Are You a Composer or a Business?

At ThinkSpace, we understand that the thought of your passion project being the soundtrack to a film, game, trailer is a dream come true. When it comes to producing the music you love, a lot of composers have to learn to differentiate what they love and what the client wants.

That’s why it’s important to not only see yourself as a working composer, but also as a business. Within the industry, a common mishap is that composers don’t sell what their clients want to buy–this is an aspect that can be fatal to anyone’s career.

That might seem dramatic, but as a composer you have to differentiate between what you love and your tastes to what your clients favourite scores are and what music they like to listen to. Put it this way: If you were running a clothing retail store, you would want to sell clothes that sold, not clothes that you could see yourself wearing—and this is the same with music.

Mysteriously, this fact isn’t as obvious as it may seem for some composers. There is an (understandable) urge to write the music you are passionate about and hope the market wants to buy. Sometimes, you can have a winning situation where you and your clients’ passions and ideals are in tune—however, this is rarely the case.

We were recently approached by a client who had a big problem. He wanted to commission instrumental pop music like he had heard on the radio, however all he was being offered was big orchestral film music.

This isn’t a rare occurrence. It’s not that people don’t want big orchestral film music, it’s because not everyone wants this type of sound and the supply of orchestral scores are completely out of step with demand. In any other business, entrepreneurs bend over backwards to work out what sells and what people are willing to buy. This type of thinking is a lesson that needs to be learned by composers.

So, what makes a commercially successful media composer?

Well, they are focussed. Specifically on their customer needs. It’s also imperative that they listen and are intuitive about what their client really wants. Having done that, they create the perfect product that matches the client’s requirements. They are cheerful and enthusiastic, never complain and are a pleasure to work with (even if the client is an absolute pain). If this kind of composer sounds vaguely familiar, it should be. This is business 101 and is a part of the old adage, “the customer is always right.”

If you want to make a living as a composer, you need to learn how to treat it like a business and that means a fundamental change of how to approach customers. It takes skill and training, good communication, understanding producers, reading the brief, delivering the music that your client will love. It’s the absolute foundation of all commercial media music like film score, video game soundtracks, TV documentaries and trailers.

We go further into detail of how to sell your composition skills as a business in ThinkSpace’s course Music for the Media Volume 1. It’s essential training that no composer can afford to ignore and you can try the course right now for free. See what all the fuss is about and why Music for the Media has launched so many successful careers.

And it all starts with an open mind and a click of the mouse.

Are you an aspiring film composer? Download our FREE guide on How to Write Film Music!
About the Author
Matt Lightbound

Matt Lightbound

Matt is at the helm of all the things video game related. He's worked in the industry as a sound designer, composer, audio editor and voice casting/directing.

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