This past weekend, I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop on Personal Branding for Composers in connection with the American Composers Orchestra’s Underwood New Music Readings and the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute Readings. The room was filled with both classical and jazz composers who were eager to learn how to get their music out there and create opportunities for themselves. The magic of this workshop was an evolution from skepticism to embracing the power of a brand as a tool of helping composers to advance their careers by working smarter, not harder.
We started with the basics of what is a brand:
a message that communicates the best and most memorable aspects of who you are to the people whom you most want to impact.
The composers initially had a hard time with this concept. “Why should we care about writing for those people?” they asked. Their objections included:
“I write music that expresses my authentic self and I want to stay authentic.”
“I do not want to get pigeon-holed and I feel that I need to grow and evolve as a composer.”
“ My inspiration comes from different sources and that changes the kind of music that I write so who is my ideal audience?
All good points.
And here is my answer.
You the composer are not like consumer products, the area where branding first emerged, because you and your music evolve. You want your music to reflect your best,authentic self, no matter what stage of compositional development you are in. Yet the essence of who you are does not change. The more you can communicate that essence to the people who need them most, the easier a time you will have in getting your music played and heard.
To help the composers see the benefit of a brand, we did an exercise where I asked what the Ideal World for composers and musicians looked like.
In this Ideal World, music is a vital part of the culture and everyone loves music. There are great musicians to perform new works. Audiences are educated, musically literate and curious. They are also multi-cultural.
I then asked the composers to articulate what his or her role was in this Ideal World. The answers revealed the composers’ sense of mission as well as the people with whom they most wanted to connect with:
For those who saw a world filled with curious, musically literate and educated audiences, their role was to educate people about the wonders of music.
The composer who valued great musicians saw her role as connecting with these performers in order to make great music.
The composer whose Ideal World included multi-cultural audiences saw his mission as attracting more African-Americans to jazz and classical music.
Once the composers connected the dots between what they did, what their role was and whom they most wanted to have an impact on, they saw the benefits of having a brand: communicating the best of themselves in order to connect with the people around whom they felt their sense of mission.
When you connect what you do when you are at your best, authentic self with the people whom you most want to impact, you feel confident, joyful and purposeful. That will make your job of putting your music out to the world a lot easier because you will be able to target the people most likely to appreciate your unique qualities. You will work smarter, not harder, as you concentrate your efforts on this group. And you will retain your authenticity because you are always you at your core.