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How to get a job as a composer's assistant

dciurlizza

Music Producer
Writing this in response to composers looking for jobs at studios, with other composers, or just generally looking for a job in the music industry. (Dave (@tarantulis), this one's for you, brother.)

Really though, we can use this for any starter to mid-level job in any industry.

THE PROCESS

I've only ever been an assistant once in my life, and I got it through a mutual friend. After that, I knew that I didn't want to be an assistant to someone... but I did want teammates. So the caveat is I don't have direct experience getting hired to be a composer's assistant.

That said, I do have a lot of knowledge and experience with getting hired for a job AND hiring/working with people like teammates, interns, assistants, etc.

Here's what I would do if I wanted to get a job with a composer...

Focus Your Efforts

I think the most important step for this is not cold call every composer you can find, but instead be super focused and intentional about who you want to work with. That way, you're channeling all of your energy to presenting a very compelling proposal to the people you do contact.

Once you find the people you'd love to work with, figure out what they're all about. If they work in a team-based studio environment, figure out what the studio culture might be like.

Dig into what this composer has done, what they currently do, and what their goals are. You can learn a lot by looking them up online or asking a current/past employee about their experience with them.

Concurrently, write up and design (to the best of your ability) a resume. There are services like canva.com that make it easy to create great-looking resumes. I recently used one of their templates as a jump-off point for one I recently made.

You can find my template here:
LINK - https://www.outlierstudios.co/resume-template
PASS - vicontrol

If you take from this, take the ideas and make them your own. It'll be worth the extra effort in the long run!

Assemble a Proposal

In addition to your resume and cover letter, write up a one page proposal regarding specific things you think you can help with (according to their goals).

If they're a company that sells products, write up a "Next Three Products" proposal. It doesn't matter if you don't initially have amazing ideas. The goal behind this is to show them you're in it for them - you're in it for their success.

If they're a team that supplies a service, figure out possible ways to make their processes more efficient. See if you can think outside the box - not knowing how a company operates and coming in with fresh eyes is sometimes the best way to introduce new ideas.

If you haven't been able to figure out what their goals or problems are - ask them. As an employer, finding someone who's actually interested in tackling these subjects is super desirable, and something any growing business would want.

AN EMAIL TEMPLATE

Here's the email that helped my team and me build a bunch of great relationships with clients.

Again, I haven't tested this with composers I wanted to assist, but it's the kind of email I wish people would send me - it'd make hiring them a lot easier.

General Structure
  1. Include an introduction explaining how you heard of the composer and what you like about what they do.

  2. Write about how you've served others in your potential employer's position - even if it's smaller scale work. This will take some "pre-work" a few months before contacting your future employer.

    Pre-work can be something like helping your colleagues/friends with tasks you enjoy (and don't enjoy), or even creating something for yourself to use. It can be stuff like designing sounds on a synthesizer, making charts to promote efficiency on Google Sheets, transcribing your favorite score by ear, or anything that you find interesting.

    A friend of mine literally programmed software meant to organize cues when he joined a team working on a Netflix series. Talk about a team player.

    Do a lot of potentially valuable work - enough so that it feels substantial and noteworthy.

  3. Ask your potential employer questions that show them you understand their goals. This can be a call-to-action that will jump start a conversation.
Lastly, length does matter - simple and short is preferred. But if there's potential value in it for the reader, it's worth saying more.

I'm a composer and sound designer, so if I wanted to work with an experienced full-on working composer, this is what I'd write...

(Again, take ideas from this and make them your own. There's nobody better at being you than you.)

The Email

SUBJECT LINE: Hey [Composer Name] - how can I contribute?

Hey [Composer Name],

My name's Daniel and I'm a composer and sound designer [hyperlink to your website on "I'm a composer and sound designer"]. I've been a long-time fan of the way you provide so much value to the people you work with - particularly with your film scores (something I love to do) [hyperlink to your IMDb (if you have one) on "something I love to do"]. You and your team have accomplished a lot of fantastic work and I'm really interested in your future goals.

In the past few months, I've helped 6 of my colleagues on their film scores by taking on sound design & additional music tasks. This led to an awesome workflow where we were able to establish a delivery system that made us super efficient for our filmmakers.

I did all that in preparation for my current goal; I want to find composers doing great things and explore possible ways to contribute to their success.

A few questions about you [or "the team," if they have one]:
  1. What could a composer or sound designer do to add value to you and your team? How can I help with your objectives?

  2. From what I've seen, it looks like you already have a solid workflow, but I'm interested to know if you're looking to work with an additional assistant or sound designer. Maybe even as a supplemental team member that's on-call?
Thanks for your time, [Composer Name]. Really looking forward to hearing more about you!

[Sign off with contact info]

MY EXPERIENCE WITH THIS PROCESS

This isn't the only process we can use to get a job, but it's one that I've used for years with great results. Additionally, the people my team and I used it with really appreciated how much time we took to do the research and assemble materials. It's just hard to say no to someone that's so willing to make things happen.

My most memorable moments with it were talking and meeting with the creative guys at Output, the prolific team at 8dio, the hard-working folks at Umlaut Audio, and so many different filmmakers and collaborators. Fun, fulfilling, and meaningful relationships were built.

I hope this helps you the next time you're looking for your next awesome job! Let me know if you've got questions on any of this. Would love to dig in and elaborate!
 
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ThePrioryStudio

Uk Computer
Hi VI, my 2 pence/cents/euro worth: I got one gig from one of these subscription services, Music Gateway, Mandy, SYNCR, Film Music etc etc. I just don't believe that there's any point in paying a monthly subscription to work. There's far more efficient and less 'snake oil' ways to get work .
 

Desire Inspires

To the stars through desire....
https://vi-control.net/community/threads/film-music-network-any-experiences-with-them.25318/#post-4146126

https://vi-control.net/community/threads/paying-to-submit-music-do-you-do-it.55285/#post-3982933

Hi, DI. Serious question. Are you just having a little fun here or have you actually changed your mind? Seems like you were opposed to the idea before.

It’s no big deal to me honestly.

If you have the money to spend, go for it. But you should also be contacting music licensing companies and music publishers directly as well.

Most calls/emails will go unanswered, most songs signed will go unused, and many royalty payouts will be low. It’s a tough business to master for sure. So take whatever advantage you have to get ahead!
 
Congrats!! Definitely let me know how it works out. And let me know if it isn't working out; I'm down to help!
I have a skype interview with a still-anonymous London-based composer
tomorrow afternoon... Daniel, massive thank you!

From what I can tell, this will be a short term gig, but an amazing opportunity nonetheless. I found out about this one literally by chance - friend of two of my lecturers was advertising on facebook.

As I'm posting here, this is the kind of composer I can assist:
-London-based;
-Logic-user.

My skills include:
• All things Logic, from track-laying to building modular templates;
Kontakt, including sample instrument creation;
Orchestration with a range of libraries from Spitfire, Orchestral Tools and other developers;
Transcribing midi-mockups in Sibelius and assisting with the process of mixing sample instruments with live soloists and recording sessions;
• Creating Fmod events;
• Performing in tracks, as a grade 8 trombonist and keyboard-improviser;
Scheduling regular ‘composer-stories’ on Instagram and Twitter.

 
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OP
dciurlizza

dciurlizza

Music Producer
I have a skype interview with a still-anonymous London-based composer
tomorrow afternoon... Daniel, massive thank you!

From what I can tell, this will be a short term gig, but an amazing opportunity nonetheless. I found out about this one literally by chance - friend of two of my lecturers was advertising on facebook.

As I'm posting here, this is the kind of composer I can assist:
-London-based;
-Logic-user.

My skills include:
• All things Logic, from track-laying to building modular templates;
Kontakt, including sample instrument creation;
Orchestration with a range of libraries from Spitfire, Orchestral Tools and other developers;
Transcribing midi-mockups in Sibelius and assisting with the process of mixing sample instruments with live soloists and recording sessions;
• Creating Fmod events;
• Performing in tracks, as a grade 8 trombonist and keyboard-improviser;
Scheduling regular ‘composer-stories’ on Instagram and Twitter.

Amazing! Some very useful skills here. Hope the skype interview went well, man!
 

Daryl

Senior Member
Just a little addendum to lots of the useful advice given here, as we have just done two recruitment drives. The main points found, during the interview process were:

1. People claimed to know how to use software, but couldn't answer the simplest questions
2. Initiative was often in short supply
3. Too few people had actually done research into the services we offer
4. Too few could even mention something that I'd written...!
5.Some felt that using Logic, but knowing nothing about Windows, or Windows based programs was enough
6. Some were more interested in what we could do for them, but weren't sufficiently interested in what they could do for us.
 
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