Here are are some of the trends I see developing for media composers in the future.
This not a wish list of how I do or do not want things to unfold. It is merely a tally of trends I see happening whether I love them or loathe them:
1. UNIQUE VOICES
Increased demand in composers with unique voices. Decreased value in those whose work is fairly interchangeable.
So many conversations about composers include references to folks like Desplat, Elfman, Thomas Newman, Jon Brion, Daniel Pemberton, Rob Simonsen, Steven Price, Henry Jackman, John Powell, etc. There is a genuine interest in artists with voices outside the expected.
The market nowadays is flooded with composers who sound like fifth-tier Remote Control wannabes and interchangeable library fillers. Their music sounds like pretty much everyone else’s with no real distinguishing features.
There is such a heavy supply of these types out in the world and such a low demand for them.
2. MUSIC LIBRARIES
Increased value in library music ownership. Decreased in library music composing.
There is such a glut of library music out there. And the amount only increases. Having individual tracks licensed is NOTHING compared to actually owning the whole library.
Increased demand for composers coming out of other music disciplines. Decreased demand in those are just from media music.
Artists like Johnny Greenwood, Trent Rezner and members of groups like Daft Punk, Portishead and Arcade Fire are getting more interest and attention nowadays. Filmmakers are often huge music fans. Producers and studios are more open than ever in letting “outsiders” score their films.
4. Increased opportunities for entrepreneurial composers. Decreased opportunities for the risk adverse.
I write about this on a constant basis. The days of a powerful studio head of music being a composer hiring a fellow composer based on their list of requirements has gone away. The screening process is much different. Entrepreneurial composers are getting more attention.
5. INTERNATIONAL RECORDING
Recording of film music is only going to become more global. Los Angeles used to be the media music recording Capitol of the world. The amount of AFM recording has plummeted over the last several years. That trend is going to continue. Especially as orchestras around the world get better experienced in media recording. Playing to picture has become a run-of-the-mill experience for so many international musicians.
The costs of orchestral recording is going to drop dramatically as the supply of qualified musicians increases in places with much lower wages.
Other costs like music prep and music editing are going to be done much more cheaply.
6. SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Socially responsible contributions will matter more.
Millennials care about contributing to things greater than themselves. Their sensibilities combined with their shared, co-op mindset will create great new dynamics in the industry, including charitable aspects, mentorship, and progressive programs.
7. PEOPLE SKILLS
Personal interactions will matter more. Composers with great social skills will stand out among a sea of Internet-only social hiders. The ability to really engage and connect with people face-to-face is going to become even rarer and more attractive and desirable.
Many more under-represented groups such as women and minorities will step into the talent pool. Role models and awareness of the career of being a media composer are going to have a huge impact in diversifying the sea of those dreaming of making it as a film, tv or video game composer.
The more commonplace it becomes to have non-white males scoring projects, the more others will find inspiration in following in their footsteps.
9. STARTING OUT
Entry-level scoring jobs will almost never pay. They will almost all be done for free or as money-losing propositions. The supply of inexperienced composers wanting to gain experience is going to explode as more schools churn out candidates, as the number of self-taught musicians explode and as other sectors of the music industry’s opportunities dry up.
The path of becoming a media composer will more resemble the path of starting a band out of their garage. Lots of unpaid gigs around town, lots of coffeehouses, lots of small stages with even smaller audiences. Like with folks pushing to become a successful band or singer/songwriter, there will be very little expectation of being paid to launch your own career.
The baristas at Starbucks and waiters and waitresses at restaurants will increasingly have striving composers joining their ranks alongside starving artists, struggling musicians, and hopeful standup comedians.
The notion of graduating from college and landing paying jobs as a composer is going to largely become unrealistic.
Multi-disciplined composers will be more the norm. Composers will be creating for more than one aspect of things.
They will finding endless options such as composing for film or the stage or for a theme park or for a live performance or for a dance piece or for a music video or for a phone app or for an art instillation or for a YouTube video or for a podcast or for an opera or for planetarium show or for a ballet or for an audio book or for a commercial or for things none of us have even yet imagined.
Those who have wide imaginations and love diversity of challenges will thrive as they continually enter new frontiers. Those who can adapt well to the unknown, the unproven and the unstructured will succeed.
Melodies are going to make a big comeback. After a rather long stretch of the emphasis being on sound, production, percussion, drive, and textures, there is a huger for great and defining themes. Memorable tunes are going to quench and satisfy that thirst. That approach will seem new and fresh.
Those composers blessed with the gift of nailing great and catchy themes will have a leg up over everyone else.
Packages are going to become even more common. Handing the responsibility of containing costs and limiting financial liability is going to shift even more greatly on the composers who will be expected to deliver scores within a set package.
Composers who are great budgeters, schedulers, cost managers, negotiators, cost containers and resourceful businesspeople with prosper much better under this system than those who struggle with it. Learning how to get good at those aspects of things will become increasingly important.
There will be more scoring opportunities. The amount of media content is increasing. Almost everything being made needs music.
However, very little of it will be budgeting with much allocated towards score music.
Making a living for many will involve the ability to cobble together small fee jobs over a wide volume of work.
Top games are going to increasingly hire top composers from outside the game world. More name film composers and rock/pop stars are going to be the go-to guys and gals to bring more perceived value to major games.
There will be many new agents. The top agents (myself included) are in their 50s and 60s. There is going to be a real need for fresh blood.
There are also far too few GREAT agents. There are wide opening for the right folks to step in and step up.
16. LIVE PERFORMANCE
Live performance of media music is going to continue to skyrocket in popularity. Those who can harness this with creativity and business acumen will prosper in this growing field.
17. SELF PROMOTION
Composers are increasingly coming out from being somewhat anonymous, behind-the-scenes personnel to becoming well-known “brands”much in the manner of other artists like pop stars, actors and directors.
Shaping this awareness and branding involves a strong sense of how to engage in social media and smartly utilize publicity, marketing and promotion.
Some will become well-known composers within the industry and others will emerge out to the general public
The overall landscape is going to shift tremendously. The Media music industry is only about a century old. And look how much has changed within that short window of time.
Now imagine how wildly things will evolve as technology and societal changes continue to unfold at such a breathtaking pace.
The times, they really are a-changin’.
What predictions of trends do you foresee?