- July 6, 2019 at 2:50 pm #32554Mark_PetrieParticipant
OK sorry for the late reply.
I’m going to break down Lucky’s, LAWriter’s and NYwriter’s responses: (and I apologize for singling you guys out, but I hear these things all the time and wanted to address them)
The trajectory of earning of someone starting after 2015 is going to be radically different from someone who started in the early 00’s or late 90’s. Radically different.
Maybe I’m jaded from reading too much doom and gloom on the internet, but I’m assuming you mean it’s harder than it was 15 years ago. I would disagree completely – my basic ‘career’ path (if you can call it that) has been so far: write for ultra low budget films (keep doing this throughout) –> write for libraries that didn’t pay me anything upfront –> contribute music for reality TV composers –> write for higher end libraries –> keep doing all that AND start trying to write trailer music –> write trailer music long enough that I get good enough to have a placement every couple of months or so.
I think you’ll find that anyone can still do that, in fact there’s more demand than ever for music at all levels – indie projects TV, and high end stuff like trailers. Not to mention – the tools are cheaper, faster, and all the education you’d ever need is on YouTube or online courses. Sure, stock sites are clogged up now, but I’m not really talking about those. I think the main thing that’s made it harder to succeed as a composer (or anything really) these days is more DISTRACTION – social media, info addiction, addictive games you play on your phone…
Mark’s income ladder is not as easily achieved in today’s licensing world for a couple of reasons… while he has worn a variety of money-generating hats in the music composing business… his bread-and-butter is trailer music.
No it’s not actually. Performance royalties from general library use still make up the majority of my income.
Those used to pay much higher than they do today but those were also bigger buyout deals. It (usually) did not include any back-end royalties because the buy-outs were large. Now… those same trailer buy-outs have diminished in scale, volume and revenue and now (in varying degrees) include back-end royalties (which is sort of a joke when you realize the shelf-life of film trailers!)…
Actually if you work with a range of libraries in the trailer world, you’ll find that, if anything, license are as high as ever, thanks to the boutique libraries at the top commanding huge fees, and the rise of custom work (incorporating themes, or song melodies) that naturally get $40K – $90K (sometimes more) a pop due to the buy out nature of the job.
and “trailer music” like every other form of work in the music business is completely over-saturated with young composers living at home and willing to work for less-and-less (or nothing thus having diluted the industry run by vampires)…
Do you mean the ‘epic orchestral music’ popping up on P5, AJ etc? Yes there’s a ton of that now. But music at the production value required for trailers, combined with the authentic sound of trailer music, is still rare, and anyone producing it has a strong chance of placement in TV spots and trailers, IF (big IF) they put their music in the hands of great libraries.
I’m also sure that when Mark started, he established relationships with Libs who pay up front or upon delivery. He may have kept these relationships going.
I’m only aware of 2 or 3 Libs that pay up front nower days. It says a lot.
When I started, I was doing films for free or next to nothing, then keeping the rights to the music, and then plugging it into non-ex libraries. This helped a trickle of royalties start to come in. I didn’t start working with libraries that paid well upfront ($500 or more per track) until about four years into writing full time, and those deals were work for hire, as in, I got the writer’s share of the performance royalties, but no licensing. So in the long run, I started to move away from most of those deals as they felt a bit like fool’s gold.
What really got me going royalties wise was helping reality TV composers with their shows. They’d take half the writers (usually – sometimes less, a few times more), but generally it was an ok deal at the time because I’d get a little upfront ($100 – $250 a track) and the tracks would have a strong chance of getting used immediately.July 6, 2019 at 9:37 pm #32559boinkeee2000Participant
ive been at this for 2yrs, got my first BMI royalty check last month for $25 (ate at sizzler)…based on an exponential trajectory ill be hitting 100k by 2045 😀July 7, 2019 at 8:00 am #32561Music1234Participant
I didn’t start working with libraries that paid well upfront ($500 or more per track) until about four years into writing full time, and those deals were work for hire, as in, I got the writer’s share of the performance royalties, but no licensing. So in the long run, I started to move away from most of those deals as they felt a bit like fool’s gold.
Could not agree more. I would absolutely never ever hand over my tracks for a lousy $500. Controlling your entire catalog to sell however you want, and wherever you want is the easier road to 6 figures. My earnings trajectory was strikingly similar to Marks. I think a newbie writer can get there but they have to be willing to dedicate 5 to 10 years and write 1000 really good tracks! You have to put in the time.
Thanks for sharing your journey Mark. We’re all still on this journey and I do not look forward to the day when earnings start to drop year of over year. I can deal with stagnation, but I’ll get concerned if I ever see earnings drop year over year. That has not happened yet but one gets a sense that it may happen soon with the disturbing trends we all see. Further devaluation by composers accepting horrible deals out of ignorance and paranoia, too many networks paying blankets, but no PRO – GAC, HGTV, SCRIPPS, ESPN, Big 10 Network, etc. This practice is officially annoying and is just overt theft. I am getting thousands of detections on these networks and never am I paid royalties, but I will protest this soon and just ask these libraries for money. They serve up my music and others, pocket blanket fees ($300 to $1000 an episode, or juicy annual access to the entire catalog for a 1 year blanket license fee), then don’t share any money with the writers. This is bogus and unethical.
What’s even more bizarre is how cue sheets get filed, but the PRO’s don’t pay off them anyway. Something does not add up. Then we all earn .01 cents for streaming on HULU Amazon VOD, and NETFLIX. .00000037 cents a stream…….SAD!July 7, 2019 at 2:51 pm #32563SMCMGuest
I had an income ladder/progression very similar to Mark’s, only a little quicker because reality TV writing was my very first gig. I think having a gig like that is fairly crucial – the placements flow in heavily and quickly, and even though you get less writers share, the income builds up nicely. The tricky part is finding the composers/companies that deal directly with reality TV clients and get your tracks straight into editors’ harddrives.
Not at all saying that’s the only way to do it! Royalties with bigger and more “standard” production music libraries will build up over time as well, especially with international representation. But if it wasn’t for the reality TV gig, I probably wouldn’t be making a living yet.July 7, 2019 at 3:59 pm #32564daveydadParticipant
I’ve only been at this a few years and reality TV is definitely my bread and butter.July 8, 2019 at 12:56 am #32566LAwriterGuest
I do not look forward to the day when earnings start to drop year of over year.
I always seem to be out ahead of the curve. Ended up there at the beginning when no one was writing for libraries, I was one of the first to get clobbered by having my music illegally put into a subscription plan (which I promptly torpedoed when I found out), I was getting my shows pulled out of broadcast and put into streaming before many of my colleagues. And now, finally, it’s happened. Royalties have been in a solid year of decline.
This may be an anomaly. Honestly it’s too early to tell. But my shows and placements are going up at a fairly exponential level. However royalties have stagnated, softened, and are now down enough (25-35%) to make me sit up and notice. It was a harbinger for me when Disney Channel offloaded a huge portion of it’s catalog that played consistently over the decades on their channel to Amazon / Hulu, etc.. That was the shot over the bow…..
How it will all shake out will take time to discern, but I am not nearly as optimistic about the potential as I once was. I know the biz. I’m not slacking. And although there are changes that seem to baffle, I’m still writing and trying. I used to tell young writers that it was a goldmine waiting to me mined. Now, that mine is looking suspiciously like a dark deep hole in the ground.
We’ll see. Be I fear that I’m out ahead of many of you. I’ve had a huge amount of material transition out of solid network/cable play to streaming. The results are not pleasant. Often a 90% drop in payment compared to years of consistent cable payments. Ugly times…..July 8, 2019 at 1:04 am #32568LAwriterGuest
PPS – as a general comment : i have found that my beginning years had exponential growth similar to some of you. I have not quantized it like many of you but it seems similar. Unfortunately as time moved on, the financial growth became less and less percentage wise, while the placement growth continued to expand.
I have only BMI and Streaming to point to in regards to the equation that does not compute for me. Beyond that, it makes no sense whatsoever.July 9, 2019 at 9:58 pm #32607
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