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Looking for a Gig in Film/TV Composing? The Top 5 “Don’ts”

Although this is a job tip rather than a tech tip, some technical issues do arise. Courtesy of the Film Music Network, which receives postings for actual film and TV score jobs and posts them for members to respond. For more information, go to www.filmmusic.net.

One of the things we discuss with the music supervisors, filmmakers, and producers who place job listings with the Film Music Network is their level of satisfaction with the submissions they receive. The good news is that the overwhelming majority of job posters are thrilled with the amount and type of submissions they receive – in fact, between 70 and 80 percent of our jobs posted are filled with someone who submitted from a Film Music JobWire listing.

When we asked our job posters what things members could do to improve their chances of getting hired or their music licensed for jobs, we got a lot of answers! But in the end, we boiled it down to the five most common complaints of job posters – basically these are “turn-offs” where if the job poster sees this kind of thing, it makes them less likely to consider the person submitting. They are:

#1 – SUBMISSION NOT IN THE SPECIFIED MUSIC GENRE/STYLE – Posters hate it when they advertise for one type of music, yet receive CDs for other types. There is absolutely no point in trying to impress someone with your “wide variety” of skills when they’re looking for a very specific musical style or genre. It tends to be perceived as a lack of respect for the poster in that the submitter seems to be ignoring what is requested (musically) and instead sends whatever music they think is “their best” hoping it will generate a positive result. In conversations with music supervisors especially, this was a real turn-off to the extent that in some cases, they no longer even bother to listen to submissions by some people who they’ve seen do this again and again. This was the top complaint of job posters.

Solution: Always submit music as close to the musical genre/style as is possible. If you don’t have that type of music, save your energy (and money) and submit for other postings that better match your musical style.

#2 – POOR PRODUCTION QUALITY/”DEMO” RECORDINGS SUBMITTED – Most of our job postings are for immediate music needs, and many times there simply isn’t time available to go back and request a finished quality recording from someone submitting for a job. With today’s top digital samplers, the bar has been raised quite high in terms of the quality and level of production values that are expected, to the point that in our industry submitting “demo quality” recordings is no longer practical.

Solution: Always submit finished quality music, and avoid low-resolution or demo quality recordings. Your music will be listened to and judged as if it were finished quality.

#3 – TOO MUCH MUSIC SUBMITTED – Ideally submitting between 1 and 10 tracks on a single CD is a good fit for today’s music supervisors who have very limited time available to listen to submissions. Sending huge CDs (10+ tracks) or even worse, sets of CDs quickly gets your music not listened to – the supervisors simply don’t have the time.

Solution: Submit your best music, no more than 10 songs/cues/tracks. If the supervisor wants to hear more, they’ll contact you and request it. TIP: Make the first 5-10 seconds of each track compelling enough to entice the listener to hear the remainder of the track. It’s during the first 5-10 seconds that a listener typically decides whether to skip the track or listen to more of it. Avoid repetitious or unexciting intros to music – get to the heart of the music quickly in the track. You can always create a version later with an intro, an ending, etc.

#4 – INADEQUATE OR UNCERTAIN CONTACT INFO – Believe it or not, people often do not include adequate contact information that is easily identifiable and allows for quick contact between a job poster and a submitter if the poster is interested in hiring or licensing music from the submitter. Burying the contact info in small print on the inside liner card of the CD case is not a good idea!

Solution: Always list your name, phone, and email on the CD itself and on the front cover of the CD packaging. Make it easy to read, and avoid burying it along with other information. TIP: Include your cell phone number if you can, as the need to make immediate contact is typical of job posters. Also, put your CD in a standard jewel case with your name showing through the spine in large letters so when the CD is placed on a bookshelf along with others, it can easily be identified. Avoid “slimline” CD cases, as there is no way to identify the CD once it’s placed on a bookshelf and all you can see is the spine.

#5 – UNPROFESSIONAL SUBMISSIONS – This covers a variety of other problems with submissions that negatively affect the perception of the composer or songwriter submitting. Specifics include:

  • Cover letters with inappropriate/unprofessional information – this includes information such as strongly worded “warnings” from the submitter about how well their music is protected and what penalties the job poster will endure should he/she use the music “without permission”, unnecessary and/or inappropriate personal information such as age/political preferences/how much a submitter “wants the job”, etc.
  • Weird Art or Pictures – this especially includes CD covers or song titles with sexually explicit or profane art or language.
  • Misspellings and grammatical errors – often make the writer look amateurish and inexperienced.
  • Sloppy Artwork – If your artwork is not great quality, consider just having text on your CD cover and label – for music supervisors and filmmakers, it’s not necessary to have snazzy pictures that would attract CD buyers in a music store.

Notice that all the above references discuss submitting your music on CD. Cassettes are dead! But MP3s on CD are not yet considered acceptable by most music supervisors. And in the case of DVD-A and SACD submissions, you never know which format (if any) the supervisor can play back. Remember that Los Angeles is still the heartland of film and TV production and lots of submissions get “auditioned” in a car – which probably has only a CD player.

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