Mark Northam: 20 Reasons Composers Fail

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by TigerTheFrog, Apr 28, 2019.

  1. TigerTheFrog

    TigerTheFrog I'm supposed to be working now.

    Nov 18, 2016
    Brooklyn, NY
    Austin Wintory just posted this on Facebook. It's the Table of Contents from a pamphlet that Mark Northam published 20 years ago.

    20 Reasons.jpg

    @JohnG also posted something from Northam here.
    karelpsota, Tim_Wells, JEPA and 3 others like this.
  2. Wolfie2112

    Wolfie2112 Senior Member

    I resonate completely with items #1, #2 and #5. Over the course of several years, I find these three factors the real key to getting composition gigs. I think talent is a very small component. A large chunk of my gigs are a result of cultivating long term relationships; which lead to word of mouth. It is so vitally important to get out there and "pound the pavement", and to network. I have obtained good work from cold emails (with music samples), but that was purely being in the right place at the right time (luck). I personally know a few composers who are frustrated because no one is knocking on their door with offers...they have some sort of dillusion that they'll be sought out because they have music degrees and good demos.
  3. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires To the stars through desire....

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    How exactly does someone “properly plan for success”?
    Henu likes this.
  4. dgburns

    dgburns splunge

    Nov 4, 2012
    I excel at all of those, in varying degrees and in varying intensity.

    My sarcasm in on a rampage today, better get off the site and go rake some leaves.
    Will Blackburn and Scrianinoff like this.
  5. ka00

    ka00 Senior Member

    Oct 23, 2017
    Toronto, Canada
    At what age is it too late to rectify these failures?
    Will Blackburn likes this.
  6. Henu

    Henu Senior Member

    Nov 17, 2017
    [ ] pass
    [x] fail

    Then again, I could right now be planning for success but after I've finally got our kids to sleep I think it's time to go play video games with my wife instead. Too bad, I could had been someone. :(
  7. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires To the stars through desire....

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    Playing video games = success.
    Having a wife = success.
    Playing video games with your wife = success^2.
    LowweeK, Henu, Alex Fraser and 2 others like this.
  8. josejherring

    josejherring Senior Member

    What ever happened to Mark? Remember him from the days when we were hustling here in Hollywood for films in the late 90's then I never saw him again. It's been like 20 years.

    I hope he maybe got into library music or something. Good composer.
  9. Tim_Wells

    Tim_Wells Tim Wells

    Oct 22, 2018
    It's a good list. I'm bad at networking. But it's hard to get good at something when you don't try... ;)
  10. josejherring

    josejherring Senior Member

    Took a few minutes of digging but it looks like he's now an immigration laywer in Syndey Australia.
    Lex likes this.
  11. Wolfie2112

    Wolfie2112 Senior Member

    It's never too late, and it's an ongoing process.
    Nick Batzdorf likes this.
  12. DerGeist

    DerGeist Active Member

    Oct 21, 2018
    bah, I fail for way more reasons than that.
    Tim_Wells, Studio E and Nick Batzdorf like this.
  13. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

    Sep 14, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Before you get to that list, I'd add the big one: there are 50 billion talented composers - and 100 billion untalented ones - competing for every job that pays next to nothing.

    Of course there are lots of ways to fail!

    And yeah, Mark's a good guy.
    josejherring likes this.
  14. josejherring

    josejherring Senior Member

    Music Agent Richard Kraft responded to a similar type question. His response was pretty cool. Basically saying that no matter what age, that this business is tough.

    There are composers that were at the top of the game that you never hear from again. Composers that got their "overnight" success in their 50's. Composers who break in early then fade away.

    It's just a tough limited business and success isn't just one thing. I know composers that nobody has even heard of making a fortune. Composers who are famous that are broke after their few hits ran out of residuals. Composers who are so frickin' talented that it's jaw dropping-- who use to be the big stuff or had promising burgeoning careers that are now teaching across the country.

    Composers that have struggled well into their 50's that all of sudden just exploded in TV, ect...

    This is a wild, non-EEOC regulated field where lightening can strike some and completely miss others and there is no real rhyme or reason for it.

    I applaud Mark's effort to at least try to bring some understanding to the field, but he was also writing this in a time when the business was a lot different than it is today.

    You could eek out a meager living doing low budget films back then. Mostly back then it was generally understood that it was a business and people no matter at what level expected to pay for music. Synths were expensive, orchestral samples not really fully developed (and expensive). There was a huge difference between virtual and live so you could demand live players. That kind of all changed when samples became "good enough". Then demanding money for production became optional.

    Also, back in the day there were limited people making movies. You had to have a budget and a film made for $1,000,000 was the lowest that anybody could go. Therefore the films ended up being not that bad production wise and had stars in them and would end up on cable, foreign,ect... I would make upwards of $25,000 in a year for residuals on such films so could survive off of doing a few films that ended up on cable and global distribution. Then the laws changed and royalties were gutted at that level.

    Then the internet hit and all of a sudden instead of competing with up and comers like Mark Northam in the Hollywood area we are now all competing internationally. I remember running across a guy that was hustling cable films a few years back and he was from Texas. I went home and told my wife, we are doing the same work only he gets to live in someplace that's affordable. :) I enjoyed meeting him though because we got to chatting about royalties and expected income from cable films, ect...

    I love this field and I love the people in it and if people fail and when I fail it's always boiled down to just not being good enough with people. Nothing to do with business or music.
    Desire Inspires and Wolfie2112 like this.
  15. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

    Sep 14, 2004
    Los Angeles
  16. Mike Greene

    Mike Greene Administrator

    Wow, not exactly what I would have expected. Very sharp guy, though, so I can totally see it.

    I miss those events at Sportsman's Lodge and the Beverly Garland, sitting in a room with a hundred other composers listening to various talks.
    Brobdingnagian and josejherring like this.
  17. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires To the stars through desire....

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    Yeah, that’ll be me!
    cqd likes this.
  18. Tim_Wells

    Tim_Wells Tim Wells

    Oct 22, 2018
    Wow ... that speaks volumes.
  19. JJP

    JJP I put dots and lines on paper.

    Apr 29, 2008
    Los Angeles
    There's a lot more to that story. IIRC, Mark's wife is from Australia. Also he was a big activist for composer rights and took some strong actions on royalties and and other issues to help composers that impacted his career. He once said to me about his business, "I have to decide if we're activists or a business. It's looking like we can't be both."

    Way too much history to discuss here.
    josejherring and Tim_Wells like this.
  20. chillbot

    chillbot Sock Muppet

    Feb 6, 2014
    La Canada Flintridge, CA

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