(actual) helpful words of advice on writing emails
Mar 16 2020
hellllo! fun topic today. As a professional in the music industry, half of my job is writing emails.
Growing up my mom was a working engineer, and she helped me tremendously in developing my written etiquette. I realize not many people have this – if I was left to my own devices and had to learn writing from school…I don’t think I’d be very good at writing emails.
Here are some general golden rules on emails:
- – Your email should always be straightforward, concise, to-the-point (especially in the subject line)
- – The addressing line needs to be correct with the correct name (if –available)
- – Your response time to emails should be within 1-3 business days, and at max one week.
- – Anything later than that means suspect/very low priority
- – If you’re applying for a job, you should be responding within one day
- – Your sign-off signature should be appropriate
- – No direct links to music samples or reels, unless directly asked
- – Proofread for typos, spelling errors, clarity, you know the drill 😉
There’s a finesse to your written voice, and each situation is sometimes handled differently. I’ll cover a variety of email methods, as well as share actual emails I’ve written! This is all advice based on my own experience. and i’ve gotten a nice compliment or two about my writing!
the general email structure (color-coded for ease of use!)
[ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY OF THE POINT OF THE EMAIL]
[FURTHER EXPLANATION IF NEEDED]
[GENERAL THANKS, FOLLOW UP INFORMATION IF APPLICABLE]
the email where you ask for a job/internship
I’m not really sure why cold emailing is a controversial topic. Either they work, or they don’t, and I see no shame in sending them. My beef with cold emails is that often those who send them, seldom bother following up (more on this later).
Here’s a cold email I sent to a composer, who I ended up interning for:
My name is Nadia Wheaton, I am a third-year Film Scoring student at Berklee College of Music.
My mother contacted you a few years ago about me, per the suggestion of her colleague _______ who played Taiko with you in college. I’ve gone off to Berklee since then and have found myself immersed in great music.
I admire your work immensely and would love an opportunity to see how the working music industry is. If you are open to having an intern, I’ve attached my resume and cover letter for reference.
Thank you for taking the time back then to reply to my mother with encouraging words.
Best wishes and happy early holidays,
Couple notes…This email could have been a lot shorter, but it isn’t bad for an introductory email with some context. While generic, it’s intriguing because we had a mutual contact. I cover mutual contacts in a previous blog.
Phrasing: You’re offering work as an intern, which can either be free work, work for credit, or cheap labor. A nice, gentle way to ask for an internship: “If you’re open to having an intern…”. “Would you be open to having an intern?” Even a simple “Do you offer mentee programs?”.
A previous boss gave this advice, “I read these emails and one thing I skim for, is what can they offer me? Are they offering me anything? Nothing? Moving on.”
Thank yous: Make sure your thanks is honest and thoughtful. There can never be too many thank yous in an email.
BUT most important thing: I attached a resume off the bat. Easy, accessible, no one needs to respond and ask me for it. It’s already there. ATTACH YOUR RESUMES AS PDFs! (lol)
Here’s another email I sent last year, responding to an open call for applicants via Facebook group. This more specifically follows my above format:
I saw your post in the SAMPLE NAME group and wanted to introduce myself! I’ve been working in the film music industry for the past 3 years, and have found myself wanting to be more involved/embedded in a bigger in-house team. I have experience doing audio cleanup, and music editing specifically, so I’m familiar with ProTools and Izotope RX.
In the future I would see myself wanting to be in an associate audio producer role. I think this contract position would be a great opportunity to experience what it’s like as a general audio team member (vs on an outsource music team).
I’ve attached my resume. I’m currently located in Los Angeles.
Looking forward to hearing more, please let me know if you have any questions for me. Thank you for your time!
All the best,
I don’t believe praise, or specific longform facts about how said person’s music changed your life, is needed in initial emails. It can be nice to read, and sometimes enticing to respond to, but in my opinion it’s all fluffy crappy BS. Add it if you want, but I’d keep it to around 1 or 2 sentences (anything more seems…awkward).
Here’s how I see it: You know your shit. You know yourself best. They probably know about their discography better than you ever will. Don’t ramble about how much you love the person’s whole discography – it often doesn’t get read.
Reiterating the important thing: Attach your resume. This is just a thing you’re going to have to do whenever you introduce yourself for a job.
There is no shame in sending emails asking for job opportunities. It’s all about tact, but the fundamental idea of reaching out should not be embarrassing.
Here’s one more email I wrote to an agent after my internship ended, when I was starting to look for full-time work after Berklee:
I hope your new year is off to a great start! My name is Nadia Wheaton. I hope you remember me, we met a few times over the past year while I was an intern to ______. I am looking for a music/composer assistant job, similar to the work I did for ______.
I helped him with office administrative tasks, booking studio sessions, as well as managing his website and social media updates. I also have experience with video editing, and of course other music-related tasks—I’m good with Pro Tools, Logic, Sibelius, Finale, and DP.
My study at Berklee was in film scoring and video game music composition. If you have any clients that need help, full-time or part-time assistance, I would greatly appreciate a referral.
I’ve attached my resume below for your convenience. Thank you so much for your help.
This email didn’t get a response. While written nicely, it could’ve been much more straightforward. Here’s how I’d approach it now:
I hope you’ve been well! We met several times last year while I was interning for your client ______. I remember your great advice about networking at GDC, and have kept it with me since.
My internship with ____ ended last month. If you have any clients that need help, full-time or part-time assistance, I’ve attached my resume for reference. I specialize in music-related work, but I am also extremely proficient with general admin/social media assistance.
Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate you taking the time to. Please let me know if you have any questions for me.
All my best,
Realistically, this probably wouldn’t get a response if the person is way too busy. But it is a lot shorter, more concise, and overall more confident. And a ballsy move. But this is my thinking: why the fuck not? if they don’t respond, I am in the same exact spot I was in before had I never sent it.
Never waiver in your confidence, but the tone of your emails should always be clear, thoughtful, and appreciative.
Keep your biography to the hard facts: Location, What type of composer, Genres or Projects you’ve worked on.
the follow-up email
What constitutes a follow-up?
- – Any pending email chain that does not have a new response for about 10-14 business days (unless an action date is specified)
- – Generally, any response
- – An in-person meeting or favor
responding when you don’t know what to respond yet (but you should respond anyways to acknowledge receipt!) AKA the “I’ll get back to you”:
Thanks for writing! I’ll touch base soon.
Thanks for the info! Could I get back to you when I have a more clearer idea about details? Hopefully in a few weeks. I’ll ping you closer to the date.
Thanks so much,
follow-up after you’ve met someone at an event:
My name is Nadia Wheaton, it was great meeting you at the IASIG party at GDC. I’m a freelance composer’s assistant, my most recent video game project was ________.
If you’re free to grab a coffee in the coming weeks, I’d love to learn a little more about your career path and would appreciate any insight you may have. I am a big fan of your video game scoring work and went through college watching a lot of your library tutorials! I’m also based in Santa Monica, but I can meet wherever is most convenient for you.
Hope your GDC was great and looking forward to hearing back!
It’s super important that you follow-up with contacts in a timely matter. Make action items for yourself!
follow-up after you’ve met said person ^ above:
Thanks for meeting with me and sharing some of your insight last week. I particularly enjoyed ______ and _______. Hope to keep in touch!
follow-up after an interview:
This is an important one. All interviews…phone, in-person, Skype, etc. need follow-ups.
I wanted to thank you for your time and support during my on-site. It was a great experience, and I can tell you have a great team of very talented individuals.
Thank you again for the opportunity, I would appreciate any feedback you may have. Looking forward to it!
EX 2 (this is to a recruiter):
I had a nice chat with ______ and ______. Thank you for facilitating!
Please pass on my thanks to both of them. I look forward to hearing from you, any feedback would be appreciated as well!
general follow-up for a dead thread
Just pinging regarding below. Please let me know if you have any questions!
Thanks so much!
the email asking for advice or feedback on your portfolio/reel
It’s better to know someone well, and eventually ask them for feedback, or have that person connect you with someone else who can.
- – You need to have specific questions catered and relevant to that person’s career
- – Aimless, general fluff or questions tend to be wastes of time for that person to answer
My name is ______. My friend Nadia Wheaton recommend I reach out to you.
I am currently in my 2nd year at USC, majoring in video game scoring. I am also originally from the PNW, I noticed we have quite a few mutuals! If you have the time, would you be open to answering a few questions regarding ________?
Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate you taking the time. Looking forward to hearing back.
All my best,
To CC or not to CC your friend? Just ask your friend if it’s ok to put them on CC. Totally up to you.
So what’s the point of this all?
Any rational person would not get mad over a well-written cold email. Any rational person would also not get mad over a poorly written cold email (I hope!).
hopefully some of you can use these tips to write future emails, and maybe even use these as templates if you want! I didn’t learn any of this in school so I figured it’d be helpful to have this up somewhere.
(will add more emails in the future)
thx for reading