What's new

Film scoring as a prospective career

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
Lol, I'd also add wearing out patience, goodwill and tolerance within media work.
Was it Newman who also had big bonfire parties after he'd done a film score? The bonfire was for the ritual burning of the score. If it wasn't him, then it was someone, either way, how's that for a disparaging attitude to the art of scoring, or, is it the best way to be, not believing the hype etc.
That's an interesting story, Mike...but I've loved the Golden age of scoring most of my life and never heard that (it could be true, of course). Newman was deservedly proud of such works as Song of Bernadette, The Robe (I mean, the guy won 9 Oscars, and it wasn't for doing something he hated doing). I can't imagine him burning those, or any of his, scores (especially since back then, when there was mostly only carbon paper copying). Why would he burn a score, especially when carbon copying was such a messy (ultimately frustrating) pain in zee derriere? No, this sounds like pure Hollywood Rumour.

The only peccadillo I've read about this Movie Music Giant is that he (like Bernard) wanted to be a conductor, not composer. In fact, he'd get pretty bummed out whenever the studio assigned someone else to conduct a score he liked.
 

mikeh-375

old school
Fair enough. I'll see if I can find that tale, I'm sure I read it in a book I have. Wow 9 oscars, I didn't know that, what a superb achievement.
Did you read about the Gone with the Wind prank played on Steiner? 2 other composers 'borrowed' the score, secretly recorded it with the resident band and somehow had it played on the radio whilst the 3 of them where playing cards. Steiner had been bragging about his wonderful theme to them and went white when he heard it, especially after the other 2 said it was such a popular tune that had been playing for a while...those crazy kids. Apologies to the OP for the divergence.
 

kmaster

Now in LA: let's get coffee!
Once you disabuse yourself of the notion that the music industry, particularly the film music industry, is a competition, you'll already be halfway there.

In other words - this is not a meritocracy, it's a nepotic jungle.

If you want to succeed (or even just survive) put yourself in situations where you can know and - much more importantly - be known.

You may hear "It's not what you know, it's who you know." This is false. As my old music business professor used to say: "It's not who you know, it's who knows you."

It's good that you're thinking of this when you are. What's the next step?
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
Fair enough. I'll see if I can find that tale, I'm sure I read it in a book I have. Wow 9 oscars, I didn't know that, what a superb achievement.
Did you read about the Gone with the Wind prank played on Steiner? 2 other composers 'borrowed' the score, secretly recorded it with the resident band and somehow had it played on the radio whilst the 3 of them where playing cards. Steiner had been bragging about his wonderful theme to them and went white when he heard it, especially after the other 2 said it was such a popular tune that had been playing for a while...those crazy kids. Apologies to the OP for the divergence.
You know Mike I was thinking about that burning anecdote and that actually doesn't sound farfetched to me now. Alfred obviously wasn't a fan of composing in general, so (even if in roughest copy effigy) that makes the idea both believable and really cool (or hot in this case get it, burn hot BWA! ….


sorry I'm so corny!)
 
OP
S

sIR dORT

Active Member
I'll add some thoughts from my experience as a pro writing for media...it's fucking hard work and not without stress on family and persona. If you are serious, you will have no choice but to develop a thick skin, a belief in yourself and an ability to work fast and to a high standard. As in life, there are no guarantees whatsoever, but you can help yourself by also developing good networking skills (mine sucked, but I had a good agent).
Of prime importance is to learn your craft, preferably with theory, but if you do it as a youtube student, you'd better be good in order to get your head above the digital sea and not drown.
Oh, you'll also need to be able deflect your partners ire as you cancel yet another meal, cinema, party,theatre, dinner with friends, weekend plans, sex, (well make a special effort for that one:shocked:)
Interesting about the digital stuff. I would love to learn the theory too, but the digital is the most accessible right now. And with the things that I would have to skip to get ahead, that's crossed my mind. One of the harder parts of paving your way in an industry.
 

Beluga

Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean
Being a professional musician is not a good field to make sure to be able to sustain a family from the mid twenties on.

It really is not.

Couldn't be much worse. Sorry.

It is a field that has a lot of uncertainty. Like a lot. Things you can't control, things that work against you. And even if, say, you'd have a good chance to achieve this stability today, which you don't, there is no guarantee, none at all, it will still be this way in 10 years.

OK, fine. The best way to go for financial stability is probably teaching. But let's have a look at scoring anyway:

First of all, there is luck. Independently of how talented you are and what effort you put into your career, you will need a lot of good luck. You need to be there, the right moment, the right place, the right way. You arrive an hour later, it may be too late. You arrive a week before, it may be too early. There is no way you can control this. Your career will depend highly on this random luck factor.

Secondly, even if things work out, you have no guarantee they continue to do so. Have that talented uprising director you work with? Life is good, the income is streaming in? There are a thousand reasons for this to not last. Unfortunately. You have no security of employment whatsoever. You might even find yourself in a position to sustain your family in your mid twenties from music composition alone just to realize you can't do so any more in your mid-thirties.

And beware..

..there are wolves out there ready to devour you. Ready to rip you apart to take your place or more often to give your place to someone closer to them than you are. It's ferocious, it's deadly, it's unforgiving. These people will work against you, night and day, 7 days a week. But there is a slight chance you might still win against them. What you can't win against is the system crushing the composer slowly and draining every last little drop of blood out of him. Understand PROs (performance rights organisations), collecting money on behalf of the composer but not distributing it fairly. Music libraries that throw hundreds of thousands of music tracks on the market and undercut everyone out there, producers that do not accept satisfying music budgets and always find that guy who wants to start out and work for free. Middlemen that will give you peanuts from the budget they collect from your music and throw you to the garbage afterwards. Other composers and sound guys that will rip you off and copy your music you have produced for them to avoid paying you anything. Anyway, the music system is rotten to the core and trying to survive in there is tough.

Don't say I didn't warn you. :)

On the bright side, don't worry too much about earning more than your wife. A penniless musician is still more romantic than a banker. :)

Of course with luck, determination and talent you can still make it, but what I am trying to say is that there is no guarantee whatsoever that this will work out by your mid twenties.

Good luck to you anyway!
 
OP
S

sIR dORT

Active Member
Being a professional musician is not a good field to make sure to be able to sustain a family from the mid twenties on.

It really is not.

Couldn't be much worse. Sorry.

It is a field that has a lot of uncertainty. Like a lot. Things you can't control, things that work against you. And even if, say, you'd have a good chance to achieve this stability today, which you don't, there is no guarantee, none at all, it will still be this way in 10 years.

OK, fine. The best way to go for financial stability is probably teaching. But let's have a look at scoring anyway:

First of all, there is luck. Independently of how talented you are and what effort you put into your career, you will need a lot of good luck. You need to be there, the right moment, the right place, the right way. You arrive an hour later, it may be too late. You arrive a week before, it may be too early. There is no way you can control this. Your career will depend highly on this random luck factor.

Secondly, even if things work out, you have no guarantee they continue to do so. Have that talented uprising director you work with? Life is good, the income is streaming in? There are a thousand reasons for this to not last. Unfortunately. You have no security of employment whatsoever. You might even find yourself in a position to sustain your family in your mid twenties from music composition alone just to realize you can't do so any more in your mid-thirties.

And beware..

..there are wolves out there ready to devour you. Ready to rip you apart to take your place or more often to give your place to someone closer to them than you are. It's ferocious, it's deadly, it's unforgiving. These people will work against you, night and day, 7 days a week. But there is a slight chance you might still win against them. What you can't win against is the system crushing the composer slowly and draining every last little drop of blood out of him. Understand PROs (performance rights organisations), collecting money on behalf of the composer but not distributing it fairly. Music libraries that throw hundreds of thousands of music tracks on the market and undercut everyone out there, producers that do not accept satisfying music budgets and always find that guy who wants to start out and work for free. Middlemen that will give you peanuts from the budget they collect from your music and throw you to the garbage afterwards. Other composers and sound guys that will rip you off and copy your music you have produced for them to avoid paying you anything. Anyway, the music system is rotten to the core and trying to survive in there is tough.

Don't say I didn't warn you. :)

On the bright side, don't worry too much about earning more than your wife. A penniless musician is still more romantic than a banker. :)

Of course with luck, determination and talent you can still make it, but what I am trying to say is that there is no guarantee whatsoever that this will work out by your mid twenties.

Good luck to you anyway!
I'd rather you be honest then sugarcoat it. Thanks for the insight. Any thoughts about connections? I'm guessing most composers are smart enough to realize that you probably need a connection to get going, so if I have some, let's say, does that not necessarily help my case a ton?
 

Beluga

Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean
I'd rather you be honest then sugarcoat it. Thanks for the insight. Any thoughts about connections? I'm guessing most composers are smart enough to realize that you probably need a connection to get going, so if I have some, let's say, does that not necessarily help my case a ton?
Well, yes, connections are about the only thing that gets you going. Without connections you can't do anything. If you don't have any you have to make them. The best situation unfortunately is the other way around: have the connection first and then try to figure out how to write music. :D I honestly think it's easier this way. Many people will rather work with a personal friend or a family member who does not know what midi is than to give anyone else a chance.

But what I wanted to say is that even if you manage to get work and deliver, it's still very hard to get by on the long run.

I think, you personally should ask yourself what is more important to you, financial stability or scoring. If it's stability maybe consider teaching music if you'd rather be dead than not to be a composer than go for the scoring job. :)
 
OP
S

sIR dORT

Active Member
Well, yes, connections are about the only thing that gets you going. Without connections you can't do anything. If you don't have any you have to make them. The best situation unfortunately is the other way around: have the connection first and then try to figure out how to write music. :D I honestly think it's easier this way. Many people will rather work with a personal friend or a family member who does not know what midi is than to give anyone else a chance.

But what I wanted to say is that even if you manage to get work and deliver, it's still very hard to get by on the long run.

I think, you personally should ask yourself what is more important to you, financial stability or scoring. If it's stability maybe consider teaching music if you'd rather be dead than not to be a composer than go for the scoring job. :)
That's the hard part. I have time to see tho, which is nice, and already a few potential connections (1 actual one). Why can't music just be easier to break into XD (a question that's probably been asked countless times)
 

Beluga

Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean
That's the hard part. I have time to see tho, which is nice, and already a few potential connections (1 actual one). Why can't music just be easier to break into XD (a question that's probably been asked countless times)
Well, good luck to you!
 

GtrString

Active Member
If you are pre-family and pre-career, you have nothing to lose. At your age you are able to take the biggest risks without taking a hit for it. Now is the time to pursue your wildest dreams.

Just follow your passion, and everything will fall into place. You may succeed, and regret. You may fail, and not regret. Anything can happen, and no matter what, if you follow your passion with a passion, you will end up the right place for you. Its a shoot for Mars and hit the Moon type of path.

If you don’t do that, you will never feel right, and become a bald, fat nervous wreck from creative tension. Eventually, the dark side will eat you alive.

Passion is an unbeatable human driving force, that can guide you safely through life. Lose it and you’ll have no fuc*ing beacon to show you the right way.

Stop reflecting yourself into passive paralysis, go for it. NOW!
 
Last edited:

prodigalson

Senior Member
There's a lot of great advice here that I would only be belabouring if I were to give my actual opinions.

One thing I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned enough is to forget this idea that you HAVE to support your wife and that you absolutely have to be earning more than her in order to be considered a match. That is such old-fashioned sexist nonsense its actually difficult for me to even type.

If you are lucky enough to meet someone you want to (and should) marry in your 20's and she wants to marry you, she will do it regardless of whether or not you make more than her and you guys will figure it out. Of course, it's unlikely someone will want to marry you if you are a waste of space, on unemployment (and not willing to work) and just play video games all day but ambition, passion and talent is more attractive than how much money is coming in when you meet.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
There is quite an assembly here of good advice and zany stuff. Not that the zany stuff is all wrong either.

At the moment, most "big" movies are scored by what -- a dozen composers? two dozen? And every one of those people arrived in that seat via a different route.

Conclusion: there is no path. And really, for major movies, no obvious means of getting on the A list, no matter what your demo reel sounds like. With budgets at $200 million and up, why would any sane person risk a picture on a newcomer?

What Should You Do?

If my son were to want to write music I think I would steer him toward games and "other." They have plenty of money to hire players and the working conditions are far more endurable. Still a lot of stress, but endurable. Besides, the gaming community, though certainly susceptible to big names from the movie side, still hire guys with something unusual to say, musically.

I sympathise with wanting to be "just like big-name-composer..." but it's tough. Los Angeles may be the best place to be but arriving here with little money and minimal/no credits (by which I mean no studio films and no network television and no substitute, like a hit indie film score) seems like a pretty terrible prospect.

Also worth asking yourself whether you actually have anything that differentiates you from everybody else.
 

Parsifal666

I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.
There is quite an assembly here of good advice and zany stuff. Not that the zany stuff is all wrong either.

At the moment, most "big" movies are scored by what -- a dozen composers? two dozen? And every one of those people arrived in that seat via a different route.

Conclusion: there is no path. And really, for major movies, no obvious means of getting on the A list, no matter what your demo reel sounds like. With budgets at $200 million and up, why would any sane person risk a picture on a newcomer?

What Should You Do?

If my son were to want to write music I think I would steer him toward games and "other." They have plenty of money to hire players and the working conditions are far more endurable. Still a lot of stress, but endurable. Besides, the gaming community, though certainly susceptible to big names from the movie side, still hire guys with something unusual to say, musically.

I sympathise with wanting to be "just like big-name-composer..." but it's tough. Los Angeles may be the best place to be but arriving here with little money and minimal/no credits (by which I mean no studio films and no network television and no substitute, like a hit indie film score) seems like a pretty terrible prospect.

Also worth asking yourself whether you actually have anything that differentiates you from everybody else.
Great post, John.
 

douggibson

Active Member
If being financially comfortable and having a family is equally important to you as film score
(say it's 50/50)

I would advise (that has not been said already) the following.

Today, set up an account to buy some stock and have regular (say $100 month) automatic deductions for this. Don't touch it for the next 15 + years. Just keep up the investments. This is not a scheme I am advocating. The only sure fire "secret" get rich advice I have ever come across that is legit: COMPOUND INTEREST. Time is on your side.

Next take a class, or contact this great organization called SCORE (apart of the SBA) and get some entrepreneur chops.

Finally, learn computer coding.

My point for this is:

The music industry changes fast. The old saying of "The best way to predict the future is to invent it" has wisdom to it.

Studying entrepreneurship means you will learn to focus on what others (aka " the market') want and finding the fit between your passion and their need while monetizing it.

People will pay lots of money if you can develop software - or other tech - that solves a problem.
Or alternatively if you are able to fix problems. People pay more, and faster when they are in pain.
(ie. "my pro-tools rig is fucked. Come fix it now!)

Scoring film is a "service provider". People who have products earn more because it is not dependent on their time. Focus like a laser on "Residual income"

You might find this end up being two yards away from your goal you posted about, but you might also find your creativity is satisfied with this, and the life balance of having a family etc.

Lastly even if this path all turns to shit, you are in good shape. Saving now, (regularly) becoming a coding wizard, and understanding how business work are going to give plenty of transferable skills.

You're welcome. I just gave you gold.

Ok....... so now can I smoke weed and watch porn ?
 

charlieclouser

Senior Member
I never had a car that cost more than $1,500 or paid more than $1,000 a month in rent until I was in my mid-thirties.

It can be a slow ride to the comfort zone, even when everything works out in your favor.

Or, in the immortal words of the late Bon Scott of AC/DC, who put it much more eloquently and succinctly:

"It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll."
 
Last edited:

kmaster

Now in LA: let's get coffee!
I never had a car that cost more than $1,500 or paid more than $1,000 a month in rent until I was in my mid-thirties.
That’s about $2350 in auto and $1600 in rent in today’s money. Even so, both a little more difficult these days since real estate (and rent) has been skyrocketing and Cash for Clunkers ate away the bulk of the used cars in that price category.
 

ghostnote

Vincit qui se vincit.
Rule Nr. 1: Everytime somebody says things like "Listen to your Heart!", "Do what YOU want!" or "Your music is good, you'll make it!" - Ignore it. Seriously, this forum is full of people who want to hear what they want to hear and they'll give every post a like that has this blind energy behind it. Also: Don't listen to people who will say you'll never make it. The truth lies somewhere in between and the only one who can decide if you are good enough is you, only you.

Truth is also that you'll most likely need a Plan B. Even if it works out to get some jobs during your career, there might be months where you have to eat ramen and if you have a family, then they'll have to go trough this, too. Think about it this way: How many Dentists do you know who play guitar?

The big point here is to know your own skills. Only 10% of people living on this earth are aware of themselves. Beeing emotional intelligent enough to see where other fail and where and why they can succeed. Even if you are one of those 10% (which I can't know) then you still have to figure out your way trough this mess. This needs a load of personality and skillsets, like charisma, high rate of adaptiveness, beeing highly competitive, which not every person can combine.

Get yourselve a mirror and ask yourself: Can I do this? Because you won't if you just think you are good. Maybe you're good indeed, but this won't bring you into the place where you can make a decent living out of it.
 
Top Bottom