You are a Snowflake
And so am I.
Truthfully, I debated using the word “snowflake” here, considering it’s prevalent use as both a political insult and a derogatory term referring to someone with an inflated sense of uniqueness.
But hey, I got your attention, didn’t I?
My point is this: you and I are indeed unique.What worked for me may not (and probably will not) work for you. I bring this up specifically as it refers to career advice, or “career paths” (whatever that means).
Recently, I was having lunch with a young composer and recent college graduate, and he asked me how I was able to make a living from music. As I began to answer his question, I realized that there would be no way for someone to duplicate the steps that I had taken to get here.
Like many aspiring musicians, I went to music school and studied an instrument (in my case, piano), while concentrating on composition. As luck would have it, my composition professor (who shared my enthusiasm for electronic music) got a grant to build a basic electronic music studio during my junior year. Since I was one of only 3 composition majors at that time, I pretty much had the place to myself. In fact, my last year in college was spent almost entirely in that studio, making music for my senior recital (an all-electronic affair).
After college, having absolutely no idea what the next step should be, I took an office job in the insurance business (same as my father), and eventually saved up enough money to buy some gear of my own. From there, I started making albums (the first one was on cassette!), and then moved into CD production, which was quite ambitious for an independent artist in 1993. That first CD happened to get airplay on Hearts of Space, and this enabled me to become friends with Stephen Hill (the radio host and record label president).
After releasing 2 CDs on my own label, I quit my job in insurance and started looking for opportunities to write music for other people. I was lucky enough to call the Morrison Planetarium right when they were looking for a new composer (their previous one had moved away), and this ultimately led to me becoming their Principal Composer for the next 6 years until they closed for renovation.
Then, I moved to New York in order to pursue work in dance and film. After 7 years, I was able to become a full time musician and composer, largely because of the royalties generated from my catalog of albums (there were 8 of them by that point).
Since 2010, I’ve continued to work with choreographers, filmmakers, and media producers, while also continuing to release music on my own label. All of this taken together is what provides me with my living. The thing is, there is no way to duplicate that “path” today.
The one takeaway that I feel I can share is simply, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
For any creative, artistic pursuit, the most important thing is to remain absolutely true to yourself. Make the music that comes from inside of you, and always look for ways to innovate with it. Then, take that music out of the studio and share it with other people. People always respond to music that is truthful, authentic, and unpretentious. As long as you’re coming from that place, you will succeed.
And when you do succeed, it will be your own unique version of success, not anyone else’s.
Remember, you are a snowflake.