Landing film scoring jobs is a lot easier in today’s digital age, even if living in LA isn’t an option. No matter where you are in the world, you can use the Internet as a tool to help you land online film scoring jobs, further your musical education, market yourself, and even transfer audio files to clients or “attend” job interviews via Skype.
What’s more, the explosion of online videos, games, and apps has opened up an unlimited quantity of multimedia, sound design, and game audio jobs.
On the other hand, because the Internet levels the playing field, getting film scoring jobs online has become much more competitive than in days past. Your chances of success will depend largely on your ability to market yourself and keep a steady supply of film scoring gigs coming in.
The following guide offers a bird’s-eye view of some of the online film scoring jobs and opportunities available to film and game composers and how to find them, as well as some marketing tips for film and game composers. We’ll be updating this guide as we learn about new film scoring opportunities, so make sure to bookmark it and check back on occasion. If you have a pointer on how to find film scoring jobs or game composing work, let us know in the comments!
Create a Demo Reel
As a film or game composer, you’re being hired to create incidental music (film) and adaptive or interactive music (games and apps). You should strive to demonstrate this in your portfolio by syncing your cues to games, animations, trailers, or film clips rather than simply directing clients to “standalone” audio files.
It goes without saying that your demos should be your best work and as well-produced as possible.
Film Composer Job Boards: A Caveat
There are a few film composer job boards and membership sites floating around the Internet that require you to pay a fee to join. Be very cautious of investing your time and money in these types of sites, and always do some background research. If a simple Google search on the website in question doesn’t turn up any positive feedback, it’s probably best to avoid that site and focus instead on marketing your own website or apply to legitimate gigs elsewhere.
The Berklee Music Network has a quality gigs board, but you have to take an online course with Berklee to be granted access.
Film Scoring Gigs on Job Search Aggregators
Job opportunities for film and game composers and sound designers are sometimes posted on the following sites (you may wish to use keywords such as “telecommute” or “remote”):
- Film Score Jobs on Indeed (job search aggregator)
- Film Composer Jobs on Simply Hired (job search aggregator)
- Ad Hunt’r (search all of Craigslist)
Your search for film scoring jobs can be made easier if you automate the process by setting up Google Alerts for relevant keywords.
Contact the Right People
Contact production music libraries, game developers, indie filmmakers, animators, video production companies, and media agencies via forums, websites, and social media channels — just make sure you comply with CAN-SPAM and other anti-spam legislation. (For instance, don’t send cold emails to Canada or certain parts of the UK!). Be sure to send links to your website and never email attachments. Keep your messages brief and focus on serving the needs of your prospective clients.
Land Your First Film Scoring Job … Here’s How
A freelance bidding site is a platform where clients can post jobs and select from a pool of applicants who apply to the job, and the website takes a cut of the transaction. While nothing beats obtaining private clients through your own website and marketing efforts, freelance sites can be a way to pay the bills in the meantime (or land your very first composing gig).
Don’t let some of the low-paying clients scare you off: There are good gigs available on these sites from time to time, and you can land decent repeat clients if you persevere.
You don’t have to pay anything to create a freelancer account and apply to jobs, though there are premium plans available with more features, such as the ability to apply to more categories, apply to a greater number of jobs per month, and view stats (like how much your competitors are quoting for a job).
You can find a variety of work types on these sites: audio editing, mixing, producing, composing and jingle writing, recording, sound design, and even freelance writing for music-related publications.
I recommend picking just one of the following sites to focus on initially and creating a killer profile before you start applying to jobs:
Composing for Production Music Libraries
You can get your music into films, shows, and TV and radio advertisements by licensing your tracks to a production music library. A music library is a company that represents a catalog of music (commonly referred to as production music, stock music, and sometimes “royalty-free” music) and serves as an intermediary between composers and media agencies. Some libraries are exclusive, some are non-exclusive, and others give you a choice.
If the company is exclusive, then that particular library will be the only company allowed to represent your music and pitch it to ad agencies and music supervisors. The advantage of this particular arrangement is that most libraries will pitch exclusive tracks before they pitch non-exclusive ones, because many clients do not want to purchase a cue that was synced to another ad or video.
If a library is non-exclusive, then you can submit the same track to multiple music libraries. This may be beneficial in the long term because you increase the number of outlets and opportunities for your music to be discovered.
Most libraries will not pay money upfront, but you can expect to earn royalties if your music gets placed.
While the topic of music libraries comes up a lot on film composing websites these days, it’s important to keep things in perspective: Library work is spec work, which is by definition a numbers game. It can take years to build up a large-enough portfolio to see any amount of significant results.
In time and with patience, some composers do see a substantial portion of their income come from library sales, but starting out, it’s better to look at it as a way of diversifying your portfolio as a composer while pursuing other (more reliably paying) opportunities.
If you plan to write for production music libraries, start building a catalog of genre-specific music that can be licensed to different media outlets. Create various lengths of your tracks (0:60, 1:30, etc.) and have both vocal (if applicable) and instrumental versions available.
- Cinematic orchestral cues
- Corporate video soundtracks (check out video production company websites and listen to their demos to get a sense of what sells)
- Upbeat and happy pop/rock
- Feel-good electropop
- Urban and energetic hip hop
Production Music Libraries List
**The following list of production music libraries is intended to give you an idea of the variety that’s available. Be sure to do your own research before signing up!
- APM Music
- Music Dealers
- Killer Tracks
- Jingle Punks
- Audio Network
- Pump Audio
Score Short Films, Independent Features, and Web Series
Indie film and video creators are always looking for quality music scores to complement their productions. You can work with independent filmmakers who are producing their own features and pitching them to festivals all around the world, offering your music the opportunity for excellent exposure.
In the beginning, you can expect to work for modest compensation (or, in some contexts, for free). As you add credits to your portfolio, you can request more payment.
Scoring shorts can be a great way to form relationships with upcoming filmmakers (and add credits to your IMBD profile!). If you work with a talented director, there’s a good chance their film will gain some exposure and your name will get out to the industry.
There are lots of online message boards catering to video producers and indie filmmakers, so your best bet is to pick one or two, make a point of posting regularly, and work that forum sig!
Compose Music for Video Games and Apps
If you’re into gaming and your dream is to create the type of music that takes a game to the next level of awesomeness, then you’re in luck: The opportunity here is tremendous for qualified composers.
These days, video games and iOS/Android apps are constantly being developed and are in need of music to complete the developer’s vision. The best way to get started in the game industry is to build relationships with independent game and app developers.
Developers often work on a game or app for up to two or three years, and it’s important to approach them at the right time. Find the ones who are approximately a year into development and tell them you’re interested in working with them on their project. Most will employ you in a “work-for-hire” capacity, where you’ll be commissioned to compose for an agreed-upon fee, and the company will retain ownership of the music. Depending on the terms, you may or may not be credited for your work.
As a video game composer, you can either work for yourself as an independent contractor or seek employment with a company as a junior audio designer or something related.
Sound Designer Jobs
Most forms of media are in need of a suite of sound effects in addition to the musical score. While the composer’s job is to provide the music bed, the sound designer’s duty is to provide the unique sounds that complement and complete the project.
A production will have specific needs that require you to generate and manipulate sounds to be used as effects, whether to imply action or serve as an atmospheric soundscape.
You can locate these jobs by contacting post-production companies, game developers, and sound editors. Payment is usually on a work-for-hire, per-project basis.
Develop Samples for Sound Libraries
Composers in the digital age rely heavily upon sample libraries, virtual instruments, and other packaged sounds to enhance their MIDI mockups. Many producers and composers purchase royalty-free samples and use them as inspiration to create their own compositions. These samples are allowed to be used as part of a composition, as long as they aren’t played in isolation.
If you possess the suite of skills and the entrepreneurial spirit required to undertake such an ambitious task, you can build your own business around this insatiable appetite for new sounds (but be aware that this undertaking is not for the faint of heart!).
You can record your own samples, layer sounds, and create loops that match the vision for the library you want to create. Be sure to keep your samples meticulously labeled, with good naming conventions and a logical presentation.
Subsequently, contact the sample library retailers that work in your specific genre and pitch them your sound pack. You’ll be paid each time it’s sold through the sample company. In some cases, the company will want to buy your sound pack outright for a one-time fee.
Miscellaneous Gigs for Working Composers
While the following gigs are a bit more off the beaten path, they’re viable opportunities that the musically minded freelancer can do online. These can be regular side gigs or ways to earn a quick buck while you build up your credits.
Sell Your Sheet Music
You can offer your sheet music for sale on your website or via a publishing program (or both). If this is something you’re interested in, make note of the following tips:
Be the go-to person in your niche: Selling your sheet music can be a good source of extra income if you specialize in an unusual or rare niche, like medieval dance tunes for mandolin or Andean folkloric music for quena (a bit over the top, but you get the idea).
Build a YouTube following for your niche music: If you love to write ambient music or stunningly beautiful minimalistic piano pieces (think Ludovico Einaudi or Michael Nyman), set up a YouTube channel and play your tracks against aesthetically appealing visual backdrops. Build up a following and sell the sheet music or audio directly from your website or through a popular third-party platform like iTunes.
Publish your work on Amazon: You can offer digital and even print editions of your songbooks on Amazon, which offers a non-exclusive self-publishing program and royalties of “up to 80%.”
Join a digital publishing program: Another way to sell your sheet music is to join a digital publishing program with a reputable distributor. SheetMusicPlus.com, the world’s largest digital sheet music retailer, offers its Digital Print Publishing program, where you can self-publish your digital sheet music (and accompanying audio files, if you wish) on their highly popular site. You’re also permitted to submit fresh arrangements of public domain pieces. After you submit a certain number of pieces, they’ll even give you your own publisher page, kind of like an eBay storefront for composers!
This is a great place to put all those seasonal and other types of topical arrangements you’ve been cranking out, like Christmas music for concert band and so forth — the type of stuff that music teachers and grade school band directors would be all over.
The program is free and open to beginners, but each piece undergoes a short review and approval period by their staff to ensure it’s up to snuff. As of this writing, you earn 45% royalties per sale on the price you set for your music. Best of all, it’s a non-exclusive arrangement and you retain all rights to your work.
Of course, to see maximum results from the program, you’ll still need to market your work.
J.W. Pepper also has its My Score program, where you can “promote and sell your compositions through the world’s largest sheet music network.”
Finally, there’s ScoreExchange.com (previously SibeliusMusic.com), a big online marketplace for digital sheet music. This is also a great place to get full scores for free if you’re looking for a bit of fresh study material.
Transcribe or Copy Sheet Music
Music educators and performing artists often need tunes to be notated so they can hand out sheet music during classes, rehearsals, and performances. You can use industry-standard music notation software such as Sibelius or Finale to create professional scores and lead sheets (if you’re transcribing guitar music, use a professional guitar tablature editor). Most of the time you’ll be paid a work-for-hire fee to transcribe a piece of music from a recording, video, or performance.
One way to get this type of work is to offer it as a service from your own website. For instance, if you have a lot of experience writing big band arrangements, you might offer your services transcribing circa-1930s recordings and tailoring them to the ensembles of your clients, who might be gigging musicians looking to add some rare classics to their repertoire of performances.
You can also find these types of gigs on freelance bidding sites as discussed earlier.
Offer Online Music Lessons
If you have a strong background in theory, harmony, composition, or even production, you can offer online lessons from your website. Lessons can be conducted via Skype with the help of desktop sharing software, and course materials and assignments can be transferred via email or Dropbox.
Write Articles and Blog Posts for Music-related Publications
Web-based publications need content to stay current, and lots of it. The sheer number of online publications creates a huge opportunity for composers and producers to write articles, tutorials, and reviews to be published on music and audio-related websites and blogs. If you’re a musician and a half-decent writer, you’re a prime candidate for these jobs.
With a lot of web-based writing jobs you’ll work as a ghostwriter, which means the client retains full rights to the work (i.e., can claim themselves as the author of the work, modify it, and so forth). In other cases, however, you may be offered a byline (a blurb containing a brief bio and perhaps a link to your website or social media account), which can be an immensely effective way to promote yourself.
Even if you’re already a working composer, you may wish to try out some of the side gigs covered above, such as teaching, writing, etc., to add some variety to your routine and refresh your creativity.
Get Flexible Work on Telecommuting-friendly Job Boards
If you’re interested in writing articles for music and audio publications (either for cash or to promote your own website), the ProBlogger job board has opportunities from time to time, many of which offer decent rates or a byline to promote yourself.
Another useful resource for professionals of all types looking for telecommuting and flexible work arrangements is FlexJobs. The website does charge a nominal membership fee ($14.95/month or $49.95/year) for use of their service, but their satisfaction guarantee means you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied.
FlexJobs has screening criteria that makes it difficult for the average Joe to post a job, so the quality of employers is generally of a higher standard than you sometimes see on these types of sites. Some FlexJobs employers offer full-time positions, benefits, and salaries.
FlexJobs makes it easy to filter for the job criteria you want according to category (e.g. Education & Training Jobs, Entertainment & Media Jobs, Writing Jobs), telecommuting level (e.g. “100% Telecommuting”), schedule (full-time, short-term, etc.), and more.
Alternately, you can use the site’s search feature to bring up listings in multiple job categories that contain your keyword, which might be something general, like “music,” or something more specific, like “theory teacher.”
For example, at the time of this writing I typed “music” into the search field and selected “All Telecommuting” as the telecommute level. Among the jobs listed were several online music teacher positions, a customer service job for an entertainment agency, various writing or copyediting gigs for online music publications, positions for music curriculum creators, and even graphic design and animation jobs for music-related projects.
By the way, if you have other skills that can be done online — say, web design, graphic design, content writing, or anything like that — this is a great place to find work, music-related or not, that allows you to stay flexible in terms of schedule and location so you can continue to pursue composing gigs.
Get More Gigs: Work on Your Web Presence
Make a professional website or blog that features your very best music and demonstrates your versatility as a composer. Use a music player that’s easily accessible from the homepage.
You have a couple of different options when it comes to setting up a website. The fastest and easiest route is to use a reputable free website building service such as Weebly or Wix (you can make a website for free and upgrade to better features as you need them); however, if you’re willing to get a little technical (or hire someone else to do the technical stuff for you), you may wish to consider setting up and hosting your own website for better long-term control of your assets. You’ll need a domain name and a host, and I also recommend installing WordPress and a premium theme.
- Hostgator — affordable hosting service with good tech support (at the time of this writing, get 25% off your hosting package when you use the promo code MIDIFILMSC on checkout!)
- Namecheap — domain name registration at an unbeatable price
- WordPress.org — free open-source blogging and content management software to help you get your website up with little or no coding necessary (but you can edit the source code if you so choose)
- StudioPress — offers the powerful Genesis framework, which is optimized for ranking in the search engines, and a selection of child themes (my personal choice!)
- Elegant Themes (affiliate link)
- Mojo Themes
Marketing Your Film Composer Website
- Set up profiles on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter (make sure to Tweet regularly!).
- If you’re not on there already, get a SoundCloud account to showcase your work.
- Write guest posts for online music and audio publications in exchange for a link to your website. This is a great way to gain traffic and, in some cases, rankings.
- Keep a regularly updated blog on your website.
- Network in industry forums.
- In some cases cold emailing prospects can be the way to go, but be aware of anti-spam legislation.
Promote Your Music via Niche Internet Radio Stations
A lot of smaller, niche radio stations are on a budget and are constantly in need of fresh, quality music. Plus, they tend to cater to a small group of devoted followers who could become your devoted followers, too. You can either submit your music to these radio stations or purchase advertisements for your website or YouTube channel.
iTunes Radio, for example, has a large selection of Internet radio stations, which makes prospecting easy. You can search for radio stations by keyword. Continuing with our ambient piano music example from before, you could filter results with keywords like “ambient” or “spa,” listen to these radio stations, write down a list of stations to contact, and then navigate to the artist submissions section on their website.
Network at Composer Events, Conferences, and Seminars
Most gigs will come from the relationships you develop; therefore, interpersonal skills are imperative. The music business is in many ways about who you know, so prepare to network on a regular basis, whether it’s through building a presence on social media and relevant online forums, or by getting out there and attending industry events with business cards in hand. Become proficient at establishing genuine connections, and you’ll soon find yourself being called upon to help out with new projects and opportunities that will advance your career to the next level.
The Internet is an amazing way to find work all over the world, but there’s nothing like establishing relationships face to face. Attend music and game conferences and join film composer associations to make personal connections with potential colleagues and executives. These events are also a great way to stay up to speed with changes, trends, and developments in the music industry.
Composer Seminars and Associations (U.S. & Canada)
- ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo
- Billboard & The Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Conference
- Screen Composers Guild of Canada
- SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada)