Composers' Forum

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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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Hi Mike,

Working for free would not be high on my priority list, however if it meant that doing a free demo would glean some otherwise tricky to get interest, then I would do as you suggested. It seems a bit like when producers/directors ask "What are your rates?" for music and the response should be "What is your budget?". 

The £100 mark and 50/50 split seems to be what I've encountered so far with music supervision companies for example, although I have seen fees as low as £50 before. 

Great insight regarding buy-outs, revisions, cut downs and cancellation fees. Those are areas that I will try to watch out for if I manage to get to the next stage of pitching for an ad commission!

Mike Hewer said:

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.

Hi Lara,

Thank you for your input as well. I can imagine that your contacts book must be chock full of names of musicians! You're right, it seems important to develop a rapport with people you meet at these events. For example I've been in touch with a professional composer for adverts whom I met at a BASCA event early this year which resulted in me sitting in on a session at Abbey Road. A lot of it also seems to be down to meeting people that you are compatible with on a personality level.

I'd love to have some of my music fully orchestrated and recorded with live players. My only restrictions being budget, and to some extent location. Although I see there are remote orchestras in places like Prague who appear to be bookable by the session, playing your composition and sending you the audio recordings back. 

Lara Poe said:

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.  

Hi Lara,

Thank you for your input as well. I can imagine that your contacts book must be chock full of names of musicians! You're right, it seems important to develop a rapport with people you meet at these events.

Sure it is, and keeping in touch with them is important too.  A lot of them I've met from school– both Boston Uni (undergrad studies) and RCM (where I am now) have been really important for this, and they've offered me an environment where I can hang around other composers and instrumentalists.  This also goes with what you said about meeting people you are compatible with on a personality level– a lot of initial meetings with people were very informal, just sitting down in the canteen to chat or next to people in the library to work!

For example I've been in touch with a professional composer for adverts whom I met at a BASCA event early this year which resulted in me sitting in on a session at Abbey Road. 

That's really cool!

I'd love to have some of my music fully orchestrated and recorded with live players. My only restrictions being budget, and to some extent location. Although I see there are remote orchestras in places like Prague who appear to be bookable by the session, playing your composition and sending you the audio recordings back. 

Orchestras are tough.  I'm currently working on getting an orchestral piece of mine played, and trying to do some fundraising to make that happen since I don't have large sums of money sitting at my disposal.  The orchestra I've been in touch with said yes, if we can find the money...  However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try!  Also, smaller ensembles do tend to be easier and less expensive to get recorded and/or performed.  

If you can find small ensembles or individuals who really like what you do and want to perform your pieces (maybe even commissioning something), then it will definitely be more affordable.  When friends ask me to write a piece for them, they're not expecting me to be the one paying– if there's tickets being sold, that could pay for it, or they might apply for arts council money or other funding.  It depends on the situation.  I've had situations where I've been organising the event and paying everyone, and others where I've been paid to write the piece (usually in that case I'm not the organiser).  In either situation, smaller ensembles and individuals tend to be easier to organise than orchestras.  

Anyway, I suppose this is more relevant to someone trying to make their living from concerts and similar events, but hopefully this is still useful.  

It's good that you studied in an environment where there were other composers and instrumentalists. The music school I went to was doing popular music courses for band instruments, and I only went there initially because I wanted to be a drummer, but if I was to turn the clock back, I would not have gone there.

It's good to know that it's still possible to record smaller ensembles on a limited budget. I have not looked much into the figures, but some of these remote orchestras seem fairly reasonable.

Funnily enough I was contacted by a solo violin player who charged per minute/30sec, and recorded herself playing whatever you sent to her to blend into your VST orchestral mockup. I see there are a lot of these kinds of players/services about but that is of course only one component. There are no major music schools where I live however I'm sure there would be ensembles I could get in touch with and see if something could be organised. In terms of your upcoming piece, would you be recording it? And if so, would you be hiring someone in to engineer as well? That of course would be an extra expense. 

Lara Poe said:

Hi Lara,

Thank you for your input as well. I can imagine that your contacts book must be chock full of names of musicians! You're right, it seems important to develop a rapport with people you meet at these events.

Sure it is, and keeping in touch with them is important too.  A lot of them I've met from school– both Boston Uni (undergrad studies) and RCM (where I am now) have been really important for this, and they've offered me an environment where I can hang around other composers and instrumentalists.  This also goes with what you said about meeting people you are compatible with on a personality level– a lot of initial meetings with people were very informal, just sitting down in the canteen to chat or next to people in the library to work!

For example I've been in touch with a professional composer for adverts whom I met at a BASCA event early this year which resulted in me sitting in on a session at Abbey Road. 

That's really cool!

I'd love to have some of my music fully orchestrated and recorded with live players. My only restrictions being budget, and to some extent location. Although I see there are remote orchestras in places like Prague who appear to be bookable by the session, playing your composition and sending you the audio recordings back. 

Orchestras are tough.  I'm currently working on getting an orchestral piece of mine played, and trying to do some fundraising to make that happen since I don't have large sums of money sitting at my disposal.  The orchestra I've been in touch with said yes, if we can find the money...  However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try!  Also, smaller ensembles do tend to be easier and less expensive to get recorded and/or performed.  

If you can find small ensembles or individuals who really like what you do and want to perform your pieces (maybe even commissioning something), then it will definitely be more affordable.  When friends ask me to write a piece for them, they're not expecting me to be the one paying– if there's tickets being sold, that could pay for it, or they might apply for arts council money or other funding.  It depends on the situation.  I've had situations where I've been organising the event and paying everyone, and others where I've been paid to write the piece (usually in that case I'm not the organiser).  In either situation, smaller ensembles and individuals tend to be easier to organise than orchestras.  

Anyway, I suppose this is more relevant to someone trying to make their living from concerts and similar events, but hopefully this is still useful.  

Hi James - just seeing this thread for the first time.   How has the past year and a half or so fared for you?  Any thoughts on what worked to further your career and what didn't really pan out?  The website looks great, and it looks like you've gotten some pretty decent work, so CONGRATULATIONS on that!

haha - whoops - you already did give us an update....

Indeed, John Powell said he "didn't make any money" until he was 30 and had to "find a woman with a car and apartment". I suppose that's one avenue I haven't explored yet...

Were you born into money or did you marry someone who had a lot of it? 


Ray K Bigglesworth said:

I’ve been quietly following the mail here and notice an omission in the list of ways towards being a full time pro composer.

Missing, is the most basic ‘foot on the ladder’ option. Either, be born into money or marry someone who has a lot of it.

Some may scoff by thinking this is a tongue in cheek aside but believe me, it works for many. By the way, I do not necessarily mean folks are getting work they shouldn’t, I’m just living in and observing the real big bad world.

Hi Charles,

As I wouldn't want to bore everyone with my limited supply of anecdotes, I will send you a PM. Would be good to hear about your experience too thus far!

Charles Burns said:

Hi James - just seeing this thread for the first time.   How has the past year and a half or so fared for you?  Any thoughts on what worked to further your career and what didn't really pan out?  The website looks great, and it looks like you've gotten some pretty decent work, so CONGRATULATIONS on that!

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