the “hard” skills like mixing, playing the violin, using Pro Tools, songwriting, etc. You can learn some of these things on You Tube, or from instructional DVDs as well. The “soft” skills are another matter. I’m starting my tenth year of full time teaching this fall, and while most of my students are excellent, I always have a significant percentage of students who come to my classes mostly unprepared for the kind of life they will lead as freelancers in audio and music. They don’t turn their work in on time. They don’t show up on time themselves. They don’t make eye contact when I speak to them. They do mediocre work. They don’t pay attention to the parameters of the assignment and they turn their work in with incorrect formatting. They are unable to put their cell phones away. ANY of these things would KILL you, permanently, with a client in the real world. Why would anyone work with someone who did any of those things when they could JUST AS EASILY work with someone who didn’t? Add in all of the other stuff, like putting together a credit list, a web site, making career plans and goals, learning about personal and professional finances, organizational skills, and networking, and you have the makings of a pretty good book.
So, I wrote that book. It’s called Welcome To The Jungle: A Success Manual For Music and Audio Freelancers. It’s being published by Hal Leonard Books, and it will hit brick-and-mortar stores (Guitar Center, Sam Ash, Barnes and Noble) and e-retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble January 15th.
Obviously, I think it would be a great idea for everyone to run out and buy the book as soon as it becomes available. But this summer, while I’ve been involved in doing the final work on the book, recording my first solo instrumental CD (more on that later), and getting ready for the new school year, it occurred to me that there are topics worthy of discussion that were not included in the book for one reason or another. This blog is going to be a place where I can talk about some of the things that are going on in the freelance environment for musicians and audio producers, engineers, composers, and the like, and hopefully get some responses from others who are interested. I work with a lot of kids who are just starting out, colleagues who are in the trenches just trying to make a living, and also with a lot of people my age, who are trying to stay relevant and busy in a “youth-centric” business and society. So, that’s why I’ve set this page up: to talk about what it’s like out there in the cold, cold world, and what we can all do about staying warm and getting some work.