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I recently went on a journey without even having a map.

Due to some financial problems I started to take money for my work and since I'm pretty unexperienced with everything about this genre I'm completely clueless about the pricing. Due to the fact that I compose since just 2 years without having almost no reputation I consider my work as some kind of substandard, having no references makes it even worse. Is there something like an average pricing per minute for pros an non-professionals? With my first commission I took about 20$ for a 2 minute length track, having worked on it for 5 days makes me feel that it was far too less for the amount of work I've spent on it. It makes me wonder what music is worth nowadays in general.

I'd love to hear what you think about it, I think everyone who composes for a living now was in the same, or at least in a similar situation once.

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Hi Denny - Here is a quick answer. A commercial (30 secs or so) should pay you at LEAST $1,500. A 2 minute piece like you describe should pay perhaps $5-10k depending on how it is intended. If they cannot afford to pay you properly. Do NOT do it!

Internal music for a tv show should pay about $7-10k per 30 minute episode.

This is just general basic advice, but I hope it helps!
i think it should depend on the track,the instruments you used (real?digital?paid musicians/used friends etc),and the genre. for example,writing a 2 minute techno track isn't that hard,writing a classical 2 min track can be far more challenging! also,in what way it took you 5 days?i mean,in these 5 days you just wrote the score,or include recording/mastering your audio etc?you gave a written score,or a recording as well? there are all shorts of parameters you might negotiate with your customer,and asking a bit more than 20$ isn't irrational after all...I would try asking for 40$,and see what happens...
Hi Simon - 45 min of full score written on paper - a commissioned work should pay very well. Perhaps $30k? That would be separate from the cost of producing a recording of it.
Here's a way to look at it. Assume composition is your only income, how much do you want to make in a year? $100k? Then you need 10 $10k jobs in that year, or 3 $30k jobs and 1 $10k job or some combination like that. Split the year up into chunks of time that it will take to do the jobs and divide into what you want to make.

If a job will take a month, you should at least make about $10k, but that assumes you work constantly from one job to the next.

Keep the ownership (copyright) of your music and only sell them a license for limited use (in a particular project for a year or so.)
Your music is a serious art-form so your hourly rate should reflect that!

Just put a cap on your composing, for example.. Just say, okay if it takes over 10-12 hours to do this one piece it won't cost you or it'll cost half as much per hour etc.. Usually people are willing to pay for quality, if they disagree with the price they can risk starting over finding someone else.
This all sounds like good advice, but how much can someone expect if they have no reputation or references? You have to start somewhere right?
I'd be pretty interested in this point as well.

What if your music is decent but you got no reputation at all? With decent I mean lifelike orchestra music with libraries such as EWQLSO and professional sequencers. Could you actually go for a fee like that or is this business almost completely reputation based?

Thanks for the many replies everyone, this really gives some insight!
I say yes - you still start with a proper fee. Perhaps a personal minimum you set for yourself of $1000 for very low budget local 30 second spots. Even with no rep.

It tells potential clients that you are a serious, professional composer and should be valued. If they don't think you are 'worth' that amount, let them go somewhere else. The reality is that it's not about whether they think YOU are worth it, it's more about whether they think custom music is worth it. If they say that you are not worth $1000 for this project, they really mean that they wouldn't pay ANY composer that much. So they never really were a possibility for a client anyway.

NEVER work for someone for very cheap in hopes of more work later. You simply will get stuck as the guy who works for very cheap. You will never be able to charge more for that client.

If you find a client that would be willing to pay appropriately for music (perhaps $7,000) for a 30 sec spot or $15,000 for a 30 minute show, then offer to do some of it on 'spec.' This means that you compose the music for his project (only a minute or so) for no charge and if he wants the music and you to continue scoring, then he pays your regular rate. He can't keep the music without paying, though.

Never charge per hour - always by the project. 1/2 up front, unless it is a big, legitimate company.
Thank you Chris! These are a lot of good tips with some great insights.

Much appreciated!
I am really enjoying this discussion.
Many years ago I used to do jingles. We often did them on spec. The money we got for them depended on the size of the market. If it was for a local radio ad it earned a pittance compared to what a national television ad would be in. And we always negotiated every project. We did not have a set price list.

After being away from music for many years, I've decided to give composing a serious shot. But I'm not really in a position to pursue scoring right now. Instead, I'm thinking about concentrating on the educational market--composing for school bands, choirs, jazz bands and orchestras. I figure with all the schools with music programs out there, someone must be making a living composing for them.

Any suggestions how to get started? I finished several pieces already--two for youth choir and one for jazz band. I've spoken with the director of the jazz band of the local high school, and she has agreed to give my jazz piece a reading. I haven't had any luck getting someone to read my choral pieces yet. Should I just start sending pieces off to publishers? Is there a list of music publishers that cater to schools? Does anyone know if it's possible to make a living as a composer outside of film and video scoring?

Glenn Simonelli
I just checked out the IAC. Seems like a great resource. Thanks for the tip; I just joined.

Glenn Simonelli

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