It is undeniable that working in the music industry now is not only increasingly competitive, but fundamentally different in its structure and workflows.
We might not say it out loud, but this has undoubtedly ruffled the feathers of more audio professionals than we care to count. As much as we deny it, people don’t like change, especially when it threatens the very fabric of our business model. The industry is very much an ‘Adapt or Die’ environment, populated with constantly changing workflows that require not just evolution, but revolution to continue to operate at ‘industry standard’. The recent PTE article about Phils Book and the decline of iconic UK studios is a prime example of this reality.
So, the industry has dramatically evolved, and even though nearly anything is now possible from the confines of a laptop, we often still find ourselves asking the question: “Why is it so hard to find good work?”
Here are a few points to consider about your presentation while managing and sourcing work:
- Where is the bar?
We have to ask ourselves, as the standards of production software / hardware etc improve, does the expected standard of production increase on a similar vector?
The crux of this issue lies in the proliferation of accessible music production technology. If everyone can on at least some level technically do what you do with some money and equipment, then we as industry professionals are obligated to look at ways to re-establish our own standards as competitive producers / engineers.
But where to begin? A good place to start is to step back in time, and to reflect on the reasons you got into the audio industry in the first place. Apart from the love of music, was there a particular event or skillset that encouraged you to move into the industry? In my own case for example, I have a background in singing and vocals. Beginning years back with choral music, and graduating to more contemporary music, bands etc., I now do mainly commercial pop music. In my case, my perusal of this particular element of music, has given me experience in vocal production that I can capitalise on now in the commercial environment. So much so, that this is one of the main reasons I am approached to do work with. So, looking at it in a broader context, apart from knowing about mixing and arrangement etc., there is one overriding skillset that is the most endearing for my clients.
It is a worthwhile exercise to review the skills that you can offer and to distinguish between what is an actual competitive advantage and an expected skillset. If you are a drummer, you will be aware of nuances associated with drums when mixing / recording that another less informed engineer might overlook. Not just the sound, but the way it is played and what constitutes an excellent take from a performance point of view, as well as a sonically competent recording. Everything you bring to the table that other engineers might not think of constitutes on some level a valid competitive advantage, so make sure people are aware of this.
- Click, click, click, click, click, click …
In 2013, your online presence is everything. Have you ever asked yourself: “If I gave someone a laptop, and told them to find my portfolio online, how many mouse clicks would it take for them to learn everything relevant to my work?” If its more than 3 clicks…you are in trouble. According to a survey published in 2012 by Netcraft, there are over half a billion active websites on the internet. That amount of anything is near impossible to visually quantify, so when up against a seriously diluted medium of communication, we need to be savvy.
Simple things like updating your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) settings on your website, removing clutter and unnecessary website elements and minimising the steps to get to what needs to be seen make a major difference for site traffic. Studies show that the level of interest in searching on a website diminishes exponentially with each extra click, so be really mindful of this when you compile your online portfolio.
- Best Foot Forward
Being savvy about the way you market yourself as a person is an integral part of competitive advantage. Believe it or not, personality matters, especially for producers, who work very intimately with clients on a regular basis. You might be the best engineer around, but if you are a nightmare to work with, your business will dry up very quickly.
The goal of marketing any service is to inspire confidence and reassurance that whatever the case, the service will be completed to the expectation of the client. Managing the expectations of clients is an important element of this. It is all well and good having a flashy website, but you definitely need content to support this. If you say you can do something, and you can’t, then you run the risk of under delivering and irreparably damaging public opinion of the quality you can deliver.
In relation to portfolio, play it very carefully. Only play your best cards, because we are unfortunately more often than not judged on the lowest common denominator of our work, so what you display is of
paramount consideration. An impartial critique your portfolio will help decide whether the content on show is working in your best interest. This will majorly affect your first impression on clients.
- If you don’t tell them, they won’t know!
Beyond all the marketing elements of image management, the most important element is to inform people of what you do. As audio professionals, we simply cannot afford to work in isolation, and the more people know about you, the more likely they are to consider you a relevant cog in the mechanics of the music industry.
Business cards that are clean, clear cut, precise and creative, are a simple and effective way to extend your marketing reach in a personal way. Never leave the house without a card, rule number one! You just never know who you will meet. Above all, be consistent and comprehensive in your work, and choose quality over quantity always. Make contacts with the people that matter and remember that the industry has no borders.
We have to remember, that being competitive is a good thing. Competition engenders motivation, and makes people work harder and better at their trade. Aside from making us better at what we do, competition fields the way for improvements in technology and workflows, which reciprocates back to writers, producers and engineers real benefits that help them realise their own competitive potential.
So roll up those sleeves, be great, and be unique.
Denis Kilty is an Irish songwriter and music producer based in Dublin, and guest contributor to Pro Tools Expert. - www.deniskilty.com