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Music for a film - How much $ for a score?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by Drewslum, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. Drewslum

    Drewslum Active Member

    For a long time I've thought about trying to do music for a film. I have my share of songwriting, production, and performance experience, but nothing to do with film. Because of this I'm aiming for indie films right now to get the feeling for it. My question is what would be the best method for me to charge someone? A flat rate? By the hour? Also any advice that may be of use is welcome. Thanks

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Unless and until you achieve the reputation of a John Williams, you won't be in the driving seat, and will have to take what's on offer with little room for negotiation.

    The film financial guys will want to screw you down to an advance plus an amount per screen-second, that is, a payment based on how many seconds duration of your score that the director decides to use in the final cut. You could well be writing and recording ten times that amount of material.

    It's a tough world.
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    What Boswell said, indeed.

    I would just add this: If you're going to do film music, it will be in your blood. The money won't REALLY matter. It's just a means to an end; fuel or a support system for your writing muse. Most movie music guys do it 24/7. They live, breathe, and eat the stuff. They dream it at night. They wake up and write ideas down on a pad and go back to sleep. One project is barely done when they're working on another; always stockpiling things for another theme or motif.

    Save yourself time aggravation and understand this axiom right from the start: You're either wired for this stuff, or you're not. Yes, you'll have to write more than you need for any given project, but if you're in love with your craft, this is just a minor detail. You'll already know this and be comfortable with this reality.

    You may never earn what you're truly worth; that's the gamble, the roll of the dice for such an amazing profession. You'll be musically AND computer literate, you'll have all kinds of samples of your work, fully realized or even just sketched out. You'll rescore someone else's work for the fun of it, just to see if your ideas work. You'll hook up with indie people and do their stuff for FREE if need be.

    One by one, your successes will start to pile up, and you'll network your way into better gigs. It will take at least one year, more likely 20 to do this.

    Forget John Williams; only the nerdy and fellow movie makers will read your name in the credits, the rest get up and leave the moment the movie ends. You'll be fine with this, because none of that matters to you: you only live to make music for movies.

    If you've nodding your head in understanding all this, then you're already on your way. The money happens later.
  4. Drewslum

    Drewslum Active Member

    Thanks for the advice. The films I plan on working on would be the best low budget films I'd be offered. I'm gonna give it a shot and maybe it'll turn out, maybe not.

  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I have a friend who is finishing up his doctorate at Julliard. He is a composition student and wants to do film work in the future but he is very realistic and found out early that there is not a lot of money in writing music for films UNLESS you are at the top ALA John Williams. If you want to make some serious money then you may have a very long road ahead of you.

    What JoeH said is all too true.

    I have another friend who is very driven to write music and he comes up with themes and scores for potential movies all the time. He eats and lives music. His stuff is wonderful BUT he has a full time job as an insurance salesman since he has discovered that his passion will not support him at least not yet.

    Best of luck and let us know how things are going.
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    How much for a Score? Simple. $20 or perhaps 20 British pounds? I mean even President Lincoln talked about 87 years of scores. I think you'd have to be in Gettysburg to appreciate it?

    Every bad note should have the right to be heard, no matter what the score.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  7. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Five Score minus a Bakers Dozen.

    You can fool me some of the time, you can fool me all of the time.
  8. EricWatkins

    EricWatkins Active Member

    I am currently working on my first full-length indy film. At a total budget of $1,000,000, I will recieve $15,000 + 1% of creative profit in the end, whatever that amounts to. It's a standing joke amongst composers of film that up and coming directors will offer "the invaluable experience" of scoring thier masterpiece for free. I started with scoring commercials, just local stuff and alot of Public Service Announcements. I then scored a documentary, some other educational films, and some corporate stuff. Last year I got a commercial that wasnt local but it was for like a tri-state area and was for a big national corporation. It was the best pay for a 30 second spot ever, or so it was supposed to be. My attorney is currently playing collection agent for me on that one. If it pans out, it's really great money. The scoring of the indy film will take about three months of hard work as I figure. That isnt killer money but as JoeH points out, it doesnt matter. It is a passion that's deeply interwoven in my human fabric. It slaves me and I love every moment of it. Besides, figuring that I could do 3 or 4 films a year if I had the work, $45 - $60,000 a year is good money for what I'm used to. Build a decent resume and demo reel of everything good you have done and then stick to your guns on money once you have proven yourself a few times. I agree with JoeH in that, I think it's either in you or not. SOme have it in them AND they have a good work ethic AND they are technically savvy AND they are skilled in orchestration. They are called James Newton Howard, Danny Elfman, Harry Gregson Williams, etc etc.

    Although I am not "making it " yet, I love what I am doing and any day that I can spend writing and producing music instead of humping a furnace up and down someone's stairs or into a crawlspace, is a GREAT day. I wish you all the luck and I can point you to some great resources online as far as communities for this kind of stuff if you'd like.

  9. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Great thread.

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