When I graduated from the VCA back in the early (early) nineties I didn’t have a very clear game plan. I had originally been groomed at the College as a trumpet player destined for a life in one of the orchestras. This didn’t appeal to me at all. I was so uninterested in fact, that I jumped out of the “Mainstream” course (which was effectively classical music training), and had a crack at the improvisation stream. At the time they were the only 2 options available at the school.
I graduated as an improv student and didn’t particularly feel I had many prospects in the real world. I look back at that now, and I’m a little amazed I made the education choices that I did. So many other vocations would guarantee a solid career.
It wasn’t long after college that I sold my trumpet. I had picked up a job as a foot courier, and moved my way up to corporate office jobs with various companies.
As a hobby I had maintained my musical ear composing and producing music digitally on an Ensoniq SQ-1 workstation. For those of you too young to know about this little machine. It was a keyboard with a built in sequencer and effects. I was able to create some decent sounding songs on it. Fairly soon after that the first (decent) music computers started to appear….namely the Atari. I took to it like duck to water, and thus began my journey into the professional world of music production.
The day came when I decided to take the plunge into the unknown, by leaving the security of my office job, and try my luck making a living as a producer. It was scary and exciting all at once.
I’m glad I was living with my brother at the time, because not too many house mates would like to hear you were leaving your guaranteed income behind.
One of the first things I did was send out hundreds of letters to Melbourne schools, singing schools, dance schools etc, offering my services as a producer of backing tracks for live performance. The campaign a spectacular failure. I think I only had about 1 bite out of the hundreds I sent out. The job probably barely covered the postage costs of the rest.
So I got my hands on an industry directory and looked up composers. I found a name that ‘sounded friendly’ and gave him a call. I was hoping for someone to throw me a bone, give me a tip, point me in a direction to get started.
I said to him: “Hi there, I’m a young composer, just graduated from the VCA and I’m hoping to get some advice from a successful composer such as yourself to help me get started. Can you give me any advice?”. He replied: “Yes. Don’t. The industry is too small and too competitive. There is no work, so you would be better off pursuing something else.”
That was my experience of the Melbourne composing scene. Thankfully for me, back then I was a cocky bugger, and his advice only spurred me on…..probably not the effect he had hoped for.
While this negative advice turned out to be the firecracker I needed, I’d prefer to tell any budding young composers out there to strut your stuff! There are planty of great mediums and outlets these days to showcase your wares. So if you’re good enough your work will find it’s audience!
Don’t let a jaded grumpy out-of-work composer put you off!
The world needs composers, even if they don’t acknowledge us!