We Love This Word

Why developing your USP may be key to breaking into the business

"An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them."

- Stephen Fry

I think we’re all agreed: competition in this business is fierce.

But, the more composer reels I hear, the more I’m convinced about one thing: originality stands out. Always.

So, to that word which we're always excited to hear at The Composerworks: Unique.

If you're interested in composer representation, it's important to think generally about the best way to go about finding that representation. Here are some starter questions to ponder:

1. What do you want out of an agency?

2. How can you best make the approach? (For our take on that, click here).

3. What can you offer that’s going to be a little (or indeed very) different?

It's the third question which I focus on in this blog.

Finding your USP: Develop a truly original sound palette

Listen to some reels of composers who are already represented by an agency.

More often than not, composer agencies look for something different musically to complement their existing roster (well, we do anyway). And it's worth noting, the same often applies to producers and directors looking for a composer.

Your style may well be influenced by your favourite artists and composers which is of course a good thing. And 'unique' doesn't necessary mean your music must be completely unconventional and avant-garde - although we do welcome that too.

But perhaps there might be a gap in a roster for a composer who specialises in, say, the fusion of electronic and orchestral score writing; or a Scandic-Noir style. But whatever you offer, be authentic.

A composer team recently wrote to us with a fascinating story:

They built their own instruments for an art show, played them, and then sold them at the end of their performance. An attendee at the show, who happened to be an A-List Hollywood actor, liked their style. He eventually invited them to score one of his off-Broadway plays (which subsequently became two plays).

After a fair degree of persuading on the actor’s part to his studio bosses, it led to the composers scoring his most recent $40m feature film (a Western) - their first ever venture into film.

They again built their instruments from disused objects, learned to play them, and scored the feature entirely with those instruments – creating a hauntingly brilliant soundscape. This all came about because of their unique approach which caught this actor’s imagination.

We tested the water by reaching out to a producer on this composer team's behalf. He replied:

"The interesting use of instruments [in their Western feature] ... could make for a nice translation to the atmosphere we're creating for [our feature]."

Maybe you play an instrument with an unusual spin on things, or have developed a unique electronic sound, or blend of styles, or have somehow manipulated the samples you have in order to add your own spice to your repertoire?

We often hear our composers shift their focus out of their comfort zones. For example, they might incorporate electronic samples over an acoustic score, or vice versa. Experiment. Be unconventional. In our experience, it makes your music stand out.

What Else Defines Your USP?

A footnote for this blog, but nonetheless critically important. Your USP is as important as your talent. A personality and the right attitude throughout your relationship with an agent, those so called ‘soft skills’, are crucial.

They’re a fundamental part of what makes you different. People like to do business with people they like. Agents obviously want composers who show determination to succeed and apply effort in reaching their legendary potential – but it’s also so important to be likeable and professional. This comes naturally of course to probably everyone reading this blog, but we can’t emphasise the point enough - it's especially important when things occasionally don't go to plan on a project.

So, in summary: do a little research to see what you could add to a composer roster. Try to find that original sound. And be nice, always.

Sophy Purnell is a composer agent at The Composerworks. Follow us for more insights. This blog was first published in April 2019.