In the last few months, I’ve spoken at three events on panels about composing for media.
- Writing Music for Other People (Ivors Academy/PRS, Leeds)
- Composing Music for Media at the Yorkshire Music Forum Conference (Ivors Academy, Leeds)
- Composing Music for Children’s Media at the Ivors Academy Media Conference (Ivors/PRS, London)
There were many questions in common – how did you start, how do you find work to begin with, what are your approaches to various different types of media and audience.
I noticed that often whilst the panellists would largely agree on answers to general topics, we all would have varied approaches to specific areas of work.
Some are happy to have a DIY approach to most aspects of their work and others build large teams to focus on specific areas of composition, production and associated business. Some composers don’t have publishers or agents. Some don’t have accountants. Some work in partnerships, others prefer to work in a more solitary manner. Some have worked with a small pool of the same clients for many years, whilst others have a wider and more varied reach. Some mix their own work, others don’t trust their ears any more.
Some composers always work to a locked, completed picture. Whatever music they produce, it will have to fit with that finished film; the film won’t ever be edited around the music. Other composers will work from very near the start of pre-production, and will collaborate with film, theatre or games makers much more closely. This means their music will inform the other media, and the two will evolve more side-by-side.
Some composers work in Logic Pro. Others in Cubase, or Digital Performer, or Ableton Live. Others work in Sibelius or Dorico or MuseScore. Others work in ProTools.
Some say in-person networking, meetings and associated glad-handing are the best ways to find work. Some prefer an online-first approach (very common in games). Some swear by social media. Others avoid it.
Some advocate for a very ‘passionate’ way of working, and suggest that you prioritise the work of composition above all else otherwise you’ll never get anywhere in this cutthroat, dog-eat-dog business world of the media.
Others might have been burned by running their time in this way, and look more to a compassionate and human-centred focus – balancing work and time away from it, with more clear boundaries between the two.
Some prefer to work solely through email. Others speak to their team and client through phone and zoom. Others are text-app-only, and rarely check email at all.
One thing is clear though: there’s no one single, correct way to be a composer. And, to some degree, everyone’s making it up as they go along.
Photo by G Croucher c/o Ivors Academy/PRS