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Sounding Off: The Answer Is 'Yes'

Big George
By Big George

In music for TV, the solution is to not be a problem.

It's been a while since I stuck my head above the parapet. In fact since I last graced the pages of this esteemed top-shelf periodical, I've found out exactly how boring being a TV presenter can be, discovered the joys of early mornings as an all-speech breakfast presenter for BBC local radio (www.bbc.co.uk/threecounties) and continued with my quest to provide 30 seconds of tosh for the front and back of a variety of TV programmes. I also composed a film score — short form, which was not so much 'low budget' as 'no budget', and managed to bypass the 'straight to video' stigma by never even making it to the duplication plant, hence saving me the indignity of being found out. And no, I'm not going to reveal the movie title!

Anyway, it got me thinking about how we, as producers and composers, go about making a buck from our art. The fact is, unless you're one of the lucky ones who is happy just to make music for the fun of it, or one of the confused who thinks their art transcends commerce, we're primarily service providers for an increasingly expanding (but ever more impoverished) industry. To that end, our main aim is to make the customer satisfied.Big George.

After years of ligging at showbiz Christmas parties, chance meetings in gear shops and a few days in court, I've realised two truths about the music industry. Firstly, every successful operator reads Sound On Sound (from multi-millionaire lucky bastard to moderately successful genius) and secondly, cliché-ridden as it might sound, there really are only three steps to heaven.

1. Getting the job.

2. Doing the job.

3. Delivering the job.

Let's start in the centre of the action with 'doing the job'. This is where the vast majority of mistakes are made. The main one is thinking that composing and producing the music is the most important aspect of the procedure. It should be the easiest — in fact, it should take up hardly any of our nervous energy. Aren't we supposed to be adept at making music? Aren't there a zillion pieces of music out there for us to pillage and plunder? (What? You want to come up with something new, original, in your own unique style... you are joking, aren't you?) Aren't we all blessed with facilities at home which 10 years ago would've cost more than a pound a minute to use?

The reality is that the opportunities are out there for everyone to get a credit — now! Although, to look at the prospects purely in terms of commerce, if you were a plumber the average rates for a broadcast job would buy between five and 25 hours of your time, in total. Yet I doubt there's anyone who wouldn't spend at least 100 hours on their half-minute masterpiece.

Now the hardest part, and something that needs careful, if not meticulous consideration: delivering the job. This, in truth, is the only part of the process that matters. If they like it, they'll use it, which in turn means they pay you, which will hopefully lead to you getting more work.

So deliver your best, but do not hand over the CD you've spent the last five weeks working on with miserable tales of woe about the sync'ing problems you overcame, the latency issues overdubbing the real tambourine caused or the latest saga in your broadband nightmare. They don't care!

They want you to be a problem they don't have any more. So when you deliver the job, be cool, be confident and make yourself believe that the hackneyed old nonsense you managed to cobble together at the last minute (and delivering last-minute is the best option — less time for panic changes) is the greatest slab of programme-defining audio ecstasy known to human kind. They'll love you for it, and if they do want changes, it's obvious you must have delivered too early, sucker!

Here's a quick tip if you want to get work in the broadcast industry — when asked, regardless of the question, the answer is always yes! You're also incredibly busy, but you can just about fit this particular job in. And this is by far the most important thing to remember — let them do all the talking and agree with every word they say, regardless of how stupid, irrelevant and ill-informed it may be. Until you have established a rapport, you must appear to take everything they tell you on board. Of course, as soon as you leave the office, you'll be free to go home and rewrite the same old riff you've been struggling to master for years.

Now then, having read this far, I think it's time you went and got yourself your own job. How? What? Where? Maybe next time!

About The Author

Big George is currently doing anything and everything he can to avoid getting a proper job. He has had his mid-life crisis (namely a Gretsch Nashville semi-acoustic) and is looking forward to senility kicking in to relieve him from the tedium of giving a toss.

Published August 2005