To sum it up, I've been trying to work for music licensing and video game companies in Toronto, Canada.  Some of the licensing companies do amazing shows and big brand name commercials, and the video game companies range from small to multi-national.  No dice.  Not one single one is hiring for a composer.

I've got a music degree and demo reels of orchestrated, ambient, jingle, etc.  I know music is traditionally a difficult career but with so much music out there in media, I can't imagine the big media companies are saying at their meetings "so does anyone have a cousin or informally know of any musician personally who can compose for our 400th commercial?"  No, I would assume they would look for an established studio with credentials like any other service or consultant they need to procure. 

So am I in the dark here or is this a very coveted field?

Thanks!

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  • Media composing is quiet difficult because of the fact that companies in their meetings do go "so does anyone have a cousin or informally know of any musician personally who can compose for our 400th commercial?"

    Media composing is the one field that you dont need a degree or training to make it big in because the people who hire you usually dont know how to tell the difference between the two. An alumni from my school who is writing music for TV and movies now told us he how he lost a job to some self-taught guitarist who had 'pizazz.' The music world is a difficult world to understand if you are not a part of it, and directors, producers, and studios for video games know little to nothing about it. All the credentials in the world will barely make any sort of an impression on a group of people who dont know the difference between a violin and a tuba.  

    One also has to remember video game companies dont have hire composers as part of their regular staff, they contract them for a very short amount of time. And for commercials, most of the time they dont hire composers at all, they just buy canned music from music libraries, or pull the music from the video game itself. 

    On top of all that, the media composer world is a very VERY tight nit community that retains most of the jobs out their. This community is based on referrals and past experience, hence why you see the same names coming up in the credits for a lot of things. Companies and producers are more inclined to hire composers who have done work for them in the past than hire a untested composer. You see this a lot in film with the major directors and I am seeing it happen more in video games now. 

    Your best shot is to not go for the MAJOR companies but instead go indie. Iphone games need music too and many of them are produced by startup companies trying to get their foot in the door. The more small work you can do, the more tested you look and the more reliable you appear to be. Companies want to know that you can do industry work at the pace they work at. Demo reels just show that you can write, they dont show that you can meet deadlines and produce quality work within parameters given. Doing a lot of little things and do them very well, get references from other industry people, and your chances of getting that big video game or media job will increase. 

  • Wow thanks Tyler!  That was comprehensive.  Well I guess I shouldn't have underestimated the inconsistency of the music biz and the role networking still plays today. 

    In my province I applied to every video game company (including what looked like small or app based companies) and still no response, or at best a nice email saying they're not looking right now but we'll keep you on file sort of thing.  So if I've exhausted the smaller guys (for now), what would be the next best way to get my foot in the door?  I would be open to doing stuff for indie film producers or video game students but I'd still like to be paid, albeit very modestly.  Is that a good route, if so how can you do it without a large network yet?

  • Unfortunately, people who marry for money usually wind up earning it. Of course the day job thing has its problems too.
     
    Raymond Kemp said:

    Marry for money, then follow your dream or ...........................get a day job
    How to work full time as a composer?
    To sum it up, I've been trying to work for music licensing and video game companies in Toronto, Canada.  Some of the licensing companies do amazing s…
  • For the money thing, find a day job with easy set hours (9-5) that don't require any after work, weekends, etc.  It may be mundane but at least you'll give yourself enough free time to do the music thing.

    Personally, in Ohio, USA, I researched and found 30+ indie game developers and small studios throughout the state.  I sent a short intro letter email, demos, and resume to all of them, and got multiple responses within the next day.  I'm working with two of them now.  It's a great place to start, at least has been for me!

  • Well Taylor spoke of media composer there are other pathways.  First off there is a viable income to be gained from TEACHING!  Composers will end up doing a collection of jobs. Here are a few routes to consider:

    Music Teacher (composition, theory, instrument) possible adjunct, Church Musician (part-time organist or "supply" organist), Concert music (and some media) composer.

    This path works best with a degree or artist diploma of some sort.  ideal for those who want to do a variety of things and find their composing comes in fit and starts or doesn't respond well to consistent deadlines.   The advantage is you are doing something in music as your "day job" and have some latitude to accept composer commissions.

    Media and Film Composer, Blogger, Teacher (film and media composition), Engraver/Arranger

    Taylor covered the bases and as one poster said with small outfits you can get work. Also participation in film and media music blogs is very important as you can comment and instruct online. This is a good way of getting private students while your focus is getting clients. The engraving/arranging work is a nice conjunction to this as some people just want pre-composed music to sound decent for an orchestra so here you are an arranger (using computer tech) or they need a score created for a live performance. Remember in this area you have to have some technical savvy with computer programs and enjoy working on the computer for long periods of time.  If you are a very physically active, extroverted person who is not into computers this might not be for you

    Teaching Artist/performer/Composer

    Teaching artist is a little different in that many schools want music instruction tied to core curriculum English, maths, science .. so there is a demand - albeit not large but there. They love performers as it shows they have experience working with audiences. Add in experience working with kids and you can earn some of your income as a teaching artist. performance would be another part along with composition commissions. This path will have greater variability unless you are flexible - a performer conversant with jazz, Broadway, and classical, and/or a few specialized ethnic musics (klezmer) will do far better than one who focuses solely on Baroque.  However, there are exceptions, for example in some cities there is enough work for period performance of Baroque and Classical works to earn a sizable amount of income along with teaching and touring.  

    One thing I have learned is musicians continually sell themselves short doing too many free or poorly paying gigs. I understand to try something out at first you do something gratis or at a low pay but a try out is not permanent.  Set a budget say to prepare a piece of music for someone - printing cost (paper, cartridges, binding research related to composition and score prep (proofing scores, researching instruments, musical styles, theoretical techniques), administrative (correspondence which includes figuring how best to deliver large files in preferable format, emails, invoices, keeping receipts for travel to meetings).   You will be surprised how many hours are spent to create, prepare, and get performed a 15 minute work just for 5 instruments with live players - a lot!   Think of the fact that media composers spend equal time creating realistic computer renditions of orchestral compositions and composing the work. Sometimes the rendition takes LONGER!    

    Finally, the 9-5 job outside music that does not make demands for overtime or excessive stress - well that is a bit optimistic when the work world in the US has becomes such that finding a full-time job can be a challenge - many employers prefer getting part-time people or temps.  I have done the 9 - 6 day job outside music and in the long-run it doesn't work.   Note - in the LONG-RUN, if you need such a gig for essentials then do it. But every few months set an exit strategy that will replace most of the income if you are sticking to the arts. If you find you loved the job no big deal, music is a great avocation and the nice thing is you can take a paid vacation week or a few days to complete an occasional composition commission. 

     

  • You should check out a site called Newgrounds. they have a forum of where developers post when they need musicians. There will be some random nothing projects, but you can find some real ones too. 

    Justin Hawley said:

    Wow thanks Tyler!  That was comprehensive.  Well I guess I shouldn't have underestimated the inconsistency of the music biz and the role networking still plays today. 

    In my province I applied to every video game company (including what looked like small or app based companies) and still no response, or at best a nice email saying they're not looking right now but we'll keep you on file sort of thing.  So if I've exhausted the smaller guys (for now), what would be the next best way to get my foot in the door?  I would be open to doing stuff for indie film producers or video game students but I'd still like to be paid, albeit very modestly.  Is that a good route, if so how can you do it without a large network yet?

    How to work full time as a composer?
    To sum it up, I've been trying to work for music licensing and video game companies in Toronto, Canada.  Some of the licensing companies do amazing s…
  • I play the live sound engineer slash composer card.  You can make rent mixing one good show. Yet to make a buck composing in my first year tho. But live sound in Toronto is likely another tough egg to crack.

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