How far can you stretch originality?

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One of the requests I get very often during briefings is to produce "something original". However, it is very rare that the client actually wants something original:

original
adj. 1 existing from the beginning, innate. 2 novel; inventive; creative. 3 serving as a pattern; not derivative or imitative; firsthand.
(Concise Oxford dictionary of current English, ©1991)

If you were to produce something truly original, you could be almost certain that the client is going to reject it. They'll probably come up with an existing work as a reaction and ask you if you can make your work more like that. So what do they really mean when asking for something original? Let's explore what going on here in a bit more detail:

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Do NOT try to become a specialist

da VinciYou often read: "stick to one thing and become the best you can be". This seems to make sense: in a competitive world like ours, the person with the best skills in a certain field is best equiped to get the job. So why should you even want to be a generalist instead of a specialist? There are a few good reasons for this, especially when you operate a one-person business. Let's explore these reasons in more detail:

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Music industry discovers: downloads = sales!

speaker
Photo © by: Leon Brooks
I've written about the changes in music distribution before (here and here). And it seems like the music industry is (finally) catching on to this changing landscape as well... After years of sueing up- and downloaders of music they seem to have acknowledged that downloading is actually a feasable business-model! It "only" took the massive succes of Apple's iTunes (a computer company, remember?) to wake them up...

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Link: improve your publicity design

Over at Freelance switch, Shaun Crowley posted an excellent article on how to improve your publicity design. While being a designer might not be your focus, as a small-business owner you are often "forced to be your own designer". By evaluating your publicity material with his list at hand, you'll probably find some things to improve it right away.

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Two great ways to be more creative and productive

The professional world we live in is completely different from the one our parents knew. In the days of old, most workers had a fairly simple job description. But these days are long gone, specifically in the creative professions. Take mediamusic for example: you were either a composer or an engineer. But these days - for example in writing original soundtrack music - it's not uncommon to be composer, arranger, recording artist, engineer and producer (in addition to doing marketing, management, etcetera!). So you need to keep a lot of balls in the air at the same time. Also you need to be both creative and productive at a high level. So how do you keep your brain from getting fried? How can you stay on top of all your projects, current and those that are still "incubating"? Here are two great methods with related (free!) software:

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Big Band Close Formation presents new songs

dancing
Photo © by: dekay
In September "my" big band will present a new addition to its program: ballroom and latin dance music. During our gigs we often received requests for ballroom or latin dance music. Given the current popularity of dancing and the fact that many big bands were also dance bands, we decided to add this to our program. So a while ago I started writing new arrangements of some well-known dance tunes. During the summer these new additions were rehearsed and now we're ready to get them on the road:

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5 Top marketing tips by 'Harry Potter'

On the off-chance that you're tired of reading about "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", lets take a look at the factors that made the sale of this book such a huge succes (11 million copies in the first 24 hours!). What can you as a creative professional learn from this from a sales and marketing perspective? What elements of the marketing of the 'Harry Potter' series can you use in your own marketing? Here are five top tips to be learned from the series:

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Hooray for originality!

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In both music and filmmaking there's a lot of 'conglomerate influence' leading to choices that are safe more than anything else. Unfortunately this also leads to these productions being bland, uninspiring or in the best cases somewhat disappointing. It gets worse when the budget gets squeezed and the production is "made on the cheap". Think corporate-video-dictated-by-the-clients'-managers, for the worst case scenario. But this also applies to major feature films or pop music productions as well. This is all fueled by fear: film- and musicprojects cost a lot of money to make, so "the suits" want to minimize the risks. Understandable, but also wrong in most cases. Lets investigate some evidence for originality:

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Corporate teambuilding through music

Most companies have a number of amateur musicians among their employees and this can be used to build relations and strengthen teamwork within the company, specifically at special occasions like anniversaries and such. How? Gather these musicians together to form a one time band (or when there are many: an orchestra!) to perform a few songs at the big event. I do projects like this and they are usually much fun, with a residual effect long after the event itself is over! Because of the varied (and surprising!) combinations of instruments and different levels of musicianship I write taylor-made arrangements and then its off to rehearsing. But what's the value for the company? Lets explore:

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How to manage your inspiration

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Isn't inspiration something that "comes out of the blue"? How can it be managed then? True inspiration, the "lightbulb-moment" can't be manufactured. But it is the result of the things you've done and thought up to that moment, so you can certainly do things to manage your inspiration and to quicken the flow of ideas. But let's first assess that there are two kinds of inspiration. The first kind is the inspiration you use for your day to day work as a creative professional: the ideas you need for the current project. The second kind of inspiration is the reason you chose your line of work in the first place. The "everyday-kind" of inspiration is a challenge in itself and will be covered in other posts (like this one), but for now let's concentrate on the second kind:

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Can music change the way we think and act?

Occasionally I browse the search queries that bring people to this site, and the question in the title was one of them. It made me think a little bit more serious about this: can music really change the way we think and act? Obviously, I believe it can, because otherwise I wouldn't have written the post on Howard Shore's music. And I'm not the only one who thinks so: "Of all the fine arts, music is that which most influences the passions, and that, therefore, which a legislator should do most to encourage. A few bars of moral music, composed by a master hand cannot fail to affect the feelings, and have much more influence than a well-written book about morality, which convinces our reason without altering our habits." (Napoleon Bonaparte). So, obviously, there is some effect, but how does it work?

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Boost your creativity with your everyday software

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As a media professional you probably use rather complicated software, with tons of features. This is because over the years the programmers put in many new features to cater for as diverse a group of professionals as possible. Most of you however don't use all of these features every day, since many are not needed for your regular projects. In the rush of completing your work, you probably restricted the number of features you use in your regular projects. But in a rather simple way you can use your everyday software to give your creativity a boost! Here's how:

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Six steps to make more money as a media professional

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If you are a media professional, or if you want to become one, one of the most important aspects you will have to consider is bringing in the money to support your life! Just being in business and doing your job well usually isn't enough to get you where you want to go in income and other aspects. So here are 6 steps to take when you want to give your earnings a boost:

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What if Google mixes up with Digg?

Sometimes trying to find something through Google can be a frustrating event. Some search terms deliver more spam than useful results, making sifting through the list a tedious chore. Other times Google doesn't come up with any results at all, so its off to Yahoo, Answers and whatnot. Now what if users could cast votes on their search results like on Digg? Or even better: the search engine tracks the useful (=used!) links itself? Aftervote claims to do just that! So, is it time to say goodbye to Google? Well, maybe, but I'm not sure yet...

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Predicting the future? No thanks! Or...

I was just browsing around the internet a bit today and came across this post about a 14 year old boy imagining in 1901 what America would look like in 2001. This made me think: in 1901 the changes were not as quick as they are today. Take computers for example: at 42 I'm a bit of a veteran, using computers since 1976 or so, but even in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined the way we use computers today, or the impact they're having on our daily lives and our communication. And even our social life: sadly, for some people computers have turned into their only social life... So how about making predictions for 2101...

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