“You never know how a cow catches a hare”, says a Dutch proverb. I don’t know if it originated because Dutch cows used to be highly intelligent carnivores with tool-making abilities, or just because the Dutch weed is so strong it comes with hallucinogenic side effects. Luckily the origin of this proverb is beyond the scope of this article.
The proverb’s meaning is profound: Once you’ve set a goal, focus on it, and take steady action toward achieving it, stuff tends to happen that helps you achieve your goals in ways you hadn’t expected. This is exactly what happened to me last year when an unexpected collaboration led to a track of mine being published by a big trailer music library in LA. In this article I distill the principles behind achieving this result, so you can be a hare-catching cow as well, without knowing the exact hunting strategy beforehand.
The story starts in April 2022, when I took part in a scoring contest. Contestants had to write music to a one-minute video with footage from an erupting volcano in Iceland. How EPIC?! As a media composer this was a nice portfolio piece, and being proud of the end result, I posted it on my YouTube channel, just to have something cool to send to prospective clients to catch their attention. What I hadn’t expected is what happened a couple of months later. An owner of an LA-based music publishing company reached out to me after seeing that video on my YT channel.
He said he loved my music and asked me if I wanted to write for them. Until then I had cold-called many publishers myself, without any tangible results, so you can imagine how surprised and thrilled I was when a publisher actually reached out to me. After checking if the publisher was for real, I gladly accepted their offer, and since that time I’ve been steadily writing music for their releases, increasing my odds of sync licensing success with every track published.
We can already distill two “cow-catches-hare” principles from this first part of the story.
Cow Catches Hare principle #1: See opportunity even if it doesn’t yield direct results (i.e. $$$).
I could have viewed the scoring contest as a distraction and a waste of time because it didn’t directly help achieve my personal goal of writing music that gets placed on trailers and advertisements. Instead of that though, I saw it as an opportunity not only to hone my skills for writing to picture but as an opportunity to get a free portfolio piece to help market my music. Had I not seen this indirect opportunity, that publisher probably wouldn’t have found my music and wouldn’t have reached out to me, which brings me to the following principle.
Cow Catches Hare principle #2: Expose yourself and your music early on in your career.
This might sound like a “yeah, duh” statement, but it goes a bit deeper than catches the eye. Taking part in something like a scoring contest (or songwriting contest for that matter) is all nice and well, and already gives you some exposure. But had I not taken the extra effort of sharing my result with the world, I wouldn’t have received that publisher’s email. Posting the video is a step that I could have easily skipped because my YouTube channel only has a couple of hundred subscribers, so who would care anyway? What difference would it make, knowing that most likely nobody ‘important’ would see the video? Well, as you already know, it actually made a huge difference for me, because it helped me get an active collaboration with a music publisher.
So, do expose yourself and your music to the world early on in your career, by releasing, taking part in contests, posting on social media, going to live events like open mics, et cetera. You never know how a cow catches a hare, remember? One prerequisite before starting to expose your music to the world though is that it has to be so good that it catches the attention of fans, record labels, and A&R people. At the end of the article I’ll share one of the unique ways in which Holistic Songwriting can help you write music that is so good people can’t ignore you.
The story continues…
After writing music for a couple of the publishers’ releases, their music supervisor and co-owner reached out to me. He too liked my music. He is an established media composer in LA and asked me if I was interested in collaborating on music he writes for other publishers. Of course, I jumped on this opportunity, got on a call with the guy, and started writing for the new brief he received from one of his publishers. It was a style of music that I had very little experience with, but I decided to go for it and learn on the job. I created the rough production and arrangement for the track. My collaborator shaped it up and got it to a level where it was good enough to compete with the many other trailer tracks that get released yearly. End result: the publisher loved the track and released it on an album. The album is being pitched to film trailer houses as we speak.
Spotted the principles here? Let’s distill them together:
Cow Catches Hare principle #3: If your product is good it tends to sell itself.
After taking on many indirect opportunities (principle #1), and exposing yourself and your music to the world (principle #2), you might be surprised that results slowly start to pour in. But only if your product, your music, is good, or even better: GREAT. I did not reach out to the publisher’s music supervisor asking if I could collaborate on his music. Indirectly, my music invited him to reach out to me. I’m not saying this to brag. Trust me, it took many years of blood, sweat, and tears to get my music to the level it is currently at, and I still have a lot to learn.
But yeah, if your music is good, and you expose it to the world, it does tend to sell itself. However, do take the next principle into consideration…
Cow Catches Hare principle #4: Communication is key
Now that your songs caught the attention of fans and music industry pros you can finally sit back in your silken bathrobe next to the pool beside your hillside mansion, as you deserved after years of grinding work, right? You can probably already see yourself sitting there as a king/queen, towering above your mortal subjects (fans), who are not worthy of your attention, and your royal staff (music industry people), who do your exact bidding.
Well, besides the fact that it won’t make you one inch happier and you’re only a few lightyears away from such a stage in your career, your great music is not going to be doing much for you if you behave like a diva all the time. In other words: the way you communicate to fans and industry people, will determine a great deal of your success.
From the moment my publisher first reached out to me, until the release of that trailer track I collaborated on, I always made sure my communication was great. For me, that means being kind, keeping emails short and to the point, in plain English (without typos and stuff, and without words like “stuff”). Written communication can be easily misinterpreted, so use emojis when necessary and appropriate. Responding to emails and requests quickly is also important.
So your great music that has had great exposure must be accompanied by a musician who is a great communicator.
Cow Catches Hare principle #5: Take a risk and learn on the job
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”, is Sir Richard Branson’s advice. And I say, good advice, but within reason. During the collaboration with that composer, I had never created the style of music that the collaboration asked for, but I decided to just go for it and take on the challenge, knowing that I’m a fast learner when it comes to new styles. Whether or not you accept a challenge like this, requires knowing thy strengths and weaknesses.
Cow Catches Hare principle #6: You are not alone on this journey.
This is the most important principle. You are not alone on this journey of becoming a professional artist. As you walk the path you will meet many guides, mentors, friends, and collaborators. Work with people who are better than you, work with people who complete your skillset.
I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to write for a big trailer music publisher at this stage of my career if I hadn’t accepted the request to collaborate. Even if I had gotten the opportunity, my music probably wouldn’t have been accepted. I simply didn’t have the full skillset to get the music to the right level. My collaborator, somebody with a lot more experience, complemented my skills perfectly, and I learned a great deal from working with him.
Now you are a cow that knows how to catch a hare, right? Well, the whole point of this article is that you never know how a cow catches a hare. And that’s why it is so important to take on (indirect) opportunities, expose yourself and your music to the world early on so your music sells itself, while you communicate in a great way to expand your chances of success by collaborating with and learning from as many people as you can.
If you want to take the principles from this article into practice, we’ve got a great new opportunity for you. From 2 until 7 April we organize the first-ever Holistic Songwriting Camp on Tenerife. Enrollment for this camp is now closed, but we intend to organize at least one more later this year. Sign up for our newsletter here to be among the first to know.
And if you want to take your music to a level where it is so good people can’t ignore you, make sure to check out Holistic Songwriting Academy, our university-like online course that will completely transform your songwriting, as it already has for hundreds of students from every continent. Sign up for the waiting list here, to be among the first to know when we open up for enrollment again.
I want to leave you with this bonus principle:
BONUS: Cow Catches Hare principle #7: Celebrate every (small) success
If you chose the road of the artist/songwriter you signed up for a long long journey. It’s going to be a journey with a lot of ups, but definitely with a lot of downs as well. There will be many times you want to give up, deciding that it’s not worth it. That’s why it is so important to celebrate every small success along the way. This will motivate you to keep on going. Did your new song get 10 streams? Celebrate. Did your Spotify page have 50 listeners last month, instead of the usual 10? Celebrate. Did you find a new collaborator that completes your skillset? Celebrate. Did you find a songwriting platform like Holistic Songwriting that helps you steadily grow as an artist? Celebrate. Celebrate that you can share this great gift of music with the world, whatever worldly success may come from it. I´ll leave it at that.
Namaste, errrr… Stay gefährlich,