A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

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eliotpister1
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A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by eliotpister1 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:59 pm

http://www.filmmusic.net/dlx/Getting_Yo ... _Today.pdf

This will either make you go back to school, or strengthen your resolve to become successful at it despite the gloomy prospects...

What do y'all think?

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by Dwayne Russell » Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:56 pm

eliotpister1 wrote:http://www.filmmusic.net/dlx/Getting_Yo ... _Today.pdf

This will either make you go back to school, or strengthen your resolve to become successful at it despite the gloomy prospects...

What do y'all think?

Eliot.

The problem here is that this company makes claims that it has no proof of. There are no footnotes at all. It does not site even ONE statistic.

How would they even get such statistics about the claims they make any way? What is "too much" ? How many is "too many"?

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by T&V Marino » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:28 pm

Hi Eliot,

Don't get too down about this article!

Since it's published by Global Media, it was most likely written by the owner, Mark Northam. We've attended some of his events in L.A. in the past several years. He's extremely smart and funny but he also has a cynical side because he's seen the "underbelly of the beast." This article, though it's written for the score composer (as opposed to the production music composer), has a lot of truth to it. We've witnessed and heard from other score composers about some of these harsh realities.

But...Mark makes some important points at the end of the article that every composer should pay attention to. Let's face it -- there is a LOT of competition that each of us faces now. Better to know the negative side of the business than to be surprised by it later!

Keep writing,

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by mojobone » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:32 pm

I think dude's glass is more than half empty. I would never encourage anybody to go into this business, unless it was the only way they could be happy. If I wanted the skies to rain money on me, I'd have gone to Harvard, got an MBA and worked for Goldman Sachs.

Sure, schools for audio engineering, composing, drama, fine art, creative writing, theater tech, dance, etc. are graduating way more people than will ever work in these trades, and I don't suppose the education harms 'em, but a motivated kid with a YouTube account seems a more likely candidate for a career than someone who waits to finish their education, because the tech is moving a lot faster than the teachers, these days.

Only the top one half of one percent will ever really make it on the creative side, and despite the current bad economy and technological disruption (which I read as opportunity) it's never been any different. The author decries that film scoring schools don't teach contract law, networking nor time management, duh. There are other ways to learn that stuff, you probably have to learn some to even get into that fancy film school in the first place. That said, there's some great advice later in the article, if you're the sort to not be discouraged by the gloomy predictions of impending disaster.

Fact is, the market for music is getting bigger. Yeah, there's lots of competition now, but most folks will learn to do something different as soon as they realize how hard this biz really is and how much you have to know, and how quickly the required skill set and gear list continues to grow. I certainly wouldn't be doing this if I weren't up for a challenge.

Which brings me to what I believe is the biggest misperception on the part of the author; he seems to think that it's harder to write for live instruments than for virtual orchestras, and nothing could be farther from the truth. Live players actually make an orchestrator's job easier. Factor in how much harder it is to effectively blend electronic and orchestral instruments and the engineering challenges involved, and this guy starts to seem not only biased, but also hopelessly out of touch. Y'all might not realize it, but these are the good old days, or they will be, soon enough. Carpe Diem
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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by Len911 » Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:40 am

I don't think this article really says anything new. I remember decades ago, my cousin and I discussing careers with our high school counselor, he wanted to be a writer. She told him that he would be eating beans for most of his life.
I think if you want to be an artist, you have to believe that the cream always rises to the top, not that it actually does, but if you don't, you will be spending nearly all of your time on the business and hardly any making art. But on the other hand, one could certainly make the argument that art has nothing to do with the music business anyway. I think of art as a Michelangelo or a DaVinci painting on canvas, and the art business as someone painting flowers on coffee cups en masse. And I'm almost certain that the coffee cup painter is more successful in the manner of which we define success, quantity of pesos. Yes indeed it is a sad day for all the coffee cup painters, all the competition out there in the world, but I think personally what attracts me to art is that there is no competition, everyone is unique, and art is in the eye, ear and mind of the beholder. I may never become an artist, though I'll probably spend the rest of my life in the pursuit.
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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by Kolstad » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:47 am

I think the article is quite accurate about the state of the market, from a numbers point of view. There are too much music out there, too many composers willing to sell their mom's for a gig (it's a figure of speech here..), and too many sharks lurking to take advantage of it. That's just the downsides, though.

There are also lots of people looking for quality. Quality in music, quality in relationships ect. People will still buy quality, if they can recognize it through all the clutter. The world just seems way more cluttered than before, because anyone claims they're great. Few truly are, nothing new about that. This is where Michael and Taxi does a great job, help supervisors find the good stuff through the clutter.

There were also lot's of great advice in the article. I believe it pays off to take precautions like if the world's cynical, but act like it isn't. That way you sort of can reduce uncertainty a little.

Sobering article? IMO, yes, for anyone not with Taxi :D

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by Dwayne Russell » Sun Mar 06, 2011 8:33 am

People here are taking what the article says as fact. How do you know that?

Maybe schools are graduating less composers. Maybe there are More opportunities.

No one has sited a single statistic or how they got it. Why ASSume anything?

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by mazz » Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:08 am

I've met the author of this article several times and have even attended some of the classes, which were quite good and informative. You won't find a more tenacious advocate for composers anywhere, BTW. Mark is a passionate guy and does interject a certain amount of his opinion into his writing, that's for sure. But I would also like to note that even though he doesn't cite statistics, his anecdotal information usually comes from his extensive contacts in the business.

That being said, IMO this article is a very detailed version of "stating the obvious". As composers (and I experienced this as a gigging musician too 20 years ago!) we've actively participated in the "race to the bottom". How much does that 50 or 100 bucks a night that one made gigging in the 80s buy today? Because the musicians are still working for that same 50 or 100 bucks, and in some cases, there's no pay for a band to play a "showcase" event, the venue actually makes the bands promote the show and doesn't do any advertising itself except for putting a sign in the window. Hell yes, get a bunch of hungry musicians to do your marketing for you FOR FREE!! Woo Hoo! But that business model says that fans are more important than money for an up and coming band, and eventually enough people will become aware of you that you'll reach some critical mass and become visible to a record company or whatever. So now that the clubs know this, they provide the venue for the bands to get their fans to come, don't have to pay the musicians anything up front, because the musicians are trying to build their fan base. It's much the same in the composing business, once a composer reaches a threshold of a certain amount of placeable material, then the back end royalties become enough to sustain a living. But until then, it's all upfront "sweat equity" and many sleepless nights and nodding head moments trying to stay awake at the day gig!

How did this come about? Because as a group we suck at business.

So Mark's suggestions as to how to overcome all of this "stuff" he lays out are incredibly useful. There is a lot of information in this article that mirrors what I heard from big time audio directors for game companies last week at the GDC. The potential buyers of our music and talent (the ones we ultimately want to work for) can hear poor samples and poor use of samples. I feel and see that there is greater and greater demand for at least some live instrument in a composition, particularly for orchestral music. That alone will "thin the herd" a bit because there's bunches and bunches of composers out there that have never even experienced a real orchestra or real flute or whatever. It's not enough to be able to compose for samples, it's about translating those concepts out so that a live musician can play those parts. That communication requires training and knowledge.

Since this article is focused on scoring, I'll echo another thing I heard a lot at the GDC: Don't work for free if at all possible. Try to build some value for the music, even if it's some back end points if there's no up front money. The idea is to get the clients that we work for to place a higher value on the music than they might otherwise given the current environment they are operating in which is: they have more music available to them for their projects than at any other time in history. They live in an oasis of music where they can just pluck it off of trees without a thought, there's so much music available to them so cheaply that they don't even think about it. We have to educate them about the value we as composers bring to the project above and beyond just delivering the music.

I could go on and on.

This is thought provoking stuff, and it's perfect timing for me just coming out of a major conference talking a lot about these specific issues and more.

Thanks for posting, Elliot!

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by guitaroboe » Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:37 pm

Elliot, John,
I could go on forever too. I’ve read the article a long time ago-probably before even joining TAXI and I still read it every now and then. Sometimes we need to hear the ‘obvious’ several times because as Mazz pointed out, as composers we suck at business.
I have participated in many arguments about ‘the race to the bottom’ with many fellow musicians and I even lost some friendships over it. I STRONGLY believe in placing a high value to our craft and not just pissing it away.
If a budding composer is offered a scoring gig for a project that absolutely no one will receive a dime-then it’s ok to do it on spec. However, if there is a budget (big or small) then the composer should get his share. We need to put a value to our talent JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE! I find it absolutely horrendous that in a film project the electrician or the even the caterer gets paid and the composer does it on spec!!

If we don’t demand, no one will do it for us.
thanks for posting
Adonis

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Re: A sobering look at the composer's trade. Must-read article..

Post by Dwayne Russell » Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:19 pm

Since we are all just guessing and none of us has any facts or data to prove anything, it seems to me that with the spread of cable and the internet that there are far more opportunities than before. Thus, we can make more money than before. Before what? before like 10 years ago.

How many cable shows need music?

How many websites need music?

How many games need music?

Was the game market as big ten years ago?

There are so many factors that no one is counting. Maybe in fact things are better than before.

Also, in a recession, the home entertainment business picks up as people stay home. That benefits us.
Last edited by Dwayne Russell on Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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