The Library Music Awards launched for the first time this year to champion the best libraries in the business. They also hosted Tune Up, a day-long event filled with Q&As and talks from composers and other industry professionals. We headed to BAFTA Piccadilly for the event, here’s a few tips we took away:
1) How to get started as a composer
Work your way up
All the composers at the Q&A session started small. They worked on shows like Your Shout, Teenage Transexuals (?!), and so on. You might get paid next to nothing initially, but over time royalties will mount up, and each project leads to another. Composer Andrew Skeet did a score for free which then got picked up by a library company who paid him. David Lowe supplemented his composing income with sound engineering work until he got his big break composing for Saatchi & Saatchi’s British Airways campaign. Don’t give up.
Focus on what you love
You’ve got to be passionate about what you’re doing. Daniel James started composing for video games because that’s what he loves (so much so that he did lots of “ghosting” – writing without credit). He talked about his process on his YouTube channel and his passion and talent must have shown because Hans Zimmer got in touch wanting to work with him.
Relationships are the key to getting work in this industry. The people you meet and work with become friends and then you become the go-to guy. Just don’t do a Nick Harvey and get blind drunk whilst doing the caterpillar dance at a wrap party – no one will call you after that.
Relationships with other composers are also really important. Firstly, as Tom Howe says, “they recommend you for jobs they don’t have time for/need help with” and vice versa (he recently bagged the job of scoring ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ in this way). Secondly, composing can be a lonely place so collaborating with other composers can freshen things up and keep you sane.
2) Understanding library companies
Getting in touch
According to Dan Knight, VP A&R at Extreme Music, the biggest put-off is composers saying they can do everything. Instead, show your own voice and how you’ve mastered your craft as an individual.
“The best pitches I’ve received have seen a gap in the market” says Alex Black, Global Director of EMI Production Music. For example a composer who says “I’ve been commissioned to do this particular style many times and your library doesn’t have it”. Do some research on the company before you pitch and show where you can add value.
Keeping your pitch short and sweet is the answer, with easy links and several great tracks, not hundreds. Claire Owens, Head of Production at Universal Music Publishing, says don’t forget to mention if you’ve done any audio-visual work before – a backstory is important.
Setting the right standard
The creative idea is the key thing so sending a rough demo is ok, as long as you can still show you’re capable of finishing work to a high standard. So make sure you back up your demo with a great finished track. One of the benefits of working with a library is the facilities they can provide you with. Ali Johnson, Global Head of Music at Audio Network says that it’s often better in terms of quality if the library company helps composers with recording and production.
How contracts work
A 50:50 split is the industry standard but it also depends on the project. The difference between production music and music for commission is that you’re making it to be picked many times by clients so there’s great potential to earn over time.
The bottom line
Library music might not always seem cool or sexy, but for composers it can be a vital asset. Multi-award winning composer Christian Henson, who also co-founded the brilliant sample company Spitfire Audio (check it out), says that library music has “100% funded his career as a film music composer.” You can’t really argue with that.