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Topic: Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?

  1. #1

    Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?

    Hello forum.

    I think my point will be pretty simple. I'm currently an amateur composer, I haven't properly studied Music, but I think I might be good enough to make some work. I'd like to kind of "prove" myself as a composer, and if possible, I'd like to make some money, but I've got no idea of where I could start. Anyone could guide me on this? Maybe some little industries of computer video games, or something? Of course I wouldn't be looking for a professional movie director to "hire" me, I know there are a lot of composers who do have studies, and are maybe more suitable for a professional work. My intention is to make something good, not professional, but good. I focus mainly in soundtrack-like music, either for a videogame or for a movie.

    Your help here will be highly appreciated, thank you in advance!

    Best regards,

  2. #2

    Re: Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?

    Hi Robert,

    Good question. First of all, there is some good work in film and games, and as a composer, if you can establish yourself you can make money. However, there are a couple of things to note. It is extremely competitive, and that getting work for games and films is also a very different process.

    The first thing and most important thing to understand is that networking & contacts is pretty much everything. This is universal to both films and video games. It's important to be good at what you do, and have a certain style going on, but you can be the best composer in the world and have no gigs if you're not networking with the right people. (There are plenty of arrogent composers who are good technically, but total a-holes who don't get work at some forums that I will not name on here).

    The first thing you need to do is get a website. No doubt about it. You need a website with some examples of your work. It can be very simple but at the very least people need to know that you exist, and what your music sounds like and what they can expect by hiring you. There are a couple of problems you'll notice right away:

    A) There are a lot of other composers out there.
    B) Many of them will be willing to work for free or cheaper than you

    Online there is a lot of BS. A lot of crappy filmmakers, a lot of crappy developers with no vision, a lot of people expecting hours of music written for free, I mean you wouldn't expect someone to paint your house for free but when it comes to music it's just tossed aside as a last finishing touch for a lot of people, and because composers want to further their career or whatever, they'll take the gigs for free. Now that's not always a bad thing. You have to take those risky free gigs if you want to make it sometimes. But there's also a balance. The reason I'm saying this is you'll find out right away that it's a lot harder to get some of these gigs just because there's that one guy who will do it for free, and he might not even be as good as you...The problem comes in when you're all composers on different 'levels' competing. What I mean by that is, when you're brand new, you'll take any gig for free just to get the portfolio. But let's say someone contacts you about a little project six months later, by that time you've got enough stuff to ask for some cash. Maybe the project isn't really that important to you, but you'd like the money. Meanwhile there's someone else who was in your position six months ago who will take that gig. And it goes on and on. So one question you will need to ask yourself at some point is...

    Are they hiring me for me, or 'cause I'm cheap?

    The goldmine for a composer is finding someone who doesn't just land on the composer who can write a copy of some Zimmer chord progression, but the guy who can translate their ideas onto screen, the guy who can respond to the material emotionally, and of course lines up sonically - but the important thing is the composers ability to do these things. A lot of filmmakers for example go out there and hire the guy that has a demo of his website of something that sounds like one of Zimmer's pieces, but then when it comes to actually scoring the flick, the composer isn't hitting the beat, there's no picture sense, and it all falls to pieces. In my experience from watching many independant films this is probably one of the biggest problems. So as a composer I think it's important to realize this happenss, and then you can sort of balance out your portfolio or work to accomodate for this type of mentality.

    Your goal is to find that talented group of people, or that one game developer or filmmaker that really has the chops and ability and vision to go all the way - and hang out with them. You'll score their short films, which will lead to them making a feature, and if that hits it off, that could be your break. That is how many composers get their break and there are plenty of composers online all looking for that shot by trying to connect with somebody and keep a relationship like that one going.

    Having said that you also want to get paid, so you need some regular gigs. There's some good money if you want to write jingles and stock music and license it out to various libraries, or independantly, and there are also some good gigs in advertising, and things like that. Until you make it big time, that's really where all the money is. And in video games. Mobile games. Things like that. You won't make much money building contacts (by writing music for short films, indie games, etc), but you will be building your chops, your portfolio, and your ability to land that big job. If you are going to do all these short films and/or games you want to try and find ones that will be found and heard and seen. This is how you will get a lot of your work, by word of mouth, people hearing your music in other things.

    You will find out very quickly that it is much harder to get work by blindly sending your stuff out to people or responding to some craigslist ad.

    So basically you can sum it up as:

    a) Get a website asap with some music
    b) Network like crazy
    c) Be cool
    d) Write write write.

    Get on facebook,twitter, etc. join every filmmaking website and forum there is, attend festivals, meet people, watch a lot of indie films and play indie games and figure out what it's all about, build your portfolio, and things will start to work out. If you understand story structure, scenes, the language of film, beats, etc, you will know more than most aspiring film composers out there. It's easy to get caught up in the orchestration but if you forget the soul, there's no point to it at all. One good quote about film scoring that really suck with me was 'don't score the galloping horses, but instead, score the fear of the rider'.

    Some example communities that are good for filmmaking are DVxuser.com & Reduser. And for games, the big ones are gamedev, and indiegamer. For films, DVXUser is my favourite because they run an online filmmaking competition & festival every couple of months with a different genre, encouraging filmmakers to enter a film. It's excellent practice for any filmmaker but also any composer. Excellent for building contacts and practicing your craft.

    If you're just looking for fun projects, that aren't too heavy, you might want to look into the current trend of Android and iphone gaming. There is some good money there, and the turnarounds are very fast in that market. Check out gamedev and sites like that to sort of get a feel for it.

    Maybe that will help some.


  3. #3

    Re: Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?

    Hello Chris.

    I just wish to greatly thank you for all this advice you just gave me. That's a pretty comprehensive amount of tips and information that will surely be quite useful! Thank you very much for your time and your help, be sure it has been highly appreciated!

    Best regards,

  4. #4

    Re: Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?

    You can upload music for free at CBS records last.fm website, and have your own webpage and photos there. They will even pay tiny royalties for Internet radio play too. But, you will most likely make very little money there. There are millions of other artists, and even very famous people like Yanni make only about $1000 a month from web plays. Small artists might make $15 a year or so. But, you can sell downloads and cell phone ring tones there. Once you have the web page there, you can also link to it from anywhere to demo your work. So, you could have a free Wordpress blog, or a fancier paid ($5 a month) Wordpress website through someone like Godaddy.com, and link to Last.FM. This will give the most bang for the buck. I think for people just getting started it is better to let somone else like itunes or Amazon or Last.FM handle the work as far as setting up download databases and financial transactions.

    You don't have to limit yourself to Last.FM either...There are a zillion Internet radio sites these days....Getting noticed is yet another issue though...

  5. #5

    Re: Where does an amateur composer find job, or is he heard?

    This is great advice, thanks for the information !
    Steve Wisnoski

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