I had a chance to ask a few questions to renowned composer, Ian Arber, on what it takes to be successful composer and he kindly shared a few details on the subject (Thanks, Ian!). Ian Arber has composed for several short films and television shows, also working as a sound designer and mixer for many projects. Here is what he has to say...
How did you land your first scoring gig? Was it over the internet or local?
My first gig was through the university course I did. The top film music students were "set up" with the top film students from another university. First paid gig came after sending my portfolio out to loads of student and young film makers. One happened to get back to me saying he just lost his composer and liked my portfolio. I ended up working with the same director on several short films over the years and an upcoming feature. My portfolio at the time was just 10 tracks of different genres of my best work; which had either been scored to picture or just music in its own right. My first 3 or 4 paid gigs were all remote; working with Americans and Canadians. Skype is your best friend.
Did you study music at degree level? If so, did it benefit your employability?
I did. It gave me a great understanding of the business side of being a film composer. It gave me a head start in a way. But I wouldn't say it's necessary. For a time I wish I didn't "lose" three years to University as I was in a rush to become a pro composer. But now looking back, I'm glad I did it. Definitely not necessary though.
How active do you have to be with networking and how often do you market yourself?
Very active – face to face; going to film festivals; film events; online networking; connecting with film makers. These days this is the most important thing when you start out. Marketing yourself is important so that potential collaborators can see what you've been up to, and that you're busy. I've gotten gigs from people coming across a track I tweeted or on SoundCloud – so, it is definitely important to be on top of the social media marketing. Most important of all though is to e-mail people (not with generic copy-paste emails), and tell them you love their work. Send just a few tracks or a link to your showreel. You'll be surprised; people will get back to you.
Do you get a lot of repeat clients?
Yeah, most of my work over the last few years has been repeat gigs with the same people. You never know where your collaborative relationship could come from. I have a writer who I work with a lot and she often uses me. You must network with producers and of course, directors. Your relationship with a director is very close and unique, so if you get on and do a good job the chances are you will end up good friends. Then they will more often than not come back to you.
How long did it take for you to actually generate some income?
Ages, haha! You have to think of other ways to generate income, at least for the initial years. I worked on TV productions as a runner, then a researcher, whilst working on low paid gigs. This was a clever move as I met and worked with loads of TV people at the same time, and earned steady money. So you need to try to think of ways to work in a related industry. Library music is another great way to begin earning some constant money, but takes a lot of work. I'd say it takes a good (at least) 5 years of working on films to get to a stage of full-time work.
That was indeed some great information every composer should walk away with! You can check out his work at Sync-Phony and be sure to share your views below, contact me for any questions and check out some of my music. Thanks, all!
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