Summer Challenge 2018—Copywriting

Summer Challenge 2018—Copywriting 2018-05-17T09:22:21+00:00

Why aren’t your emails getting a response?

I like to binge.

There are some foods I could eat all day (hello, pizza and hello, Qdoba). I could happily play golf until my hands are blistered.I will obsess over a piece of music, a composer, or a recording artist for weeks at a time.

But what I really binge on is watching movies and TV shows. I normally have them playing when I’m doing something else. It’s a habit I’m trying to break. But some of my binge-watching has including watching every single Arnold Schwartzenegger film ever made. In order. Or watching all the Bond films in a row.

BTW, I still love Arnold and Bond (and yes, I really do believe Daniel Craig makes the best Bond. This was solidified for me after reading all the Ian Fleming novels.).

So in the last month I’ve watched all 9 seasons of The Office (U.S. version). I’ve seen them before many times. But in all those episodes this clip from season 7 episode 2 (“Counseling”) really stuck out:

“The unfair thing about working in sales is that your salary is almost all commission. So if you suck at sales you make almost no money…. I guess that’s fair.”

—Pam Beesly

When this clip played I stopped it and rewatched it. A couple of times, actually. Because she’s totally right.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Here’s my logic:

  • As composers we are small business owners.
  • Businesses survive (i.e., make a profit) by selling products and services.
  • We, as composers, sell the service of writing music (normally in the form of commissions) and the product of our writing (scores and recordings).
  • If we take what we do seriously AND want to support ourselves by selling our art, then we need to learn HOW to sell our music.

As my friend Dennis Tobenski likes to say:

“You’re making art until the writing is finished. At that point you also have a product.”

So sales are the bread and butter of keeping our composing businesses alive. That means we need to learn how to sell.

I’m in this, too

I have a recent piece that I want to get into the hands of teachers and performers. In particular this is a piece for Alto Saxophone and Piano. You can check it out here (I’m still building the sales page—expect iterations as the Summer Challenge progresses). I also need to promote my concert band and choral works, line up more commissions, put myself out in the world as a guest teacher and clinician, and more. But right now I’ve decided to focus on selling the saxophone piece.

I feel like I know quite a bit about copywriting (the act of writing for the purpose of sales), but there’s a lot more I don’t know. I also felt like this was something that could be valuable for the TPC community and others so I’ve decided to create the…


I will act as the guide and by the end of the challenge you will know how to:

  • Craft an effective email
  • Write about your music in a way that motivates others
  • How to get people’s attention with your words
  • Do split testing on your email campaigns
  • Know who the best audience is for your music
  • How to write to communicate clearly and relationally and without being pushy
  • How to demonstrate the value of what you do and the music you write
  • How to ask for the sale

Effective Emails

The skills it takes to write an effective email are going to be the same for if you want to send a hard copy letter. There are some basic principles that make sales letters work. You’re going to learn them. You’re going to practice and get feedback on your emails. Once you get people’s attention you have to give to tell them how your music is what they’re looking for. You have to show the value of the art you create.

Motivating Others

As Daniel Pink says in his incredible book, To Sell Is Human:

“So while the idea that 1 in 9 American workers sells for a living might surprise you, I wondered whether it masked a still more intriquing truth. For instance, I’m not a ‘sales worker’ in the categorical sense. Yet, as I wrote in the Introduction, when I sat down to deconstruct my workdays, I discovered that I spend a sizable portion of them selling in a broader sense—persuading, influencing, and convincing others. And I’m not special. Physicians sell patients on a remedy. Lawyers sell juries on a verdict. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. Entrepreneurs woo funders, writers sweet-talk producers, coaches cajole players. Whatever our profession, we deliver presentations to fellow employees and make pitches to new clients. We try to convince the boss to loosen up a few dollars from the budget or the human resources department to add more vacation days….

“The same goes for what transpires on the other side of the ever murkier border between work and life. Many of us now devote a portion of our spare time to selling—whether it’s handmade crafts on Etsy, heartfelt causes on DonorsChoose, or harebrained schemes on Kickstarter. And in astonishing numbers and with ferocious energy, we now go online to sell ourselves—on Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and profiles”

What does this mean? It means that selling is motivating others to get in alignment. It’s not about forcing somebody to buy something they don’t want. It’s not about being pushy. It’s about having a conversation and motivating others.

Getting People’s Attention

You write great music. So what? Who knows about it and why should they care?

Once you’ve identified your audience copywriting is the next step to getting people’s attention. Do you stand on the virtual mountain top (Facebook and Twitter) and announce to the world, “I have a piece. You should listen to it. You should buy it. You should play it!”?

We all know that doesn’t work well. Instead, it’s about entering into a dialogue with the right people.

Split Testing

Why write one email when two can do? Spit testing, or A/B testing, is a great way to see what is working. Once you know what gets the best response, you do more of the same.

Know Your Audience

This is the heart of the matter. I walk all my coaching clients through this. It’s also the first step in marketing anything. You have to know who you’re speaking to. It’s more than the genre or ensemble.

Granted, you also have to have an audience that actually spends money on music. If you write music for micro-tonal kazoo ensembles you’re going to find there are few people in your audience. And those that are probably write the similar music so they’re not going to spend money on yours.

If, on the other hand, you write for an instrument or ensemble, or in a genre or style that is constantly looking for and programming freshly composed music you’re in luck!

Writing Clearly

Writing words is tough for me. Maybe it is for you, too. I’d rather write music.

Sometimes I write in an overly dense academic style. Most of the time my writing is fragmented and hard to follow. If you struggle with writing clearly than learning some copywriting skills will really help. It’s helped me.

Good writing that expresses its ideas clearly also leads to emails and sales pages that aren’t pushy. They’re relational.


Value is the extra bit beyond the product or service you offer. It’s what distinguishes you from everyone else. Why should an ensemble director program your music over all of the pieces? You will learn how to communicate the value you bring as a composer to the sales relationship, the music, and what you’re selling.

You’re not selling a commodity. You’re selling something unique and special. What makes it special?

Asking for the Sale

This is the hardest part for creatives. If we’re going to sell ourselves as composers and sell our scores and recordings we have to actually ask people to buy them!

We’ll work on some of our money issues in the Summer Challenge in order to break through this hurdle. It’s a tough one.

This is For You If…

This Summer Challenge is for you if:

  • You’ve got a score written and engraved (it’s ready to be sold)
  • You’re willing to participate and provide feedback to others
  • You’re going to do the work
  • You’re willing to buy a book
    • We’re using this as a resource and teaching tool. The Summer Challenge is 100% free so this is the only money you must spend

It’s not for you if aren’t willing to share your email drafts or participate. It’s not for you if think sales is bad or in anyway anathema.

What Will the Summer Challenge 2018 Look Like?

Great question. The Summer Challenge will be June 1–30.

It’s more than a book study. The goal of the Summer Challenge is have emails and sales pages written and sent out into the world.

We will have regular video sessions (either on Facebook live or via Zoom) so we can discuss what we’re learning and how to adapt the principles from the book to selling our music.

Through the Marketing for Composers Facebook group we will share our email drafts. We will both give and receive feedback.

There will be a schedule of both reading and writing. This will keep everyone on the same page and by the end of the month you will be sending out your emails!

And yes, it’s 100% FREE! Let’s do this together.

I’m in What Do I Need To Do?

Cool! I’m excited about this, too. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Enter your name and email on the form below. This way I can stay in touch with you over the course of the Summer Challenge.
  • Go to Amazon and buy The Copywriter’s Handbook, 3rd ed., by Robert W. Bly (this is an affiliate link. Do me a favor and click on it to order to your book. Thanks!)
  • Ask to join the Marketing for Composers Facebook group.
  • Wait for more instruction! I’ll be sending a reading schedule and “assignments” out as we go.

Be sure to sign up by May 31, 2018! We start on June 1.


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Any questions? Send them my way through this contact form.

PS—Have you ever seen the Martin Scorsese film The Wolf of Wall Street with Leonardo DiCaprio? The movie tells the story of the real life Jordan Belfort. It’s crazy. But there are some interesting ideas about selling. What stood out to me is the idea of selling not just what something does (its features), what it can do for you (its benefits), and how it can make your life better (its value). There are two scenes where he asks people to sell him a pen. Everyone focuses on the features. I think we as composers focus WAY to much on the features: it has x harmonic language, it is written for y ensemble, it uses extended techniques, etc. What’s worked for me is to sell my music on the benefits and value. Here’s a clip from the real Jordan Belfort’s interview with Piers Morgan on CNN. Here’s a guy who literally earned millions selling stocks (he did end up in jail, but it wasn’t for selling things. Watch the movie to see why), but he emphasizes that you have to know who you’re selling to, what they’re looking for, and why they need what you’re selling. It’s also about a conversation and relationship.