Making Music for Film and Television
These days every creative person has to be an entrepreneur. You have to be thinking about how to monetize whatever artform you make, in any way possible. Sure, it helps if you have a dedicated fan base online that buys whatever you put out. But there’s something to say about diversifying your portfolio. Having multiple means of generating income for yourself.
One avenue that many musicians have found success in is finding film and tv licensing ideals. Or even being hired to make music for a tv or film project. Both of these lanes can be very lucrative. One is decidedly more passive than the other. Writing music for film or even scoring a film requires an entirely different approach to the medium.
These days, much of the music composed for film and television begins inside a MIDI studio or lab. Film and TV composers often have large software libraries of virtual instruments ranging from strings to guitars to a wide array of piano samples. They will then use these digital tools to create sonic landscapes.
They’re usually a one-stop-shop. They will do everything the production company or film program needs themselves. In many cases, they will record and mix a project in their home studio. While the more expensive software programs can often replicate real orchestras, bigger-budget film projects will often re-record the score with actual instruments in the studio.
If you’re a musician looking to get your foot in the game of making music for the screen here are some things to consider, as you’re embarking on your journey:
A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF MIDI
You would be well suited for a career in this sphere if you’ve already got a good understanding of MIDI. Most composition projects begin “in the box” with MIDI instruments. You’ll want to learn the ins and outs of MIDI and work with computers to generate music. If you’re an indie producer or a one-person band you likely already know this. This is a skill set that’s essential to have a career as a composer or person who licenses music to film, tv, and video games.
HONING YOUR RECORDING/MIXING SKILLS
While large projects may be recorded in a studio, when you’re starting out, that’s not going to be the way things go. You’re going to be a lone wolf. You’re going to have to put this together yourself. You’re going to be giving files to the production company that should be ready to be dropped in the editor’s timeline. If you’re not a top-notch audio engineer who can mix and master a song, now is the time to start learning. That’s a skill set you’re going to need as a working musician and producer.
LEARNING TO WRITE TO VISUAL CUES
If you’re interested in the composing aspect of writing music for film and TV it’s important that you get used to the idea of writing music that will play off of what is happening to a visual cue. Remember you’re pairing your music to exist in support of the photography of the film. You’re writing the emotional undergirding of the piece.
If your music isn’t in tune with what is happening in the scene, it’s not going to work. In the composing arena, you’re working much more in service of a story. You’re not telling your own story through your music, you’re working in service of a bigger one. Some musicians are very good at that aspect of the craft, others not so much.
BUILDING A REEL OR PORTFOLIO
If you’re looking to go into this field seriously, you need a portfolio. You need a backlist of works that have been created. This will allow you to illustrate your abilities and skills to prospective employers. You’ll be able to show the diversity in your range. Without this, it’s going to be very difficult to get hired. No one is going to hire you straight away to do film work. You need to prove that you’re serious, capable, and skilled.
BUILDING YOUR CONNECTIONS
Like anything else, the field of film/TV composing is a very connection-driven business. The more industry pros you know who work in this field, the more likely you are to get the inside track on projects. While you’re fulfilling your Recording Connection externship, start building a network of contacts with music supervisors, music publishers, executive producers, and other composers. They say most artists aren’t famous because of their abilities but because of their friends.
LEARNING TO COMPOSE GREAT MUSIC
MIDI keyboards and sequencers are great but don’t make the mistake of assuming they make great music on their own. You need a keen understanding of the language of music, and you need to be versed in a wide range of musical styles. Good working knowledge of arranging is also important.
It’s commonly said that music for film and television should be unassuming or audibly “invisible”—that it is basically designed to accompany the film and is not supposed to be noticed. However, some of the most prolific film composers disagree with this idea, saying that a great film score often becomes a character in the film.
Indeed, the great John Williams, one of the best-loved film composers in the world, is particularly known for writing memorable themes that enhance a film. While the music for visual media certainly should not overpower the story, it is not an excuse for creating music that is mediocre or forgettable.
If you want to be successful as a composer, strive to compose great music. Interested in making music for film and television as a career? Recording Connection can place you with a mentor who specializes in this exciting field.