Taking The Plunge: Going ‘pro’ + the EFP

(Originally posted on 20th January 2014)

In August 2013, a couple of months after I graduated university, I decided to commit myself to becoming a full time musician. After nearly 7 years of being a dedicated hobbyist alongside my education, it felt like it was now or never. I’ve decided to give you an update on how it’s going and write about a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

The first thing was to establish myself as a professional and get the right mindset – we become what we think on a daily basis. Initially, I tried to whip myself into a self-motivated fervour, watching videos and writing little messages to myself, but it didn’t really stick. I had lofty goals, but not quite enough discipline to get anywhere near completion. And this impacted more than just the music, so I changed strategy to focus on some basics first. I started meditating daily to help clear my mind of anxieties and did as much reading as I could. If you’re interested in writing music for a living, two books I’d definitely recommend are The War of Art (not the Sun-Tzu one) and The Emerging Film Composer. Day by day, I felt more confident in my ability to put in the hours, even if I wasn’t yet at the level I yearned for in my mind.

You don’t become a full time musician simply by sitting in your studio from dawn till dusk, trust me I’ve tried.

Then, in November, I registered as a business and right up to the end of the year started attending workshops and speaking to business advisers. It slowly dawned on me that there was no way I could make enough money to survive off my music just by sitting in my studio and writing – I needed to know what it took to be a real working business, I needed to network and contribute in the creative community. I was bombarded by talk of plans, financials, marketing…this was scary at first and more than once I felt overwhelmed by all the necessary steps ahead of me. I didn’t want to relapse into my earlier mistake. Psh, I’m a musician not a business, I work on my craft, people will discover me and want to work with me ’cause I’m really good, right? Wrong. I care a lot about the music I create and how it projects itself amongst the rest of the current musical landscape, but that’s not all one must do to make headway. I’m also not ashamed to admit my mistakes in places – I’m young and have a way to go, but I know I will always put the work in to learn and grow. I remembered what I’d read and practised and continued on…..

I travelled from Liverpool to Portsmouth to spend Christmas with my family and reflected on how it had all gone so far. I was emboldened by a few things: having music played on BBC Radio, the success of Goblin Market and how happy I was to be part of Glossom. Satisfying yes, but It wasn’t enough to have long term sustainability yet.

The Enterprise Fellowship Programme

Now it’s 2014 and I’m kicking into a higher gear. I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Enterprise Fellowship Programme, run by Liverpool John Moores University from 13th-17th January. It’s a brilliant set of workshops set up to help new businesses in the area get off the ground. As well as meeting businesses that had come through the programme in previous years, we had really informative guest speakers. Neil Dutton, Jon Flinn and Gavin Sherratt talked to us about Marketing, Press Releases and using Social Media properly, Isla Wilson dispelled the myths of selling your creative business, Paul Corcoran gave a wonderfully light hearted chat on starting from scratch and we also had introductions to Crowdfunding and Finances from Anne Strachan and Ray Haigh respectively. These are all people who know their stuff and you should follow them, and look into the EFP itself, if you have any interest in starting your own creative business.

And that says nothing of the friendly and passionate people I met on the course, also hoping to make their dreams a reality. I dare say you will hear more about them in the future – I made some friends and perhaps some business partners too. A massive thanks to all the organisers and staff at the EFP for all the work they put in, it was a really useful week.

So now I’m trying to run a business as much as be a musician. To get here I had to learn a lot and discard assumptions. So what’s next? Just a few of the things I’ll be working on over the next couple of months: soundtrack for a new theatre production, collaborating with a Liverpool songwriter to produce his debut EP, writing musical identities for some Liverpool businesses and pushing ahead with Glossom (who have just been described as ‘ones to watch’ in the Mersey music scene). You’ll be hearing a lot more about these projects, and others, very soon.

This is just the beginning. Join me, it’ll be fun I promise!

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