Three years ago, I moved to LA to start my film scoring career. For the first two years, landing gigs seemed to be pure luck. Either I knew the right guy to get the gig, or someone randomly reviewed my email submission and checked out my music.
If I was going to survive as a freelance composer, I had to act more like Katniss in The Hunger Games and put “the odds in my favor.” This meant more than just knowing how to compose; it meant understanding people. If I knew what others were thinking or what they were looking for, I could pitch better ideas and improve my chances.
This ability to understand others is called having good interpersonal skills, social skills, or people skills. If you’re like me, having people skills does not come naturally…
Fortunately, there are many books about connecting and communicating with others. These three were recommended by Family Guy composer Ron Jones, who has spent years figuring out how successful leaders got to where they are and how we composers can implement them. [Look for future “Ron Jones Compose Yourself” workshops by visiting http://www.academyofscoringarts.org and “liking” their facebook page.]
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (Al Ries and Jack Trout) – As a film composer, how does one end up on top of a client’s list? Positioning explains how to promote your strengths and go around bigger competition in order to stand out in the client’s mind. For example, instead of just positioning myself as a “film composer,” I specified my position (or repositioned my brand) as “a new, old-school composer for film & media.” In addition to the tagline, my website features such classic aesthetics as a penciled font, sketch of me conducting an orchestra, as well as orchestral and acoustic music. While the sketch and music represent the old-school, my age and tech-savvy website represent the new. Now when a potential client is looking for a fresh composer who can deliver an orchestral score, my chances of being considered are much better than if I just positioned myself only as a “film composer.”
How to Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie) & How to Instantly Connect with Anyone (Leil Lowndes) – On the personal side, these books taught me to be a better person and not think just about myself. On the professional side, they shifted my thinking from “why you should hire me” to “why hiring me will help you.” I try and apply Carnegie and Lowndes’ concepts at networking events and in emails and phone calls, and my professional relationships have been much more meaningful and consistent.
This is a very small sample of how these books can help composers develop people skills. After reading, figure out how to implement them online and in person. Also think about past opportunities and how people skills played a part in landing the gig.