Do you have a favorite time of day to work?
Yes, early mornings. I used to prefer late nights, but now I’ve found that early in the morning before the sun is up, I can really dive in and start with a fresh mind. At night I’m dealing with everything that happened through the day, and it just throws me off my game a bit. Many people use this technique for school too – start the day off with the subject that requires the most thought and focus.
How do you deal with rejection?
I ignored it, kept trying, and eventually she married me (no kidding!). But OK, I know you were talking about music!
So rejection sucks, plain and simple. I’ve had more than my fair share for many years, before and after TAXI. I still get rejected. It is part of the business no matter how good you get, because not everyone is going to think the same thing about your music. I hear people trashing Hans Zimmer regularly, so clearly personal opinion comes into play – after all, we are humans.
However, most of the rejections we get are, unfortunately, well deserved. The people rejecting our music are doing so for very good reason. Either the music isn’t great or it simply isn’t a good fit.
Do you wallow in self-pity, or do you stick little pins in dolls with the faces of industry people pasted on them?
I take each rejection and give myself a few minutes to feel bad for myself. After about 5-10 minutes of self-pity, I give myself a slap upside the head and get on with it. I take whatever comments I got and I turn them into a positive. I give the tracks a listen and try to hear it from the perspective of the “rejecter.” Then I change the track based on those comments. Ninety-nine times out of 100, I end up liking the track much better after incorporating the changes. Even in cases where I can’t resubmit, I don’t care. What I got from that rejection is a better track and a boost in my skills for the next time.
Every rejection I’ve had since joining TAXI has made me a better composer. Every single one of them! I think it is a very important part of the process that should not be taken for granted.
So, my friendly TAXI screeners, I’m going to find time to submit a bunch of music this year, and I’ll look forward to your rejections (and hopefully some acceptances as well – wink, wink).
"In a short time I feel I've come a very long way. Why? For the same reason as anyone else who has had success because of TAXI – because I followed the advice of TAXI and the members who have been successful so far. It isn’t rocket science, that’s for sure. Just follow advice and be open to learning."
How important is having a professional network of collaborators and end users alike?
Admittedly, I haven’t done a lot of collaborations, but I do think it’s very important to have the professional network built, at a bare minimum. I’d like to do more collabs given the time, though.
Having a network of like-minded musicians/performers/composers is really invaluable. For one, you get an insight into what they are doing and how they’re obtaining success. Two, if you get assigned a project and you need help; you don’t have to scout around to find people. You just shout out to your network and bam, there you go!
Last year I was assigned an orchestral adventure album. One of the example tracks from the brief had a female vocalist. I asked the publisher if they specifically wanted a track with a vocalist, and they said yes. Normally, I would have been in panic mode, but it just so happened that I had a few people in my network, one of whom many of us TAXI members know and love – Adriana Lycette, who is also a TAXI member. Fortunately, she agreed to do this track with me, and it really turned out great. I hope you don’t mind me calling you out like that Adriana!
Having a good network can open doors you didn’t even know you were going to go through. In fact, the most recent library album I composed was for a library I wouldn’t have hooked up with had I not seen some of my friends writing for them first.
How have you built your network?
The TAXI Road Rally is about 90% of that. TAXI itself is another 8%. The other 2% I’ve built by cold calling libraries and composers and just meeting them online or joining composer groups, etc. Most recently, I applied to be part of a beta program for Keep Forest’s new AizerX tools. They accepted me, and I expanded my network through some of the other composers working on the project. You just have to be open and ready for the opportunities when they come, and you have to be willing to put yourself out there to meet people and socialize a bit.
I know you’re a fan of the TAXI “ecosystem.” Can you tell our readers how you’ve been able to move your career along faster than you expected by taking advantage of all the things TAXI offers its members?
I’m a really skeptical person (way too much so). It took me a long time to join TAXI, because I just didn’t believe anything (sorry TAXI folks, it’s not you, it’s me). Then, once I signed up, I didn’t immediately start doing anything other than submitting to the occasional listing. So, my first couple years with TAXI sort of “don’t count” in my book. Just being a member and submitting to a handful of listings isn’t what TAXI is all about. Once I decided to expand my horizons and go after instrumentals, etc., I decided to really try to take advantage of the range of things that TAXI offers.
I read the forums. I didn’t participate much, but I read about other people’s successes and got some ideas that way. I attended my first Road Rally. Honestly, I didn’t expect much at all (sorry again Michael and gang – it really isn’t you, it’s me). Now, by this time I had been getting a little bit of success with licensing, but no placements or anything like that. But I attended the Rally because I now believed that TAXI was really going to deliver. I wasn’t disappointed. I followed advice; I attended the classes and took notes; I bought a couple books, which I read on the way home. And most importantly, I put myself out there a bit (a lot for me, since I’m not a particularly social guy). I was amazed at the results, to say the least.
I came home, read and participated in the TAXI Forums, started building my network, practiced my writing, and really kicked up my dedication 100%. All of this happened because of what I learned at the Rally and from other members.
"In 2015, I set a goal to have at least one television placement by 2016. I exceeded that goal. Then I set a goal to write at least 50 pieces of music in 2016. I doubled that."
Now, by the following year, I was actually so busy on music projects I had to cancel my Rally trip (bummer), but I made it the next year. And in a short time, I feel I’ve come a very long way. Why? For the same reason as anyone else who has had success because of TAXI – because I followed the advice of TAXI and the members who have been successful so far. It isn’t rocket science, that’s for sure. Just follow advice and be open to learning. In 2015, I set a goal to have at least one television placement by 2016. I exceeded that goal. Then I set a goal to write at least 50 pieces of music in 2016. I doubled that. In 2017 I wanted to get more into trailer writing, so I set mini-goals for that, and I’ve happily met those goals.
In 2018, I set a goal to have a movie trailer placement. It’s only June, and I’m working feverishly to make that happen. I feel I’m getting so much closer, but it is those goals each year that keep me pushing. I never focus on the small successes I’ve had thus far, but instead keep reaching for something further out that will make me better at my craft.
Is there anything that you know now, that you wish you’d known when you first started going down your music path?
Well, I wish I had known early on that there was a good, practical way to make money writing music for media. If I had understood that 15 years ago, I’d be light years ahead in my music career.
- I wish I’d known that TAXI could really help me back in 2002 when I first heard of it. I still slap myself for not joining then!
- I wish I’d known that it is possible to write music to briefs without compromising your artistic integrity at all.
- I wish I had gained even the slightest bit of knowledge about the industry from a business perspective long before I tried to dive into it as a musician.
Can somebody become highly successful in music licensing for media by merely being a great musician, or do they need to be tuned in to the business aspects as well?
I don’t think so, if I’m being honest here.
Well yeah, go ahead and be brutally honest!
I think it’s true in any business, whether it is music, software, sales, or whatever… if you make a wonderful product, it will only get you so far. You need to run a successful business to market that product, sell that product, work with clients, and socialize from a business perspective. There’s a reason why every successful company has departments with people who excel in all these various aspects of business.
The main difference here is that we have to be all of these things rolled up in one person. You have to make a great product, but you also have to be able to work with clients, socialize and network, sell your product and constantly improve your product.
That’s where I see TAXI as such an invaluable tool for musicians/composers. TAXI helps to build the business side and develop the creative side at the same time. Honestly, if there were a “TAXI” for every other type of business out there, we’d see a lot more successful entrepreneurs with great startups.
Thanks for mentioning that, Randon. I think a lot of people just think TAXI is just a pile of opportunities to throw music at, and in some regards, it’s like a lottery. We do so much more to immerse our members in the culture of the industry, as well as helping them create and pitch their music. Thanks again for bringing that up!
"I wish I’d known that TAXI could really help me back in 2002 when I first heard of of it. I still slap myself for not joining then!"
And last, but not least; do you have any sage advice for people who’ve been sitting on the sidelines thinking about jumping into the licensing side of the music industry rather than the records and radio side?
I do indeed. Having been there before, I know it isn’t easy. You no doubt have had people telling you that you need a backup plan or another career choice, etc. You know what, I hate to say it, but they might be right!
Listen, the music industry is a tough one in all aspects, but it is possible to have a successful music career – you might just need to adjust your idea of “success.”
How many rock or pop stars are there in a given year? I mean big stars. Not a lot, right?
And how many talented songwriters, singers, performers and musicians are out there struggling to get there? Millions, right? The chances of becoming a huge star are extremely miniscule. And in the record and radio side of things, the chance of making a lot of money is even slimmer these days. Selling records and digital downloads is not a big moneymaker for a lot of bands and singers, even those with record deals. I’ve known a couple fairly big bands who had record deals, got fronted a bunch of money, then didn’t sell enough to repay the advance and they ended up in debt to the record label.
I don’t say any of this to discourage anyone or crush down dreams. On the contrary, I say this to lead into the idea that you can expand your horizons and go after the licensing side of the industry where you can see some long-term return on your music.
If you’re even thinking about jumping into the licensing world, just do it! Read up on the various types of contracts out there, follow the TAXI listings, watch TAXI TV and read the Forums. You’ll get a VERY good idea of what is available and what you might feel like going after. Then start writing a lot and submitting a lot. It might take many tries before you get past TAXI’s screeners and into a music library, but once you do, you will not regret it. It is a worthwhile journey, and it will help you realize that you can make money from your music.
Well, thanks for doing this interview Randon, I hope every one of our members and potential members takes the time to read all four parts of this. It’s basically a manual for success, and you’re a good guy for taking the time to do this and share this insight. Thank you!
Hear Randon’s music at: http://randonpurcell.com/