Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

As many of us know, its really tough out there for a composer. The idea of a stable job is fleeting at best, and most will have to look towards an outside line of work to supplement the lack of financial stability. But do we truly know how hard it is out there?

How prepared do you feel you are to make it as a composer? 

The following article expands upon just how hard the prospects of making composing a form of income is. It also offers a new way of thinking that may help in some small way:

http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/Composing-a-Life-Or-How-I-Learn...

Respond to the article: do you feel he over simplifies a complex issue or did you learn anything new about this topic?

And what about you, How will you (or how did you) face this situation?

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Excellent article, Tyler. From my perspective, he pretty much hits the nail on the head.
There is a difference in my experience as a composition student than he describes, though. The head of the my university's composition department warned us before we became comp majors of the difficulty of ever making a living at it! A few students did go on to further their degrees for their master's and PhD. At best, a master's might provide a part-time adjunct faculty position teaching music theory lab one at one of the colleges.
Right now, the "traditional" means of making a living as a "classical" composer or musician is dreary. The old model isn't thriving in today's world. Many of these musicians and composers are seeking outlets in jazz or alternative music. The economic problems of being profitable in any music venue or genre still remain.


A shift in values and appreciation of the importance of creating music has to take place in our culture before being a musician/composer is economically viable.  I do think this is will happen (it has to), and it will be an economically painful process for the artists for many more years (decades). Right now we are desperately in need of arts leadership and advocacy, something artists have a tendency to avoid.


Since graduating with my BM in composition two years ago, I’ve been considering The Next Step. The most I can expect from composing music is developing a good reputation and respect amongst my peers, and perhaps winning a few competitions and commissions. I shall keep moving in this direction, but it will not contribute much to paying off my student loans. I’m looking at ways I can have the greatest impact while still making a living. I don’t believe adding more music degrees will serve any purpose other than to increase my debt. I am seriously considering enrolling for a master’s in arts administration/managment/advocacy. I would like to help create the space for music creation, and the path toward cultural appreciation of same.

Janet Spangenberg said:

A shift in values and appreciation of the importance of creating music has to take place in our culture before being a musician/composer is economically viable.  I do think this is will happen (it has to)


Why should it ever happen? New music isn't very useful, especially considering how much music there already is (which is, far too much to grasp even with a lifetime of research). I don't see any reason for future increase in appreciation of something that's largely unnecessary.

Greg, I didn't say anything about "new" music, I spoke of "creating music". Whether the music is created by musicians playing music composed by others (living or dead), or created by composing new music, arranging old music, etc., what is necessary is the literal activity of humans' creating music, not the music itself.

I believe even a MBA no longer guarantees a well paying job today. 

Even in good economic times music has always been a tough road to go and I'm sure it's much worse when money is tight and the future of the global economy is pretty up in the air with lots of turbulence ahead I'm afraid. I do hope I'm wrong. 

If it's about the journey then it can be worth pursuing, student loans aside. Life is short and if you didn't at least give it a shot you might always regret not taking that chance you had because you believed in your talent and yourself. Plan B will always be there. You'll just have to maybe work a little harder and have fewer toys when you leave the planet. 

Reading this made me think: "I can't just make a living off of composing. I have to do something on the side at least and make music a hobby." I may become a history major or something.

I wouldn't go as far as giving up composing as a career all together. I feel the article is really ment to make you aware of the situation so you can plan accordingly. The biggest reasons someone fails at a career choice is due impart for not having a plan b or at least being prepared for how hard one has to work. This is true in any field but more so in music. You have to realize that it is a possibility that you will have to do something that complements composing or allows you to compose and utilizes your music skills. You don't have to completely give up the idea of a music career but be prepared to alter your plans in a non traditional way.

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