How To Ruin Your Career & Bring Down The Music Industry (Article)

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"Now granted … making music is the greatest feeling on earth … but be honest with yourself … in what other business does ANYONE work for free? The answer is obvious"

I would say, TONS and TONS of industry have unpaid internships.
If you don't have a portfolio, a long resume and tons of referrals then yes you work for free.

I can see why zen called the author a jackass .. but here is the reality of the situation. You're worth what people are willing to pay for you.

If I have a no budget project, then the only people that have a chance of doing music for that project and people that will do it for free.

Otherwise you don't get to be a part of my team, and I will download tracks and mix them in myself. That's what I did for episode 1 of my crime thriller. And that may be fine with you, because I'm sure you have a ton of other clients and already have loads of experience scoring for movies.
 
I would say, TONS and TONS of industry have unpaid internships.
Yes, they do....but you wouldn't go taking unpaid internship after unpaid internship.

If you don't have a portfolio, a long resume and tons of referrals then yes you work for free.
I'm not sure I'd agree here. The problem (for composers) is that this is their assumption.....and they never ask for any type of payment, whether it be dollars or bartering for services, etc. It's as if their music is offered up right away, almost sacrificially. A composer not having credits is not the same as lacking in craft (although, in some instances this may surely be the case). I think this is often overlooked (on both sides of the fence).

You're worth what people are willing to pay for you.
Absolutely true! And if you ask for nothing (as a composer), you'll get it every time.

If I have a no budget project, then the only people that have a chance of doing music for that project and people that will do it for free.

Otherwise you don't get to be a part of my team, and I will download tracks and mix them in myself.
I think whatever is best for the film is whatever is best for the film. Sometimes it's a lot easier (and faster) for a director to go online, grab some royalty-free tracks, plug them in, mix it all, and get the film out there for an audience to see. Nothing wrong with that. It's one thing to have a zero budget film where you're unable to pay out dollars to people....but what if, in a similar instance, we (the composers) asked to barter for services or gear or anything besides money for a no-budget film? What if a young composer was working on a film (and maybe they've only done a few short films) and said: "I know there's no budget with this film, but I'd be happy to score your film if you'd help me by editing a short demo reel of the few films I've done, after my work is done here."

As composers (especially those starting out), there's needs to be a realization that the level of credits don't always equate to your level of craft. And if you ask for nothing, you'll get it every time.

I can see why zen called the author a jackass
* facepalm *
 

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Sure bartering sounds reasonable, I would have no problem with that.

A composer not having credits is not the same as lacking in craft
I am assuming "not having credits" is the same thing as "not having experience" in the field of scoring for a film.

I certainly would never hire someone that had zero experience!
In fact thats part of the reason I am doing shorts.. because I don't expect anyone to invest in my feature when I don't have the experience either.

Author says you should never work for free, but everyone on my projects works for free. So what makes composers so special that only they should be paid ?? Hell not even I'm getting paid and I'm doing 10x more work than everyone else on the project combined.

According the author you're not allowed to just have it as a hobby or do it for passion, which is what makes him sound like a jackass. Indie people can barely make ends meet and have to give up on their dreams, it's not the end of the world to help out a person that is immensely passionate and talented but doesn't have the finances!
 
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I am assuming "not having credits" is the same thing as "not having experience" in the field of scoring for a film.
I see what you're saying here; perfectly valid. I think that's also an underlying message to composers here. You need to figure out your craft and technicalities so that a) you're good enough to find a project to work on and, b) realistically confident enough (with skills to back it up) to ask for some sort of payment for your work. Composers SHOULD be transcribing a crap ton of work and comparing it to scores, finding clips on youtube to practice scoring to (for their own measures, without publicly posting), figuring out how to work their software and the technicalities that go along with writing to picture in their workstations. That's what they SHOULD be doing....and if they're not doing that, it's not that they shouldn't be paid for their lack of experience, it's that they never should have been hired from the beginning.

Think about what a composer hears as the director's vision for the music: I want this to sound more like a Hans Zimmer thing, or a Dragon Tattoo thing, or Silverstri but whimsical like a John Williams, but Elfman here......etc etc etc. And if you haven't been working on what that is.........what are you (as a composer) going to do when you actually get the job???

Author says you should never work for free, but everyone on my projects works for free. So what makes composers so special that only they should be paid ?? Hell not even I'm getting paid and I'm doing 10x more work than everyone else on the project combined.
Red flag. Who said anything about composers being so special.......an us verse them (whoever) mentality? That, in itself, in an underlying issue for a completely separate conversation. This was written from a composer to composers. I'd imagine that if Troels (the author) was a director or a dp or anything else, his story (and message) would be very much the same to people in his field. Some would still agree; others would still disagree.

According the author you're not allowed to just have it as a hobby or do it for passion, which is what makes him sound like a jackass.
I don't think he said that. I'll re-read the article.....but I don't think it's there. Maybe your takeaway is that that's implication?
 
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Red flag. Who said anything about composers being so special.......an us verse them (whoever) mentality? That, in itself, in an underlying issue for a completely separate conversation. This was written from a composer to composers. I'd imagine that if Troels (the author) was a director or a dp or anything else, his story (and message) would be very much the same to people in his field. Some would still agree; others would still disagree.
If a composer came to me after reading this article, and took the authors advice insisting he get paid or not work, that would have been my reply to him. That and the earlier part about just downloading tracks.
 
If a composer came to me after reading this article, and took the authors advice insisting he get paid or not work, that would have been my reply to him.
Of course you would, because you could simply go to another composer who charges nothing for roughly the same standard of work. That's the authors point though, now imagine the scenario where all music/composers have to be paid for. Now your choice is effectively; either pay a composer or not have any music in your film.

The author's basic idea/advice can only work if everyone in the world who writes music simultaneously refuse to do so without pay. It's blatantly obvious that's not going to happen and in the real world any composer who actually takes the author's advice is almost certain to simply price themselves out of the market and miss even the very slight possibility that they will one day be able to make a living from composing for film. This is the reason the author is a jackass.

G
 
The issue deserves a more nuanced argument than the article's author has given. Rather than '...composers should NEVER do...', it's more a case of '...should consider carefully on a case-by-case basis before doing...'

I totally agree with the principle that if you do a good job at something then you deserve some recompense. But equally, anyone who is considering making music for financial reward has to recognise that it's a brutally competitive, over-saturated market. For me it's more a question of being sensible about which unpaid jobs you're prepared to do and which you aren't, and being honest with yourself about the value of your own product.

I see a lot of people giving away good stuff for nothing in desperation, and just as many people trying to over-charge for garbage. (Just this morning I saw a 'music producer' on Soundcloud trying to licence his 'beats' for significant money, despite them being chock full of uncleared samples!!)

And to those people asking for composers to work for nothing - like anything else, you get what you pay for.
 
That's the authors point though, now imagine the scenario where all music/composers have to be paid for. Now your choice is effectively; either pay a composer or not have any music in your film.
Well, not have any bespoke music in your film. There are still plenty of ways to license music for a film for little to money.

The author's basic idea/advice can only work if everyone in the world who writes music simultaneously refuse to do so without pay.
Yeah, I think we all know that will never happen. Even at the professional level where composing is the sole income, it still won't happen.......as the sweet sirens of credit, the promise of "when I have a budget I'll definitely call you," and percentages on backend money (which don't really exist) continue to lure people away. It's not something that happens on purpose; it's not and evil-diong going on by any stretch. It's just what happens......and seldom do those cards ever play out (for a myriad of reasons).

any composer who actually takes the author's advice is almost certain to simply price themselves out of the market and miss even the very slight possibility that they will one day be able to make a living from composing for film.
You're right, they most certainly will price themselves out of the for-free market. Undoubtedly. In the article, the author is pretty specific in saying that you should charge something that matches your current level in your career. If you're starting out and you've never scored a film; you just have your computer, a ton of loops, that latest library, and you're spitting out horrible hans Zimmer rip-offs all day long........maybe you've not reached a career level enough to be paid. But if you're a composer who's never scored a film but you've been studying and transcribing Williams, Goldsmith, Silvestri, Horner, Thomas Newman, Joel McNeely, etc......and have been trying to figure out how to craft a sound like Hans or like Reznor/Ross; and you're mocking these transcriptions up in your workstation, you bring something to the table that other guys don't, and there's value to that. The argument over "value" or "getting paid what someone is willing to pay" is not the focus point here. The problem is that Composer B (who has studied up and been working on his craft) says "I'd charge $100 to score your short film" and Composer A (Hans Zimmer wannabe) says "I'll do it for free, I just want the experience." We'd like to think that Composer B is the guy who would get selected (or that's who we'd select)......and often times, the freebie is picked.
 
The issue deserves a more nuanced argument than the article's author has given. Rather than '...composers should NEVER do...', it's more a case of '...should consider carefully on a case-by-case basis before doing...'

I totally agree with the principle that if you do a good job at something then you deserve some recompense. But equally, anyone who is considering making music for financial reward has to recognise that it's a brutally competitive, over-saturated market. For me it's more a question of being sensible about which unpaid jobs you're prepared to do and which you aren't, and being honest with yourself about the value of your own product.

I see a lot of people giving away good stuff for nothing in desperation, and just as many people trying to over-charge for garbage. (Just this morning I saw a 'music producer' on Soundcloud trying to licence his 'beats' for significant money, despite them being chock full of uncleared samples!!)

And to those people asking for composers to work for nothing - like anything else, you get what you pay for.
Mike, I'm pretty much in agreement with you here. It aligns closer to my personal view of things.
 
I'm a composer for film (which if anyone is looking for music, keep me in mind... you can check out my reel and samples at http://www.bydavidrosen.com /endplug)...

I've been arguing about this article (and other similar articles) with my composer friends a lot lately... I've been meaning to get more involved on this board, so this seems like a good place to start.

This theory of "never work for free" is crap. I've scored one feature (and am attached to score three features later this year), almost thirty shorts, and dozens of trailers, corporate videos, commercials and other kinds of video projects... As well as games, jingles, and even more kinds of projects. Every year I try to change the balance of what is paid and what is not paid. It started out at 0% paid and 100% unpaid. Because quite frankly... Who in their right mind would hire someone with no samples or experience? I sure as hell wouldn't hire a web designer with no examples of his work. Or a costume designer who just "says" they can do the job but the only proof they have is a picture of their friend all done up on Halloween. No. Not going to happen. But if you can't get hired for paying jobs without experience, what do you do? You start off working for free.

So every year that I gained more experience and worked on more stuff, I started turning down free jobs or pushing harder for pay. And now, I'd say I'm somewhere around 80% paid and 0% free. Technically I've been on this path for over a decade, but I've only REALLY been actively working for the past 6 years or so.

Now, I have two things to say about this whole situation.

1) Are people who are constantly working for free and/or very little money bringing the industry down? Yes. There's really no argument that can be made. If people think they can get work done for nothing, they're going to try to get it done for nothing. Most people will even sacrifice quality if needed... But ESPECIALLY if they can get similar quality for nothing, they're going to go for it.

2) Is it OK then, to work for free when you're starting out? Yes. Because there's really no choice in the matter when you're starting out. If I was working for free all the time at this point in my career, I'd be an idiot and an a-hole. Once in a while is fine if there's some good reason for it or it's a project I just really want to work on, or it's a favor or something. But for people starting out, you simply are not going to get paid anything resembling a fair price for your music. It's not going to happen. So don't let angry old composers (like me on a bad day) tell you you're ruining the business by working for free.

This was all kind of stream of consciousness here, so sorry if I'm kinda all over the place haha. The moral of the story is beginners... Don't listen to these grumpy old farts. Do what you gotta do to make a career and name for yourself. And filmmakers... Try to leave some budget for music.
 
Hey David,

Some great points here! While I will disagree with you on the theory of never working for free is crap....I do agree with your summation points.

I think Mike McGuill said it really well on the first page of this discussion:
I totally agree with the principle that if you do a good job at something then you deserve some recompense. But equally, anyone who is considering making music for financial reward has to recognise that it's a brutally competitive, over-saturated market. For me it's more a question of being sensible about which unpaid jobs you're prepared to do and which you aren't, and being honest with yourself about the value of your own product.
That seems (maybe) more in-line with what your experience has been thus far (and mine, too).
 
Yea Mike's point is definitely a good one.

Really when it comes down to it, I could boil it all down to I just get annoyed when people act all high and mighty and try to make it sound like it's a totally black & white issue. When they say there is NEVER a reason to work for free. Ugh. It's like nails on a chalkboard. Haha.
 
Well there are composers and the are composers. There are some people out there that hold down jobs in other fields and just do music as a hobby with no intention of every doing it for a living. Then there are others' who intend to make music as a serious job. The second of those is harder to do because of the number of the first type of people out there doing it.
Personally the only time I make music for free is if I am doing the audio editing on a project for someone (and getting paid for it) and my composer/musician brain clicks in and I instinctively hear what music is missing and should be there. In those cases I find myself creating a music piece to match the video, telling them about it and saying they can use it there if they want even though it won't net me any more money. Usually it ends up there in the final product.
 
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