Full time composers – Share your stories

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  • #37311 Reply
    Dannyc
    Participant

    hii guys i’m curious to hear from composers here who have managed to make writing for sync/production music a full time gig. i still am not at the level of growth i would of hoped for 4 years after starting this and still wonder is a full time income even possible in this game or even a very good part time income. so i would be iinterested in hearing from those composers here who have managed to make this a full time gig in the past 10years. tell us your story and what year of your journey you were able to quit the day job? what percentage of your income from music comes from sync and back end royalties? how many tracks do you now have out in the world earning you royalties every quarter? how many publishers are you writing for these days? thanks guys.

    #37312 Reply
    Dannyc
    Participant

    just for clarity i consider $60k+ per annum to be full time income.

    #37327 Reply
    LAwriter
    Participant

    Writing is my main job. I have several other methods of income streams though as well. I’m well over $60k annually from my writing, but IMO, it takes pretty much at least $100k + to live in the US with a house, studio and family these days. I’m outside your range of 10 years, but I’d guess that the vast majority of anyone making $60k + is outside that boundary as well.

    Music has always been my “day job”, and I’ve done many things over the course of my career – arranger, film/TV composer, music copyist, session musician, ghost writer, producer, recording engineer, music editor, touring musician, etc., etc. and yes – writing for libraries. So my “transition” back to writing (now pretty much writing for my own production company and a handful of others) was not as dramatic as leaving a job as a CPA to take up music. :). That said, serendipitous situations led me to be writing more and more, and producing / playing or composing for others less and less, and eventually the transition was complete. And now, it’s rare for me to do anything musically outside of my own production company.

    IMO, 4 years is not nearly enough time to make a living in this biz. I started transitioning into writing for libraries seriously around 2007. And I was late to the game IMO. At this point, I have almost 2500 titles in play, and have placements in probably 500+ films/shows and thousands of actual “episodes”. And even so, streaming and industry change has stopped me short of where I would like to see my income with the titles I have. For reference – I focus mostly on film/TV underscore – not commercials or trailers.

    I used to think 1000 titles would get you “there”. Then, as the industry started to change from the “old school” way it had been for years, I rethought things, and changed the number to “2000” songs/titles. Well….. With the deterioration of the industry, I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s 3000? Haha! Not sure, but I think I can make it there by the time I retire. Or maybe I’ll never get to retire. LOL

    I have a dozen + publishers, but these days, I find myself writing for outside publishers less and less – trying to retain ownership of as much of my content as possible. I’d guess that 70% of my music based income is directly from sync / back end.

    If I had a crystal ball and could have seen where things are going, I would seriously have thought about another industry, but honestly, I’m a musician and I’m not sure what else I could have done…. But at this point in the game, most of the newcomers are going to be relegated to part time, hobbyist, starving musician, frugal living, or depending on their significant other to carry the lions share of fiscal responsibility.

    I consider myself extremely lucky, fortunate and blessed. And I’m not sure I could actually pull it off again if I had to start off with the industry the way it is now.

    #37331 Reply
    Dannyc
    Participant

    thanks for sharing your story Lawriter. its interesting your strategy is a lot based around getting thousands more tracks into the system. other long term composers have said to me its not the number of tracks its the quality level of the tracks. for example 500 amazing tracks will go alot further than 3000 mediocre tracks.

    #37334 Reply
    Musicmatters
    Participant

    Hi everyone, i too, consider myself very lucky to be in music full time. I grew up as a self taught musician and later completed my Masters in classical guitar from a good conservatory. I started with production music in 2012 and I wish it could have been a few years earlier. It was a slow start and took all my savings and about 5 years of constant writing to make a survival income. I have accumulated, over this time, about 2000 tracks of which about 60% are exclusive and 40% non exclusive. Over the last two years I have really slowed down my output and focusing a lot more now on quality as I find that in todays market, quality goes a lot further. My income last year, which was my best, was about 65k. Through the years, i have found that I have to keep raising my bar every year. Complacency is the enemy. I keep learning new instruments and styles to keep things fresh. I cant imagine what it would be like today to be a newcomer. Things are extremely competitive and I don’t think I would have survived. For many of us, music is our life and true love and we don’t have a choice but to keep going on. Keep the good struggle going. I believe thins will get better in a few years when all the chaff settles. Good luck to all !!!

    #37335 Reply
    Tunesmith
    Participant

    Great topic and thank you LAWriter for your generous post! I too have always made a living with music, but mostly was from performing. I had a full time job with a music software company in the late 80’s , taught MIDI privately or with workshops and recorded folks in my home studio. I have been a recording addict for 40 years at least! I used to write/record for those song-plugger sheets that would come out with publishers looking for tunes and enter the songwriting contests.
    I started writing for sync 3 years ago. I sure have a ways to go. But I love the challenge and community of writers I have met. I am getting more no’s than yes’s right now and I have a minimal stash of tunes (Except for reel to reel vintage ones that I have signed), but the stash is growing.
    I feel blessed to have these opportunities to work towards especially when one is home now due to Covid.
    I do website work on the side and other various sundries to support myself. I don’t know if I will ever get to 60K, but I must say I am enjoying the process, and even when hit hard, I am still putting myself forward and the creativity within is wonderful. and good for health!
    TuneS

    #37336 Reply
    LAwriter
    Participant

    thanks for sharing your story Lawriter. its interesting your strategy is a lot based around getting thousands more tracks into the system. other long term composers have said to me its not the number of tracks its the quality level of the tracks. for example 500 amazing tracks will go alot further than 3000 mediocre tracks.

    Who said anything about 3000 mediocre tracks? I consider my production game to be at the top. My writing is skilled and honed to a T. You’ve got to deliver at the top level or you’re not even IN the game.

    After many years of tracking what gets used and what doesn’t and “why” and talking with editors and clients – I would disagree with the amazing vs. numbers comment. At least in writing for TV/Film. Commercials and trailers are somewhat different.

    There are so many factors that go into a piece of music being chosen, and there are at least a hundred types of styles that get chosen for an incredibly varied set of uses. Having a good number of titles in a wide variety of styles is what gets you placements. There is no substitute for that IMO. It’s a simple numbers game. The “I only need a few incredible songs” is an artist style perspective and this is not an artist game. Yeah, you can do it that way – but you have to be the one in a million guy. There are thousands of the rest of us making it with numbers…. Best,

    #37337 Reply
    Pat
    Participant

    Nice posts here of actual full timers sharing. Very interesting and inspirational stuff. This is what it’s all about. Thanks guys!

    #37340 Reply
    Michael Nickolas
    Participant

    My background has elements similar to all of the informative posts above. Although I’ve never really made any money to speak of, I’ve gotten by with sacrifices. As I’ve mentioned here in the past, I was fortunate to freelance as a songwriter in the educational market for most of my career. Some years I was so busy custom writing music for educational projects that I didn’t complete any library tracks at all.

    I will admit that I’ve recently taken a break from music creation. Given all the negative changes in our business over recent time, I felt like I was working for pennies, and that is not where I want to be. I’m not sure there is anything left in todays music business, but I hope to regroup and find something that works.

    #37341 Reply
    Dannyc
    Participant

    thanks guys for sharing. feel free to post your experiences those who are maybe also somewhat on the way to getting to do music full time.

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