Thank You, 2018.

Friends, I’m so stoked to share that “Legacy” is on the front page of Bandcamp’s “Best Selling” section in the “Film Music” and “Adventure” categories. In the “video game soundtrack” and “video game music sections, it’s on the second page!

You can still check it out here! Your support has been so valuable. I cannot thank you enough.

As the year closes, I’d like to share that I’m now moving towards freelancing on a full-time basis. I’m no longer working in-house for the company that I used to for the past 2 years. It’s quite exhilarating, but also involves loads of hard work.

I’m pleased to share that I’m currently scoring for another game entitled Galaxy Civil War. I can’t confirm when it will be released, but it’s exciting and rather different from VR Hero Sentry and any other game I’ve written for previously. As the name suggests, it has more of a serious Star Wars vibe, involving spaceships. I can’t say too much right now apart from the fact that the game will be available on PC in the near future!

2018 has been quite a year.

I’ve gotten married to the love of my life, scored music cues for TV shows I grew up watching (HBO, MTV etc), created soundtracks and audio assets for video games, joined an IMDB accredited team of 9 global composers that’s now in the midst of working out a contract with Water Music Publishing (Sony ATV/ Kobalt Music), began producing content for virtual instrument developers, consulting on audio branding with companies… the list goes on.

I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you that have shown me support in one way or another in this ridiculous journey.

Glory to God.

Here’s to the best days ahead!

Legacy.

It’s been a while since I’ve released any new music of my own.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to reveal to all of you a project that I’ve been working since August 2018. It’s entitled “Legacy”, and is available for pre-download on Bandcamp. You can preview a snippet of the album and pre-download it to receive 2/7 of the tracks instantly.

The full project launches on the 1st of December 2018.

Releasing this project took me longer than it should. I have long wondered if the music I've written made sense to any one. Yet you must find it strange to hear this coming from an individual who has managed to make a living from doing this for a while now. 

The odd thing is, I wrote these songs to encourage the heart of any that might be willing to listen, but have ironically never found the courage to release them till now. 

I wrote these songs because I have never stopped believing that there is a God-given dream inside every human being, whether they believe He even exists as I do, or not.

Do enjoy.




On Landing Composing Jobs (Part 3).

Unsurprisingly, the “Landing Composing Jobs” blogposts have turned out to be my most popular series. I must apologise for the lack of updates. It’s been approximately a month, and I know I said earlier in the year that I intend to do a post every Friday. Well, life gets in the way. I’ve been overseas, busy setting up my home studio, taking up more composing work and have recently begun producing for other artists.

Today, I want to talk about a relatively touchy topic: Getting Paid Your Worth (while landing composition/production/audio engineering work).


Have you been asked to work for little to nothing? Ever been told how much exposure you’ll get if you choose to undertake a project? Are you still in this position? Well, I think most of us in this industry that are doing this either as a serious side hustle or professionally would have such encounters.

Many creative service providers struggle with increasing their prices or even charging. Here’s the bottom line: Charge what you think you are worth. Do not be afraid to ask for XX amount in payment in return for doing a job, and ALWAYS protect yourself with black and white contracts.

No work should commence before the terms of the contract are met. This can range from a signature for an agreed amount of money, fixed payment plans, publishing rights, downpayment percentages… the list goes on.

If a prospective client seems dodgy or unable to agree to those terms and conditions, do the necessary negotiation BEFORE you commence work. I CANNOT reiterate this enough.

Likewise, do NOT be afraid to say no or to pass on projects. This is a separate topic for another day, but I just had to leave this here. In the meantime, I’m going to bust some myths and share how you can respond to difficult clients:

Difficult Client 1: “We do not have a budget for music”.

Response: You need to know the nuances of this project. Would this project boost your portfolio even if you don’t get a financial or tangible return from undertaking it? Would this project consume so much of your time that you will likely have to put off other potential clients that might be able to pay you? If all the signs are telling you that this project will not benefit you in any way, perhaps it’s best to decline politely. Remember, you are a service provider. and not a charity.

Difficult Client 2: “You know that Bob Composer only chargers 1/3 of what you’re quoting us?”

Response: Thank you for letting me know. Please feel free to engage Bob’s services then. (No offence anyone named Bob). Can I be brutally honest for a second? Ultimately, there are a lot of people that charge a cheaper rate than me. So, why did you come to me? If the end goal is for me to add music to your commercial that could assist in spurring thousands to buy your product, should the price you pay me for me to compose bespoke music for your project matter in the long run?

Alternative: This is the first time we could be working together. Do you think it’s very fair to ask for a discount right from the very first project we embark on as a team? Do you want to start off our professional relationship this way?

Note: These replies might sound a little bit snarky, but I’m trying to emphasise a point. Please reword your responses accordingly. In a world where musicians constantly get asked to work for little or nothing, you have to stand up for yourself. Don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.

Next up, Myth busting:

Myth 1: “I’m just starting out, so I have to work for free”.

No. This is not true unless you lack a portfolio, SoundCloud link, or something to showcase your capabilities. Everything DEPENDS on how you sell yourself (or your services). As per any job application, if you can convince an individual or a company why they need your services or how much more value you can add to their organisation, you’re pretty much there. This is why even experienced composers can sometimes struggle to get work. It isn’t the number of years in the field that matters in this case. Everything boils down to your work ethic, confidence, networking, luck, salesmanship and more.

Of course, none of this matters if you can’t walk the talk. You have to be stellar at your craft.

Myth 2: “If I raise my prices, all my clients will disappear”.

This is probably one of the biggest lies I’ve heard from the freelance community. If you raise your prices, you will likely and inevitably lose some clients; the rapper who constantly raps about how much money he has in the bank, but for some reason cannot afford your beats or your other services, the poor student who has yet to graduate college, the self-proclaimed next big thing rockstar that wants to pay you in profits… etc.

When you increase your prices, you command a higher level of authority. Your prices speak about the quality of your work and the value you’re confident in bringing to the table. The clients you’ll attract thereafter will be people who take you seriously because of the prices you charge. Let’s pretend you are a movie director trying to get in touch with professional composers to score for your upcoming film. If Hans Zimmer quoted you $50 for a film score, would you be certain that he’d put his best foot forward in writing your soundtrack? Even though he’s Hans Zimmer, I’d still be doubtful.


What now?

The next time, when you’re talking to a prospective client, always include your rate card in your exchange, be it verbal or electronic. Yes, this applies even for the people “who have no budget”. If it’s too costly for them, they’ll let you know, or they might not even reply at all. If they can pay what you’re asking, that’s great! But either way, you’ve maintained your professionalism and they cannot fault you for that.

It’s not necessary to do the whole “Oh, try going to the supermarket and ask the cashier if you can get a carton of milk in exchange for exposure. I’ll share this with my community you cheapskate.”, as it is unwise to burn any bridges no matter how annoying the other party may seem.

Remember: Know your worth. You do NOT have to justify yourself to anyone. If a client is being troublesome, learn to deal with the situation professionally and know how to draw your own boundaries. This includes knowing when and how to say no and not being afraid to state your terms of compensation. This would hopefully result in better clients and bigger projects.


P.S. If you missed out on Parts 1 and 2 of the “Landing Composing Job” series, you can check them out here and here.

Source: http://gregtanmusic.net/

Music Arrangement: A Beginner's Guide To Crafting Cohesive Tracks

According to searches on the almighty Internet, the definition of a music arranger can best be described as an individual that “ensures every aspect of a music piece is well harmonised, from the instruments down to the tempo.”.

An oversimplified definition of a music arranger can best be put forth as “an individual that makes a piece of music sound and flow in a cohesive manner”.

Becoming a music arranger can actually be more difficult than it seems - even for the musically trained or inclined. It is relatively easy to decipher what is wrong with a piece of music, but to know thereafter what to do in order to make that composition sound good takes a different skillset coupled with a sharp pair of ears and heaps of exposure to varying styles of music.

Here are some steps that I’ve personally taken to sharpen my arrangement craft. While this blogpost focuses mainly on the orchestral genre, the fundamentals listed here can be applied to any style of music:


1. Knowing What To Focus On

When I was tasked with composing orchestral music (and all it’s sub-genres), I found myself exposed to a whole bunch of instrument sounds. Needless to say, I went crazy and tried to include every element I laid eyes upon in my DAW bank into my compositions. Let’s just say that music publishers were not pleased.

Fast forward some time later, I realised that there were a few things that made orchestral music what it is. No matter how many instruments are playing at once, there’s always something or a particular section playing the main melody. Everything else serves to augment the emotion expressed from this melody form.

To illustrate, let me show you a personal composition of mine entitled, “Prayer Of A Warrior”.

From the start of the track till about 50 seconds, the melody of the song is very clearly and obviously driven by a piano, subtly harmonised with thirds played by a harp that comes in at about the 20 seconds mark.

The left hand of the piano is playing simple chords to add some kind of light pulse to the song, reinforced by relatively lush synth pads.

Even at the 50 second mark where strings come in to aid in the development of the track, the notes played are selected strategically to work in tandem with the existing chords created by the piano and pads.

This brings me to my second point: Instrumentation

2. Instrumentation

A painter needs to know what the colours in his paint palette are before utilising them. Similarly, a composer and arranger needs to know what the purpose/function of each instrument available is before involving them.

I deliberately chose strings to create a “build” in my track at 50 seconds. The reason for this is because I know the feeling/emotions a combination of piano and strings gives in contrast to the layering of other instruments. I had a sound I was going for even before the composition of the track took place and I was aware that the sonic qualities of such instruments would deliver what I wanted.

The string elements playing ostinato riffs were doing so on a lower octave. Strings tend to sound brighter on higher octaves and having them too early in the composition in this case would throw the building dynamic and sonic development of the piece off. I also wanted the harp to cut through a little bit more, and having high octave strings at this point would be more likely to cause frequency clashes. The strings do get their time to shine though. I just wanted to save this for later.

I could explore other instruments, but this blogpost would definitely be too long. I hope the idea I’m pitching forth is there.


3. Song Dynamics

If you pay attention to certain styles of music (especially music used in movie trailers), you’ll find plenty of pauses and sudden abrupt changes throughout. These dynamic contrasts are done deliberately and positioned at points in the song(s) with careful forethought.

In my composition, a break happens about the 1:15 mark of the piece. This was done so that listeners don’t become “expectant” towards the unravelling of the song. In this case, the pause is a bar long before the song reintroduces itself with a strong cymbal shimmer, horns, dramatic strings and so forth.

At this point, the song transforms fully into an “epic” instrumental and fits with the theme of the overall track. On Bandcamp (where the track is fully downloadable for a dollar), I explain the artistic concept behind the composition of this track, and made sure that the musical direction and arrangement of the piece followed this overarching theme.

Towards the 2:40 point of the song, the “epic” section comes to an end as a gentler cymbal shimmer introduces the piano and harp melody from before to symbolise the closure of the entire track.

The point I’m trying to make here is that a song should still flow seamlessly as a single piece of music despite having abrupt dynamic changes at times. Dynamics should not fragment a track, but should instead be added flavourfully to keep the listener engaged throughout the song’s entirety. There are exceptions to this of course, especially if you listen to progressive music from bands like Dream Theater or if you are watching a musical, but that’s a different conversation for another day.


There are many aspects of arranging music that this blogpost lacks the capacity to expand upon. These days, the scope of a music producer, composer, orchestrator and arranger often overlap, making it hard for a single article to contextualise. Let me conclude by saying that I believe one has to dabble in most aspects of the music-making process consistently and persistently if he or she desires to eventually become a successful music arranger someday.

Getting New & Returning Clients.

If you've ever been on the receiving on end of something like this - "Yeah, you're good, but why should I work with you?", then hopefully this post will help you out a little.

Similar to the Landing Composing Jobs series, I'd be happy to expand on the points I've written here if there's a demand for it. There's only so much I can fit into a single blogpost without it becoming some kind of thesis, so do bear in mind that this isn't all-encompassing and definitely does NOT cover every aspect of the topic. There's just too much to say and I'm not a professional consultant by any means. These are just steps I've learnt along the way in my journey thus far. Today, there are 2 main points I'd like to share with you that would hopefully assist you in getting new and returning clients for your business.

Once again, this blogpost assumes that you ARE in fact already good enough at what you do to start charging money for your service(s). If not, it's back to the grind.


1. Differentiate Yourself.

There's a lot of music composers/producers/audio engineers etc. out there that pretty much sound lame and terribly boring when they market themselves. I'm not even talking about posting spammy SoundCloud links on random Facebook groups without so much as a caption. I'm talking about proper advertising of your services.

In order to stand out from your competition, you NEED to have an edge over them. This is ESPECIALLY the case if you are starting out and have no big name clients to brag about since you've yet to acquire any clients to begin with.

Likewise, if you've been doing this for a while and HAVE those big name clients, but you're still looking to get more clients to work with, simply saying "I've worked with XX band and XX artist" isn't necessarily going to get you more opportunities. Yes it may help in creating clout, but it may not necessarily lead you to get in touch with the folks you want to work with.

First off, you have to view yourself as a service provider. That means you are here to SERVE. You are NOT here to demand or become entitled for bigger , better and recurring clients just because you graduated at the top of your school, did internships with Hans Zimmer or have worked as Kanye West's roadie before.

Like it or not, you have to OFFER something that your competition can't or can only do so to a lesser extent. For a mixing engineer, it can be something as simple as "If you use my services, I can pitch your track to Universal Music as I have a personal connection with some of the A&R guys there." Or for a producer, it can be something like "You'll get featured on all my social media pages. If you don't have a marketing strategy, I'll work with you to develop one, because I want to see you succeed as an artist."

These things sound cliche and perhaps even overdone in some circles, but it works. People WILL pay for exclusivity. It's been tried and tested time and timed again by every successful brand around the world. You & your services are part of your brand too.

I just had a look on Soundbetter.com and nearly everyone on the platform pitching their services sounds robotic and boring:

"I'm XX. I'm an award winning producer/engineer. I'm also a professional guitar/drums/insert-instrument-here-player and have worked with countless of artists from both indie and major record labels. I have over 20 years of experience and this sick gear setup. Let me give your song the polishing it deserves etc etc".

Basically, almost profile on the site sounds/looks the same. Now I'm not sure if it's the structural limitations of the platform or not, but holy smokes, I'll be lost if I was forced to choose to work with someone listed there. Now it's not that the people there aren't good at what they do. Some of them might even be GREAT at their craft. It's just their "pitch" that's entirely lost on me because it's virtually the same as everyone else's.

Have you ever wondered how some guys can make a living from producing music from their bedroom studios without having the latest equipment or huge vintage analog gear that we as producers/engineers love to drool over? They don't even have 'A' list clients. Yet they're raking in good money that allows them to live a lifestyle that they're comfortable with. Perhaps consider that they may be offering a kind of service that no one else out there does and this therefore makes them unique. 

Exclusivity works.
Differentiation works.

2. Offer An Experience.

There is a good amount of truth in the saying "People don't buy because of logic. They buy because of emotions and then justify that purchase with logic.". If you're a mixing engineer, your final product delivered will virtually be the same as that of every other mixing engineer out there: a mixed song or a mixed album. So why would an artist come back to you to have his or her song mixed? It's for two reasons:

  1. The quality of your mixes are awesome.

  2. They enjoyed the experience of working with you.

Point 1. is a given. Point 2 should be what you're selling.

If you are a mixing engineer blessed to be able to work out of a proper studio facility where you can invite prospective clients over to hang out, please do so. And then do me a favour and try the following:

  1. Do some research on the client before he/she/they arrive

  2. Talking about common interests with them after they've entered your studio and made themselves comfortable

  3. Talk about the kind of music you like and the music that your client has put out before as well as how much you love it. (BE HONEST HERE, you wouldn't want to work with a band that writes music you hate right? It's common sense, really.)

  4. DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR SERVICES AT ALL

  5. Thank your client for their time and tell them you've got to get back to work mixing songs for other artists

  6. Tell them that they're free to drop by any time.

What would possibly happen next is, your client's interest will be piqued. They may ask to see your work OR they may even ask you to mix one of their songs without even having listened to what you've done in the past.

Sounds crazy? Yes it is, because you've essentially sold your services without having to mention them at all throughout your interaction with this client. How did it work? Your client has learnt to trust you because you have established a relationship with the other party. They were sold on the experience of talking to you, getting to know you, and being in your studio. At the end of the day, music is a very personal thing, so it's a privilege when someone invites you in to add your touch to his/her art. Don't ever take that for granted.

True story: I've been asked to compose music and SFX for video games by developers using this method. Once again, I can't guarantee that it will work for you, but it did for me. In my case previously, I didn't even have a proper studio to invite them to. We just met outside and spoke about the computer games we loved playing while growing up. It's all about trust and the building of relationships.

TL;DR - Differentiate yourself in the services you offer and sell the experience of working with you while building relationships in the process. That is the key to get returning customers.


Hopefully the things that I've shared here does help you in your journey in making a full-time income doing what you love. All the best now, and I'll be back with another post next Friday.

Polishing A Track For Release.

From my conversations, it appears that many composers subscribe to a belief that the music production and arrangement phase is an isolated process that stands independently from the mixing and mastering stages.

This, to me at least, is incredibly inaccurate.

If you've ever heard the saying "a good song mixes itself", and have been in situations where you've worn the hats of - songwriter, producer, and audio engineer, I'm sure you get the gist of this statement.

In this blogpost, I'll be sharing my thoughts regarding the "requirements" that go into polishing a track for release.


Arrangement, Songwriting & Composition.

This is probably the most overlooked component when it comes to "polishing a track for release", and the reason I write this is because no amount of mixing and mastering can salvage a poorly written track. At this point, I'm not talking about the production quality of a song, but instead, a song that has been poorly constructed and therefore, conceived.

Many orchestral music composers that did not have the privilege of playing in an ensemble before or going for lessons or to school for the craft tend to be mesmerised when given an entire orchestral instrument palette to play with. They tend to overcomplicate parts, layer excessively with instruments that do not blend sonically, or write things in an unrealistic way that makes it impossible for real instrument players to follow.

In other words, these composers are not aware of the timbre of instruments; their sonic qualities, their function and role in a traditional orchestra setting and so on. Now don't get me wrong - I'm all about breaking rules. I just believe that one has to learn the rules before breaking them.

A Brass section for instance, sounds significantly different when they hit high notes as opposed to when they play low mellow legato ones. Many virtual instruments out there replicate the low to mid notes of a brass section really well, but tend to sound excessively artificial when higher notes are introduced. An experienced MIDI Orchestrator would know which music libraries sound more realistic and would figure out ways to manipulate weaker replicas to sound better or closer to the actual instrument.

A good arranger also knows what to do to make a song flow in cohesion (unless the intention is to create an experimental progressive track which ebbs and flows in unorthodox forms). Contrary to popular belief, no amount of mixing or mastering can save a "broken song". Remember that mixing and mastering cannot bring out what is not already present. If the song does not already sound like a single entity, it's back to the songwriting phrase.

Production Quality.

If your song is poorly produced, audio editing and post-production can sort of hide mistakes and glitches, but at the sacrifice of your track's sonic capabilities. The average listener can't probably tell what's wrong, but they will frown when they notice something damaging in your production.

Unless you are replicating an old-school recording, most listeners these days expect a pristine and almost overly manicured kind of production quality from your work. Even if you are replicating an old-school sound, remember that there's a difference between a high quality recording of an old-school sound, and a song that's just poorly recorded from the source.

This is ESPECIALLY true if you're trying to get into the music placement game or if you produce electronic genres that often rely on already well-rounded loops and samples. If your song has a weak production quality, no music supervisor or label will consider placing your song in any kind of professional multimedia. This is because it reflects badly on them. Music licensing is one area in our industry that no one actually cares about the "potential" behind the songwriting or whatever excuse people try to give. The days of "the guy in the suit" holding a briefcase with a ton of cash standing in the corner waiting for you to finish your performance so that he can sign you to his label are long gone.

If you're a great composer or songwriter that struggles to get his or her production quality up to par, look for someone who can and work with that person. If you are an artist, your benchmarks are easily attainable from whatever you hear on air. If you are a composer for multimedia, yours are whatever you hear from films, TV, commercials and games.

Mixing & Mastering.

This is a little controversial, but if you are a music library composer who cannot mix or master his or her own music, you're in trouble. The reason for this is that the expected turnover time for production music is extremely fast, so no library has a few days to wait for a mixing engineer to do his intricate magic on a song before sending it off to a mastering engineer who in turn waits for client feedback. So unless you have a team around you with specialists in each area working out of a professional studio, you're very likely going to do everything yourself.

Naturally, the work you produce initially is not going to be the best, but the resources out there are valuable and varied. You CAN learn to mix and master your own songs from your bedroom. Will it sound the best? No. But would it help you develop a consistent workflow, a familiarity with your equipment, train your initiative to look around you or online for assistance if needed and constantly drive you to produce great music on your own terms? Yes.

Now, obviously if you have a team of engineers at your back and call who have proper facilities to churn out your mixed and mastered compositions, that's great. But you'd probably have to split profits or pay them somehow.


So how will you know when your track is "polished enough" for release. The short answer is: you don't. No songs are ever "finally ready". You need to know when it's time to let go.

If you're talking about knowing when to release a song or send it to your client, the "checklist" is relatively simple (though arguably tough to achieve consistently):

  1. When the song's composition, arrangement & production is on par with what's out there in the industry.

  2. When your work translates well on your playback devices (especially mono ones).

  3. If you're composing for multimedia; when your song amplifies the message or emotion or whatever your client intends to convey. (In such cases, your client will tell you whether he/she is happy. This should lead to more and better clients).


All in all, polishing a track for release is a process that begins right from the songwriting phase and ends only once your client or audience is satisfied. You need to be aware of what is going on at every step of the way.

On Landing Composing Jobs (Part 2).

So the response to Part 1. was better than I expected, at least on the platforms and forums that I was privileged to share my experience on. Note: I'm trying to post on the page every Friday on a consistent basis, so check back weekly for new updates.

I'm waiting to meet a sound designer who chatted me up on this exact topic as I write this, and in the last few months, I've had the opportunity to assist producers/studio owners/composers in this area. I've also completed composing for another mobile game, but enough about me.

Let's get to it.


The Approach:

In Part 1, I addressed how to obtain the contact information of TV producers & Music Supervisors that are involved in Network TV. Here's the issue: just cause you've got your hands on an individual's contact doesn't mean anything if you don't know what to do with it. You've got to pitch your talent/resume/services forth in a way that doesn't turn the listener/reader off.

Key: First Impressions count. More than you'd ever know. Give off the wrong vibes and you'll automatically be blacklisted from the get go. If you've ever had a telemarketer, insurance salesperson or real estate agent call you, you'd get what I mean.

If you are fortunate enough to live in the same country as the person you're trying to get in touch with, that's great. For those of you in this category - call. A phone conversation is ALWAYS better than an email or text message. Tone and wording often get misinterpreted over these mediums. Your phone call would provide a more personal touch to things and reveals how serious you are in wanting to get your foot in the door.

Now, there's A LOT of people out there who do not recommend cold calling, but trust me - this is one of the best ways to establish a relationship with the people that matter. IF (or when) the person on the line shuts you down rudely, I doubt you'd want to do business with that individual either.

Now for the folk (myself included) who would rather rely on email because you get cold feet or stutter when talking on the line, or simply because you do not live in the same location as the people you're trying to reach -

Here's how to craft your email:
*Note - there are different ways to go about doing this. Some supervisors have specified their requirements, and if you can find them online, please adhere to what they've asked for.


Subject: Music Cues For XX TV Show

This study reveals that approximately 269 billion emails are sent daily. Career Expert Amanda Augustine of TopResume further highlights that "a typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30 characters". Therefore, it's quite a no-brainer to suggest that if you want your email to be opened, it has to stand out from the pile and the best way of doing that is by being succinct and (politely) direct in your subject head.

Disclaimer: This example caters more towards composers cold emailing creative producers that aren't necessarily and openly seeking music for future projects. Producers or Music Libraries consistently open to submissions will have a certain format they'd wish for you to follow. In those cases, the subject header may be specified to look something like:

Subject: Composer-TV Show Cue Submission-Date

Body:

Dear/Hello xx,

(TIME TO FLATTER) I'm writing in to let you know that I've just begun watching xx show on channel whatever on a weekly basis and I've been hooked on to it ever since.
Talk about an episode you ACTUALLY watched and liked. Talk about the show's characters blah blah. Yes, you are in fanboy/girl mode right now.

(PRODUCTION BEHIND THE SCENES TALK BUT STILL FLATTERING - EASE YOUR WAY INTO WHAT YOU REALLY WANT) The epic storyline to the outstanding production quality to the music cues used in each episode is testament to the incredible amount of effort you and your team have put in to make XX show a success. (I am obviously exaggerating here and using excessively descriptive jargon that you should cut accordingly to avoid sounding fake or spammy, but this is an example and you get the idea, I hope).

The Pitch:

(GET TO THE POINT - It's not as though he/she doesn't know what you're after especially since your subject title states it all). As a professional music composer and sound designer, I was wondering if there was any way I could assist your audio department/music supervisor in providing TV cues for your show, or even on future projects? I'm fortunate to be able to work out of a professional studio and thus am able to meet tight deadlines. (If you are in the same city, ask for a meet up.)

Note that what I'm doing is OFFERING a service. I'm not saying "hire me because I can provide better stuff than the stock library crap you're relying on at the moment".

The Sign-off:

Thank you for reading this and I look forward to your reply! (Now - leave your phone number or a link to your showreel/soundcloud or whatever you'd like them to see in your signature, so that you do NOT have to ask for permission whether you can send in demos in the event you do receive a reply. If the people on the other end are curious or keen to know more about you, this information is already present and accessible to them.)


What will happen next?

In most cases, nothing.

Yes it sucks, but it's true. And the reason for that is because most of these companies already have partnerships with external vendors and production houses. Unless you're Hans Zimmer or something, it's unlikely that these companies would risk a contractual agreement to work with a relatively unknown individual. 

What CAN you do next?

Keep trying to contact as many people as you think would be beneficial to your career in a STRATEGIC manner. You can do followups (though not everyone likes to be followed-up on). Or you can keep a conversation going to establish a long-term relationship, which SHOULD actually be your ultimate goal.

Because if you haven't realised it by now, music licensing and placements very rarely happen overnight. Sometimes, these things take years and if you have a long-standing relationship with a reputable individual, you'll find yourself ahead in due time. However, if you're in this to make a quick buck in a short span of time, you're better off finding a day job.

The trick to this "game" is to ALWAYS offer value to the other party first before asking for anything. Make it apparent that you have a valuable skillset that you'd like to utilise for the purposes of helping and assisting others. Make no mistake though, the rejection rate in this field is VERY high, just as this email "template-guide-sample" does NOT guarantee a response at all, much less a positive one,  but ultimately, one good placement or better yet, one good relationship can elevate your standing in the industry significantly.

On Landing Composing Jobs (Part 1).

So over the last 2 weeks, fellow composers have been asking me how I've managed to end up scoring for Films, TV and Games. To be very honest, there's no surefire way, although I must say that there are HEAPS of ways to screw up and never land that composing opportunity you've been working hard for.

Let me start by saying that I don't have large amounts of experience composing or landing tracks in Films though I would love to someday. I do have a fair share of experience writing for games, network TV and brands, however.

Who is this blogpost for?

This article is written for composers and producers that are already stellar at their craft and are competent in churning out music of all genres in little time and are sick of pinning hopes on the music library placement circuit. If you aren't at this stage, may I suggest you spend the next few months or even years honing your craft.

Composing for TV:

To be frank, the information I'm sharing with you here does not guarantee results. That depends largely on the parties involve, but trust me when I say that you'll hardly find anyone else being so open with the "tricks of the trade" (whatever that means). In a nutshell, here are the steps:

  1. Watch TV shows that you enjoy & can see yourself writing similar styled music to what's already being used in their episodes.

  2. Start off with TV cues as they are the most generic and can be reused multiple times.

  3. Have a good catalog of such cues, and the next time you watch that TV show, stay for the credits and look for the music supervisor listed there.

  4. If the show is reputable enough, the music supervisor's email can likely be found if you trawl the internet hard enough.

  5. Email that individual & start off by telling him/her what you enjoy about the show and how the music used has inspired you as a composer to write similar sounding cues.

  6. If you are daring and confident enough, ask HOW you can write for the show and pitch it forth in a way that you are ADDING VALUE through the SERVICE of composing instead of going "yeah, I want royalties and bragging rights so your show is a great place for me to start and my songs will take your viewership to the next level".

While there's no guarantee of a reply and you can always follow up with another email or call after 2 weeks, this is me breaking down the "cold email" method towards "establishing relationships" that many veterans in the industry talk about so cryptically.

Composing for Games:

Landing video game gigs are in my experience, way easier than landing Film or TV gigs. The short answer is simple: contact game developers or companies and ask if they need someone to provide music or sound effects for their products:

  1. If you're starting out, look for indie game developers. "Indie" doesn't mean "free". Unless you are sure that composing for free would grant you some returns in the future, (such as composing for a game with new technology involved - i.e. VR etc), do not write for free.

  2. In the indie game circuit, there are indie game development companies, freelance developers, but there are also specialists who develop games on very niche platforms alone, and the largest and most obvious one would be the mobile game devs.

  3. Through your smart phone's app store, find a game you'd like to compose for (or confident that you could compose for). Find the company that made the game and get in touch with them. Most companies at least have a social media page or a website.

  4. Remember, pitch by OFFERING a SERVICE they NEED. Don't turn it around and make yourself sound thirsty or desperate. Music in games is extremely important, so if you can show why they need your compositional abilities, you've won.

  5. This is the game changer (no pun intended). If you can find a footage of a game scene/map/landscape etc. floating around online, get your hands on it, remove the existing audio and add YOUR own (be it a soundtrack or SFX)! Send it to that developer you're already talking to and watch what happens.

In a world where the bedroom producer/composer is king, and anyone with a cracked version of FL Studio or Ableton can write music, how does one stand out from the crowd?

The simple answer is by offering a service that your competitors cannot. Most game developers aren't rolling in cash. They would like to save as much as they can (as per any other company). If you as the composer can provide sound design services OR better: learn game audio integration software (commonly known as middleware), they'll have a higher incentive to hire you. Yes, software ranging from Unity, Unreal Engine, Wwise, FMOD and so forth.

I understand that there's a whole chunk of information here, so please take your time to read it. I'd probably expand more on this if there's more demand for me to, but writing this with a flu and a growing backlog of work has not been easy. So before I sign off, let me reiterate this final and important point:

DO NOT SUBMIT TO "PAY-TO-PLAY" SITES.

That means, do NOT submit to sites that have "music supervisors" listening to your work for a fee before passing it on to their mystical contact. I'm not going to name specific sites, but a google search will reveal many. I'm not saying these sites are fake and scams, but the chances of you making it through their "criteria" and "gatekeeping" methods are slim. I could go on about this, but that's for a different story.

Please leave a comment below if you've got any thoughts or methods on how else composers could get scoring gigs for multimedia!

Until next time, here's the promotional trailer of Hero Sentry, a VR game I composed for that will soon be released on STEAM, playable with the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive systems.

Greg.

The Sounds In Our Heads (Part 1).

For the longest time, I've struggled to translate the melodies in my head into reality despite being armed with a good amount of the latest audio plugins and equipment. Being classically trained in the violin and guitar did help, but it also opened an endless amount of possibilities that proved problematic when the need to focus arose.

Disclaimer: I'll probably do a longer tutorial/review on this, but hey, do bear with me for now.

Through hours of meandering and plonking around with various synth presets, string textures and soundscapes, I've found that the most meaningful and helpful way(s) to get started is by 1) selecting a genre of music to write, studying the works of those who are proficient in the genre, 2) making a commitment AND a timeline to finishing a track (or tracks) and then rinsing and repeating.

Today, I want to focus on the first point.

Genre specifications are significantly important for anyone who creates music (thank you curators). If you desire to write say, Trailer or Cinematic Music, the compositions of Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Steve Jablonsky or Thomas Bergerson are probably great places to start. Take your time to listen to their music and note down what gives their work the special quality it has that makes it unique to the genre. As you analyse it, make sure you enjoy this process, because this is probably one of the most practical ways of self-education when it comes to music production.

Make no mistake - this process isn't sexy. It's not talking about the latest plugins or outboard gear. It's not necessarily fun. Often it can be frustration especially when you compare your own work with that of these masters.

But this is part of the big picture that will hopefully help you get to where they are.

In a nutshell, how do you translate the sounds in your head into reality? First off, by knowing how they should and would sound like in reality, and that comes from experience, a pair of good ears, decent audio software, instruments and education.

I used to grow increasingly annoyed when I could not translate the sounds in my mind into something that was of quality or comparable to that of the great composers I admired. Today, whenever I hear one of their works, I get inspired.

To end, this is the song that started it all for me: