Dear Susan, as a young, emerging composer about to complete my tertiary studies in Classical music, what strategies would you recommend for someone in my position to work towards promoting not only my individual compositional aspirations, but those of my generation? Particularly as we work and live in such a global world, what advice could you give in terms of create both an individual voice/image as an artists as well as one that references an Australian identity in the industry?
Wow, what a wonderful question! I’m so pleased to hear that you are thinking about how to promote your unique artistic voice, and to support the voices of your colleagues. A positive mindset and willingness to build networks is super important to creating a sustainable career.
In order to promote your individual compositional aspirations, you and your work need an online home. Do you have a website? If not, how can the world find you?
Creating an online identity, or second self is an effective way to promote your work and develop a two-way relationship with your audience. As an active musician, it’s inevitable that information about you and your music will wind up in YouTube videos, a bio on a concert website or tagged photos on a colleague’s Facebook page. Connecting with your audience and growing your network in this way is valuable, but you will often have little to no control over the way this content is framed and presented. Creating and managing your own online portfolio puts the story back in your hands.
Importantly, creating a second self allows you to maintain a clear distinction between your personal and professional online content. I wrote a blog called “The Internet Is The New Phonebook” which talks about content and architecture for sites, but the most important consideration is that the site is reflective of YOU and your work. It drives me crazy when I read bios and websites that are bland and tell me nothing about the artist as a person. Have the self- belief and confidence to present the story of yourself, this is what builds a connection with the reader.
There’s a wonderful website by Dana Fonteaneau called The Wholehearted Musician and Dana has just released an incredible book “It's Not (JUST) About the Gig: A Musician's Guide to Creating the Mindset Which Leads to Career Success AND Fulfillment” I would highly recommend you dive into this book as it will help you to define your personal and professional values, which are the driving force behind the goals you set and the choices you make.
I firmly believe that this self-reflection is the only way to understand WHO you are, WHAT you want and HOW to achieve your goals. Your individual voice and life/career plan can only develop from knowing WHY music matters to you.
You asked about referencing an Australian identity, I think this only matters if your work is directly influenced by something specifically Australian such as our landscape or geography. Just being an Australian citizen is not unique or unusual, but if we can hear in your work the sounds of our oceans, the calls of our birds or the colours of our big sky then that is interesting and becomes a point of interest in all your written materials.
So having worked out the why, who, and what you need to look at the HOW, how can your voice be heard.
I think that collaborating with other composers and performers is tremendously valuable, can you pool resources to stage performances of your work? Can you share links to your sites and socials? Can you do this with the compositional staff at your music school, who may have an established following interested in new music.
Can you collaborate with emerging musicians who share a similar outlook so as their career and profile builds, so does yours as their composer in residence? Who are the “most likely” performers in your school to create their own ensembles, can you connect with them? Many established new music ensembles are keen to support emerging talent; can you get an introduction to them through the composition staff at your music school?
Who has a career that you aspire to, can you follow their path, or can you connect with them to build a mentoring relationship? Again, many established performers are passionate about supporting emerging talent and sometimes it just takes an introduction to build a valuable and rewarding professional relationship for you both. Don’t just limit yourself to composers, or even musicians, find an individual who is inspirational and interested in you and your work.
You have mentioned that we live in a global world, and you are right, but I believe that you are surrounded by your most important audience. Meaningful connections are made in person, not through a website or a youtube video. In order to reach your audience, it’s crucial to define and identify who they are now and who they could be in the future. Who will buy tickets to your performances, who will follow you online and who will share your work with their network? By clearly defining these groups you can create strategies to develop a committed and engaged audience and communicate with them effectively. It is helpful to break down your target audience into three distinct groups.
Your immediate audience includes family, friends and colleagues. It is easy to take this group for granted, but they are extremely important, especially when you are starting out. Numbers matter when you are booking your first gigs, and these people will make a strong foundation for your audience.
This is the audience you would like to reach and includes people who support similar artists, frequent the venues you perform in or know someone who is already in your immediate circle. A great first step is to develop collaborations with artists that have a core audience you would like to engage. Cultivating this group is important as this audience can grow substantially as your reputation develops.
What about engaging with non-traditional or unexpected audiences. Embrace new venues and consider performing at open mic nights, bars and cafes. Creating new collaborations with arts organisations in the visual arts, electronic music, dance or physical theatre as these can be a great way of connecting with a new, untapped group of people who might be interested in your work.
Above all, it’s crucial to get to know your audience—find out who they are, what they like, where they go to get information about events, where they spend most of their time online, and what habits or attitudes they share. This will help you craft a strategy for staying in touch with your audience in between performances and determine what kind of information will be most relevant to share.
So, now you’ve spent 10 minutes reading this (and thanks for your attention), go buy Dana’s book and devour it.
Please keep in touch and thanks for writing in!