Some of my students, family and friends will remember that a few years back I made an attempt to get into commercial composition. Basically that’s composing music or songs for specific commercial uses, ranging from films, video games, and commercials, to corporate videos.
Why Commercial Composition?
I was interested in this for a number of reasons. I have been writing songs and composing music since I was in high school. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I felt that writing specific types of music on demand would be very interesting and challenging. So that was the first reason for my interest in commercial composition.
The second reason was obviously hard cold cash! I once heard a guy say that everyone is interested in making more money. He said if a guy lied to you about that fact, he’d lie to you about anything! How true. The money aspect of commercial composition is particularly appealing to me now, because of the way things have changed in the music business.
CD sales for musicians have been on a steady decline for several years now, so that income stream is decreasing. While people are still buying CD’s, there is less opportunity now than there was years ago to make money as a musician selling your CD’s.
However, the opportunities to license your music for use in various media continue to increase. This is just as true for independent musicians as for famous artists. We have tons of cable channels, internet radio, and countless YouTube videos being created daily. All of these need music. All of these also need to pay for licenses to use this music in their productions. YouTube regularly closes accounts that violate copyright law. So while it’s true that lots of people use music illegally everyday, plenty of people are also motivated to keep their productions legal. They don’t want to have everything they’ve worked so hard to build destroyed through a law suit.
First Attempts At Commercial Composition
So anyway, several years ago I made an attempt to get into the commercial market. I met with several corporate video producers. I even started my own publishing company and signed quite a few other writer’s songs under non-exclusive agreements to my catalog. I figured that would be quicker and more profitable than have to write all the music myself.
I didn’t have any success at the time. There were a couple of reasons for this. The first was that I simply didn’t understand at the time the type of music used for different media and how it differed in each case. For instance, the type of music used in a film score is usually pretty dramatic, and much different than the music used in a corporate video. This is important because you need to understand when you’re writing the music, exactly who you’re writing it for. You also need to understand when you’re submitting music for use exactly what type of music they’re looking for. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time. Fortunately you can learn everything you need to by simply listening to what other successful musicians have done in various situations. You then have a good idea of what type of music that type of client is looking for.
The second reason I didn’t succeed in the commercial music field was simply lack of persistence. I wrote a few tunes, started the publishing company, and then basically stopped.
Second Attempt At Commercial Composition
This is my second attempt to get into the commercial composition field. I have read that the best way to do this initially is to place some of your tunes with stock music libraries. These are usually the easiest to get into in the beginning. The license fees are pretty small, but the idea here is to license the same song hundreds of times for lots of different media applications. The more tunes you have in the libraries, the more money you make. What’s especially appealing to me is the fact that it’s a form of passive income, or what I like to call mailbox money. You just have to be able to make it to your mailbox to collect your money!
I’ve also read that some of the music supervisors who buy your stock music tracks will hire you later to create custom soundtracks for some of their other projects. So the music libraries can be a foot in the door to these type of opportunities. These are much higher paying of course.
Here’s a tune called “Chasing The Stars,” that I submitted to a couple of music libraries this week. This is the type of tune I feel could be used in a corporate video. The libraries have publishers that listen to all the music submitted to them and determine whether it’s both high quality, and the type of music their clients are looking for for their projects. I’m keeping my fingers crossed! We’ll see what happens. This time out, I plan on being a lot more persistent.