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31/8/2016

How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

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COMPOSER
Career Overview: Composers create musical scores for
TV, lm, and computer games. They
use live musicians and sampling to evoke the intended
mood or emotion to mirror whats happening onscreen.
Average Annual Earnings: Varies
General Earnings Range: $0-$2,000,000+ per lm

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How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

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BecomeaComposer
Career Description
A Composer usually starts working from behind his or her
computer in their recording studio, using software such as Logic
Pro to write music, score, program, and conform music to picture
edits or Director or Producer-mandated changes in musical
direction. Most Composers rely heavily on sample libraries,
although those working on bigger budget projects sometimes are
able to hire musicians for live instrumentation.
Depending on the project, Composers work with Directors,
Producers, Music Supervisors, Music Editors, and musicians.

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Advancement
It is nearly a million-to-one odds that an aspiring Composer will
earn a living in his or her chosen eld, says Los Angeles-based
Composer Jacob Yo ee. This is a highly competitive eld, akin to
breaking into Hollywood as an actor. He cautions that its
extremely di cult to get that rst composing job, or to make a
solid wage as a Composer, especially for those just starting out.
Prospects are a bit higher now because people are making lms
independently of studios, he says, but these indie lms also often
have very low (or no) budgets. Advancement in this career will
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How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

primarily be nancial, and very few will ever achieve the name
recognition and high salaries of legends like John Williams or Hans
Zimmer. Composers can also transition into becoming Music
Supervisors.

Education & Training


Schooling is essential to become a Composer. According to Yo ee,
aspiring Composers need to understand the mechanics of music
on the simplest level (like the structures of simple song form) and
need to be able to put together 20-30 minutes of music quickly.
Yo ee himself has an MA in Scoring for Film and Multimedia from
New York University, as well as practical experience as a working
jazz musician. He sought a postgraduate degree because he knew
how to write music but didnt know how to work with lm and
computer software. Because theres so much for an aspiring
Composer to learn, especially with constant advances in
technology, he says that hed recommend some kind of school,
but you cant graduate and be knowledgeable enough to
immediately start working at a higher level. Go in [to a college
program] with your own questions and your own path and your
own ideals. As to college recommendations, Yo ee has praise for
his alma mater, NYU, but says that many of the working
Composers he knows graduated from the University of Southern
California, whose strong ties to the Hollywood lm community
provide many opportunities to students trying to get a foot in the
industrys door.

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Experience & Skills


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How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

Practice composing for ensembles as well as for lm/TV/video


games is essential. Keeping up-to-date on recording, editing, and
sampling software is also important. Whatever form of media the
Composer is working in, its important to understand the language
of the medium, so that, for example, the Composer and the Film
Director can be on the same page. Performing skills are also
important. Yo ee says that the ability to play piano and guitar are
the greatest asset to any lm Composer, with ute, saxophone,
and clarinet also important.
Working on student lms is vital, because it builds ones portfolio,
provides real world experience and builds connections.

Personality
Composers must be detail-oriented, adaptable, have a strong work
ethic and be quick writers. Because scenes are constantly being
rearranged or cut and a Composer must be adaptable, this career
isnt good for someone with a complete artist mentality, who sees
their work as a masterpiece that cant be changed, says Yo ee.
You cant think of it as a product. Its a service. He adds, Its not
for someone with a pop mentality or a lyrical starting point. Be a
Songwriter if thats your focus. And most importantly, just a love
for music isnt enough. You need to love lm, too. If youre a
Composer for lm, you are a Filmmaker.

Lifestyle
I work 60 hours a week, Yo ee says. On a project, I work up to
120 hours a week. Deadlines and rewrites mean stress levels get
really high. Producers and Directors may decide to cut or
rearrange scenes, or the Music Editor may decide they want a song
in one scene instead of a score. The amount of rejection, the
stress, its a thousand nos before you get a yes, he says about his
early years as a Composer, struggling to get established and even
nd those rst few paid industry jobs.

Employment
According to Yo ee, the best way to start your job search is by
searching Craigslist postings, approaching Directors, and working
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How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

on student lms. Start at the bottom and its going to be rough.


Youre going to work on stu that youre like, I hope no one ever
sees this. Basically, you have to nd that one person who says Im
going to give you a chance. He advises, work with everyone. No
matter how big, treat it as the dream gig youve always wanted. No
matter whos hiring you, you have to give 100%.

Earnings
Id rather tell someone the bad news rst, Yo ee says. Its not
like they tell you in school: Youre the Composer. Youll be making
this much. Income is very low for those just starting out. You
wont be making a living, he says, adding that many Composers
just starting out make under $5,000 a year, earning only $500 for
an entire 80-minute lm, but people do it just for the credit. They
say $30,000 in school for the rst lm [you score], but the reality is
signi cantly lower. This is possible because so many people are
willing to work for free. Composers are paid on a per-project basis.

Unions, Groups, Social Media, and


Associations
Everyone in the lm industry has a union except for Composers,
Yo ee says.

Getting Started
Practice!
Understand basic song structure.
Watch lms.
Find out what it is that you o er that other Composers dont.
Watch YouTube tutorials on sample libraries and how to write
to picture.
Get set up with a rig, including the right software. You need the
proper tools to deliver. You need to be able to produce and mix,
practice outputting well-mixed sound les. This is important
because, especially on the smaller projects, its very rare that
youll get a budget with a Mixing Engineer, Editor, Dubbing
Engineer and ensemble. They need you to deliver the nal
product.

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How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

Gem Questions
What is the single biggest suggestion you
would give to someone wanting to get into
this career?
Study lm so you understand lmand how to talk about it with a
Director.

Whats the #1 mistake people make when


trying to get into this career?
Focusing too much on music and not on the lm. Also, Theres
not enough of an attitude about doing things as an experience for
learning over money. Build credits and do stu for relationship
building with Filmmakers. Learn how to talk to Directors.

What is the question people should ask


about this career but rarely do?
Ask [music-wise] what does the lm need to make it the best it can
be? Music is a tool Filmmakers use to make it better, a Bandaid for
the lm to make the rough edges smoother.

What is one thing I should have asked which I


didnt?
Its been pretty good so far. Nothing.

If you could describe in one word what


makes you successful, what would it be?
Easy to work with.

Extra Credit: The Beatles or Rolling Stones?


The Beatlesbut really Led Zepellin.
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How to Become a Composer | Music Composer Job Description & Salary

Source:

Jacob Yo ee is a Los Angeles-based Composer whose work has


appeared in pictures starring Ray Liotta, Common, Michael Chiklis,
Forest Whitaker, Misha Barton, Michael Duncan Clarke and Devon
Sawa. Recently he has partnered with director Rodrigo Garcia
(Albert Nobbs, In Treatment, Six Feet Under) for several WIGS channel
projects starring Julia Stiles, Dakota Fanning and America Ferrera,
and his work has also been featured in the trailers for X-Men: Days
of Future Past and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. An
accomplished jazz saxophonist, his debut album Dead Reckoning
was released by Greg Osbys Inner Circle Music label. Yo ee is the
resident Composer for the American Studio Orchestra in
Baltimore. His music has been performed throughout the US and
overseas at Englands Hudders eld Contemporary Music Festival,
the Royal Academy of Music, and on BBC Radio.

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