All of us composers send communications every day to dozens of people. We ask for advice, for possible work, for referrals, for mentoring, for a listening ear. We ask for feedback on our music, for intel (who has a project they might need help on) and so on.
We do it at the beginning of our careers. We do it 10 years into our careers, 20 years into our careers. With each email, letter, or pitch we send out into the universe, our hope is that the recipient reads it, gets energized and inspired to reply and to get engaged with our agenda. Why would they do that? Because the recipient sees a potential how the sender can help, inspire and energize them. The ultimate goal of this professional correspondence is that our dreams move forward.
How can we make our pitch emails and written communications most effective and inspiring? This is the result we want: EFFECTIVE and INSPIRING THE RECEPIENT TO TAKE ACTION. Here are my thoughts on the art of email correspondence by a young composer to an established Hollywood professional. I welcome your thoughts.
This below is a 100% genuine pitch I received on Linkedin. I get about a dozen bad cold pitches every day. I have erased the name, titles, etc. to protect the identity of the sender. Otherwise, his text is included without changes. The first half is the pitch I received, and the 2nd half is deconstructing his pitch and why it will not be effective and not yield the result he seeks.
My name is X Z.
I am a composer from SOME CITY.
I have placed music in various productions on major networks.
I would like to invite you to my website where you can listen to my work.
I have three instrumental albums on the site.
I own all rights to the songs, masters and publishing.
The first album is called ‘TITLE’.
The first track on the album is called ‘some other title” but is NOT indicative of the rest of the album.
The album is Ambient/Electronic with a slick production value which is truly modern sounding.
Standout tracks: 1. 8:29 2. title 3. Title
The Second album is called ‘SOME OTHER TITLE.”
This is piano and string based but most tracks have a full production.
Standout tracks: 1. A 2. B 3. R
The Third album is called ‘WHATEVER TITLE’.
This is more avantgard and could be categorized as Indietronica.
I’ve used Korg Poly 6 extensively on this album.
Standout tracks: 1. Title 2. Title 3. Title
These songs I feel are perfect for use in T.V., Film, Documentaries and Video Games.
I also have a library of high quality tracks available on a non exclusive basis. Just get in touch for a sample!
I suppose it would be handy to give you a link where you can listen to the albums
It’s: Somewebsite.com – 9 links
Thanks for listening. Get in touch!
REASONS WHY THIS IS BAD
1. Way too long. I mean, really… 4 sentences is the max I would read from strangers. Hollywood professionals receive 200 emails a day, every day.
2. Does not address me by name. I will never read a letter that says “Hi” or “To Whom It May Concern.” I WILL read letters that say Hi Penka, and are 4-5 sentences long.
3. Does not address the 3 implicit questions I have – (1) who are you, (2) what is your agenda (i.e., what do you want from me) and (3) why should I care to read a note from a stranger. Take the time to learn about my needs and show an understanding of my needs by quickly telling me about your marketable skills, body of work, and previous employers.
4. I could read every line of this pitch and respond with “None of what you are offering addresses my needs, or my interests, or my dreams at the present moment.”
5. I do not have need for more music unless it’s an earth-shaking masterpiece from which I can learn something and get inspired by. And get energized to be better! You sending me your music does not help me with any of my needs whatsoever.
6. If you truly take the time to learn about me and my needs, you will know that I have a pre-pubescent daughter and am also in the midst of a hard career transition phase. My current goal and dream is to get a higher level of scoring projects on my own. Not to use or license another person’s music.
7. Many young composers ask me for lunch and I always decline. My time for lunches is extremely limited and I keep it open for directors, producers, game makers – people who could HIRE ME. But if you suggest that you would come along for a walk with my kid, then I will take a meeting in the late afternoon, and we will talk business while walking uphill with my daughter and you. Really. A handful of emerging composers have done that “career chat/walk” with me. Two of them have become dear friends and collaborators. If I ask someone for lunch and they decline, I try to find functions or industry events where they speak, or are attending, and try to catch them there, at the function. This has worked well for connecting in person with music supervisors and producers.
8. This letter that I received has way too much information and is too scattered. Each pitch to a stranger must have only ONE AGENDA – i.e., one request that you want me to answer. For instance, “I’m looking for an internship as a Synth Programmer and wanted to ask you if you have vacancies. My Synth Programming chops are at the level of Hans Zimmer.” Then I will reply, of course. You see, these 2 sentences answer the implicit question (from above) “what do you need” and “why should I care.”
9. This letter has way too many music links. When pitching a stranger include one link, two at the most. These online links need to be your stunning masterpieces. The person may listen to the first 30 seconds of the first link. I personally never listen to more than 2 links, and this is if the first link absolutely grabbed me. I just don’t have time. I work 17-hour days, as it is.
10. Don’t write anything presumptuous in your first pitch to anyone, like “These songs are perfect for TV.” Or, “My past work has prepared me to write the best score for your film.” Or, “Hire me, I’m your man.” You have no idea what they need and want. You really don’t … until you have a face-to-face meeting and speak with your potential client at length about their project, their hopes and needs, and their expectations of the collaboration. Writing something presumptuous always annoys me because it shows me that you are NOT CURIOUS to learn, but instead have some pre-conceived notion about what I need or expect. But you don’t have the first idea about my project or needs until we speak!
11. I personally would not include smiley faces in business correspondence. Or LOL or Haha. I would keep the letter professional and business-like, with a human feel and a humble, authentic demeanor.
12. The only good thing he wrote is that he owns all the rights. That’s good! It tells me that I could license the music directly, if I wanted to.
OK, I spoke at length why this letter is bad. Now, let me give you an example of a great pitch (again, a genuine pitch) by a recent graduate. He was a stranger pitching me and was awarded my internship, based on his note and his referral (which I called, of course). He became my collaborator for a few years, then moved on to bigger and better things. Notice how he answered the unspoken questions of “Who are you, What do you want, and Why should I care” in 5 sentences.
“Hi Penka, my name is Adrian and I recently graduated from CSUN. I am a media composer and am most passionate about hybrid scores combining orchestra and synths. My professor Scott Glasgow suggested that I contact you. I seek to work as a synth programmer for a busy game composer. I am also a solid rock guitarist.”
Here is one more example of a decent cold pitch that I would reply to:
My name is X and I’m a recent Berklee graduate. My professors X, Y, Z have given me highest recommendations to pursue a Composer Assistant’s position. I am fluent in Logic, DP, ProTools, Nuendo. My body of student scoring work includes 10 short films, 15 promos, 5 trailers, orchestral performances and I am also a leader of Berklee’s video game club. I am a professional-level rock guitarist as well.