Why don’t agencies “DRAFT” composers out of college?

In a separate thread, Perspective member (and co-founder), Miriam Mayer, has written: “For me, NOW is, by far, the best time to be a media composer.” By and large, for reasons entirely distinct from the whole “devaluation” discussion, I think she’s right. It is a great time to get in.

At this point in my own life, I’m a teacher, writer, champion and “commentator” (if our craft can allow for that role) more than a practitioner, but I keep my ear to the ground and I’ve heard things in the past five years as promising as anything written during the so-called “Golden Age.” I’ve had dialogues and done blog pieces on ingenues like West Thordson (SPLIT), Lele Marchitelli (THE YOUNG POPE), Hanan Townshend (TO THE WONDER), and Bensi & Jurriaans (ENEMY), and new winds are rising.

But at the same time, inexplicably, stuff like DAILY VARIETY dropping composer credits (not to say mentions) from its reviews are happening, with little or no outcry from the community. The once sacrosanct notion that a composer is entitled to be paid, up front, for his or her work–no less so than a screenwriter or cinematographer–has slipped into the void, again, without generating a collective howl of protest.

I want to see a world in which composers are credited with every bit as much innovation in their sphere of screen arts as someone like Emmanuel Lubezki is. It once was so. Just think about how transformative Elmer Bernstein’s MOCKINGBIRD score was, or even, say, a lesser-known work like Krzysztof Komeda’s score for ROSEMARY’S BABY. More recently, Hans Zimmer (and Lebo Morake) set the Pridelands on fire with LION KING, and that–I can tell you–wasn’t accidental.

There are now at least a dozen highly regarded college and university programs training media composers–and training them with a rigor and drive for excellence no less fervent than what Alabama and OSU have with football players. So here is a question for the agent/managers listening in, as well as those who would like to be their clients. To what degree, if at all, do composer agencies like Kraft-Engel, Gorfaine-Schwartz, WME, Fortress, First Artists, Cool Music, Air-Edel et al have active “recruitment and development” divisions that are going into the schools the way sports agents do, scouting and then developing careers from the bottom up? If they are, how’s it working? And if they aren’t, why not? Wouldn’t it serve to increase value over time? Wouldn’t it, in the end, make you heroes?