When you start to spend your time concentrating on music composition and production, you begin to notice things you previously didn’t see at all. For example, it seems to me that everywhere you look, these days, there’s another film and game composer springing up. Not to denigrate any of these people, especially because I could be one of them, at some point, but it seems to be that there are an awful lot of people, no doubt accomplished and talented, trying to compete for what must be a limited number of compositional opportunities. That’s quite daunting.
As well as composers, though, there seems to be a lot of sample library vendors that cater for composers. They charge relatively high prices for their orchestral samples (the ones that would appeal to professional composers) and yet the sample library vendors seem to be surviving and even thriving. The money is coming from somewhere, evidently. I do wonder, though, whether the sample library vendors are making more money than the composers, or if it’s the other way around. It’s hard to know.
The overall impression I get (while admittedly only surfing around on the Internet casually about the subject) is that there is much more music being composed and produced, some of it of exceptional quality, than there are big media projects to place it in.
Given the quality of the work, it seems a pity that there doesn’t seem to be a very big market for cinematic soundtrack releases to the general public, as regular listening material. Soundtracks were always a bit of a niche interest. My brother amassed quite a collection of John Williams and Ennio Morricone and the like, but it didn’t seem like sales of these albums reached anything like the numbers of classical CDs and certainly far short of the sales volumes of popular and rock music. Dead composers still hold their own against the modern ones, no matter how hard the new guys try, it seems, despite some very interesting, emotive and excellently produced music being made to accompany films, games and TV, today.
The price of equipping yourself as a composer is now under about £25k, if you count £3k for a super duper computer and you buy £10k-£20k of orchestral sample libraries, plug-ins and DAW software. It’s a lot of money, to be sure (and beyond my means), but nothing like it used to be. Hiring an orchestra and somewhere to record them, plus paying the music copyists, recording engineers and so on, must have burned through £20k pretty rapidly, in the old days. No wonder there are so many new composers setting out their stalls.
It does beg a question, though. With so many people able to hang their shingle on the door as a composer, why is there seemingly so little diversity in their offerings? What is easy to find is yet another composer/arranger/orchestrator who is writing their music for the traditional tonal palette of the standard orchestra. Everybody wants to write for strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. Why be limited to that, when with computers, so many more timbres, tonal qualities and colours are available? I know an orchestra in full flight is a good sound, but it’s not the only sound. I can’t help thinking that if Beethoven were alive today, he’d embrace all the new sonic textures and virtual instruments, rather than shun them in favour of standard orchestral instruments. I’m surprised there aren’t more composers experimenting with synthetic, eclectic, esoteric and electric instruments.
With the thousands of composers that must be out there, it seems like there are also hundreds of music licensing scams around too. All of them promise to place your music in films and games, but some want you to pay up front for membership and a separate fee for each submission. That doesn’t sound like they’re too confident about making a percentage on the placement, to be honest. It makes you wonder how submissions from these agencies are really received by the people making films and games. Are they welcomed or do they go straight into the bin? I suspect the real film and game companies use their favourite tried and trusted agents and a small roster of proven artists that they have mostly worked with before. I also imagine it is much harder to get your music into a game or film than simply signing up on a web site, paying the membership and submission fees and crossing your fingers.
It seems to me that the only chance a new music producer / composer has of getting their work placed or played somehow is if they have some niche or specialty that makes them stand out from the rest of the producers / composers. You need something distinctive to be noticed at all, given the quite similar, but excellent music already on offer. Your sound needs to be your own and unique. What you compose, how you move the audience emotionally and which tonal colours you use in your production need to be noticeable, remarkable and instantly recognisable as your own. The aim of all composers and music producers must be to become known for making a particular kind of sound that is wanted and in demand, surely. The aspiration must be to become more like a Mozart, rather than a Salieri.
I’m still not sure how to market my music, at present and it is still finding its own voice. I’m not there yet. However, that is part of the challenge. For now, my focus is on making more of it, so that I have a body of work to present. That’s quite time consuming enough.
To end, I’d like to quote composer, producer and sound designer Matt Bowdler (http://www.theunfinished.co.uk/): “Bloody enjoy it. Don’t worry about what’s hot and what other people are doing. Write music because you enjoy writing music and hopefully the rewards you deserve will come your way. If they don’t you still have your music. And that’s a gift no-one can take away from you.”
Wise words indeed.