• Salil Bhayani

Making it in the Film Music Industry

The title suggests the following two names:

John Williams

Hans Zimmer

At least to someone who is a non-musician in Hollywood, or is vaguely related to the industry, or maybe to a majority of random population. That is saying something about the magnitude of success not only of these two film music giants in the industry, but the films that did it for them (and the films they did it for). Of course, we do tend to know hugely successful films without knowing the cast and crew. But, when you are as famous as these two doing what you do, when almost nobody else doing that is anywhere remotely close to as famous as you are, there is something about you that is inexplicably special. However, that is not what I want to talk about.

When do you, as a film composer, know you have “made it”? If you said, “Duh, when you score an A list film”, or “You know when you have made it”, or that “When you can make a living out of it”, or any variation thereof, you would be right.

The only question is, what is the likelihood that you are going to make it, if you have not already? The statistics suggest that the odds are very low. The statistics that you can monetize your art/commodity (film scores) is very low. That is true for any art. Monetizing art, statistically, is a high risk game.

The question then is: should you even try doing it?

In my estimation, yes, if:

a) you know that as a film composer (or a freelance artist), you are entering the market as an entrepreneur and not a “job seeker”;

b) you know it will be difficult, very, very, difficult. Almost always, no matter who you are;

c) you know there will be criticisms and doubts, by others, and by self. All the time;

d) you are ready to live a life of discomfort for a while (or longer);

e) you are ready to detach yourself from your art;

At least this, and more. Everyone has their own definitions of success, and just like your God, or the absence of it (or Him or Her), they are equally valid. But, looking at an artist(e)’s success economically the same way you look at an entrepreneur’s is crucial, just as it is important for an artist to look at their own profession as an entrepreneurial venture.

The purpose behind this reflection is this:

Know what you are doing, know what you have gotten yourself into, know your worth as an artist. There will be people trying hard to shove down your throat what success looks like, from their dirty, unexposed, and uneducated lenses. When they do, the best way you can respond is, “Excuse me, but you are blocking my vision”.