People often ask composers how difficult it was to get gigs in music composition for concert music, films, TV, anything. Well, in this article, I’m going to break it to you, straight up. Composition is one of the hardest gigs to get into. Yeah, I know. You’ve heard it all before from others. But one thing I will say, is that digital media and the internet have made it so much easier to not only get your music online and sold, but also to connect with others.
Before I get a gig composing music for something or someone, I spend a lot of time writing or different instruments, ensembles and so forth as warmups to keep my skills sharp. Usually, I will start with writing a set of pieces for piano, since that is the instrument I play and go onto woodwinds, then brass, then chamber groups, then band and full orchestra. These warmup writings help me express and expand my horizons as far as what instruments can do and what they have the most trouble doing. Researching these techniques helps me establish a playing field for whoever will play the music.
For me, the process doesn’t stop there! I take it a step further by selling my music and transcriptions. Many composers think that all this practice should be tucked away, but I really think that putting your orchestral sketches for sale for everyone to see and hopefully buy them will boost your self-esteem as a composer and also build your repertoire for when a legitimate gig comes along. This whole process prepares the composer for that big film scoring gig weeks or months off in the future.
Generally, I will get sales of my sketches within the first few months of release and then apply for actual composition gigs that are relevant to my practice. All the while, I’m still writing musical sketches to sell online.
Then, I’ll usually get someone on Linkedin or Twitter who wants me to write for their movie, short film or TV pilot. I usually keep in mind that the budgets of the people who hire me are really low–next to nothing, but I have those sketch sales to back me up.
Then, I will take a few weeks to a month to compose the music for the project that I’ve been assigned. Usually, I do a lot of short student films that are 5 to 20 minutes in length, no more than that. If the company or person who hired me has enough of a budget to pay me, then he or she does and then I move onto the next gig.
Generally, it could be two to five months before I get another gig again. So, how do I spend that time? I write more music and sketches to sell them via Digital Print Publishing. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t stop composing even when the going gets tough between gigs. You must keep your dream and skills alive. Composing almost constantly gets you through this.
I get, on average three or four requests per year to do music for someone else’s media. It may not be quite enough to live on financially, but it puts gains on your resume that a composer of any type must have.
One lesson n this whole process is that every composer should have multiple streams of income where their music could be sold so that they can still make a living. That is what I’m doing. I feel more safe and secure knowing that, as a composer with multiple income streams, I am protected, even if I don’t have a gig every week.
The moral of the story is to keep writing and getting out in front of people so that your work will be recognized. Who knows what will happen?