Want To Earn More From Creative Work? Give Your Best Stuff Away For Free

Daniel Bordovsky

Daniel Bordovsky is a Czech-born independent musician and composer. His instrumental music has been featured in over 2,000 projects including the US National Parks project. He also recently collaborated with entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

This year, Bordovsky is on track to earn over $300,000, up from $50,000 when he began working independently two years ago.

Although not a writer, in the traditional sense, his approach to creative work should inform anyone who wants to earn a living from stories, books and other creative projects.

  • Why every creative should give away their best work for free, at least at first
  • What it takes to build a network with influencers online
  • How he balances business with creative projects
  • The importance of finding time for your art

And lots more

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Transcript Below

Bryan Collins:                     Ah, yeah, that’s, that’s a good question for an audio person to ask that. Yeah, your audio is perfect, yeah. Most interviewees don’t ask that question. So maybe we could start, Daniel, if you could tell me the story of how you got started with music production and how you’ve turned it into a business.

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah. Okay. So I’ve been playing the piano since the age of six. I was attending local school in here, but I never really enjoyed playing the piano because we get sheet music and you need to play according to your teacher and everything needs to be the way it should be. So I never really enjoyed the piano at the beginning when I was young, when you’re at seven, eight years old, you just want to get out and be with friends outside, and I had to practice piano. But it all changed because in here in our country we have an IMDb, local IMDb, and I started working there when I was 14 years old, for free of course, I was doing everything for free. I was like a content administrator. And over time I got in touch with the owner, we started being maybe friends later on. And as I was working there, I started feeling more emotions when it comes films, I really wanted to be part of something, when it comes to films, I wanted to be more in that area. So I started doing that full time.

Daniel Bordovsy:              Of course I was still attending high school at that time, so I was trying to balance that. And over time I stopped being the administrator and I started doing films for that site. And at that time it was very interesting because a very important opportunity came by for the website. We went to Los Angeles to make a documentary about Hollywood studios. We met amazing people, including international worldwide known film composers, James Newton Howard. At that time, I was 17 years old and I was sitting at lunch with James Newton Howard at his home with his family, it was just a crazy idea for me to happen. And we went even to his studio, and that was the first time when I started thinking about coming back to music because the school I made here, the music school, I was done with that and I didn’t touch piano since that time I left that school.

Bryan Collins:                     Sorry to interrupt you there, but just for the benefit of people listening, James Newton Howard is, correct me if I’m wrong, but the composer of albums like the Dark Nights and Batman Begins and so on.

Daniel Bordovsy:              That’s it, yeah. He worked with Hans Zimmer on that one but he did King Kong, Hunger Games series. And when I was in his studio, it wasn’t the studio that caught my attention, it was his personality because he is very, very interesting person and he’s very nice and kind and he was a little bit nervous as we were there and it should be the other way around. He’s somebody and his personality really, really catch me that he’s in his own studio just doing his own thing. And when we came back from LA, I just downloaded all the apps and I was like, “Let’s try this. Maybe I can do that.” Because when you are making films, it’s really difficult. You need to have a team of people, you need to work on projects, you need to leave your town oftentimes.

Daniel Bordovsy:              I really thought that that’s maybe not for me, making films. So I started doing music and as I was in touch with some composers when I was doing films, one my friends gave me an advice to put everything out for free at the beginning because you will get a lot of feedback. So that’s a great opportunity to know if your music is worth being shared.

Daniel Bordovsy:              So that’s what I did. I made three songs and it was interesting process because I didn’t go to school for three days because I just was at home and it really catched me the music and making it and trying to fix all the aspects of the tracks, like orchestra and piano and make it sound good. So for three days I just stayed at home. I didn’t go to school. My parents still didn’t know. And from that on I was just making music all the time. I was just putting it out, and the three tracks, I put it on Free Music Archive and it got downloaded like 5,000 times the first week. And people started getting in touch with me like we want to use this for commercial purposes and things really changed very quickly from that time, yeah.

Bryan Collins:                     Okay. So I’m not a musician so I’m not familiar with Free Music Archive, but often writers will give away their stuff for free on sites like Medium. So it sounds like you’re advocating putting something out there and getting feedback and that’s a great way of building your name online.

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah. And it’s the best way to start because your music gets used on so many places that you yourself, you wouldn’t be able to reach [inaudible 00:06:15]. Right? [Inaudible 00:06:18] use it and when listeners like your music, they will just find your Spotify and that’s the way how to start slowly making an income. I know of course, you don’t want to put your music for free forever. So at the beginning is the best way to just make a boom.

Bryan Collins:                     Yeah. So how did you make the transition then from giving away music for free to building your business as a creative professional?

Daniel Bordovsy:              So what I did is I started building a network of licensing of people from licensing industry. My music is now part of Artlists, Maybe you are familiar, that is like the number one licensing site on the internet right now. And I decided that I want to put my music on a lot of these platforms where people just pay for using your music and to license it for their own work, projects. And so yes, this is pretty much like 90% of my income is coming from licensing inquiries and people even reach out to me directly. So that’s the best way to sell music. The best thing about my music about instrument, about instrumental music, is that it can be used anywhere in the world. People understand that music.

Bryan Collins:                     And it led you to work with Gary Vaynerchuk, is that right?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah, that was before, because as I said, my music is out for free and I even reach out to some YouTube channels saying, “Here’s my music. If you want to use it, just use it. At least just only credit me and you give just for free, you can monetize, you can do whatever.” And this one very popular motivational channel used my music. And they combined the speech of GaryVee and my music and it got four millions of views. And even the team of GaryVee noticed that this video was somehow doing very great, even better than their videos.

Daniel Bordovsy:              So they used the video on their own channel. Of course I’m always like trying to find projects with my music. I’m reaching out to these people who use my music and I just typed a comment, “Thanks Gary for using my music. That’s great. Thank you. I watch your videos,” blah blah blah. And then his main video editor, David Rock, just replied, he put in his email there and he said email me. So I emailed him and we started working and they used some of my old work, they licensed that, but somehow we were in touch for six months and it was a great idea to maybe make something original for Gary’s content. Yeah, so that’s how it happened.

Bryan Collins:                     And how has that been published yet, or otherwise?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yes, the soundtrack was published online, but the tracks are being slowly implemented into Gary Veeaynerchuk original films, which get released like once a month. So yeah.

Bryan Collins:                     So what has working with somebody like Gary done for your career so far?

Daniel Bordovsy:              So it was a very interesting process because there’s a lot of people in his team that I was in touch with. And working for him was a huge experience for me because it was my first break project. I was making some original music for somebody, and it was just like working with a team, doing emails, FaceTimes, because they are of course in New York, so it’s not really possible to make music down at my studio being here. That’s what we did with FaceTime and we discuss everything over email and I made the music, the team helped me with the titles to put a good title. Because it’s important to figure out the sound, what sound we want the tracks to be because it’s really important to make the kind of music which will not interfere with the dialogue of Gary talking.

Daniel Bordovsy:              When the soundtrack got released and the team GaryVee promoted that soundtrack on their page, I just had a amazing opportunity to be part of the community, to be part of the committee where fans from GaryVee come and they inspire each other and listen to that album when they go to the gym, when they go to work, when they are working. It’s a great feedback.

Bryan Collins:                     That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. I’m curious then, how do you balance the time it takes to compose an album like that with all the other things you are now doing, because you’re running a business.

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah, so mostly I’m trying to combine these two things by doing music at some days and then taking days off from music and doing more like some other stuff. So it doesn’t always work that way because sometimes you get musical ideas just out of nowhere, so you need to sit and make the tracks. And things got needs to go, like promotion, business and ads, running ads and stuff like that, it needs to go on the side because I need to make music. But it’s not really easy to combine these two things because for musician, it’s quite difficult to promote his own music on his own because he just wants to make music. Most of the musicians just want to work and they want to hire somebody. But I’m always trying to do both things because I love being in the business industry a little bit. So yeah, that’s trying to find a balance, but sometimes it’s not easy.

Bryan Collins:                     Have you hired somebody?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yes, I have a manager who manages my emails because with all the inquiries, I don’t really have that much time for that. But other than the manager, I don’t really have anybody right now.

Bryan Collins:                     Okay. And I’m curious, a lot of writers, and musicians I’m sure, would say that it’s very hard to make a living. And I don’t know if you’re aware of the idea of the starving artist? So you work on your craft, but you don’t have any money. And it’s kind of romanticized, the idea that you’re a musician or a writer and you’re broke. Is that something that you believe in or have you found otherwise?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Well, yeah, I certainly believe that there’s a lot of talented people who are just maybe not capable of making their art and then find a way to monetize their work. That’s just what we talked about, you need to be able to make music or make art and then you need to take the time off and find a way to promote your work. And I believe that some people just don’t really enjoy promoting themselves and they think maybe it’s wrong, like, “This is my music, this is the best, listen to it.” I believe definitely there’s a lot of people who are really talented and they just don’t know how to put it out. So I believe that really if you just make something and put it out for free and then just to bring attention to that, maybe that’s still the way to start making money from it.

Bryan Collins:                     Such as giving it away for free, for example.

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah. But of course not everything, you need to find some way to monetize that, but just getting attention to what you do, like exposure, that’s really important.

Bryan Collins:                     Have you any other collaborations lined up?

Daniel Bordovsy:              I had one collaboration with a musician, we made one track together. But right now I’m having an opportunity to make an original soundtrack for a game developer making a game which is going to be released next year. So I’m probably going to do that, it’s a great opportunity and I’m working on new album, which I believe it’s going to be the best music I’ve ever made so far. So hopefully that’s going to be good. And I want a major record label to release that. So far I was doing all independent stuff, I was just putting it out on my own. With this album, I feel like I want to put it out through a record label.

Bryan Collins:                     How long have you been working on the album for?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Currently for two months.

Bryan Collins:                     And how long does an album take to compose

Daniel Bordovsy:              That depends. Sometimes it takes only two weeks to make an album, if you are in a good mood and if everything is is working well for you. I was making the album for GaryVee for about four to five months and it was mostly not making it, it was just like trying something and it didn’t work out so I had to put it in trash. It’s five months of making an album, but it takes only maybe 10 days to make the music. There’s a lot of for procrastination, of a lot of side effects.

Bryan Collins:                     Do you have any tips or secrets or hacks that you use when you’re procrastinating to get back into that creative stage?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Probably just not trying to make music when you are really not feeling like it’s going to work. So just do everything else, go out, maybe go hiking, go to the city, have a coffee with someone. Just don’t try to make something when you really don’t feel like it’s going to be happening.

Bryan Collins:                     If you don’t mind me asking, people who share their work online sometimes get negative feedback. Have you received any negative feedback and if so, how did you deal with it?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Of course. Yeah, it happens time to time, it’s usually like one comment saying, I just got it recently, “All your tracks sound the same.” And yeah, it might be possible because it’s my music and sometimes I might want to use the type of instruments that I already use. So it might be similar and that’s just who I am. I’m not trying to be anybody else with music. So if it sounds similar, that’s no problem for me. So you need to learn to do differentiate the negative feedback that kind of can teach you something more about you. So for example, if somebody says, “In that fourth minutes, that instrument sounds a little weird,” so you can kind of investigate and maybe make it better next time. But when somebody just says your music is shit, I’m just, “Okay, well I guess it’s his opinion, so it’s fine.”

Bryan Collins:                     So a lot of creative people would say that there’s no such thing as an original creative work, that and it’s always inspired by something else. Is that something that you buy into or do you try to put aside other people’s work when you’re composing?

Daniel Bordovsy:              I’m trying to put it aside but of course I listen to some music which is not my own, so I get inspired even though I don’t want to get inspired. I think it kind of comes to you. I’m trying to make my own music. I’m trying to just catch the moment when I really feel creative and I just want to make what I feel it’s in me, because a lot of musicians and artists sometimes they are trying to not really steal other people’s music, but they’re trying to make their music sound like something. And I think this is not a good approach. I think you should really put it aside and at least try to make you, just do you. Yeah.

Bryan Collins:                     Yeah. So for the purposes of people listening, I can see behind you there’s a fantastic desk and large monitors, microphones, keyboard and so on. But I’m just wondering when you’re out and about and you think of something for your work, how do you capture it? Because a writer would traditionally use a notepad or they might just write it with pen or biro on their hand. What do you do?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Well I used to try to memorize, but it didn’t really work. Sometimes it doesn’t really usually happen, but it happens sometimes and I take my phone, I just try to [inaudible 00:20:04] the melody, but sometimes when I come back, I just listen to him just like, “What did I want to say by that?” So yeah, it’s just singing maybe the melody trying to get it out by mouth. But yeah, that’s pretty much the only way.

Bryan Collins:                     So you’d record it into your phone basically?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah.

Bryan Collins:                     Yeah. I like that idea, it’s like a note you’ve left yourself. And I’m also curious, so how do you know when something is done? Because you talked there about it took five to six months to finish Gary’s album and you talked about putting away the first version and restarting the whole project. So how do you know when you’re finished?

Daniel Bordovsy:              So sometimes you know it might finished and sometimes you just don’t know. Because I make something and I think it’s finished, and then I wake up the next day, I’m just making more edits. This might be happening for weeks, so it’s important to know where it’s time to stop making edits and just leave it. I am a little bit of perfectionist, I want everything to be really great, but it’s just not possible. I believe it’s not possible to make it just perfect. So just try to make your best and then just you have to leave it and work on other projects because otherwise I wouldn’t be releasing any tracks.

Daniel Bordovsy:              And it’s fact that a lot of people make a lot of music and they don’t release anything. They make so many edits and they decide it’s not good enough, so they put it aside. And I always say to my friends who make also music, just release a lot of things, just put it out there. Because when your songs are not good, nobody will notice them, and when you make one really good song and you don’t even think it’s a good song, you’re like, “It’s just another song,” and it just hits and it gets played million times since on Spotify, which happened to me, and the song I was just, “It’s another song,” it made a huge boom. So if that song makes a huge boom, then people will play that song and they won’t look at your shitty work, which you made five years ago. So it’s always better to make more stuff and put it out than just don’t put out any,

Bryan Collins:                     So have lots of works that you’ve released rather than just trying to have one piece of music or work that’s really good. Yeah, I get that. I’m also curious, so for Spotify, do musicians earn much money from Spotify or do artists earn much money or is it just more of a way of connecting with fans?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Well, it’s a great way to connect with fans and you need to have quite a lot of streams there on a monthly basis to make an income. If you have 10,000 listeners a month, you make money, it’s possible and you can use that but you won’t make a living on that.

Bryan Collins:                     Okay. That’s good to know. So what’s your most important channel online at the moment?

Daniel Bordovsy:              So right now when it comes to income is definitely the licensing sites. When it comes [inaudible 00:23:32] friends, it’s probably Instagram, that’s the best way.

Bryan Collins:                     Instagram?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Yeah, to connect with friends and fans for new potential clients because they check out your profile and they see you make music, they check out your work. And here you go and have an email.

Bryan Collins:                     Okay. So do you have any tips for someone who’s creative who’s considering scaling up how to use Instagram? What should they do?

Daniel Bordovsy:              It’s the best tool to connect with the communities because you can search those hashtags. So when you [inaudible 00:24:11] hashtag and you put there like filmmaker, it pulls from people who make films. And you can just contact them or write comments like, “You make a great work. I would like to work with you. I make music and I want to connect,” and you just connect with them and it works very easy. And so that’s just pretty much the easiest way to use that.

Bryan Collins:                     Okay, great. Great. And so where can people find you online, Daniel, or your work?

Daniel Bordovsy:              Well they can find me on Instagram, on Facebook, on my website. I launched a download page where anybody can download my work, my old tracks and listened to them. And yeah, so pretty much everywhere.

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