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  Opportunities for composers in London  mattratcliffe81 at 10:23 on 19 May 2008

I am a composer/cellist/pianist living in the Midlands, looking to possibly move down to London in the next year or so. I wanted to ask any members living in London what opportunities there are for composers - do you manage to earn a living solely from composition, if so what types of jobs/commissions do you find yourself doing? Do you have to do a certain amount of other work e.g. instrumental teaching in order to make ends meet? Or do you even need to have a completely non-musical day job? Just to give a bit of background I am 26 years old and have a BA in composition from Dartington College of Arts, Totnes, Devon.

I would be very grateful for any advice!

Matthew Ratcliffe.

  Re: Opportunities for composers in London  Pete12b at 23:34 on 22 May 2008


There are literally hundreds of opportunities for composers in london - however the question is -are you willing to write bread and butter music in order to focus on the serious stuff. My personal advice would be to start knocking on doors - as many as possible! The opportunities that exist are mainly in the media - TV, Film, Advertising. The pay is good although film work does take an awful long time for the agreements to appear.

A few doors to try:
Film Colleges, music colleges, radio stations (there are 100's of these), library music companies. contact london based music supervisors.

Hothouse Media, Blaze Music (Film), 750mph, Carlin

composer agencies - you may have to stretch to brighton for the really big ones. Websites to try are shooting people, for starters. Don't limit yourself to London - as long as you're near the internet and/or a post box you can write where you want. I only go up to London for the meeting side of things - its nicer by the sea!

I will warn you, the film game now is lightning quick -my last commission was 50minutes worth and 3weeks to produce it(temp track, full mock up AND orchestral score.) I've found jobs in loot before now.

Its hard work, but what would you rather be doing?!


  Re: Opportunities for composers in London  scott_good at 15:58 on 24 May 2008

Hi Matthew,

I cannot speak directly to the opportunities in London, but I can give some general suggestions having lived in a city and worked as a musician for the past 14 years.

If, ultimately, you wish to earn your bread and butter as a composer, you have 2 general paths - taking Pete's advice, which is sound, you can immerse yourself in the world of commercial/movie composition. With dedication and as was mentioned, lots of door knocking, one can most likely develop a career in these areas.

But you have to ask yourself "is this what i want to do?" Perhaps it is. But, if like me, you desire to compose music with a more, how shall I say it...artistic focused approach rather than commercial, I would recommend other paths that have worked for me.

Composing art music is an incredibly competitive world. But, contrary to seemingly popular belief, musicians want to work with composers. Thus what I recommend is 4 fold:

1. Look to performing for subsistence at the beginning. Practice all the time. Being a performer benefits the composer in many ways: networking with musicians, the continuous study of music through performance, and learning about the realities of performing are at the top of the list. (also, performers will respect you more).

If you quit playing, I can almost guarantee you will regret your decision in years to come.

2. Attend many concerts. This also helps with networking, and also with keeping abreast of the scope of the field - oh ya, it's enjoyable as well! Also go to lectures that are open to the public. In London, just about all of the great artists of the world will pay visit at some time.

3. Do not wait for anything! Be a creator, not a whiner. Find like minded souls who desire to make art, and do it. Work hard. Compose all the time. Form ensembles. Put on concerts. Constantly invest in your own career - this is how business people do it, so should the composer - the business is your works and capacity to create. Your skills need to be developed and nurtured all the time.

4. Be patient and content. Live a simple life. Don't need stuff. Learn to cook (sooo much money can be saved cooking rather than eating out+it is so m uch fun to cook delicious food + an aphrodisiac like none other;-). Cycle, walk. Live in a small space and be happy with it (don't worry, the world is huge outside the front door). Avoid trivial time wasting, but, enjoy life with friends and family.

I believe that anything is possible with a strong work ethic and a positive attitude. I make my living as a composer now (and support a family) when I was told years ago that it wasn't possible. But I never stopped from my goal, and am a very satisfied person because of this.

All the best,


  Re: Opportunities for composers in London  Misuc at 19:25 on 24 May 2008

i think Scott's advice is very wise and very encouraging. i also think Pete had some very useful things to say. On this forum I recently told a novice who was trying to get started in doing music for commercials, films or whatever, to write what he wanted but to learn to find out what he really wanted and not to sell out on that principle. I got into a raging controversy...which I am not going to revive now.

There are plenty of opportunities for combining making your own music the way you want to with working with and for others. Many years ago I got to meet people studying at the National Film School and wrote (alas unpaid!) music for several films - including one by a student director who went on to become a celebrated Hollywood star director - I am sure known to most people on this list. Well he made a lot of money out of it, after decades of what I thought was time-wasting making TV ads etc. What did I get out of it? The experience of making music and having the director cut the film to the music rather than the other way about: a great experience which spoiled me for the kind of world Peter describes: the real world.

And then another time i took over as a MD for someone who was directing the music for Brecht's 'Mother Courage' (That was well-paid and marvelous music for a marvelous play). Uncharacteristically I made it a condition that they offered me some creative work too and they gave me the chance to write words and music for a play for their 'Theatre in Education' group - at one time I was working fulltime for both and getting double salaries 7.30am - midnight - but I'm a lot older now. but there's no inspiration like the voice of the actor bawling out: "come on! Where's my words?" Anyway this led on to other opportunities.

That is why I wish I had had access to those numbers and addresses that Peter talked about. TV music is so unutterably bad I am sure I could do better , but you really do have to be liked by the 'right' people - and that will not come easy....

You can get people to play your music in public too. Not too hard. But getting paid for it is harder. After a number of public performances some decades ago i qualified for membership of the Performing Rights Society. Out of that source I have earned a total of 29p!

But teaching and/or playing is not demeaning. It is hard work too, but it is very rewarding and you get paid something for it too!

  Re: Opportunities for composers in London  Pete12b at 01:22 on 25 May 2008

re the last post - not only is teaching rewarding but it makes sure your technique is rock solid. Good advice from Scott too. Best of luck