Is music a stable job? Let’s put it this way: music is a stable need. If you feel the urge to create music, be sure there are music-hungry creatures all around you that yearn to meet it, be it in film, in video games, on the radio, intertwined with the narration of an audiobook, or a tune to which their mind can turn for refuge during an awkwardly long elevator ride. Music is needed everywhere, all the time. The bigger, the faster, and the noisier our world grows outside, the more we need music to temper our worlds inside.
If you harbor an innate desire to create music, like we do at Cutting Room Music, keep working on it and don’t limit your chances by thinking that music composers only have careers in film or television. In fact, a music composer has access to a wide array of possible paths, almost all of which blend composition with other elements of music-making, such as performing, conducting, teaching, arranging or production of music, thereby creating endless possibilities, from “traditional” to “modern” composer career options.
What Are the “Typical” Musical Composition Career Options?
This is perhaps the loosest use of the word, as there is hardly anything “typical” about a musical composer’s professional path. You might start out as a fleeting member of small local new wave synth pop bands while working as an assistant engineer and all-around-handyman at a recording studio. Then you might put together a band and win over the world with dark heavy industrial explorations, and eventually relax into composing scores for films ranging from Natural Born Killers to Soul.
Perhaps the path that we are most exposed to is that of a composer-performer, which gives you the distinct advantage of presenting your own music the way you intend it to be heard.
A composer-conductor is another option to tap into the same advantage, but by influencing the performance of your creative work by others.
Alternatively, consider songwriting — the field is notoriously competitive, but always in need for fresh ideas to put behind the endless stream of fresh faces and voices transforming delivery of music.
The more academically inclined might explore the path of composer-instructor, which can range from teaching one or more instruments, teaching composition itself, or teaching musical arts courses within a college or university.
What Are Music Composer Careers You Don’t Hear Enough About?
There are a lot of options out there that we don’t associate with composers, either because they are called something else or because most of us don’t understand that it takes composition skills to do the job well.
A producer, for instance, is a wide-net term that can encapsulate arranging music or engineering to overhaul the sound of a piece or a collection of music — it takes a composer’s familiarity with instrument capability to realize when the sound might be missing something or when a good piece of music could be elevated by adapting it to a different set of instruments.
Some of the best producers in the business started out as producer’s assistants, which on its own is great exposure to music marketplace knowledge, collaboration opportunities, new skills and creative avenues. From there, you might put together your own studio and help lift other voices in film, television, commercials, animations, documentaries, or whatever their project is that needs music.
Composers’ particular expertise in new music gives them a certain knowledge of quality and sense of discrimination that makes them great publishing scouts — attend concerts, meet other composers, catch an early wave of new music, and uncover new talent.
Repertoire selection is another avenue of collaboration with publishing and record companies. A composer’s fine sense for musical arrangement and variety of the times makes for great curation of, say, a discography release.
New medium music composition — video games would likely not have evolved to be so immersive and sophisticated without the musical score that complements their narratives and built worlds. Even the best written true crime podcast would not be as gripping without the right music to underscore the drama.
As traditionally “analog” endeavours lean more into the digital and multimedia dimensions, advertising agencies and event coordinators need music composers to create everything from catchy jingles to soundscapes for conferences, conventions, and book tours, as well as edit sound and advise on audio design.
Films, television shows, video games, plays, commercials, podcasts, fashion shows, orchestras, small local store ads, musical therapy programs, and so much more everywhere around you need composers to bring their projects to completion, and each of these paths can be a fulfilling, satisfying composer career.
If you’re looking for experienced composers or music consultants to help you with your next musical project, feel free to reach out to Cutting Room Music. We’re always ready and eager to immerse ourselves in a new and unique project, and we’re looking forward to working with you!