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Music is everywhere. But there’s the music you decide on, the tracks you have on Spotify or iTunes, and there’s the music you’re just given. Movies and TV shows are all framed by their soundtracks, with the music sometimes becoming the most memorable bit. Not everyone’s a fan of Star Wars, but they still recognise the theme tune when they hear it. You can turn the movie off, leave the cinema or change the channel, but that theme is still going to be stuck in your head.
You may not choose the scores that feature on TV shows and movies, but just like any other music they have worth and the creators have rights. While it comes as part and parcel of the media you’re consuming, everything has a price, and it’s important that both the rights and the music’s monetary worth are exploited properly by the owner. This is done through music synchronisation licences, or ‘syncing’.
So the question is: as a composer, how do you get your foot on the syncing ladder? Let’s have a look:
Creating a Showreel
The first thing you need to do before you apply for any job is put together your CV. Getting work as a composer for TV and Film music is no different, except your CV isn’t typed up on Word, it’s your showreel, a portfolio of work you’ve done so far. Before everything went online, you would put your best bits together on a CD and send that out. But, as with everything else in music, times have changed.
Video hosting websites like YouTube or Vimeo have made it much easier for rookie composers to share their work and get it in front of the right people. These sites also help you to meet creatives from other disciplines, which presents a fantastic opportunity to make your showreel stand out. Reach out to visual arts and film students and offer to collaborate with them, Hollywood is filled with massively successful director/composer partnerships. But don’t go too over the top! Original visuals can be instrumental to success, but make sure they fit with your music.
The composition of the showreel itself can take two directions. Either you make one that shows the breadth of your range, or you focus on a particular defined style and display what makes your music different. This helps you to create a brand and become more memorable, scores written by big names like Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman are instantly recognisable.
If you’re submitting music for consideration, try to tailor it to the project you’re aiming for. One thing to be aware of is that even though you have the space to upload hours and hours of music, you shouldn’t. Making your reel too long will be off- putting. Like a paper CV, you need to make your showreel clear and concise while delivering everything you want the listener to hear.
Get Out There
Networking. The sheer amount of unique reactions that just the word alone elicits from people makes it fascinating. While the social butterfly instinctively flexes its wings, others instantly feel chills run down their backs at the sound of those three syllables. But whatever your feelings, networking is key to finding work.
Meeting new people and discussing with others in your field can be invaluable, both creatively and when you’re looking for work, so look out for music networking events near you. ACM also offer networking opportunities at Tileyard, The Great Escape, Pivotal, BMAs, BBC Introducing and more! Even if you find these events difficult, they are designed to get everyone talking and you can often meet sync agents or music publishers on the lookout for new talent.
Join the Ivors Academy, previously known as the British Association of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), the UK body created to protect composers’ rights. As well as running networking events with industry professionals, the Ivors Academy also offers members free public liability and equipment insurance and legal advice.
Social media plays as big a role for composers finding work as it does in any industry. There are tons of Facebook groups and forums available to help you find work. You should get involved in the community and use them as a tool for music marketing. You also need to make sure that all of your social media has links to your showreel front and centre, don’t be shy about showing off your work.
Online job boards can also be useful for finding work. Generally, however, soliciting work through job boards won’t be as valuable in the long run as making your own contacts. Alternatively, to make a bit of money quite quickly, try out freelancing sites like Upwork or musicfreelancer.net. You bid for jobs and they can help you make some extra money, but most importantly they give you working experience.
Composing music for TV and Film is a tough industry to get into, like with any job in the arts, there’s a lot of stiff competition. Show off your work wherever you can and make sure you’re meeting the right people!