I get asked a lot about how to get started as composer for film, soundtracks, etc

So you want to be a film composer and earn the mega bucks, do projects like Pirates of the Caribbean, or Underworld, etc? Who wouldn’t!    However let’s start at the beginning and look realistically at a couple of ideas for entering this section of the music industry.

Let’s presume you actually have the general music theory, composition, arrangement skills and can apply them, whether with ‘real’ instruments or virtual (as if you don’t have that groundwork in place then really there is no point in proceeding further until you acquire some of them)

Let’s also presume you have a computer, a ‘DAW’ (or sequencer – you know Sonar, Cubase, Pro Tools, Logic, Live, etc) and some synths and samples are great starting points, so we’ll assume that you have some of those already (again if you don’t even know what I am talking about then maybe get all that down again before proceeding).

Beyond that, you’re going to need a pinch of raw talent and some top-notch negotiation chops to deal with demanding directors.

But before you get into all that, let’s look at the opportunities that are out there for would-be composers.

Famous movie composers like John Williams know their music. Notation, orchestration etc etc and had to ‘score’ everything for a real-life orchestra – but you don’t necessarily have to follow the same path today (in some cases you do of course).

The opportunities for composers have exploded in recent years, as there’s no need to rely on traditional notation or even a conventional orchestral palette of sounds any more. Having said that, the amount of sampled orchestral instruments around today (and even interfaces for making them combine ‘properly’ together) presents huge possibilities for those without a classical background to become involved in scoring.

As varied as the makes of computers, sequencers and virtual instruments, pathways to enter this market are as varied as the number of people in it.  For example,

  • Christian Henson started in a covers band and after getting his first gigs as a background music writer for adult films, his credits now include some major soundtracks including for the movies Black Death and The Devil’s Double.
  • Jesper Kyd – the soundsmith behind the Assassin’s Creed videogame series – began his composing career as a tracker musician in the Amiga demo scene.
  • And the great Hans Zimmer started out as part of new wave pop group ‘The Buggles’ (heard of it? LOL, yes I had to look it up), not to mention writing the theme music for a couple of successful 1980s UK game shows.

It just goes to show that great composing success can come from a range of varied beginnings – though it should also demonstrate that the career path of the modern-day soundtrack composer can be long and hard.

A foot in the door

First another warning – the pathway to a career in film/soundtrack composing isn’t without its pitfalls, and you’ll need to be prepared for lots of time, knockbacks from clients, directors and collaborators.

However, the market for original music to accompany films, games and TV is bigger than ever before.

  • The explosion in digital TV channels has meant that many more shows are being commissioned, and of course, they all need music.
  • For videogames, indie developers are prolific and ambitious in the scope of their projects, which all need accompanying music to varying degrees, be it for a casual iPhone title or a more immersive desktop effort. (note here Big-name game titles – like Assassin’s Creed, Balck Ops etc – have budgets to rival some Hollywood films and you do have to probably write for real orchestras etc. For those looking to get their foot in the door, though, the indie gaming scene is where the action is.
  • The movie industry is, as you’d expect, tremendously difficult to break into, but smaller student films and the advent of crowd-funded movies, and small film events like Tropfest, etc  give emerging composers a chance to get going
  • Advertising also relies on audio to send a message to the consumer (think radio, TV , internet, etc etc)
  • Then there is the corporate market – product launch videos, training films, etc.

These and more opportunities are easy to research and find online (be creative in your word search criteria and you will be surprised what might come up).

Just remember you will be competing with many other like-minded individuals, so allow time and more time, be prepared for lots of no’s (but don’t take them personally) and lots of effort ….but if you collect a yes or two, can give yourself enough of an edge to be recognised and especially if a bit unique in what you do, you’ll find your place.

After that, it’s all about putting the word out, marketing yourself and developing your contact list. You might be surprised at how many people suddenly want to collaborate or know of someone who needs music as soon as you mention you’re a composer.

Hope some of that helps those of you wanting to ‘put a foot into this area’.

 Good luck and let us know how you are going.

PS I have only mentioned the ‘original composer’ entry area here – an increasing level of  TV, advertising and even films, tap into retail songs and production libraries for some if not all of their needs ….. a whole other way of getting ‘a foot in the door’


As well as over 600 musical pieces (retail and PM music and songs) in our library, PavMusic’s Sync Stable currently has 9 experienced composers (including yours truly) that we tap into for unique creations and sound scapes/design for client’s projects. Whether an orchestral arrangement behind a song, a theme for a corporation, event or a product launch, right through to full movie scoring – each has a unique skill that makes their inclusion in the group important to our business offering.


7 Important Aspects to Getting Noticed in the Music World

An article By Crowd Audio  I thought would be of real interest to a number of those in the business  …………. 

“Even big bands had to start somewhere when entering the music industry.
No one has a lot of fans or promotion when beginning their musical journey. Starting out can be rough but there are ways for bands to help kick start themselves that can help ensure a successful music career.

1. The Power of Being Different
As a band, your image is very important.
If you get big enough, millions of people may be seeing and hearing you every day so it’s important to stand out from the crowd as a unique entity.
BBC Radio suggests getting creative when trying to get noticed. Come up with a good name, try wearing costumes to gigs, or even try inviting only a certain amount people to your performances. Secrecy works really well with music because everyone will be curious about what you will do next.

2. Fans Are a Band’s Oxygen
What’s a band without its fans?
As you start creating your band’s image think about building your fan base. Invite your friends and have them invite their friends to gigs. Engage everyone who likes you on social media sites and try to get a lot of word or mouth going about your band. With enough time, people will begin to know you, but starting out it’s a good idea to let everyone know about you to help spread the word.
Setting up online accounts for your band can be a good way to connect with fans and easily spread your work through the Internet.
Facebook is an obvious social media website that every band should have an account on, but it also smart to create a page simply for your band. Make a fan page for your band that your followers can like and share with their friends through Facebook.
Twitter is also another valuable site to get started with. Twitter is a great way to show who and what your band really is and let people see a more personal side of the band through pictures and posts. Share things that the band finds interesting or inspiring; that way your followers can get insight in things that influence your music.
But these social networks should only funnel your potential fans to the most important aspect of all, your email list. Think of your band as a business and start collecting emails from fans. If they’re local, they’ll get invited to gigs. If they’re not, you can sell them your music. But make no mistake, your email list is important. Grab emails both online and at shows.

3. Think About Your Brand
What does your band represent? Overall, you need to have branding that flows between all your outlets online.
It is suggested hiring a graphic designer to help with creating professional eye catching pictures and profile pages. They also suggest scheduling regular posts to keep your fans engaged with your band by posting about upcoming events and new releases.
Don’t release all your songs at the same time. Make a posting schedule to keep the momentum going. Do you have six songs to promote? Great. Release them every 4 weeks and you’ll have 6 MONTHS of promotional material to talk about. That’s better than just the one-off “Hey look I made a CD.”

4. Fans Relate to Videos
Consider making a YouTube Channel to post music videos or even clips of your live gigs. Even if you don’t have real footage yet, think about making videos to go with your music. You can even link videos from YouTube onto your website. Every band’s website “worth its salt now carries video.”
Videos are one of the most shared things online today and getting a few videos up of your music will make it easier for you to spread the word about your band. While blogging may not seem like a very useful thing to do to promote yourself, it is a good practice to get into.
Create a blog through such sites as WordPress and start recording everything to do with your musical experience; problems, obstacles, successes. Write about anything your fans would like to hear and read about.

5. Get Out and Play
The single best and ensured way to get noticed in the music industry is to actually get out and play.
It’s just like with any type of work. If you don’t do the actual work, you won’t have anything to show for it.
Before all the online options that were available to bands, they simply had to go out and play their music so people noticed them. It doesn’t really matter where or how much you play, just go out and play for some people. If it’s meant to be, word of mouth will eventually get around about your band and more people will start showing up to your gigs.

6. Give Your Fans Something
Handing out samples is not always practical and can be costly, but it is good to keep a few samples around for people who are really interested.
Bands can also sell merchandise with their logos and themes on them to help get some added advertising. If it is not probable to hand out CDs or tape samples, business cards work as well.

Getting Noticed.
In today’s media age, it’s probably better to start producing your own music.
There are online sites that let bands set up their own labels. Many musicians are pursuing online degrees in business to help propel their music and learn how to work in the business world.
While this may not be the most practical option, it is still an option for those bands trying to catch a break. Getting noticed in the music industry isn’t easy, but there are creative ways to get noticed. Working on your band’s image, gaining an online presence, and getting out and playing your music are ways to setup a good foundation to get noticed.
In the end, it’s up to the people who will decide if you are good enough to make it, but it does help to put in the effort to help win them over.”


Sound good? helpful?

Now here’s a thought – – -You have to act to get a result.
You can be the most informed person around but its useless if you do nothing with the information you have that you think will help your career ……..or you can be a relatively (or very) successful person with average knowledge if you take what you know and act on it wisely …………….  results come from action.

Like all the information I provide in these articles (whether my thoughts or others), its not just information for its own sake…. but to be useful that can be considered, taken on board and acted on.

Dont throw in the towel – be ready for the “what if’s” and push through

I saw this article in a newsletter the other day and thought it followed on  nicely from the last blog article I posted – hope its of interest


Aaron Davidson wrote –

“Let’s face it. The music business can really suck sometimes! It’s not nearly as glamorous as I thought it was when I was younger and dreamed of one day playing music for stadiums filled with adoring fans. The reality of pursuing a music career is that there are times when it´s really, really hard.  It can be a struggle to stay motivated when things don´t seem to be going the way you want them to be.

One of the most common responses I get from people who leave my newsletter is that they appreciate the information and think it´s great, but they’ve simply decided to quit music altogether.  They’re throwing in the towel! They’re just giving up.  In some ways I´m saddened when I hear this, but in other ways I think this is perfectly normal and makes it easier for those of us who want to keep going and keep getting our music out there.

You have to be in it to win it, as they say. But even if you’re in it, and you know you’re in it for good, it can be discouraging when you’re not getting the instant gratification you’re looking for. So how do you stay motivated along the way when you face the inevitable rejection and setbacks that come with pursuing a music career?

For starters, it helps to be as objective as possible about what you’re trying to do. I once read that the average songwriter who moves to Nashville to work as a songwriter spends about five years on average in Nashville before they land their first publishing contract. Some things just take time, and if you’re aware of that fact you can stay calm as you confidently move towards your goals.

Secondly, something that has helped me tremendously in staying motivated is setting smaller goals that will ultimately lead to my bigger goals.  I realize this sounds like self help 101, but it´s really true and can be easy to forget.  If the only thing you’re thinking about is wanting to be a rock star, you’re going to be missing out on a lot of other opportunities along the way that will propel your career forward.

The lead singer of Coldplay, Chris Martin, was once asked why he wrote songs and I loved his reply.  He said that his motivation is to one day write the ¨perfect¨ song, although he knows the ¨perfect¨ song doesn’t exist.  That sums up how I feel about writing songs perfectly. Every time I write a new song I want this one to be the ¨perfect¨ one, and although I doubt I’ll ever get there, hopefully with enough practice I can get close!”


OK, interesting? Helpful in positioning your expectations for the long term (or the short term start to your journey)?
Anyway, I’d like to offere a few thoughts to continue from the above article 

  1. While getting exposure through a show like The Voice would be helpful (if you really milked it foe all its potential afterwards), a song selected as the theme to a popular world wide TV show rewarding, or being asked to be ‘ the act,’ at a major event wonderful……Just because these don’t happen doesnt mean you haven’t ‘made it’.
    Some of the most financially secure (and some of the most content) artists I know are those working behind the scenes as regular session musicians, backing singers, songwriters for others, etc.
  2. The setting of realistic goals, understanding the realities of this business (which ever part of it you are in), finding your place in it,  being ready to work and work hard for the long haul, is what will help you make a career rather than a short term hobby. 
  3. While I hope for all of you to succeed and prosper …the reason I offered all the above and the previous blog really boils down to a basic business premise ……… if you know what is the ‘worse case scenario’ and you can cover the ‘what if’s’  if they arise – then you are prepared for them can go for it under informed expectations and have a very real chance of creating a sustainable, rewarding career in the music industry.

    In other words,you might expect to fly, take off and soar, but don’t rely on it happening or set yourself up as though it will last forever if it happens (winds ebb and flow and sometimes there us a lull that will take the wind out from under your wings)…… be ready and prepared to walk through the valleys, enjoy the mountain tops – your ‘stickability’ will get you through

     As one friend put it ‘ be ready for the train trip and if the rocket comes along fantastic’.



Having been in the business for 36 years now (part time and full time),  I have some experience to draw on (as well as from the other business activity when I used to be part time). I am excited and satisfied by what I do, what each day will bring as I work on an existing project –  and what new project or opportunity in a current one will arise. . . Hopefully a bit of the information, thoughts, ideas, lessons and experience I offer, will be helpful to some as I continue blogging here, and input into those I work with directly (as I spend part of my time mentoring and working with emerging artists).

 We offer services in-

  • production ( on site, remote location and online with a range of assistance on tap when needed)
  • song writing and composition (including a bank of composers who work with us for film  etc projects)
  • a small publishing arm taking songs and musical works into the licensing/synch area 
  • advice, mentoring and song assessment 
  • lectures, talks and facilitating groups in areas of music industry business, marketing and social networking for musicians.

 If you feel we can be of assistance to you, your project or your career, please don’t hesitate to contact us. ………….. go to pavmusic.com and check us out.


Ian Pav