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Big George's Guide to Commercial Success; Staying Cool Under Pressure By Big George
Published July 2001


Big George explains how to stay cool under pressure...

In my May 2001 column I talked about pitching for a media music job, which I believe is the second most difficult task that faces a media composer. Assuming the pitch is successful, you then have to actually make the music, which is by far the easiest part of the process. Then comes the final and most terrifying experience for any music maker: delivering the job!

It Ain't What You Do

Please read the next sentence very carefully.

The difference between palming off a worthless piece of tosh and having a musical masterpiece rejected is in how you present it.

Whether you are trying to secure a record contract, publishing deal, media music commission, or whatever, remember that the person you hand your work to is the one person on the planet you need to impress. So should you tell them about the problems you had during the production? Or what could have been done better if only you'd had this or that piece of gear? Of course not. But how many times have you played your music to people and spent the whole time saying what you would have done different, or how it's not bad for something knocked up with your meagre gear or limited studio time?

When you deliver your music, be positive and professional about the finished result. That doesn't mean coming across as a big‑headed tosser who thinks the world doesn't deserve your talent, but at all costs avoid negativity.

Better Late Than Early

Don't deliver anything until the very last moment. This will take balls, as the closer the deadline comes, the more anxious (and possibly threatening) calls you'll receive. Be calm, be reassuring, speak with confidence. No matter how tempting it is to give in and deliver the work early, bear in mind that the closer you are to their deadline, the less chance they have to find your replacement. Being early just means that they have more time to ask you to change "a few things", or reject your work out of hand and get someone else.

When delivery day arrives, be on time. If you get there an hour early, just wander the streets. Have something with you to read while you wait in reception (I suggest a copy of Sound On Sound, or perhaps the collected works of Charles M Schulz). Just don't sit there looking nervously at your watch! When it's time to play your work, don't qualify, quantify, apologise, rationalise, or shit yourself.

Compose Yourself

Be confident, engaging, and interested in whatever they were doing when you came in. Don't tell them about your nightmare journey, or how politically astute your cab driver was — unless the tale is hilarious and will take less than a minute to recount. In general, stick with the subjects they bring up, as who cares about you and your life anyway? I think of this as kissing arse without using my tongue.

If they have any comments about your work — and they will — let them voice these without leaping to defend yourself . If they seem doubtful about accepting the work, look confident, understand their concerns, but point out that it will still work perfectly. If they insist that it doesn't fit the bill, don't look hurt: sort out exactly what needs doing. If it really does need a tweak, then tweak it! It's highly unlikely that they'll sack you, as they gave you the job in the first place, and unless they asked you for a transcendental ambient mood and you gave them Metallica through a fuzzbox, it will all work out fine.

Here's a true story: I once delivered a piece of work to an ad agency and the head honcho was showboating to his team. He made some insightful comments, like "I think it needs more MIDI" (that's not exactly what he said, but you get the picture). So, rather than flipping his desk over and setting off the sprinkler system, I went away and did nothing for two days, then brought exactly the same piece back. I played it to his Royal Highness and, perhaps because there was no audience, he said it was perfect. Was I tempted to tell him I'd done nothing, making him look stupid? Of course. Did I tell him? Well, put it this way: I don't do ads any more...

A Music Business Revolution

For the last few months I've been asking you to get in touch with me regarding your efforts to license your own independent record releases via the MCPS — or your reasons for not trying to do so — and send me a copy of the said record (see the April, May and June issues). So far I've received less than two dozen CDs, which is pretty pathetic given the size of SOS's readership. I need these as ammunition in my quest to overthrow the suits who have turned the music industry from a seedy place that actually nurtured and believed in the talent it ripped off, to merely an exercise in amassing market share and increasing musical homogenisation.

The music industry is fast becoming nothing more than a celebrity vehicle. If Dale Winton put out a record it would be a hit. Why? Because he's a celebrity. The fact that he probably can't sing for toffee has nothing to do with anything. He would get radio airplay, his record would be stocked in all the shops, and the media in general would support him. Is this the way it should be? If you don't think so, send me your work, your horror stories about the way your industry has treated you, and any ideas you have on how to change things for the better — now. The address is: Big George, PO Box 7094, Kiln Farm, MK11 1LL. Or email me at For instant access to my previous rants in SOS, go to my web site: