How many of you guys are not media composers?

Cerb-r-us

New Member
For a while I've thought about becoming one, until I realized that I am far too slow to meet the '1 hour per minute of music' figure I've heard. So for now I've decided to just write standalone music using virtual instruments. This allows me to make music at my pace and grants me much greater creative freedom than I would have under the thumb of a director or production library curator.

Did anyone else make a similar decision? If so, what has been your experience and what music do you make?

Do you see more and more people making this decision? Will this result in neo/contemporary classical gaining its own small-yet-dedicated musical following (like math rock and bedroom pop)?
 

wst3

my office these days
Moderator
I've gone back and forth between composing for media and other endeavors, the shifts were largely market driven.

When I started there was a decent demand for music for advertising (radio and TV, mostly local), and - believe it or not - corporate videos. There was also some demand for jingles, but that was already starting to fall by the wayside (I really miss radio station jingles).

As I was just starting to become established (or ceasing to need to beg for work) the marketplace dried up.This was the mid 1980s, and radio stations started using hit music almost exclusively for advertising. The benefits were two-fold - the advertiser didn't pay for it (the legality of which is dubious at best) and the radio station maintained continuity or flow. That was always a part of the challenge for composers. The good news was that (while it lasted) I was often asked to arrange a track for different stations.

So I hung up my composers hat and focused on recording, mostly working with new artists (just doesn't get much better than that - when it works!)

It was a challenging time across the board. I had established a bit of a reputation for studio maintenance, but the advent of the ADAT, the Mackie 1604, etc meant that studios no longer needed (nor could they afford) maintenance. A few of my clients stuck around, but they were competing with rooms charging $15 to maybe $30 per hour, and their own rates were north of $100/hour. So that was another business that bit the dust.

I hope that does not come across as whining - I'm not even complaining really - I had fun, I met a lot of cool people, I learned a ton, and one of the things I learned was that I am not a great salesman or businessman. Which is OK, it is good to know where there is room for improvement<G>!

There was a brief period where local film makers were clamoring for original, bespoke music. That was maybe 15-20 years ago. I had just gotten married, so I wasn't paying as much attention as I might have. Missed that one...

These days I write primarily for local theatres. I love theatre, and I really enjoy the challenge of writing underscores and scene change music, as well as the occasional character theme. (Actually, I write a lot of those, they just don't get used as often!)

Some of these are paying gigs, there is one community theatre that I've been working with for a long time, and I remain a volunteer there - except when I play in the pit or act as music director. I fought paying anyone for a long time, I felt that if we were going to be a volunteer organization that it should apply to all. And once upon a time that was easy, there were 2 or 3 players auditioning for every slot.

Those days are gone. I had to put together two cellos, a bass, a piano, and a guitar for a show a couple years ago. We could find no one that would commit. The board decided to offer a stipend (I was on the board at the time and voted against it). Even that was not enough to fill the pit right away, but we did finally locate some very talented folks. Probably the easiest MD gig I've ever had.

Anyway, when the show closed the board president was handing out the checks and he handed me one. I wasn't sure quite what to do. One of the cello players suggested that they would all feel bad if I did not accept the stipend. I don't know if they would have felt bad enough to return the checks, but I did not want to add any more drama, so I accepted it. I think it took me 3 months to cash it, but eventually I did.

If I were 20 something I think I might make a full court press on a career composing for media. It is fun, it can be rewarding, and there is certainly significant demand, even if much of it leans towards library music.

At my current stage in life I no longer wish to make that effort. I have kids to raise, and that is rewarding too. I'm also a single parent now, so that makes a bit of a difference. If I reach the point where income no longer covers new toys I'll stop buying new toys, but I may also hang up the hat again. Or not???

I would never discourage anyone from trying. I think you need to try, if it is something that appeals to you. I'm glad I did, and I have no regrets about the way things turned out.
 

Greg

Senior Member
I started out doing library music mostly for trailers but have slowly burned out over the years and have been putting all my marbles into public albums and Youtube. I love working on trailers but the clients have gotten used to composers doing anything they want for free, by the next morning at the latest. Plus the cattle call custom requests have gotten more and more bold and demanding lately. I don't think there's anything wrong with working for free, but it makes no sense for me as I can hopefully exploit my own music for a lot more income over time vs the one large synch fee.

My goal now is to keep writing whatever pops into my head and use the free time to improve more as a composer. Film scoring will always be my passion but I would much rather try to come up with unique music that catches someones ear instead of networking, assisting, or demo-ing my way into the door.
 

EgM

Game music!
...until I realized that I am far too slow to meet the '1 hour per minute of music' figure I've heard
That's nonsense :rolleyes:

Anyone can compose a minute of music in one hour but:
-Is it actually good?
-How many tracks do you have to write? full orchestra? electronic dance music genre?
-Using loops or recording your tracks with a controller? live instrument with mics?
-Can you maintain that one hour/one minute composition in the long term?

All in all, I'd say ignore that at all costs. Continue composing for your own pleasure first and make yourself available to work on projects while only accepting projects with reasonable deadlines.
 
OP
C

Cerb-r-us

New Member
That's nonsense :rolleyes:

Anyone can compose a minute of music in one hour but:
-Is it actually good?
-How many tracks do you have to write? full orchestra? electronic dance music genre?
-Using loops or recording your tracks with a controller? live instrument with mics?
-Can you maintain that one hour/one minute composition in the long term?

All in all, I'd say ignore that at all costs. Continue composing for your own pleasure first and make yourself available to work on projects while only accepting projects with reasonable deadlines.
I myself have not actually taken a job/contract as a media composer, so my main resource for information on the business side of media composition are social media figures that I trust due to their credentials (Don Bodin, Geoff Manchester, Christian Henson). I also could have misheard the figure.

The main clients for entry-level composers are mobile game developers that want some audio window dressing. They don't really care about anything more than above-average quality. When you say "Anyone can compose a minute of music in one hour", this is what they are counting on.

Here is an example of an entry level job. Watch for 2 minutes.

Here is something I managed to write in 2 hours for another reference.

As for the number of tracks, the guy in the video had 2-3 iirc and I got away with 4. The key is repetitive backing parts. I can get away with that because this will never be played by an actual orchestra who would get very angry at such an arrangement.

The veteran composers in this thread that have never been told the 1 hour/min figure have most likely not taken many if any entry-level jobs in years. The clients they work with usually take their products more seriously and, thus, are usually more patient when it comes to waiting for contract work to be completed. Thus, the idea that they have never heard this figure and simultaneously have been in the industry for decades does not mean that the figure is not currently real.

Back when these veterans started, music composition workflow was much slower. They may even have had to rely on keyboards for their sounds rather than sample libraries. Now that the workflow has sped up, the amount of music that can be supplied in a given time has increased, and deadlines have adjusted accordingly.

Now if any composers who have done entry-level work in the past year tell me that my 1hour/min figure is wrong...that's a little different and I may have spread misinfo.
 

Henning

Member
You should not overthink this. Better get some hands-on experience and just do some media jobs. There's so many creative people when I look at the indie game sector for example. Just make your own experiences and then you can see if it is for you or not.
 

muk

Senior Member
It's a good decision in my opinion. Why not write what you enjoy writing, at your own speed? With library music it's possible. Stephen Rees is an inspiring example. He makes (made?) a good living with great library music. In this thread he wrote that he completes about 50 tracks a year:


That's about one track per week. This always sounded a lot more enjoyable and sustainable to me than writing 3 tracks per day, or whatever crazy amount of minutes of film music per day.

I am writing production music as well. I am only doing it part-time, and I have a dayjob that I like and that pays my bills. So my experience is limited. But I have found a library where I can develop a concept for an album that both the library and I like. And then I can write the tracks at my own pace.

I really enjoy working like that. And while I don't depend on these tracks to earn my living, they do get nice placements regularly.

So, rather than trying to change how you work and what you write - why not try to find a way to do what you like and then find an outlet for it?
 
Last edited:
OP
C

Cerb-r-us

New Member
It's a good decision in my opinion. Why not write what you enjoy writing, at your own speed? With library music it's possible. Stephen Rees is an inspiring example. He makes (made?) a good living with great library music. In this thread he wrote that he completes about 50 tracks a year:


That's about one track per week. This always sounded a lot more enjoyable and sustainable to me than writing 3 tracks per day, or whatever crazy amount of minutes of film music per day.

I am writing production music as well. I am only doing it part-time,and I have a dayjob that I like and that pays my bills. So my experience is limited. But I have found a library where I can develop a concept for an album that both the library and I like. And then I can write the tracks at my own pace.

I really enjoy working like that. And while I don't depend on these tracks to earn my living, they do get nice placements regularly.

So, rather than trying to change how you work and what you write - why not try to find a way to do what you like and then find an outlet for it?
Do you know the names of any of these 'flexible' production libraries?

And thanks for your reply.
 
  • Like
Reactions: muk

stefandy31

New Member
i really enjoy composing music because its fun and rewarding even without getting paid when i was in college(CS), and help my friend creating music for their project/games. sometimes i got a cheap commission 15-20$/minutes because my clients are college students. when i'm thinking becoming a full time composer, it's really impossible because unstable income and i'm still lack of experience of creating music.
today i'm graduated student and still unemployed and need a job for living. i hope i can still have free time for composing music even i have a job like programmer or something like that until i'm ready becoming a full time composer.
sorry english isn't my native languange
 

GtrString

Senior Member
I am a singer/songwriter by heart, secondly a guitarist and produce my own work from A-Z. I dabble in composing for media because I have a masters degree in communication, so it is a way to integrate my academic trade with my musical explorations.

I cant fathom doing it for a living, as there is no work in music. When I need work I say I do communication, not music, because otherwise people think its free. So communication is the work, music is the hobby. Sadly people are misguided in both fields.
 

muk

Senior Member
Do you know the names of any of these 'flexible' production libraries?

And thanks for your reply.
Hard to say. I haven't diversified enough to really tell. In my case, I got into one of the top tier libraries. And working with them has been a pleasure. We develop concepts that both sides like, and they are happy for me to work at my own pace.

Could be that I have been lucky. But I assume that with good libraries that is how it works. If you do a whole album for them, the timeframe and sort of music is negotiable. If you are contributing single tracks for one of their albums along with other composers, then the brief and the timeframe are rigid.
 

TomislavEP

Active Member
For the time being, I compose instrumental music mainly for my own purposes, but I hope to publish all my recorded works as albums in the future. I would also like to try myself in music for film and the media, possibly even library music, however judging from the posts of many composers here, this seems to be such a cutthroat and stressful business these days, with plenty of unfortunate side-effects which I strive to avoid in life. Still, I would like to leave my small mark in this area one day, if a good opportunity presents itself.

Other than composing, I try to support myself only with music for many years now, mainly by playing various gigs, studio collaborations, education, etc. Though I have formal education in completely different areas - law and IT field - I've never wanted to sacrifice music and my "freedom" for the sake of either, regardless of the uncertainties and difficulties which making ends meet through music often brings, at least for me.
 

Henu

Senior Member
Whoever thinks you are supposed to do 1 minute of music per hour is delusional. I’ve had moments where minutes of music came to me in my mind in seconds but that is not the same as making a finished track to picture over and over and over again day after day while having to meet major deadlines.
This should be printed on everyone's wall who is working in the industry, starting from producers to composers and back.
 
  • Like
Reactions: EgM

EgM

Game music!
Reasonable deadlines? I don’t think major films and tv productions ever have reasonable deadlines let alone reasonable work hours for composers.
We're all free to decide what project we want to get involved with though. Me personally, I decline what is unreasonable.

It's different for everyone, some people feel they *have* to get involved on crazy impossible projects, I value my sanity way more than money ;)
 

jononotbono

Luke Johnson
When I was writing for tv 📺 I had to write 42-44 minutes of original music spot to picture in 7 days week after week for a 22 episodic show on a major network. That means no days off, there is no such thing as a weekend, and welcome to the world of you are not allowed to sleep 😴 😱. I would never have been able to do this if I had kids. I was working 18-20 hour days 5-6 days a week and 1-2 all nighters each and every week. Nothing existed but this project for about a year including prep. There was never enough time in the day and because of the nature of the turn around time I had to create 6 minutes of finished original music a day to picture week after week. I never used prerecorded music or loops. It was exhausting, exhilarating, exciting, satisfying, engrossing, all-encompassing and incredibly productive. It got easier the more episodes I completed as I was able to build up more and more themes to go to for each character, location or dramatic moment. If they paid me more I could have hired people to help but I had to do everything on my own (spotting, composing, orchestrating, arranging, performing, recording, programming, editing, mixing, mastering, syncing, converting, and delivery). As time passed the deadlines started to get easier as I had sometimes 14 days to create a finished 42-44 minutes original score to picture. But all that meant was I had more time to perfect 👌 my work for each episode as I still never took one day off till the show ended. I cannot fathom anyone in any profession working more hours than I did ever in the history of the world. If I could have gotten hired to work like that year after year I would gladly have done it but getting gigs in this biz as a composer for hire for major studios is not easy unless you are on the A-list. Whoever thinks you are supposed to do 1 minute of music per hour is delusional. I’ve had moments where minutes of music came to me in my mind in seconds but that is not the same as making a finished track to picture over and over and over again day after day while having to meet major deadlines.
What show was it? Great post.