Scoring for Film and TV – Breaking In

August 7, 2012

Whenever I speak with aspiring film composers the question always arises: “How do I get my music in front of producers and directors?” Like most things in life, this is a process, not an event. It can be a painfully slow road to success no matter how talented you may be. But there are some steps you can take to make a great impression.

First and foremost, it is quite important to be organized. Are your audio files where you can access them easily? Or are they scattered around on several hard drives and CDs? Do you have all the writer / publisher information for every title in your library? If not, this would be a great place to start. It’s so much easier to deliver if you can put your hands on things without having to turn the house upside down. And if you do happen to get something placed, you will be required to supply writer and publisher information, so have this information readily available.

I suggest an Excel spreadsheet. Or you can add all that information, called “metadata,” to the actual audio file. This requires some dedicated software, however, and there is still a good amount of head-scratching about metadata and how to embed it. Here’s a link to a discussion about embedding metadata in WAV files.

If you are submitting songs with vocals, by all means send along a lyric sheet. There are a lot of old guys like me who are decision makers, with compromised hearing (and that’s a whole ‘nother subject) from playing rock ‘n roll. If I don’t get a lyric sheet, I can’t understand what you’re singing. Even for those who have great hearing, there’s something about being able to see the words on a page that helps convey the message a little better. Be sure and include the title, writer and publisher information, and contact information on the lyric sheet.

If you are submitting CDs, please label them. That means the disc itself and any sleeve or jewel case. Things get lost. Make it easy for someone to “find” you if they are interested in your music.

Now, what do you do with all that wonderful music you’ve created? Arguably, the best opportunity right now for composers is music libraries.

Now, I admit that libraries are a double-edged sword. Whenever a production uses a library for a show, they are not going to hire a composer, and that has made it tough on a lot of composers. The purpose of this article is not to debate the merits of music libraries. All I am saying is that music libraries are interested in fresh, new cues to keep their catalog current and there are actually folks at some of the music libraries who will listen to your stuff. I am affiliated with Scorekeepers Music Library, and have enjoyed a productive relationship with them for several years. I asked them directly if they accepted outside material, and this is the response I received from Ryan Sager, VP of A&R:

“ScoreKeepers’ job is to produce or acquire the best music in the industry to provide to production companies for use in their broadcast productions. Our music library search application (known as the Virtual Music  Supervisor) is the best in the industry. Our doors are always open for instrumental music of every genre that is written, performed, and produced to professional standards. We like artists who are courteous, responsible, and easy to work with.

We are happy to listen to anyone who contacts us. Any composer, artist, or band who is interested in licensing opportunities should introduce him or herself by emailing me at ryan@scorekeepersmusic.com. I will  email the artist back with instructions on sending us music which will serve as the artist’s audition. If we like what we hear and feel it’s a good fit for us, we’ll advance the correspondence to the next step. If the music  is not a good fit for us, we’ll let the artist know.”

Any decent music library provides a conduit between you and television producers, and this is a great way to get started on a composing career. If you can write a few good cues for a music library that end up getting used, it is only a matter of time when someone will ask “Who wrote that?” Since writer information is supplied by the library, it should be easy for a producer to find you if there is further interest in your work. You do have a website or a Facebook page, right? And these sites contain a sampling of your material, right? Good. You’re on your way.

Edgar Struble writes music for TV and films. His book Working In the Music Industry, an invaluable collection of straightforward advice on preparing for and entering careers in the music business, can be purchased as a hard copy by clicking here, or as a digital download by clicking here.

2 Responses to “Scoring for Film and TV – Breaking In”

  1. Pete L Says:

    I’m new to this field. How do you define what a musical “cue” is – is it a short “self contained” musical idea?

    • acmmd Says:

      That’s correct. A cue is a short piece of music, written to accompany action and / or dialogue. A film score may contain many individual “cues.” Some may be quite short, like a percussion hit. Others may go on for minutes when underscoring a long scene.


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