Composer Neil Myers says keep practicing, keep listening, and keep going.
Noel Music Management
#IfIwere22: I’d never stop creating
You learn so much from writing music, about the technology, the genre and the language of varying styles. Although the musical process and development are of course important, continually creating can help with a wide variety of other skills, such as discipline, structuring your time, and dealing with writer’s block and anxiety. All of these will help with the pressures of composing for a commission.
I’ve also managed to get projects on the back of submitting work that I’ve already composed.
#IfIwere22: I’d not be afraid of meeting new people
I was, and still am (to a certain extent), shy. This seems to be a common problem with musicians. We spend so long learning our instruments alone and then become composers, which requires a large degree of solitude. ‘Getting out there’ is difficult but beneficial. Even an invite to a pub can lead to relationships and collaborations.
One of my first jobs, after I was 22, came about in just that way. I was dragged along to a bar in north London and ended up meeting someone I knew from childhood but hadn’t seen in years. It turned out he was a director working on a series of documentaries. I got a meeting and eventually got the job.
#IfIwere22: I’d keep listening to music
This might seem obvious and is probably second nature to most, but a constant awareness of musical developments helps enormously, particularly in a commercial environment.
I’d also say, don’t avoid certain styles that you think are difficult to enjoy or have little personal entertainment value. Music is so subjective and the main way clients communicate their ideas and intentions is through existing material. I’ve been given reference music from all over the shop, ranging from Mozart to Moby, Rita Ora to Radiohead, Zero 7 to Zimmer.
I don’t claim to be knowledgeable from the outset in these styles, but a skill that develops from listening is being able to analyse, understand and interpret new work.
#IfIwere22: I’d communicate directly with people
Wherever possible, arrange to meet someone. It’s too easy to have a virtual relationship with clients. But more often than not, meeting a client in person will save time in the long run. There’s so much to be said for understanding who you’re dealing and vice versa.
In person you can start brainstorming, discussing ideas and hopefully avoid the painful process of creating, emailing, waiting for a response, and then being hit by the inevitable growth of further questions.
#IfIwere22: I’d not take rejection personally
Any composer – or creative for that matter – will tell you that they’ve had their work rejected.
With good communication skills, reference material and understanding, you’ve got a good shot, but music is inherently subjective. People change their ideas and you simply cannot please them all.
Don’t take it personally and move on quickly from any knock backs. You learn so much from rejection and you’ll be more prepared next time a job comes around.
Neil Myers is a composer.