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Become A Music Composer

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Working As A Music Composer

  • Thinking Creatively
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Developing and Building Teams
  • Getting Information
  • $81,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Music Composer Do

Music directors, also called conductors, lead orchestras and other musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

Duties

Music directors typically do the following:

  • Select musical arrangements and compositions to be performed for live audiences or recordings
  • Prepare for performances by reviewing and interpreting musical scores
  • Direct rehearsals to prepare for performances and recordings
  • Choose guest performers and soloists
  • Audition new performers or assist section leaders with auditions
  • Practice conducting to improve their technique
  • Meet with potential donors and attend fundraisers

Music directors lead orchestras, choirs, and other musical groups. They ensure that the musicians play with one coherent sound, balancing the melody, timing, rhythm, and volume. They also give feedback to musicians and section leaders so that they can achieve the sound and style they want for the piece.

Music directors may work with a variety of orchestras and musical groups, including church choirs, youth orchestras, and high school or college bands, choirs, or orchestras. Some work with orchestras that accompany dance and opera companies.

Composers typically do the following:

  • Write original music that orchestras, bands, and other musical groups perform
  • Arrange existing music into new compositions
  • Write lyrics for music or work with a lyricist
  • Meet with companies, orchestras, or other musical groups that are interested in commissioning a piece of music
  • Study and listen to music of various styles for inspiration
  • Work with musicians to record their music

Composers write music for a variety of musical groups and users. Some work in a particular style of music, such as classical or jazz. They also may write for musicals, operas, or other types of theatrical productions.

Some composers write scores for movies or television; others write jingles for commercials. Many songwriters focus on composing music for audiences of popular music.

Some composers use instruments to help them as they write music. Others use software that allows them to hear a piece without musicians.

Some music directors and composers give private music lessons to children and adults. Others work as music teachers in elementary, middle, or high schools. For more information, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

For more information about careers in music, see the profile on musicians and singers.

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How To Become A Music Composer

Educational and training requirements for music directors and composers vary, although most positions require related work experience. A conductor for a symphony orchestra typically needs a master’s degree; a choir director may need a bachelor’s degree. There are no formal educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music.

Education

Employers generally prefer candidates with a master’s degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting for positions as a conductor or classical composer.

Applicants to postsecondary programs in music typically are required to submit recordings, audition in person, or both. These programs teach students about music history and styles, as well as educate them in composing and conducting techniques. Information on degree programs is available from the National Association of Schools of Music.

A bachelor’s degree typically is required for those who want to work as a choir director.

There are no specific educational requirements for those interested in writing popular music. These composers usually find employment by submitting recordings of their compositions to bands, singers, record companies, and movie studios. Composers may promote themselves through personal websites, social media, or online video or audio of their musical work.

Important Qualities

Discipline. Talent is not enough for most music directors and composers to find employment in this field. They must constantly practice and seek to improve their technique and style.

Interpersonal skills. Music directors and composers need to work with agents, musicians, and recording studios. Being friendly, respectful, and open to criticism as well as praise, while enjoying being with others, can help music directors and composers work well with a variety of people.

Leadership. Music directors and composers must guide musicians and singers by preparing musical arrangements and helping them achieve the best possible sound.

Musical talent. To become a music director or composer, one must have musical talent.

Perseverance. Music directors and composers need determination and perseverance to continue submitting their compositions after receiving rejections. Also, reviewing auditions can be frustrating because it may take many different auditions to find the best musicians.

Promotional skills. Music directors and composers need to promote their performances through local communities, word of mouth, and social media platforms. Good self-promotional skills are helpful in building a fan base and getting more work opportunities.

Training

Music directors and composers typically begin their musical training at a young age by learning to play an instrument or singing, and perhaps performing as a musician or singer. Music directors and composers who are interested in classical music may seek additional training through music camps and fellowships. These programs provide participants with classes, lessons, and performance opportunities.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Music directors and composers often work as musicians or singers in a group, a choir, or an orchestra before they take on a leadership role. They use this time to master their instrument and gain an understanding of how the group functions.

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Music Composer Typical Career Paths

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Average Length of Employment
Director Of Music 4.5 years
Music Producer 3.8 years
Music Supervisor 3.1 years
Music Composer 3.0 years
Top Careers Before Music Composer
Internship 13.8%
Assistant 4.1%
Pianist 3.8%
Instructor 3.8%
Musician 3.8%
Cashier 3.1%
Teacher 3.1%
Volunteer 2.8%
Director 2.8%
Top Careers After Music Composer
Internship 9.1%
Director 5.0%
Musician 5.0%
Teacher 4.1%
Editor 3.7%
Assistant 3.3%
Pianist 2.9%
Artist 2.9%

Do you work as a Music Composer?

Average Yearly Salary
$81,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$37,000
Min 10%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$81,000
Median 50%
$172,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Microsoft
Highest Paying City
Denver, CO
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
3.4 years
How much does a Music Composer make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Music Composer in the United States is $81,127 per year or $39 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $38,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $173,000.

Real Music Composer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Music Composer/Supervisor Microsoft Corporation Kirkland, WA Oct 01, 2014 $146,000
Music Directors and Composers Los Angeles Sa-Rang Community Church Los Angeles, CA Mar 21, 2012 $88,566
Music Directors and Composers DOMO Records Inc. Los Angeles, CA Sep 10, 2012 $88,566
Music Directors and Composers Open Door Church of New York Inc. NY Dec 18, 2012 $86,047
Music Directors and Composers Hyo Shin Bible Presbyterian Church of New York NY Jun 28, 2012 $85,758
Music Composer, Associate DVP Group, Inc. West Hollywood, CA Jun 02, 2015 $78,998
Music Directors and Composers New Life Vision Church Los Angeles, CA Sep 27, 2012 $73,382
Music Directors and Composers Orange Hill Presbyterian Church Orange, CA Jun 28, 2012 $73,008
Music Directors and Composers Mission Community Church Anaheim, CA Aug 07, 2012 $73,008
Music Director, Composer and Arranger Shadow Mountain Community Church, Inc. El Cajon, CA Jul 01, 2010 $72,413
Music Directors and Composers Mayakaya Corporation Shrewsbury, MA Mar 17, 2014 $69,534
Music Directors and Composers Philadelphia Smyrna Church Fort Washington, PA Feb 27, 2014 $68,411
Music Directors and Composers Dong Shin Presbyterian Church of So. Ca Fullerton, CA Sep 10, 2013 $65,021
Music Directors and Composers Grace Christian Church Lansdale, PA Jun 09, 2014 $63,315
Music Directors and Composers Korean First Presbyterian Church, Inc. Tucker, GA Aug 11, 2014 $54,350
Music Composer & Director Threshold Stairs Media Inc. Los Angeles, CA Mar 15, 2016 $54,000
Music Directors and Composers Northwestern University Evanston, IL May 15, 2009 $54,000
Music Directors & Composers Northern California Conference of SDA's Lodi, CA May 02, 2011 $53,581
Music Directors and Composers All Nations Church CA Oct 16, 2012 $53,000
Music Directors and Composers Union Evangelical Church West Covina, CA Jul 31, 2014 $52,915
Music Directors and Composers The Sung Kwang Presbyterian Church Los Angeles, CA Jul 08, 2014 $52,915
Music Directors and Composers Bacon Heights Baptist Church Lubbock, TX Jul 31, 2012 $52,874
Music Directors and Composers California 7 Studios Los Angeles, CA Oct 03, 2007 $46,000
Music Directors and Composers Southern California Antioch Church Santa Ana, CA Dec 04, 2012 $45,843
Music Directors and Composers The Korean Presbyterian Church of Anniston, Inc. Anniston, AL Aug 15, 2014 $44,866
Music Composer Computer Hell LLC Topanga, CA May 01, 2012 $43,014
Music Composer Computer Hell LLC CA Dec 06, 2012 $43,014
Music Director & Composer Jusarang Church Suwanee, GA Mar 21, 2011 $43,000
Music Directors and Composers Churchofthelord Orangeburg, NY Jan 07, 2010 $42,000
Music Composer Arbor Records USA CA Mar 01, 2015 $41,740

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Top Skills for A Music Composer

  1. Audio Equipment
  2. Video Games
  3. Original Music
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Created original music and sound effects for video games (flight simulators).
  • Compose original music for Alibi Music Library to be licensed for commercial/film/television use.
  • Compose music for various mediums using Logic Pro 9, Logic Pro X and various software plug ins.
  • Composed original score and sound effects for over forty animated shorts.
  • Created Ideas Original, a 200-page music theory project, original + historic theory, 300+ original concepts.

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Top 10 Best States for Music Composers

  1. Minnesota
  2. Washington
  3. New Jersey
  4. Georgia
  5. Texas
  6. South Carolina
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Iowa
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Massachusetts
  • (5 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (1 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (0 jobs)
  • (3 jobs)

Music Composer Demographics

Gender

Male

72.7%

Unknown

15.3%

Female

12.1%
Ethnicity

White

57.3%

Hispanic or Latino

17.7%

Black or African American

10.6%

Asian

10.3%

Unknown

4.1%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.6%

French

15.6%

German

9.4%

Japanese

6.3%

Portuguese

3.1%

Greek

3.1%

Russian

3.1%

Hindi

3.1%

Hebrew

3.1%

Mandarin

3.1%

Korean

3.1%

Tamil

3.1%

Italian

3.1%
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Music Composer Education

Schools

Berklee College of Music

20.6%

New York University

11.9%

Columbia College Chicago

9.5%

Academy of Art University

8.7%

Full Sail University

7.9%

Savannah College of Art and Design

4.8%

University of Florida

4.0%

University of California - Los Angeles

4.0%

Institute of Audio Research

3.2%

University of Southern California

3.2%

University of California - Santa Cruz

2.4%

University of Houston

2.4%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

2.4%

Capital University

2.4%

California Institute of the Arts

2.4%

University of the Arts

2.4%

Manhattan School of Music

2.4%

University of Tampa

2.4%

Ramapo College of New Jersey

1.6%

Manhattanville College

1.6%
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Majors

Music

45.4%

Photography

9.1%

Entertainment Business

5.6%

General Education, Specific Areas

5.3%

Communication

4.7%

Writing

4.1%

Theatre

3.8%

Business

3.2%

Fine Arts

2.4%

Psychology

2.1%

Music Performance

1.8%

Physics

1.8%

Audiovisual Communications Technologies

1.8%

Liberal Arts

1.8%

Marketing

1.2%

Digital Media

1.2%

Computer Networking

1.2%

Graphic Design

1.2%

Rehabilitation Science

1.2%

Engineering

1.2%
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Degrees

Bachelors

47.3%

Other

21.4%

Masters

19.7%

Associate

4.8%

Certificate

4.5%

Doctorate

1.2%

Diploma

1.0%

License

0.2%
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