Wednesday, June 12, 2019

If You're Paying For an Opportunity, It's Not an Opportunity

Among many other things, I'm a musician. I played in metal and punk bands throughout my youth (and beyond), and now I compose and record at home. (You can check out one of my more recent projects here--but be advised, it's not pleasant. Or mixed all that well. It's punk, man. Anyway...) Because I purchase musical equipment and software online and have recently released a small quantity of material into the wild, I'm on certain mailing lists. As a result, I just got an "invite" to a songwriting "competition." Oh, an invitation to compete, eh? How prestigious! Heh. Not fucking remotely. They charge you $35 per song you enter. I laughed and deleted the email. I was instantly reminded of those poetry/fiction anthologies that "accept submissions" from anyone desperate enough to get something in print that they'll pay to have their work included in the book. I honestly didn't think such things still existed in the Internet age. This post will be short and sweet, because the point I have to make is not a complex one. Though my old bands got paid to perform, I was never what I'd call a "professional" musician, but I have worked professionally in a number of creative fields over the years. If you are a would-be creative, here's the most important thing I can possibly convey to you as you navigate the early phases of your career: you don't need help from anyone to get your work out there. Don't pay for stupid crap like this, hoping it will get you discovered. It won't. Chart your own course. Avail yourself of all the modern tools for reaching an audience. Do it yourself. In an era in which most real media producers don't accept unsolicited submissions from aspiring creative professionals (usually for legal reasons), the best way to get noticed is to release your own material on your own terms. Build an audience. Get noticed, even if it's only by a few people. Success won't come overnight, but that's how opportunities are made. Release a song on YouTube. Announce you're taking commissions for app/game music. Make a few bucks doing small gigs, then gradually take on bigger, more prestigious gigs. You may not get famous, but that shouldn't be the goal anyway. The goal is to create what you want to create and to communicate with an audience. Now go. Make stuff and be awesome. You don't need anyone's help with that.

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