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Hello all,

It's great to have found a forum devoted to composers. I've read quite a few interesting threads on here, but I wanted to ask a question myself. I thought I should provide a bit of background, so please bare with me for the next paragraph!

Last year, I graduated with a BA (1st Class Hons) degree in Music Production from London College of Music. During my final project, I was writing and producing tracks for production music libraries, and pitching them to companies. Whilst the tracks from my project weren't used, I eventually managed to find a music library who was interested in my abilities to produce works for their upcoming briefs. Almost a year later, I have a few tracks in this music library, and I continue to produce works for them. However, I don't have an awful lot else to show for this past year, certainly nothing concrete in terms of work. 

As well as building my portfolio of tracks online, I am trying to contact companies remotely, turn up to networking events where I can, and applying for jobs of any sort in the music industry. To the experienced composers out there: what else could be done in order try and secure some work as a media composer? By this I mean advertising, games, short films, corporate etc.

Any advice or anecdotes would be highly appreciated! 

Talk soon,

James

P.S. Check out my website below if you'd like to hear my work to date.

http://jpricemusic.com

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Thank you for your reply, Dave. It's interesting to hear about your own experiences and your pathway to finding composer work. I guess i'll have to increase my bothering of people across the board and actively seek out some unpaid gigs. In terms of retaining copyright, did you hold them to a written agreement?   

Totally agree with you on the orchestral demos. I am hoping to get some more variety up there in due course, even within the orchestral styles. At the moment i'm scoring an old superman cartoon, for which we had to do some dialogue and SFX/foley for one of my modules - only the music that's missing. Although the orchestral stuff seems to be everyone's favourite thing to do (including me), I am pretty much open to all genres. I also upload the music library tracks to SoundCloud as and when they are published, and this can be all sorts, as you may have heard!

Thanks again for your pointers.

James 

Hi Ray,

I think you may have got the wrong end of the baton in terms of what my ambitions are! Rather than an artist selling records and putting on concerts, my aim is to compose bespoke works for sync and media productions in their own right. To me there's a big difference between the two. Although Dave said it first, I also think the exponential development in technology has created more ways to exploit music and license it, in the face of declining traditional record sales. But being commissioned for bespoke scores is a different story again, and this is what i'm focussed on.

I would certainly agree that just being able to create good cues isn't enough. The intention of this thread however was to discuss ways of finding work as a media composer, so, in addition to what you have said, I am wondering if you have any advice on this side of things?  

Cheers,

James


scapegoat said:

I wish I could have something positive to say on the subject of making a reasonable amount of money from recorded music but I fear the good times have passed as there is little monetary value in it now. Yes, there are exceptions but that does not effect the underlying tread towards loss of value.

Artists produce recorded music to sell concert tickets when in my lifetime the opposite was true. Believe me, I get no pleasure from telling it as it is and if proved to be wrong by any individual, I'll gladly shake their hand and wish them well.

You obviously have talent and can craft good cues but...................That just isn't enough in today's world of throw away technology where anyone can stream any track from anywhere on the globe.

Ray

No worries Dave, and I hope that you're right! Thanks for your feedback on the rock track - I hadn't even watched Suits when I did that but having recently polished it off on Netflix, I see what you mean there. 

RE copyright, I guess as long as you get the agreement in some form of writing then that's good enough. 

"I've found that promising an exclusive license for a year or two (so the music doesn't end up in 12 other games) is a good incentive."

So does that mean that for a year or two, you let them have the track exclusively? And then after that, put it up for sale on BandCamp or whatever, and use it non-exclusively on other games?

I did have to give up copyright with the library stuff, but that doesn't particularly bother me. Essentially I'm responding to a demand for works for hire, and so I don't get too attached to the stuff i'm writing for them. 

Dave Dexter said:

Sorry, don't want to hijack the discussion with the above reply, but I felt it was a point worth making - there is absolutely money to be made in the indsutry :)

Multiple genres is always good; I started out as chiptune and electronica, have done some synthwave and as a fellow guitarist took all chances to do spaghetti western, folk, acoustic, rock etc. But I love orchestral work best. That rock track is really good, btw, love those chewy tones. Reminds me of Wolfmother and some of the music from Suits.

Copyright was . . . hmm. The downside is that if you're working for free, you're likely working for something quite small with someone who hasn't done contracts yet. As long as you explicitly state in an email what your terms are, you should be fine. Insist on a prominent credit of course, and the right to sell the soundtrack commercially. I've found that promising an exclusive license for a year or two (so the music doesn't end up in 12 other games) is a good incentive. Later on, giving up copyright is more or less standard - presumably you had to with the library tracks - but I hated doing it.


James Price said:

Thank you for your reply, Dave. It's interesting to hear about your own experiences and your pathway to finding composer work. I guess i'll have to increase my bothering of people across the board and actively seek out some unpaid gigs. In terms of retaining copyright, did you hold them to a written agreement?   

Totally agree with you on the orchestral demos. I am hoping to get some more variety up there in due course, even within the orchestral styles. At the moment i'm scoring an old superman cartoon, for which we had to do some dialogue and SFX/foley for one of my modules - only the music that's missing. Although the orchestral stuff seems to be everyone's favourite thing to do (including me), I am pretty much open to all genres. I also upload the music library tracks to SoundCloud as and when they are published, and this can be all sorts, as you may have heard!

Thanks again for your pointers.

James 

Hey James,

I wish you well in your endeavors.


You have a really nice professionally presented website. Congratulations.

Your music is produced well and mixed perfectly. This is not my style of music in any way at all, but I can tell that your are a very creative person.

Best wishes to you and your family, and bye for now.

Paul.

Hi James.

My background is similar to yours and I had a career in media. I'd just like to shore up Daves' point about sending emails and badgering people as it worked for me. When I left the RAM, I knocked on doors in Soho London and sent out letters, within 6 months I was working full time. Admittedly, this was in the middle 1980's and a certain amount of luck was involved, but my efforts made it happen.

Things are different these days as has been pointed out but the basic idea of nurturing contacts and a little bit of hustle will always be a good way to start....oh and talent, which you have.

mikehewer.com

Hello all,

I thought I'd provide an update to this thread as over a year has passed since the original post.

Paul - thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it. I always thought that mixing was one of my weaker points but it's good to know I've managed to fool someone into thinking otherwise! May I also return my best wishes to you and your family. Would be great to hear some of your work too.

Mike - thank you for your response too. I always hear mixed views about sending out unsolicited letters/emails (particularly the latter), with certain composers and other industry professionals saying there isn't much point as people are inundated with them. 

I haven't done much reaching out or networking for some time, but I have picked up some other projects. For example I am now working on music for a web series, as well as a couple of short films. I have also been scoring existing adverts and uploading them on my website in a bid to try and get a mock advert showreel together. Music for advertising is the main area I am aiming for at the moment, and I have pitched for commissions before but to no avail. Would anyone have any good tips on chasing down advert music commissions? I subscribed to CueSheet for 3 months as there was an offer, but the leads that come through are mainly looking for songs as opposed to bespoke scores.

The main lesson I have learned is just how long it takes to even have a chance of succeeding as a media composer. I am also conscious of the fact that I have no real formal music education besides my degree in music production, and I feel that I would need to go back and study or my compositions/arrangement/productions will only reach a certain level of complexity. 

Feel free to add any more comments below!

Thanks

James

James,

I did a lot of advertising music. I became associated with certain  jingle houses at different times as they were (are) the first port of call for an advertising agency. There are some good companies like Amber, Human and Finger, all of whom I have worked for. It may well be worth just ringing them and others up and ask what you could do to get their interest, or offer a free demo or two just to break in.

I take the point about music producers being inundated because they are, but it should not stop you sending  producers links to your site along with a nice email. You might also want to try ringing up producers in ad agencies and independant production companies to offer your services, or see if they wouldn't mind if you used work of theirs to practice composing to. You could always then send them what you did along with a 'thanks for letting me' type letter, and asking if anybody would care to give you a little feedback.

Many directors in advertising have their own production companies (think Ridley Scott!) and finding out who and where they are would be very beneficial, especially as there is often more than one director employed in these companies. Offering try-outs free of charge initially at a production house could open up several avenues - one could even offer to be a house composer!!! I did this in my early years and although I was salaried and copyright was trampled over completely, I did meet and work with a lot of big names.

I see you are re-composing to existing ads, be careful with that because some agencies might not allow you to do that without permission, just a cautionary note. Remember to always find out who the producers are, they are the people who can give you the most work.

mikehewer.com

In case it's of interest, here's a very general article I saw:

https://audioskills.com/post/4938/

And why not take a quick look at these:

https://shootonline.com/column/future-advertising-music-royalties 

https://stockmusic.net/blog/should-you-license-your-music/

Hi Mike,

Thank you for the pointers there, I will be sure to track down those and other companies. Offering to do a free demo sounds like it could be a good way of getting their interest at least initially. I've been in touch with music supervision companies before who sometimes ask what your demo fee is quite early on, so I'll be definitely trying that.

I forgot to mention that a friend of mine now works at Big Synch, however it's quite difficult to for him to throw much work my way at this point. It appears that they have a big demand for international music and therefore composers who are from Turkey or South America for example are more likely to get the gig if it requires music in those styles, vs someone like me who would merely be a visitor trying to imitate them. 

I will start to get in touch with producers more now. I had put this on the back burner slightly since I was working on these other projects and have limited time lately with work etc. But again it sounds like a good idea to ask to practice on some of their work and possibly get their feedback if they were in a charitable mood. 

Is there a good resource to tracking down some of these production companies? For example I know there is Broadcast Magazine in the UK which I think provides a directory of various contacts in media productions. At this point I would certainly be happy to work for a salary just to get on the ladder! 

I suppose no one has found me out yet! It's a bit of a "fake it 'til you make it" sort of scenario. Going forward I will see if I can get someone to grant me permission when doing that sort of exercise

Thanks for these Manfred, I'll definitely have a look at them. It's reminded me of a good series on SOS that's been running lately about music libraries too

Manfred Goop said:

In case it's of interest, here's a very general article I saw:

https://audioskills.com/post/4938/

And why not take a quick look at these:

https://shootonline.com/column/future-advertising-music-royalties 

https://stockmusic.net/blog/should-you-license-your-music/

James,

Don't be too hasty to offer services for free though. If you get an offer from a music house, ask how much they pay for demos first, then take it from there. Only offer a free demo if there is no chance of a fee or no interest from them and then make sure they know that you would normally expect to be paid for your services.

Try not to give off an air of desperation, but it is a fine line and you will have to develop an instinct for what to do in a given situation. 

Music houses seem to offer around £100 these days for a demo, (in advertising) with a 50/50 split on royalties, but don't take that as a given. Make sure you get a price if the job goes to final a successful outcome to the job and if musicians are going to be used, it is well to find out how many players you can write for.

A contract may well include a buy-out which will preclude future monies to you from re-licensing, however you should clarify the sort of deal in detail before you take the job on. You may also be expected to do cut-downs too and revisions for that money, so make sure what is expected of you is up front. Sometimes there can be many revisions and asking for more money half way through the process might be an option too, but again, every job is different and sadly, there is not much respect from agencies for composers so you may have to just see it through. If revisions are coming thick and fast, another way to try and get some recompense if the job goes away from you is to ask for a cancellation fee. This fee is negotiable, but do not expect too much.

From personal experience so far, connections are quite important.  The area of composition that I work in (mostly pieces intended for the concert stage) is slightly different, and knowing players is also very important for this area.  But connections are important for both of these fields of composition, from what I can tell.  This goes beyond just showing up to networking events– get to know people on a more personal level, meet them for coffee, etc.  

Having recordings is also important too, and whether or not those recordings are live depends on how you do things I suppose.  

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