One of the greatest careers you can be a part of in the music industry today is as a music composer for film, games and television. As a composer, you have the opportunity to work on fantastic projects, compose epic scores, and help to tell truly incredible stories. The possibilities for advancement are nearly endless and no two projects will ever be the same. It is a career choice that will constantly challenge and excite you, and your success is almost directly linked to your willingness to work hard.
Whilst getting started can seemingly be the most difficult part of making this career choice, in reality it is quite easy. With just a few basic steps you will be able to start off on a career path of creation and possibilities.
Now, it is argued by various groups that a formal education is not necessary to become a composer, and whilst it is definitely not compulsatory, education is always a great decision if you want to take your career seriously. It is not just about the qualification you receive at the end, it is also about all the knowledge and lessons that you learn while you are there. As a composer who is just starting out, you will need to be your own manager and therefore need at least a basic understanding of business, as well as a strong basis in musical theory. Neglect these two things, and you potentially put your career in jeopardy before it even has the chance to truly begin.
Starting out it is also all about getting involved. The more people you meet and connect with, the more doors that will open up to provide new and exciting opportunities. Film schools and universities are a great place to start finding work once you are ready to start out. Multiple universities these days have film courses, and even student films need music. Due to the rise of the video game industry, there are also courses where students creating video games needs your music. Try reaching out and you never know what may come of it. Even Facebook can be useful – groups such as the Australian Screen Industry Network (ASIN) provide a space where you can stay up-to-date with new projects, network with others in the industry, and even advertise yourself.
The catch is that you’ll most likely have to be willing to work your first few projects for free. Most of these projects, particularly student works, will not have a budget high enough to pay industry rates, and you don’t yet have a reputation to prove your worth. You will, however, gain real-world experience and start to build your professional portfolio.
Obviously, a composer needs a studio, and when you start off you will most likely be working from home. There are multiple ways to set up your own home studio. First and foremost, you will need the right software to compose music to video with. This is known as your Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. The best programs that I have personally found for composition work are Logic Pro X, Ableton, or Pro Tools. Once you have your chosen DAW, learn as much as you can about it and about how best to use it. There are various sites dedicated to this, and YouTube videos are as good as any. Again, education comes into play here, University courses with a focus on music will teach all of this as part of the degree. With a bit of basic knowledge, you will be able to deal with most issues that may come up during your working process.
Once you have taken on and completed your first project, you have the beginnings of your professional portfolio. Your portfolio is basically your resume within the music industry; sell yourself by showing off your skills and achievements. However, be careful – you should always remain humble in your achievements and hustle just as hard and show just as much enthusiasm for every single job as you did for your first. Staying humble will ensure that you are always willing to learn and always willing to give a project everything you have.
As your success grows, others will begin spreading your name for you, but do not rely on this alone. Social media is a fantastic way to help get your name out there, especially at the start. I would suggest building a Facebook or Instagram page, as well as a professional website. The more social media accounts you are able to manage, the greater number of opportunities there are to spread your name, which will only bolster your career. A professional website can also act as an online portfolio, so always include links to this on your social media accounts.
The most important thing to remember, though, is that there is no set way to begin your career. Merely be willing to consider yourself as a constant student. Recognise that filmmaking and video game production are also parts of your job; you will need to understand the processes and routines of these industries in order to work with them. You cannot just be a musician – you need to be willing to become knowledgeable in all areas of the larger industry that you are becoming a part of. Lastly, don’t forget to get involved. Go out, watch movies, play video games, network, and learn! Believe in yourself and work hard every day, and you will be truly amazed at the heights you can reach.
~ Editors Note: You can find out more about Michael Drew at his website musicbymichaeldrew.com