Music Career

Freelancer: Protect and Promote Your Unique-factor

One practice I’ve started to integrate into my life as a freelancer is to review my assets about every 6 months or so.

‘Assets’ is a strange word to use perhaps – you might be thinking I’m talking about financial products. Most musicians probably aren’t high-flying investors or property developers, though all power to you if you are! I’m talking about whatever it is that makes up your unique arsenal when it comes to what you have to offer to potential clients or co-workers. While you might share some things in common with other musicians, this combination of assets is hands-down 100% guaranteed going to be unique to you – we want to capitalise on that. The idea of doing this review is to keep in mind what I should work to protect and promote.

Let’s break it down.

Gear

Here’s some examples from my list:

  • Wurlitzer keyboard
  • Roland RD-2000 Stage Piano
  • Guild Acoustic Guitar
  • Ibanez Jazz Guitar
  • Drum sticks
  • MacBook Pro

And so on. Just make a simple list of the things you own that you can or do use as part of your portfolio music career. Are you protecting the right piece of equipment with insurance? Do you in fact have a lot of microphones and could promote yourself more as a sound or recording engineer – if necessary in partnership with someone else who has other gear to compliment?

Software and Skills

Next in line for me after gear comes software. A lot of us musicians are well-versed in Sibelius or Finale for notation (or these days, Dorico or even Musescore), or Logic Pro X (in my case), Cubase or Pro Tools for recording or production. These are all considered ‘pro’ apps; letting people know that you know how to use them (i.e. promoting) is not a bad thing. My knowledge of Logic Pro X came in handy at my schools where I was quickly drafted in to help teach composition alongside my instrumental tuition. Of course it has also enabled me to work with various artists to produce songs, backing tracks etc. too. In this case, protection might mean keeping the software up to date if it really is something you use (and, for example, deciding that a software subscription is worth it at the moment).

Intellectual Property

This category wasn’t immediately obvious to me when I first put this list together. Intellectual property consists of things you can’t ‘see’ in the same way as gear or software. Or at the very least it’s usually tucked away in a folder somewhere. But your intellectual property is just as worth protecting and promoting as everything else. Have you written songs with your band? Why not promote them by getting some songbooks produced, or making lead sheets available online? Protect them by making sure they’re registered with the right copyright/collection agencies. How are your album sales? Are you utilising all the best channels to promote them?

Qualifications and Experience

Here we’re into classic C.V. territory, which means that when you review this area in particular, you should check it matches what you’re putting on your current C.V. This section (as well as others of course) will need regular updating. Don’t leave a project from 10 years ago on there if you completed one last week you can push front and centre. Reminding myself that I had a degree in music was part of what encouraged me to plough into teaching in schools; I mentioned it in interviews and of course included it on C.Vs. It seems to have worked.

People

I’ll be writing more about how your network is your greatest asset. Suffice to say for now: just write down a list of the key people in your network that you go to – or they come to you – for work. Spend time to go through each area of your professional life to make sure you don’t miss anyone out. Is there anyone you haven’t been in touch with for a while that you could reach out to? I’ve done this a couple of times and it has usually paid off. Protect your working relationships by keeping in touch and being a friend, not just someone who’s always begging/haranguing for work. Promote your work by not being afraid to talk about it, in the context of talking to others about how their work is going.

Bringing it all together

This all comes together when you have written down this complete list. Save it somewhere that you know you’ll be able to find it again later – whatever works for you. It could just be a text file in your Documents folder, a handwritten sheet in your desk drawer, a pinned note in your favourite note-taking app. And schedule a reminder for every 6 months or so to check in with your list. When you do:

  • See if it is up-to-date
  • See if there’s anything you could be more actively promoting
  • See if there’s anything you actively need to protect

And that’s it. This review has always really helped me. I hope it helps you too. Drop me a line if you like the sound of this, or have any other ideas or tips along these lines.

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