“To Work or Not to Work  – Part  2”

by Sean O’Bryan Smith

So, right about now you’re starting to roll your eyes thinking “here we go again from THAT guy.” Well, guess what? You are 100% correct. There’s a bunch of twisted life experiences up in this ole bean that every now and then I feel compelled to share. So, here we go again and when we last joined our so-called anti-hero here, we were discussing some ins and outs to preparing your music for the people and influencers in the industry who can actually get your music heard. When last I checked, that was the point of it all, wasn’t it?

For virtually all of us sonic creatives out here searching the musical netherworlds, our music is what drives us. It is this uncontrollable force that becomes our muse and our form of expression that we then want to share with the rest of the world. That last part though is where so many of us fall completely flat on our face. It’s not that we do not care about what we have created. On the contrary, you cannot spend that many hours obsessing over every miniscule detail without caring about the quality of what you have created. So, if we truly care this much about this thing that we want to share with anyone who will consume it, why would we not have just as much attention to detail to helping promote it so that someone will be ABLE to consume it? Creativity serves no useful purpose if it is not experienced.

In most cases, the answer to that last question is very simple. Most creatives do not know what to do next. It is not part of what they’ve spent all their time and effort focusing on. Trust me. I get it. It is not nearly as fun registering your music using the submission form on SoundExchange as it is spending hours tweaking the auto pan on that synth pad you created for your next ambient epic. It is still something that HAS to be done though. Even reaching past the “fun” part, its just the concept of it all. It is so easy to look at the “work” as WORK, but if you are truly wanting to share what you’ve created you should try to shift that mindset. That’s not easy to do and honestly, it really isn’t your fault. The bulk of us were never taught any of this. It’s more about trying to find that same sense of accomplishment as when you get that piece of “just right” and then applying it to selling yourself to the outlets for your art.

For all of us this is going to look a little bit different and might very well change from project to project depending on what you are creating. Everyone’s techniques for the “business” can vary. What I want you to start thinking about though is the attitude you have when you approach these tasks. I am here to tell you that it is 100% just as big of a sense of accomplishment to place your music with that hot radio station or podcast as it is creating the piece of music itself. I know that seems farfetched, but it is true.

By trying to make this a bit more “fun” what happens is then, your entire demeanor will change which will then entice the person you are presenting yourself to give you a chance. It takes more than just creating a phenomenal piece of music to be successful or get you on that radio show. Lots of us have phenomenal pieces of music, at least in our minds, in our catalogs. What will sell you to radio, podcasters, reviewers, curators, and more is a phenomenal attitude coupled with textbook professionalism.

If you genuinely want to be successful, listen to what I have to say next. It is how you present yourself, and making completely sure that you did your homework ahead of time, that matters. You 100% HAVE to give them what THEY want. As much as this is not going to be what you want to hear, here it is. Selling yourself is not about YOU. “You” are now the product.  It is about them. “You” are one of a thousand submissions a day that they receive. This is where that attitude focus I mentioned earlier will come into play. This is where you get passionate about the “product” and have fun with it. It is Basic Sales 101 and it will get you noticed if done genuinely.

None of us create our music with a lack of passion. Let me repeat that. NONE of us create our music with a lack of passion. Therefore, we have to be passionate about the business part so that others can partake and hopefully find themselves just as inspired as we were in creating whatever it is we just created. I know this may feel like I’m talking in circles but, my goal here is to drive some concepts home. I could very easily have spent an exuberant amount of time going over this business practice and that sales technique, but so much of that becomes specific to the individual creator and needs to be part of each creator’s journey in finding what works best for them.

What has worked for me in my career might actually fail miserably for you. That’s one of those tremendously hard truths about the music industry. There isn’t now, nor has EVER been, one true proven way to be successful in the music industry and anyone that tells you anything different is not only a raging liar but, also is trying to exploit you for their own personal gain. That, on the other hand, IS a proven truth of the industry. With that, I’m here to try to help you by saying put as much work as you can in yourself. Find the joy and passion in it. Be diligent, thorough and obsessive to the same level as the hours you spent finding just the right EQ curve for that drum part. Success is yours to make. Nobody else can truly facilitate that for you. Granted, there are phenomenal people who will be an integral part of your journey throughout your career. They will help you and be an important vehicle for you for a certain chapter of your life, but in the end, we all go back to old-fashioned morals. If you want to play hard, you have to work hard. You’ve got this.


Sean O’Bryan Smith is an award-winning film composer, author, producer and recording artist. As a musician, he has recorded and/or performed with over 100 major and independent recording artists worldwide in multiple genres.

Sean originally emerged onto the new age/world scene in 2012 while on the Australian record label Wolf Entertainment. His single “Rain” from the album “Tapestry” became an international jazz/new age crossover hit. The album also included the single “Vashon” which was featured on multiple new age stations overseas. These ventures into the genre continued when a number of Sean’s original compositions from the Indian motion picture Mrigtrishna were heavily featured on a collection of ambient/new age works in India. 

As an author, Sean’s regular columns have been published in numerous musical periodicals and he was a contributing author alongside Gene Simmons and Nile Rodgers for a series of books dedicated to the ins and outs of the music industry. Sean’s music continues to be heard across the globe on radio, film and television. He is currently composing, recording and producing from his home in South Florida as well as serving as Director of Artist Development and Relations for Wayfarer Records where he is also an Artist in Residence.