How to succeed as a movie composer – a post from 2009!

I wrote this in 2009. I don’t think much has changed… except, what on earth was Myspace..?!

The 12 rules for success as a media composer:

  1. WORK really hard. Work harder than anyone else you’ve ever met.
  2. If you don’t love working really hard you won’t enjoy being a composer (and believe me, it’s a great job)
  3. Ask people to show you how they do what they do. No composer minds being asked how they put a track together
  4. Learn how sound works – if you study the physics of sound, you’ll be more likely to be able to shape it into agreeable forms
  5. Make a portfolio of what you do. A showreel can be virtual – myspace is a start but can look fairly horrible. WordPress is excellent as a shop window
  6. Specialize in something unique. A small business advisor will call this your USP – Unique Selling Point. (I got into the business by doing leftfield  things with string instruments)
  7. Always work with people who are better than you. I do, and I hope they can’t tell. this keeps me on my toes, and I learn from every job
  8. Network network network… but in a cool way. If a player writes to you asking for work, it’s less appealing than if they write to invite you to a gig isn’t it? A mailing list/website with news and forthcoming events is a surefire way for people to see how busy you are. Once you’re seen to be terribly busy, this will attract more work. this sounds like a catch 22 – but it isn’t. You are likely to be self-employed, so employ yourself now!
  9. Listen emotionally, analytically and critically to everything. If you love a piece you hear, try to work out why you love it. Dissect it into its elements. Equally if music doesn’t move you or grab you, try to work out exactly why.
  10. Always carry a bit of manuscript paper with you (or a dictaphone if you don’t read music). Moleskine do really nice pocket manuscript books. Your best tunes will always hit you when you’re not looking for them
  11. See point number one…
  12. Coffee is your friend and enemy. Keep it close, but use it wisely.

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