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Do I have a future in this?


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I've played music my whole life. Primarily guitar and drums. And I always thought that if I was going to keep my musical career going, I would just keep doing the band thing. Film composing had never even occurred to me.

But I've been getting into piano the past few years and decided to get a nice, 88 key midi workstation a month ago. I had just finished binging Westworld, and happened to come across the Westworld Scoring Competition held by Spitfire.

I figured I'd try it out, presumably get frustrated, and never tell anyone I even attempted it.

But not only did the work seem to flow well, I absolutely loved every minute of the process. I had more fun doing this than I've ever had in my entire music career.

 

So now, my questions are: Do I potentially have a future in this? And what do I do to start?

 

College would be amazing, but feels a little unfeasible. I'm 29, have (a little) debt, and truly didn't understand the meaning of applying myself until after high school so my grades were terrible.

 

Thank you! And sorry about the mix. I have no idea what I'm doing in that respect.

 

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Nicely done!

 

Catchy tune indeed: loved it! And you gave space to the dialogue which is essential !

 

I don't have objective advise for you meaning I can tell you what I am doing to pursue this career.

If I were in you I would search for indipendent film directors ( maybe someone who really desires to do this as a full time job) and collaborate with them. 

Moreover it is fundamental to listen to everything you can and possibly ( this is not mandatory 😉) specialize on one genre.

 

Good luck with your career and with the competition!

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10 hours ago, CJBerg said:

So now, my questions are: Do I potentially have a future in this? And what do I do to start?

I have worked on some video game scores, worked and learned from some bigger film composers and I will tell you as honestly as I can:

"Making it" in the film industry today, as a composer, has little to do with one's ability. That is the painful truth. I would say that regardless of whether you were the best or worst I'd heard.

In the sector of the film business, in any country, where any serious money is to be made, it is dominated by a very small group of people who have no intention of retiring, and unlike in the "golden age" typically don't pass on work to assistants anymore, but keep those assistants merely as assistants. I actually had a now-former mentor cut all ties with me because I wound up actually being more knowledgeable and better than he was, so I kind of wound up mentoring him, and he was afraid I would steal his clients if he let me basically do anything at all. 

So that gives you an idea of how much loyalty there is in the business now.

Another composer I worked with was a score coordinator, for a number of years, for one the biggest Hollywood composers. This composer even had him ghost write. What did he wind up getting for that?

Absolutely no Hollywood clients whatsoever; he just does foreign, indie films now and makes his living off teaching. His former boss makes millions of dollars a year, with the help of some ghost-written pieces, while he makes a lot less than millions per year and is mostly unknown. 

Television these days mostly uses licensed music and dedicated composers are now often old guys who've been doing it forever, or "factories" owned by Hans Zimmer, which are absolutely soul-crushing hells to work for according to everyone I know who has done so.

So unless you have friends in very high places, or you make it big somewhere else in music first, I'm just going to be honest with you — It is very unlikely that you will become a career film composer. 

Now you might say, well what about indie films? 9/10 indie films are low-budget cringefests that nobody watches even for free and they will not be able to pay you much, or anything at all. Hard to make a real "career" with no cash flow.

What I would do, is just focus on writing really great, cinematic music. Build up a following on Spotify, Youtube, etc. try and get some music in libraries and hopefully get some TV placements, and try to meet some up-and-coming directors at nearby film festivals and from there it is up to fate — I really believe that is the best course of action today.

Lastly, the Covid thing has wrought yet-unseen economic damage not just on Hollywood, but upon entire nations. The USA is now at the highest unemployment levels since the 30s and this will no doubt have global consequences.

It is very unlikely that in the coming decades, what with social-distancing stupidity and economic depression, that theaters will be full, Netflix will survive (streaming is not actually profitable), or buying video game consoles and PCs. It is a myth that Showbiz and entertainment are "recession proof"

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-recession-proof-is-hollywood-now-1169172

I suspect that many of my professional, full-time composer friends, will no longer be so in the near future...

 

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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Although AngelCityOutlaw has clearly had more contact in the industry than I, my info is similar. It is an industry. I have contact with someone who worked with Zimmer, hated it and came back to the UK. The remuneration was poor and he declared he was "damned glad he played the piano" (in which he reached diploma standard but was versatile enough to play jazz and cocktail as much as "classical").

I did some work with an independent group. It would never have made me rich and famous. The group could never have afforded a "professional" so I gave my services free - not because I want to become a film composer but it offered interesting compositional opportunities/inspiration. One of that group claimed to have contacts in the industry that also confirmed AngelCityOutlaw.. I've done a couple for a local amateur movie group and fine that it gives me a public airing.

But the lesson is to take every opportunity, every commission that you can manage. Otherwise look on it as a hobby or semi-professional. If you want to stay in the digital domain you'll need a lot of energy to get your work heard. If you want to hear your work played live you really need to play an orchestral instrument to a reasonable standard then join your local orchestra or ensemble, or start an ensemble. That'll take a few years from scratch but worth it. Adults have different learning strategies from children so you'd certainly attain faster.

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I have no experience in the industry, so I won't be able to help with that.

 

17 hours ago, CJBerg said:

And sorry about the mix. I have no idea what I'm doing in that respect.

I listened to the soundtrack before I read this, and that's exactly what I was going to bring up.

When it comes to orchestral music, there is basically two ways this could be mixed (yes, I'm over-simplifiying it). You can either mix it to sound like a live performance of an orchestra, as if you were listening to a classical piece by one of your favourite composer, on site. Or you can mix it in the "cinematic" way, which dismisses the "room sound" of a concert hall a bit so that you can have the experience of "feeling inside the orchestra". This works very nicely on film, because cinema rooms can really place you within the action with their high-quality sound systems. Your soundtrack stands in the middle of both. It neither sounds like the real thing, because there is no "room sound", which makes it all seem artificial (at least for the orchestral sounds, though), nor it plays on the strengths of a high-quality sound system.

I guess it just takes practice to get it right, though, so you will surely get better at it in the future.

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I tried to listen to your composition but the video wasn't working on my laptop. Maybe YouTube was down or something? Idk... I'll try again later. Sorry!

17 hours ago, CJBerg said:

So now, my questions are: Do I potentially have a future in this? And what do I do to start?

College would be amazing, but feels a little unfeasible. I'm 29, have (a little) debt, and truly didn't understand the meaning of applying myself until after high school so my grades were terrible.

I'll throw in my $0.02, as well, though we are roughly the same age (34) and I'm not too sure how valuable my input will be for you.

With all the emphasis on getting a higher education, one would think it to be a prerequisite for getting anywhere in any field, but that is turning out not to be the case more and more often. (There are obvious exceptions, though I don't think filmscore is one of them.) As others have said in this thread, it truly boils down to being at the right place at the right time, rather than the depth of your talents or the length of your credentials. In fact, I don't know what you'd gain by pursuing a degree in music other than more debt and an increased likelihood of exposure—not guaranteed exposure, mind you, just a better chance. Music degrees have their purpose, don't get me wrong. But if you're chasing one as a gateway to becoming a film scorer, I'm not sure if it's worth it. Others may say differently.

Though I've always loved music (my greatest passion in life), I wasn't too keen on the idea of its being my primary source of income, so I chose a non-musical career. You say you fell in love with the process and that's great! But if what you loved was the creative part of it all, then I daresay you'll find filmscoring as a career a bit... "offensive" may be the right word, or perhaps "oppressive." Your creative license will be severely squelched; you'll likely only be doing gruntwork for the big names, who won't be too fond of giving an upstart the opportunity to displace them. I'm not saying don't pursue it. I'm just saying don't pursue it if you're looking to be compensated purely for your creative outflow. I don't think that's at all likely.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: don't chase this career going in blind. To those who haven't composed before, yes, it makes sense to think that film scorers are where they are solely because of their talent. But that just isn't the case; there's much more to it than that. I recommend trying your hand at some independent films first, so you can see what it's like to work with a director. Here's an opportunity I found that you might be interested in: https://composerssite.com/opportunity/14283

Best of luck to you in whichever career(s) you decide to pursue!

Edited by Tónskáld
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11 hours ago, Tónskáld said:

you'll likely only be doing gruntwork for the big names, who won't be too fond of giving an upstart the opportunity to displace them.

I should also add something to this that I feel is important:

Many established composers will intentionally give out bad advice to n00bz to kill their chances. This was a rather horrifying realization I came to after a few years. It preys on the fact that composers often have a grossly-inflated sense of importance (music is pretty far down the list of priorities in films and games actually) and truly believe they're doing God's work. See my thread about deifying game and film composers...

One thing you will see, if you head over to places like VI-Control or talk to some people in person, is "never work for free" and "never charge less than what you're worth" they say, or else you're "undercutting the industry".

Did you know that Danny Elfman does at least 1 score every year for just a dollar? Yet he still seems to be making millions overall. The cabal of Hollywood composers seems to still be employed. 

Although there is something to be said about working for literally "free", as in — signing away rights and everything for nothing at all in return except a (largely useless) "credit" — the idea that indie composers charging less than whatever arbitrary amount they have decided they are "worth" (which has no theoretical limit in this case) is somehow "hurting the business" has very little truth to it because if people want something bad enough, they will pay for it. They'd rather pay John Williams 2 million dollars than take someone else's work for half that or free because they want John Williams. The reason these "epic" composers, who all sound exactly the same, are so often "undercut" is because the only discernible differences between them is price. So of course the client will go with the cheapest. 

But I digress, the idea that "never charge less than you are worth or else you're killing us all" is a total lie designed to make new composers turn down opportunity "for the greater good/artistic integrity, blah blah". Anyone who spouts this should be asked to provide a standard rate and an explanation for why that rate is not simply an arbitrary number. What happens, and so many composers fall for it, is that they wind up turning down some decent, lucky gigs because it doesn't pay "what they're worth" and so they go absolutely nowhere even though they might have had a chance. 

I have seen this exact scenario, just with different dollar figures, too many times to count now, but I will give my favorite one: Some guy, who merely described his composing ability as "competent", quit his 9-5 job (which paid over 50k USD annually and had benefit plans) to become a video game composer despite having no experience. He asks the community what he should charge per-minute of music. All of them tell him "charge what you think you're worth!" and all naysayers are shut down as "undercutters of the industry". The guy decides he should charge, despite having no experience or list of credits at all, $800 per minute.

It could easily take a composer 8 hours to fully finish 1 minute of (good) music when you wear all the hats in the process.

Can you imagine going in to a job interview, with no past experience, and saying that you want $100 an hour for "competent" work? They would laugh you right out of the building.

Yet, these guys truly believe they've "won" when they then turn down a decent indie-game project (and then proceed to complain when a guy who will do it for less gets the job). It's like, newsflash: Projects made by hobbyists, in their free time, with wives and kids to feed, don't have a spare 800 god-damned-dollars per-minute to throw at you. Of course, this means nothing; many composers believe they are the most important person on this project. The artists, the programmers, the testers, etc. are all doing it as a passion project, but you can't even license them a few songs for even 20 bucks a piece (it's understandable not to want to invest actual composition time into something that doesn't pay, can't be used on a resume to get a full-time job and may never even be finished) because "iM tEh C0mPoser! My w0rRK is ImPORTnAnt! I'd B devAlUing mY iNDustry!"

and they just go nowhere

Edited by AngelCityOutlaw
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