Composing is a very tough business. The massive oversupply problem, a market swamped with free music from the rapidly growing number of music libraries, and lousy performance royalty rates for custom score music add up to a trifecta of trouble for score composers today. And while it’s only fair to point out those in the industry who work against the interests of score composers, in the end WE are the problem – and that’s a fact that not many want to confront these days, especially when it’s far more comfortable and easier to blame the production companies, the royalty societies, and others.
The problem is, too many people are looking for someone else to create the solution, so they can ride along and get the benefits without incurring any of the costs of actually creating the solution themselves. It’s a fear-based approach that has cost us as an industry dearly.
Even today, I think one of the most attractive prospects to many of the new effort to create a composers union is that they think “the union” will stand up for composers who dare not stand up for themselves, if recent history is any indication. It’s time we got over the fear of creating change and started making some change. After all, it is our failure to act for decades that has allowed many of these problems to fester and grow. We must stop waiting for others to solve our problems and get involved and start solving them ourselves.
How to accomplish this? It’s not an easy task – in fact, it’s a monumental task, especially for those of us who are in denial or afraid to even discuss the problems our industry faces, much less get involved in creating a solution.
That being said, here are three basic guidelines for positive change:
1. We must, as individuals and as an industry, acknowledge the reality of the overuspply and overcompetition we face and find ways to constructively build our businesses and careers, even given the negative business climate we now face.
2. We must, as individuals and as an industry, constantly work to focus on and maintain the quality and unqiue nature of custom score music and find ways to support the value of this music as we help our clients realize the value and benefits of choosing high quality custom score music.
3. We must find ways to constructively work together as an industry to end the era of composers being “divided and conquered” and we must do this in the most inclusive way possible recognizing that today, a great number of very talented composers live outside LA.
Today, composer apathy and fear has brought us to the point we’re at now, perhaps the worst business climate for composers that has ever existed in our industry. The apathy of not caring or not believing that you can make a difference, combined with the fear of being edged out for jobs if you dare speak up against those who work against the interests of score composers is a lethal combination and one that we simply cannot afford if the art and craft of composing score music for film and television is to survive.
I challenge each of you to find a way to be part of the solution. But this means action, not inaction. It means being willing to confront the reality of the situation and undertaking actions to proactively improve things. It means daring to become a leader, instead of sitting back and being a follower. It means taking charge of your career instead of waiting for others to “fix things” and acknowledging that you need not be at the mercy of outside forces and the actions or inactions of others.
In short, it means being part of the solution through action, rather than being part of the problem through inaction. And even if each of us only does something small, for our industry as a whole, it would be a huge step forward.