Success in the library music world is partly about who you know — so get out there and get to know people!
This instalment in our composer’s guide to the world of library music is all about networking: meeting your peers and publishers in online groups and real-world events where you can make friends, build working relationships and find new opportunities. Most networking opportunities detailed here aren’t specific to library music, and many are also helpful to writers of songs, film and TV scores — so keep reading even if you’re not persuaded by the library route (yet!). We’ll focus mainly on UK and US groups and events, but because there is such a large worldwide concentration of library publishers and opportunities in those countries, this information should also be helpful to the wider international community of composers.
Networking means meeting people who are in situations similar to your own, helping each other out, and gathering knowledge about where the opportunities lie. It doesn’t really mean schmoozing your way up greasy poles — library music composers and publishers are generally pretty genuine people who just want quality to rise to the top — but it surely helps to know to go where the movers and shakers go, and get to know them.
If you suffer from social anxiety and feel intimidated by rooms full of strangers who all seem to know each other, rest assured that composers have chosen a lonely job, and so this affliction is pretty common amongst us music-heads. If that’s you, a few drinks and nerdy chats later you might realise that your odd plight isn’t so odd, and begin some fantastic lifelong relationships. It’s great to feel part of a community, and your composer peers tend to be a bright, harmless and likeable bunch, so please give it a try. In my early writing career I would have had more confidence and less fear of being abandoned by my publishers if I’d had a stronger network and better industry knowledge as a result. So don’t do what I did, but get out there and join some clubs!
Methods of widening your network include organisations, Facebook groups, forums and events. There are many composer organisations set up to represent your interests, collect money for you or educate you, which also happen to offer excellent networking opportunities through events and online groups. Such organisations often cost money to join, so careful consideration is needed, but some notable examples are included here for you to check out.
- Performing Rights Societies
The performing rights society in your country is the organisation that collects broadcast royalties on behalf of music writers and publishers, and so all library music writers will need to join one. In the UK we have the PRS (Performing Rights Society), while in the US you can choose between BMI, ASCAP and SESAC. Most other countries have at least one such organisation, and although they are not specific to library music, they tend to be very large societies that organise regular events, awards and workshops. Watch their newsletters, web sites and social media channels for news.
Writer Ehren Ebbage offers a concrete example of the sort of benefits that can come from these industry events: “I attended a three-day ‘Music in Advertising’ workshop hosted by BMI and New York University. I figured I would learn something, but my real goal was to put myself in a work environment with the guys who were running the workshop. Each of them were industry veterans and owners or executives of well-established music houses. My feeling was that I could email and send demos for years and they may never even listen, let alone hire me for anything. But, by spending three days in a hands-on situation, they would observe how I work, get along with collaborators, handle pressure, take direction, and so on. I connected with one of the workshop leaders in particular and he started sending me work almost immediately.”
The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors is a long-established organisation boasting the cream of the British composing community, and is best known for organising the Ivor Novello Awards. Although library music writers only make up a small proportion of members, the events and workshops that they promote (usually in London) tend to be extremely helpful and give a chance to make new industry connections. There is a membership fee to join, but that could soon be recouped from the positive impact on your career.
- Thinkspace Education
ThinkSpace is a popular online music education group with university-accredited degree and masters courses in aspects of modern music production from composition and orchestration to games music and sound design. They have free online learning materials but, like many good things, the in-depth courses will cost money. For this you not only get high-quality tutoring from seasoned professionals, but they are very strong on encouraging networking through their Facebook groups and online events.
As course director Tim Johnson says: “Library is fiercely competitive and anything but an ‘easy’ option. You will only get somewhere if your music is the best it can be and that means getting honest feedback and constructive criticism. We also offer a wide range of online courses to improve your skills from short weekend courses to full postgraduate degrees. Our students and tutors are spread literally all over the world.”
Satisfied student Martin Gratton tells us: “I’ve collaborated with fellow ThinkSpace students on library albums and it’s also good to find out which libraries each other are writing for. More experienced library writers can offer support and guidance to those new to the field.”
If you read forum posts about this large US-based “independent A&R company”, you will find some polarised opinions. Are they saints or sinners? Established in 1992, their business model is to charge a yearly fee (which is refundable if you decide to leave) in return for giving you briefs from publishers, labels and TV/film/trailer music supervisors. You then submit your music to be filtered by Taxi’s team of A&R people, who only forward what they consider the best material to clients.
Now, it’s easy to see why some will mistrust a company that takes money from hopefuls, some of whom will never be good enough to succeed through their system or any other. However, this has to be balanced against their impressive success stories, member recommendations, depth of A&R talent and the heavyweight clients using their service. One explanation for the polarised viewpoints is perhaps that great writers have a better experience than bad writers.
About its origins in the pre-Internet dawn of mankind, founder Michael Laskow tells us: “Although Taxi was originally started to help unsigned songwriters and artists get their material to major labels and publishers, that all changed in early 1993. A music library owner named Suzan Bader asked us, ‘Can you find me any horrific music?’ We did, and it came from a composer using three Alesis ADATs and a Mackie 8-Bus console in his home studio. That was really the shot heard round the world for indie musicians getting their music in TV and film. Prior to that moment, music libraries used a relatively small group of professional composers, and the music was recorded in pro studios because home studios as we know them today didn’t exist.”
Established US library writer Kyle Kniceley sings its praises: “Taxi A&R was the number-one networking source for me. I joined and immediately started using the forums to meet people and gain the knowledge I needed to launch into the industry. I watched Taxi TV every week and would chat during the show with the members.”
Michael Laskow agrees: “The Taxi Forum is another aspect that members love for the education and networking. Our most successful members would all tell you that the Forum has been key in their success.”
- WFTV (Women In Film & TV)
Female UK composers in the UK should definitely check out WFTV (Women In Film & TV). This is not a music-specific organisation: it’s for women from all corners of the film and TV industry, which makes it a great way to reach out directly to potential clients.
Writer Marie-Anne Fischer has picked up a wealth of library music-related knowledge as a member: “Only a handful of composers attend their events, but this is a great opportunity to meet directors and producers. I have been to a number of their networking events, which happen once a month, and often when I speak to producers or directors about where they get their music from, they reply ‘library music’. One director said that after working long hours it is much easier to scroll down music libraries online and audition tracks into a project directly than to communicate with a composer. A producer also mentioned that she was not confident speaking the ‘music’ language and putting across her musical ideas, so using library music is a good alternative for her. Another director also mentioned that when she uses library music she often goes back to a previous composer’s work she has liked; she has her favourites and tries to use them as much as possible.”
If you’re male, every other opportunity in this article is pretty rich in bros, so don’t feel too left out.
There are lots of Facebook groups for composers, but since many are spammed by random self-promoters, I’d like to personally recommend two which have particularly excellent, helpful communities of established and newer composers: SCOREcast and Perspective.
SCOREcast began life in 2006 as composer Deane Ogden’s podcast about film music, and quickly expanded into a web site and series of international ‘chapters’: separate Facebook groups for different areas around the world, namely Hollywood, London, Germany, Amsterdam, Toronto and Japan. They are careful to only accept professional composers, and so you are recommended to search Facebook for ‘SCOREcast’, find your regional chapter and ask to join.
With members including TV, film and library music composers, SCOREcast has strict rules about not promoting yourself and your music, in order to help foster a sense of community. Being full of working professionals, requests for help get fantastic support, whether that’s about gear, contracts, performer recommendations or the state of the industry. Another key attraction is their regular meet-ups. The London chapter in particular is very active, with large meet-ups for meals and drinks every few months.
Another closed group for professional composers, US-based Perspective is an incredible resource for film composers, but library composers are catered for too. One active member and regular contributor is Richard Kraft of the Kraft-Engel Hollywood composer agency, which represents Danny Elfman, Alexandre Desplat, Bear McCreary and Moby, amongst many superstars. Although it’s not for newcomers and it’s not library music-specific, if you can get in there, it’s full of incredible exclusive interviews with and direct advice from leading film composers, many of whom are members.
Co-owner Adonis Aletras tells us about Perspective: “The Perspective Forum and web site have been around for about a year and half, with well over 5300 members worldwide. The numbers are increasing on a daily basis. We created it in order to provide reliable advice and support to media composers. It’s co-owned by composers Adonis Aletras and Miriam Mayer and co-administrated by composers Christy Marshall and Nicolas Repetto — by composers for composers! The web site is absolutely free for everyone to peruse, and the only sign-up is for our newsletter, which is not mandatory. To join the private forum on Facebook one has to send a request and be approved. All applicants are thoroughly screened and the Forum is heavily monitored 24/7. We do not allow any soliciting of any kind.
“Library music composers can benefit in many ways: besides composers, the forum is frequented by music supervisors, studio executives, library owners, tech gurus, agents, pretty much the whole industry is there participating in discussions. It’s a great way to network in a civilised environment. One can learn from the best sources available anywhere and network at the same time. Some of the most sought after composers of trailer music and top LA trailer house owners are members of Perspective and they share their experiences almost on a daily basis. We offer a regular feature where members can post links to their music at a designated location of the Forum. You never know who might listen to your cues. Be aware that posting links anywhere besides that is strictly prohibited.”
- Composers Of The North Meetup Group
This small and friendly Facebook group organises occasional meet-ups for those of us in the north of England. To join, search Facebook for ‘Composers Of The North — Meet Up’.
- Gearslutz Music For Picture Board
Gearslutz is a very popular web forum for all aspects of audio production and engineering. They have a dedicated Music For Picture board, which is a thriving resource for new and established pros including library writers.
Most of the aforementioned organisations and online groups hold regular workshops, social gatherings and awards, so it’s a case of joining up and keeping an eye on their email newsletters, web sites and social media channels for events news. There are also some especially useful annual events in the UK and the USA, so in date order, starting after this article goes to print, let’s take a closer look.
- October 4-6: The Production Music Conference, Hollywood
Operating since 2013, this international event is organised by the US-based Production Music Association (production music being another name for library music). The conference is partly an international meet-up for library music publishers, but for hundreds of composers, it also offers opportunities to network, meet publishers and music supervisors and attend valuable workshops. Past speakers include Harry Gregson-Williams, Stewart Copeland, Jeff Beale and Bryan Tyler, and one curious exhibit at this year’s event will be me, Dan Graham — as an owner of several library labels I’ll be there on a panel for writers. Come and say hello!
Production Music Association Director Of Operations Morgan McKnight gives us the full low-down on the PMC: “As the only global event dedicated to production music, composers can improve production and technical skills, gain perspectives on the latest business models and their implications and can learn to tell a good deal from a bad one. For new writers, there’s a wealth of info that’s not easily found on the net. Established writers can stay on top of all the latest trends and technology, from delivery platforms to revenue maximisation. Network, network, network — most of the world’s biggest libraries will have a presence there — and there’s booze! The Mark Awards is where you can hear and honour the very best in production music, and perhaps give yourself a little extra motivation.
“The PMC offers attendees the chance to participate in workshops, one-on-one meetings, industry round tables and more with experts in the production music industry. Panels are made up of top music supervisors, industry executives, technology experts, veteran composers and more.”
- November 2-5: The 21st Annual Taxi Road Rally, Los Angeles
The independent A&R company Taxi described earlier in this article holds a convention every year which is free to members and, according to founder Michael Laskow, promises to be “an incredible place to network with library owners, supervisors and collaborators.”
This year’s schedule of events is not available yet, but you can see last year’s schedule here: www.taxi.com/taxi-road-rally-2016.php.
- November 24th: Tune Up & The Production Music Awards, London
These two events are linked. Tune Up is a one-day event just for library music composers, while the Production Music Awards gives library publishers and writers a chance to win some gongs and industry recognition. Organiser Richard Canavan explains the two events: “The Production Music Awards and Tune Up, our day-long event for composers, has been running since 2014. This year will be our fourth year. The awards are an opportunity for music libraries to show off their composers’ work and promote the services of the library to a wider audience. Tune Up is composer-focused, with talks and demonstrations from industry-leading professionals.
“Tune Up aims to offer a range of events benefiting composers of all experience levels. I approach Tune Up from the perspective of being a full-time composer myself, so to some extent I try to create an event that I would want to attend! Last year’s event was held at BAFTA, and featured a talk with Academy Award-winning composer Dario Marianelli, as well as sessions with Peter Gregson (’cellist on Wonder Woman, Churchill, Sherlock and many more), composer Rael Jones (My Cousin Rachel) and Q&As with both library and sync music panels. Dario Marianelli was discussing his experience working on major feature film scores. Learning about some aspects of scoring at that level was fascinating, but moreover it was super-aspirational. On the same day, composers were taking the opportunity to ask questions and meet with representatives from a number of music libraries and music supervisors during Q&As. This is a golden opportunity to reach people personally, which often goes a lot further than an email. Rael Jones really gave us an insight into the complex world of working on television series scores, and hearing about Peter Gregson’s experiences as a performer in countless sessions was fascinating.
“More info on Tune Up 2017 will be available through our web site and social media channels. Composers can follow the Production Music Awards on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ProductionMusicAwards) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/ProdMusAwards) to get info on the event when it launches a little later this year.”
The Production Music Conference and the Production Music Awards/Tune Up are the two single biggest events in the library music calendar, but other, more general, events are often well-attended by library and other composers.
The NAMM show is held in Anaheim, California each January. As a major music gear and tech show it is heavily attended by composers, with library writers making up a healthy share. If you’re a member of some of the groups detailed earlier, it’s highly likely you’ll see your buddies there and get a chance to catch up. South By Southwest (SXSW) takes over the city of Austin, Texas each March, bringing together well-known bands with innovative tech, film and music industry panels. It’s highly likely that some of your library music contacts will be there to catch up with.
April sees the huge ASCAP Expo in Los Angeles dedicated to songwriters and composers, with panellists from the top of the industry. Also in April, the Musikmesse in Frankfurt, Germany is, like NAMM, a huge trade show with plenty of library music writers in attendance, offering another great chance to catch up with friends and share stories. Finally, the NAB (National Association Of Broadcasters) conference in Las Vegas each April can be a worthwhile opportunity for library composers. It’s mainly for TV people, with lots of TV editing and broadcasting tech on display and workshops for editors and producers. However, most major library music publishers of the world are there, and it could be a chance for you to get a deeper understanding of your music’s end users and meet some library publishers.
Held each June in Cannes, France, MIDEM is a convention for record labels and music publishers. It tends to be well attended by library music publishers, and could be an opportunity to learn more about publishing and make new connections.
It’s best to view networking as seeking mutual support, friendship, advice and learning about the industry and opportunities from your equals, rather than as a form of direct self-promotion. However, you could argue that active self-promotion is a form of networking, in that it can bring opportunities and new contacts your way if done well. There are various channels worth pursuing: obvious ports of call are Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, YouTube, LinkedIn and your own composer web site, which can be used to show off your music and credits to those who look you up.
The outcome of this approach will depend on your commitment: relentless research and experiments in how to build followers and countless hours of work will surely get results. I’ve personally had my results from a natural growth of personal relationships rather than pushing hard on self-promotional channels, but I know that others have had great results this way, so I won’t criticise things I know little about!
At heart, though, networking means talking, listening, learning, making friends and connections, finding inspiration in those ahead of you, helping those behind you, raising your aspirations and gaining confidence. This is how you steadily rise from being an outsider to a fixed and brightening star in the library music constellation. Life is short, lonely composers, so save your projects, quit your DAWs, join the hive mind and drink some beers with your fellow weirdos. Laugh with mates, create your fates, for great and unexpected twists await.
Facebook groups and pages to search for:
- SCOREcast London/Hollywood/Amsterdam/Germany/Japan/Toronto
- Perspective: A Forum For Film, TV and Media Composers
- Composers Of The North — Meet Up
- Production Music Awards
Web sites and forums: