As regular readers would know, I’m active on the typical social medias that people are active on (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Google+, et al). Because of that, I often read a lot of tweets/posts and get random emails from people who are putting their self-written musicals on stage and are wanting people to check it out.
Which I think is pretty awesome. Hell, it’s what I do too! I’m out there too, doing exactly the same thing.
But it occurred to me that it’s also a problem; one that I’m partly the cause of, partly involved in, and partly struggling against too.
Okay, let’s go back even 10 years – to a time called 2002. Twitter wasn’t even invented. Mr Zuckerberg hadn’t conceived the idea of Facebook – yet. Smartphones were a thing of science fiction. All internet access was via dialup. Vanessa Carlton, ‘Nsync, Alien Ant Farm, Shakira and Scott Cain (remember him? No… fair enough!) were on the top of the charts. Thoroughly Modern Millie, Mamma Mia!, Urinetown and Sweet Smell of Success were the Tony Musical Theatre Nominees.
In “those days” (funny to think of it like that), life was a little slower, a little less interconnected, and there was still an element of surprise and expectation towards the future. For writers and composers, there was still the belief that what they did was somehow unique and special. Submissions were invariably by mail or email, and there was the inevitable time-lag to wait. Discovering new works took time: from conception, their staging, and finally to the ears of the public. Time afforded the luxury of space. Space to conceive and create.
But now … one quick cursory glance at Google or YouTube will bring up a plethora of new musicals, written (and please read this endearingly) by every man (the musician) and his dog (the lyricist). Okay, okay. Jokes aside, we are now living in an era where literally anyone can put forward their creative prowess – for better or for worse – and be heard, be seen, be read. Because of this, it is difficult to figure out what is good and what is not so good. Further, it’s harder to be heard above the ever growing crowd of composers.
So, what can you do to get above the glut?
How do I do that? Well, it’s entirely up to you. What is it about your composition that makes them unique or special. Is it the story? Is it the style of music? Is it the staging? As much as some of us would like to deride Ms. Gaga, let’s face it – she’s certainly made her success based on the uniqueness of her personal style, as well as the sell-ability of her music. Rentwas totally unique when it was released. Hair was the same. Wicked was grandiose in a time when grandiose wasn’t so accessible. Next To Normaltackled a unique topic. There’s a show on at the Sydney Fringe Festival at the moment called aVOID, written by David Peake. What makes it unique? It’s about nightclub culture and uses dance/tencho music as its foremost style. So, what makes what you do unique?
If unique is not your thing (and it’s not for many mainstream composers – there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just what some of us write), then go for honesty. You cannot tell me that half of the dreck in the charts today has anything to do with being honest. It’s all about a quick commercial success (which is not necessarily bad, but … another argument another time …) I think that honesty is something that has really become lost in the world of the composer. Once upon a time, it was the absolute key to writing – remember the adage, “Write what you know”? Exactly. But in a world where everything seems to be airbrushed, auto-tuned, and gussied up, maybe it’s time that honesty made a comeback. Personally, that’s where I write from. I want people to sympathise and empathise with the characters and the songs. Also, if I haven’t written from an emotionally honest point of view, I feel like I’m robbing the audience (and the show itself) of heart and soul. It might make me old school, but take a look around – everything old is new again!
Get your stuff out there. Don’t think a lone video on YouTube will be your key success. It won’t be. If you’re going to network then make yourself available and visible in multiple places, in multiple formats. Setting it all up can be time consuming, but once you’re up, you’re half way there. Go with the trends. MySpace is on its way out (although with Mr Timberlake now taking an interest, who knows?). Twitter and Facebook are forgone must-haves. But are you onto Google+? Are you a regular updater? Are you blogging? Do you have your own website? Own personal email address? Can people find you on Google? Reach out to new medias too – online radio, online TV stations, become a broadcaster. You have to sell yourself. There, I said it. I’m not good at it either, but it’s something I’ve had to get better at. Be able to say what you do. Be able to explain what your slant it. Be able to show your audience what you do. It’s not just the audio, but the visual, and the readership too.
Don’t forget that for any of the above to happen, you need to make something happen. Get a cast together. Record your songs. Demo them yourself. Put on a workshop performance. Write. Create. Compose. Sing live. Go out and see shows. Get to know singers, dancers, actors. Do some training. Go to conferences and workshops. Put yourself out there. Do amateur shows. Try out for auditions. Read blogs. Download podcasts. Shake hands with people. Tell them your name. Tell them what you do. Above all, don’t just sit there and wonder “Why isn’t anything happening?” If you’re not doing something, nothing will happen.
Now I’m sure some of you have just thought, “Hang about. Isn’t that just perpetuation the problem you’re writing about?” Yes, yes it would be. But sometimes you just have to learn to shout louder than everyone else, be a brighter colour than the other colours, or simply be different.
Until next week,
Blog ya later!
Photo By: MelbourneMermaid – Stand Out From The Crowd, 2008