During my around fifteen years of experience while working in the audio industry I had the chance to work on all kinds of different projects. I had the pleasure of writing music for video games, movies, tv shows and movie trailers, teaching guitar, doing sound design for sample library developers, being a studio and live guitar player for bands, creating arrangements for rock and pop acts, working as an audio editor for live shows or even doing voice overs for video games!
With this post I don’t want to praise myself, but give you an insight on what to be aware of in order to be able to work in your desired branch of the audio industry!
The most obvious but hardest fact of all
You may shake your head when you read stuff like “stick to it, … focus, … get up once you fall down”, but even because of this it is more important than ever to talk about it once more, since it somehow has become as meaningless as the question “Hey, how are you?” … I mean, hand on the heart: Are 75% of the people asking this really interested in hearing what is going around in your head? No, it most of the time doesn’t mean more than a simple “Hey”. I feel the same when it comes those very important points I mentioned right in the beginning of this paragraph.
With this being said, I, once more, wanted to give the deserved attention to these most essential and important points of it all:
If you want to work in your desired branch of the audio industry, you will experience a lot of ups but even more downs on your way. It simply is the most important thing to keep sticking to it. Most people won’t make it because they give up too early. Successful people out there probably failed more than you may have ever tried!
Staying focused is most of the time misunderstood too! It doesn’t mean to simply turn off Facebook and your smart phone. The most important thing about staying focused is to not give a bit wet f*ck on what other people say unless it is constructive criticism. We all know that people who don’t want to see you “up there” have issues with their self confidence and their own career. Maybe they envy you and therefore try to talk you out of it, because they see you as a potential threat!
I personally don’t believe in keeping secrets to myself. If someone is overtaking on the success ladder because of a hint I gave, then fine! Why should I be angry about something like this, if I continue to do what I love? Besides that, many composers are overtaking me on a daily basis and by not even being aware of it! I wish them all the best and I highly doubt that it changes anything in my life!
Besides this, you have to be willing to take a lot of risks! The great stuff happens outside your comfort zone. You have to be prepared to run full throttle, head first into that huge wall in front of you and the more unbreakable it seems, you have to lower your head even more and run faster! There is no other way to do it. The moment you think about your skull bursting shouldn’t matter at all! This is when this wall will break!
Your general ticket to work in every industry
Next up, forget about money and the potential jobs! Erase these from getting into the industry, because as every girl smells an insecure guy from being one mile away, every potential employer smells if you are just here for the quick money and the gigs.
Your goal is to build honest long term relationships! To mention this right in the beginning, I am not talking about to make misuse of people to make money, I am really talking about building long term relationships and find people you want to work with or for!
It should be more than obvious that your potential employer will provide you with work and that he will pay you for this, but as for building part this all shouldn’t matter! The money and the job offers will be a side product later on!
A few years back I took a trip to Los Angeles to mainly see the Two Steps from Hell concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Since I had a few days left to spend in Los Angeles I asked around who would be available to simply say hi and talk a bit about life and stuff. When I went back home I probably had more job offers in my pocket than during the last months!
Another small example: In my very beginning years of getting into the industry a very funny moment happened. One nice day a person, I simply wanted to know better, released a track on an internet forum. As I was listening to it, I couldn’t believe my ears, because four bars of his track sounded exactly as four bars on a track I wrote, but didn’t publish so far! There was absolutely no way this person could have known the track I wrote and since this person didn’t publish it, I neither had a chance of listening to it.
I was simply amazed that I wrote a message to this guy, sending him my track and telling him about the funny circumstances. A bit later he wrote back, asking if we could arrange a phone call which ended up talking about getting involved into my first license writing job!
I don’t want to bore you with further stories, but understatement and focusing on simply meeting people will open the real doors for you! Keep that in mind and it will be your general ticket into whatever branch of the industry you want to work in – simply because you are not aiming for the quick job but to become a reliable composer or sound designer!
Also keep in mind that the audio industry is full of professional people understanding their craft, but most of the time employers presuppose that someone is a professional. However, what they are really aiming for is to find the charismatic and reliable ones!
A quick trip into the world of Facebook and Co. and why it is important to talk about this for a moment! The first thing is, social networks are the best and easiest way to get into contact with people all around the industry.
Once you got connected with someone, please don’t make the mistakes to promote your music, leave your phone number, tag them in every post you write or in general treat them as some sort of a cheap springboard for your career!
Use your brain a little bit and think about your goal being to build a long term relationship. So, always be a bit unconventional or more inventive than others when it comes to staying in contact with people.
Be patient but don’t be selective
This is a very important point I want to address since I received many messages regarding this topic. It goes a little bit like this:
“Hey Alex, I am an aspiring composer and I wanted to ask what branch would the best to start working in?”
There is one important thing to keep in mind when it comes to the entire audio industry: Whatever train you are about to be able to grab, jump on it and start somewhere! It absolutely doesn’t matter! There is also not the chance, as a movie composer, to quickly make some money in the game audio industry and vice versa. Every branch needs dedication and no matter how big your dream is to, for example, get into the movie industry, if you got a chance to jump into the video game industry or theater industry – DO IT!
This is when patience comes into play! Congratulations, you have now landed somewhere in the audio industry! It doesn’t matter at first where exactly, but you just found your way into it and there is enough time to decide later on where exactly you want to go! Please keep in mind that there is no only-one-right-way or if-I-could-start-all-over-moment.
The only thing that matters is “now”, since nothing else is happening at this moment, except … this very moment!
(sounds kind of weird, right? But take all time you need …)
So, time to gather some real credits and money you can buy food with!
In the following paragraphs I want to dive a little bit deeper into a few special branches of the audio industry.
Please keep in mind that the general ticket – the long term relationship applies to all of the individual branches!
Writing demos for sample library developers
Of course times have changed a bit but in my opinion it is still a great way to get heard! When I wrote my first demo I still remember a few people smiling at me. “Really Alex? Spending days to write a demo when the lib is just 199 EUR? Why don’t you simply buy it?”
However, there is one thing the purchased library can’t get you – publicity!
Looking back on all these years since I wrote my very first demo for “EWQLSO Gold”, I can say for sure, that I got in contact with a lot of people I am still in contact with today!
Even better, the popularity of the first few demos helped me to write even more demos, also for other companies. While people thought that I take the cheap or sneaky way to get “libs for free” my tracks were played back in studios throughout the audio industry!
For some more inspiration on writing for demos, please scroll down!
Share your knowledge
As mentioned in the beginning, don’t be the guy holding back with knowledge. There is nothing more rewarding when it comes to helping others! It totally doesn’t matter if someone becomes really good at something because of you! This person may be thankful later … and even if not, the great feeling of being able to help stays with you forever!
When you share your knowledge by doing tutorial videos or answering emails one very important thing happens. You stay natural, which is the biggest feature of a self confidence person!
Furthermore, in case you do tutorials or even give insight into your awesome sample library demo tracks, you will receive a lot of attention – not just from aspiring or fellow composers!
Inspirations: Video game industry
Here are a few things to consider when you want to get into the video game industry!
- Get into game modifications! There are a lot of creatives out there who write free modifications of released games. This is a great chance to get an idea of how working with a team will be. Rest assured that many of these modifications die before people really started working on it, giving you even a better insight and a training on how hard it is to work with a great team in order to see release date!
- In my opinion it was never that easy to find a list of game developers. Simply grab your phone and browse through the Apple or Google Play store and get contacts of hundreds of game companies!
- Get hold of all the video game conventions out there and meet people. It is obviously handy to have a demo reel with you, but again, try to build long term relationships. Get connected with people you already met on Facebook and Co. There is no better way than to get connected in, let’s say, the good old analog way!
- It doesn’t hurt to send out application emails. I remember sending out around 500 to 800 emails back then until I got my first paid job!
Inspirations: Movie industry
- Similar to the game industry. Get a list of, for example, universities or other places to meet upcoming film students. These nice people may not be your ticket directly to Hollywood right now, but being the film makers of tomorrow!
- Get into hobby projects and write music for especially short films. It happens very often that short films will be shown around or being featured at film festivals such as, for example, Sundance. Working on short films is also great because you don’t spend weeks or even months on something without making any money
- The movie industry is probably the hardest to get into, but I can’t press how important it is to meet people … from eye to eye!
Inspirations: Writing sample library demos
- Simply get in contact with sample library developers, present them your best track and ask them to write a demo!
- Make your demos special! Put something into these demos that the listener will either raise his eyebrows, drops his jaw or didn’t see “that” coming. Be special, be unique, be different!
- Don’t be the guy to sit down for three hours put some loops together in order to get the demo done as fast as possible! People will hear it!
- Put some effort into this! Become aware that this track could be played back right at Hans Zimmer’s studio!
Inspirations: License music industry
- Write a full album of 10 – 15 tracks you are really convinced of
- Get advice from fellow professionals working in the industry before you start sending it around in order to have really great sounding tracks!
- You should have established contact with people from trailer/license music companies by now. Take one or two of your best tracks and ask if they would like to publish it
- Make sure to keep 100% writers share! Everything else depends on the direct deal.
- That being said, be reminded that you should be part of a PRO (Performance Rights Organization such as BMI, ASCAP etc.)
- Unless you personally know people from a company, I would suggest to stay away from companies without any credits or big promises offering you to work for them “just like this”