Music Composer Job Description
Music composers write and arrange instrumental and vocal music for performance by orchestras, choirs, bands, and other musical groups.
Most composers specialize in creating music for performance by a particular type of group or performer. For example, some composers specialize in writing jazz, classical, or rock music. Composers who write for the stage may specialize in operas, musicals, plays, or other productions. Other composers write music for television or film productions.
Many composers write their music with the help of instruments, but it’s becoming increasingly common for composers to use computer software to write music. One big advantage of using software is that composers are able to hear exactly what their music will sound like before it’s played by musicians.
Some composers (including some who write rock and jazz music) are also performers. They play the songs themselves, both on stage and in recording studios.
Many record companies hire composers to write music for their performing artists. Much of the music that you hear on top 40 radio stations was written by composers, and not the artists performing the songs.
Creating music is a very creative process, and not all composers are able to adjust well to the demands of music as a business. In some cases, composers are expected to churn out music as if it was on an assembly line, and they have to complete their compositions on very tight deadlines.
Composers normally work alone, and need to be able to set their schedules independently. This can be a lonely occupation at times, though it can also be very rewarding.
Responsibilities for music composer jobs include:
- Determining the types of instruments and voices needed to achieve the intended effects of a composition.
- Transcribing created music into musical notation, either by hand or with the assistance of software.
- Guiding musicians during practices and rehearsals.
- Working with directors and producers to write scores for film and television.
How to Become a Music Composer
Music composers come from all sorts of academic backgrounds. Some composers are self-taught, and learn their craft through practice and individual study. Others study music in college, and earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Most music composers begin their training when they are children, when they learn to sing or play an instrument. They continue to play throughout their lives, and eventually learn to write their own music.
Though it isn’t necessarily required, formal education can be extremely beneficial to those who want to pursue a career in this field. These programs teach students about musical theory, composing techniques, and music history. You can find a list of accredited schools on the National Association of Schools of Music website.
As with most occupations in the entertainment industry, formal education isn’t as important as how good you are and who you know. Having the ability to write great music and friends who can help you succeed is much more critical to success than a degree from a school.
Composers who write popular music usually get their start by meeting others in the industry and making business connections, but they are sometimes able to find work by submitting records of their compositions to studios and singers. Most composers who create popular music are represented by an agent who helps them find work.
There are currently 53,640 music composers in the United States, with 1,620 new music composer job openings created each year.
Music Composer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Music Composer Salaries
Music Composer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most music composers make between $33,700 – $61,700 per year, or $16.21 – $29.68 per hour.