Music

The music department is responsible for all the music featured on soundtracks. This includes performed music, such as band or singer who performs within the film or programme, any bought-in music and the composer’s score.

Wild Rose, Entertainment One

Skills needed to work in film and TV music

  • musical versatility and the ability to compose in different styles
  • ability to improvise and create themes quickly under the pressure of deadlines
  • ability to work collaboratively and to be flexible to compromises
  • ability to listen to directors and translate their vision into musical terms
  • ability to use samples and produce electronic scores using technology such as ProTools
  • understanding of the technical side of filmmaking and an appreciation of how this affects the sound
  • imagination and a passion for film and music
  • excellent social skills, especially the ability to make and maintain good contacts within the industry
  • excellent communication and linguistic skills, in order to market clients effectively
  • good business skills, including the ability to negotiate
  • research skills including keeping up to date with industry developments
  • good interpersonal and listening skills
  • strong organisational and administrative abilities
  • ability to read scores during recording sessions
  • a comprehensive knowledge of music, its history, genres, styles and current developments
  • some legal knowledge in order to understand contracts and copyright clearances
  • expert knowledge of how music is constructed, recorded and performed
  • understanding of how music can affect images and create drama
  • working knowledge of computer editing software and ability to work with new technology

Ways into film and TV music

Composers usually have musical training. There are some higher education courses in composing for film and TV which offer access to studios and orchestras and the possibility of producing showreels. However, industry experience is equally valued.

No specific qualifications are required to become a music agent, but a business background is useful, especially in sales. Music agents may begin their careers in an assistant role within an agency. The main qualification is industry contacts. Music supervisors also need a wide range of good contacts, and the ability to develop and maintain good relationships with a variety of people. Business experience is also useful. Musical training is advantageous, but not essential.

Music editors are usually graduates in sound technology or music who have also specialised in music at post-graduate level. Even those entering at a junior level usually have a Bachelors in music (also known as a tonmeister). After graduating, they may work their way up the post-production sound department, training as assistants and progressing to re-recording mixers or sound editors.  Although some music editors do take on trainees or assistants, this is a very oversubscribed area, and only the most gifted and hardworking are successful.

Jobs in film and TV music

Music editor
Music editors are responsible for all music on soundtracks. Music editors usually start well into the picture editing process, developing the temp (temporary) score, helping the editor to achieve the right tempo, providing a template for the composer and helping the director to identify the desired feel. They attend a 'spotting session', where they note all music cues. Some composers may also require music editors to produce a cue breakdown, rewriting the script from a musical point of view. Music editors communicate all editing changes to the composer in musical terms. They design a 'click track' which is used during the recording of the score to help the musicians achieve synchronisation. Music editors attend all recording sessions, helping with any revisions. They work with a specialist music mixer to create different mixes, anticipating potential problems. Using a computer software programme, music editors lay down all tracks, fitting them exactly to the picture, ready for the final mix or dub. One of the final tasks is preparing the cue sheet - a detailed breakdown of all the music. As this is one of the most highly competitive jobs, it can take years for even the most talented individuals to become music editors.

Composer
Composers write original music. They discuss their ideas with the director and establish where and when music is required during spotting sessions. They produce a demo score, searching for a style to suit the story and decide on the musical themes and purpose. They may also produce temp tracks to be used in test screenings. They write themes to pictures and deal with any revisions, collaborating with the editor. Composers prepare the score, usually on midi files, for the orchestrator and copyist. They also prepare the score's electronic aspects for the recording sessions and deliver the score to the producer, together with all recordable media. Their work is usually overseen by music supervisors or music agents.

Music agent or composer agent
Music agents are responsible for representing their clients, keeping up to date with the industry, finding out what productions are greenlit or in development and cultivating relationships with producers and directors. They supervise contracts, negotiate fees and act as a buffer during contractual negotiations. They also promote clients' work and manage their showreels. Music agents often look for new clients to complement their existing roster.

Music supervisor
Music supervisors are usually employed at the post-production stage, but they are occasionally required earlier. In this case, music must be arranged, pre-recorded versions must be produced for playback during mimed performances and clearances and licences must be acquired. Music supervisors also organise budgets and check synchronisation issues.

Find out more about working in film and TV music

Websites & organisations:

Books:

  • Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects Cinema, edited by David Sonnenschein
  • Film Sound, by Elizabeth Weis and John Belton
  • Audio-Vision : Sound on Screen, by Michael Chion

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