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How To Break in TV Ad Composing Drum Machines & Samplers
Old 23rd August 2007
  #1
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How To Break in TV Ad Composing

Any advice on how to break into the TV ad composing industry? I am an independent composer, don't live in LA or NY, but I would like to compose tracks or at least market my productions to ad agencies outside my local area. I've done a lot of research about the industry, gathered a lot of contact info on specific agency creatives and producers. I've also written a wide range of 30 and 60 second tracks, and started pitching them to a number of ad agencies in the US. I'll appreciate any advice on my endeavors.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #2
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not being in NY or LA is tough doing that. regional work around your area could work but budgets are low. unless someone here hasw another story.

usually u enter a jingle studio who has a pool of composers. or u network and mingle in NY and LA with producers and directors etc.

when i worked in one jingle house in NY we got tons of demo submissions but almost where never opened. if they where it was cause it look so ggod that the studio owners will check the competition.

where are u located?
Old 23rd August 2007
  #3
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Get a solid reel together. Approach music production houses. Best advice is to ride the coat tails of an established music company as a staff or in rotation composer. Most of them are liasons between the ad agency and composers anyway. They give you the assignment, you do the work, they produce it. 'Music Supervisors' are another group of people to know.

People not in NY or LA need to have a track record before most clients will do business remotely.

Be able to produce high quality music with quck turnarounds and endless revisions.

Have access to good muscians and hopefully you are good. Being a multi instrumentalist helps too. Having singing skills is even better.

I work in the last if not thee last large music production facility left. Its not as easy as most people think, especially the kids coming out of Berklee in Boston. Being able to convincingly fake different styles is a skill.

'Dare to be dumb' is our rallying cry. Sometimes its about creativity, most of the time its about musical instincts.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #4
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I live in Columbus, Ohio. There's only one agency here, but they already have an in-house composer. The next nearest agency is in Cincinnati (about 2-hrs away), and I plan to make a trip up there. Production-wise, I span a wide range of music (pop, hip hop, RnB, ballads, house, soft rock, etc.) and my demo reel reflects that. I believe that I have what it takes--the skills and the determination to learn and succeed. My biggest challenge is my location and lack of credits or experience.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidG79 View Post
. I believe that I have what it takes--the skills and the determination to learn and succeed.
Go to Ny or LA and really put that quote to the test.

If your serious, Columbus, Ohio is not going to cut it.

Chicago, Boston, Toronto, and Miami are other markets, but they're the smaller markets for commercial music. You can get your feet wet there, but for the real $$$ and experience you will most likely end up in NY or LA.

Time to go to a bigger pond.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Chicago, Boston, Toronto, and Miami are other markets, but they're the smaller markets for commercial music. You can get your feet wet there, but for the real $$$ and experience you will most likely end up in NY or LA.
I disagree. Chicago has a huge advertising community, and many well established music houses. And while it is easier to ride the coat tails of an established house, there are many composers working out of their houses all over the country. The problem you'll run into is being able to keep up with revisions (being one person), handle all the legal aspects (musicologists etc) and insurance. I know many larger agencies require an e&o policy of a million dollars. Other than that, you're advantage is agencies rarely, if ever go to the music house. So as opposed to us post houses, which need to be near the agencies in high rent areas, many music houses and composers set up shop on the fringe of the city where rent is way cheaper.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidG79 View Post
I live in Columbus, Ohio. There's only one agency here, but they already have an in-house composer. The next nearest agency is in Cincinnati (about 2-hrs away), and I plan to make a trip up there. Production-wise, I span a wide range of music (pop, hip hop, RnB, ballads, house, soft rock, etc.) and my demo reel reflects that. I believe that I have what it takes--the skills and the determination to learn and succeed. My biggest challenge is my location and lack of credits or experience.
If you're set on staying put in OH, I would agree with the other poster about making trips out to Ad agencies. If money's tight, start off with setting up some screenings at Chicago agencies and just make the drive up there for a couple days. Otherwise, if you have some dough, book trips to LA and NYC. This is all after you've got your really, really solid demo reel ready.

If you end up doing screenings at agencies, don't forget about the "song & dance" of the biz - i.e., bring some delightful munchies with you At the very least, this helps attract the execs to your screening room to view your work and hopefully land some work!
Old 24th August 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hle144 View Post
Go to Ny or LA and really put that quote to the test.

If your serious, Columbus, Ohio is not going to cut it.

I do plan to move to LA sometime in the future, but moving to a new location is not that easy. There's major aspects of my life that are tied to my current location right now, so moving to LA would require a transition over time. But at the same time, I can't sit here in Columbus and wait till I move to LA to start pursuing my goals.
What are the prospect of selling pre-made or customized tracks to advertising agencies in or outside of my locality.
Old 24th August 2007
  #9
The chances are very good if your music is good, your contacts are good and you have established the relationships you need. Look around your town beyond just agencies; what corporations are in Columbus? Who would need music for corporate shows? Production companies? Film festivals? Cincinnati and Detroit are close by, there's lots of ad work in those towns too. I find it interesting that several responders have told you that you need to be in NY or LA, I'll call baloney on that and continue making a nice living in little old Las Vegas doing exactly what you want to be doing. John.
Old 27th August 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidG79 View Post
I live in Columbus, Ohio. There's only one agency here, but they already have an in-house composer. The next nearest agency is in Cincinnati (about 2-hrs away), and I plan to make a trip up there.
Hello David,
I assume you are referring to advertising agencies?
FYI, an internet search shows that there are upwards of 10 agencies in the state of Ohio doing national work. And many many more doing regional and local spots as well.
I must respectfully disagree with the other posters who suggest moving to NY or LA - especially if you are tied to your current location. Keep in mind that those giant markets can be quite saturated with composers and engineers - thereby making work harder to come by.
You'll most likely find any tertiary market has decent sized agencies doing cool work.

Yes the weather sucks in the midwest - but you sure can't beat the cost of living!

Good luck!
Old 27th August 2007
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dogandpony View Post
I find it interesting that several responders have told you that you need to be in NY or LA, I'll call baloney on that and continue making a nice living in little old Las Vegas doing exactly what you want to be doing. John.
I checked out your website. Those spots you feature are good, but very regional. They have no vocals on them and are mainly underscores. What this means is "Zero Residules". You get paid once. And "buyouts" don't usually pay that much.

NY and LA are ALOT different than Las Vegas, don't fool yourself. I can see relocating there after you have established yourself in a larger market. Better to start out big.
Old 28th August 2007
  #12
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Hey Everyone,
I heard from an ad agency that is interested in my work. The contact person told me that they want to schedule a screening in October, and they would suggest a "lunch screening" (12:00-1:00 pm) because it is the best time to get a large turn out. I am clueless about what she means and I don't want to disclose my lack of experience to her. Am I expected to provide lunch for these people? Are they expecting some sort of presentation from me? What's up with the "large turn" or "good crowd" thing that she is referring to. I would like to know some specific details so that I can effectively prepare for this appointment. Appreciate any input on this.

-David G

Old 28th August 2007
  #13
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C Heat's Avatar
 

Great reel. Nepotism.
Old 28th August 2007
  #14
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C Heat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidG79 View Post
Hey Everyone,
I heard from an ad agency that is interested in my work. The contact person told me that they want to schedule a screening in October, and they would suggest a "lunch screening" (12:00-1:00 pm) because it is the best time to get a large turn out. I am clueless about what she means and I don't want to disclose my lack of experience to her. Am I expected to provide lunch for these people? Are they expecting some sort of presentation from me? What's up with the "large turn" or "good crowd" thing that she is referring to. I would like to know some specific details so that I can effectively prepare for this appointment. Appreciate any input on this.
I've worked for many Ad agencies.

Am I expected to provide lunch for these people? Are you going to their offices? Then no.

Are they expecting some sort of presentation from me? Of course, that's what your there for right? But don't think of it as a 'big deal presentation'. They'll probably grab a few creatives and hear your work and a bit about yourself and see if they can work with 'you' (meaning your personality as well as your abilities).

What's up with the "large turn out" Agencies are busy. Lunch (is there such a thing in an agency?) is a time when you're more likely to get a few people to attend because they're all not in meetings, getting briefs, chasing skirt, getting pissed etc.

You'll probably need to sell yoursef, but don't overdo it - It will depend how snooty they are. The best thing you can do is affirm to them that you can work fast.

Always be nice to the accountant.

BTW - How old are you?

Good luck thumbsup

Last edited by C Heat; 28th August 2007 at 07:40 AM.. Reason: sp
Old 28th August 2007
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C Heat View Post
BTW - How old are you?
I'm 28. Why did you ask? Is age a considerable significance in the business?
Old 28th August 2007
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidG79 View Post
I'm 28. Why did you ask? Is age a considerable significance in the business?
Only if you're way way young (from what I've seen). It's an 'experience' thing...

You'll be fine

Any other questions just ask thumbsup
Old 30th August 2007
  #17
Quote:
And "buyouts" don't usually pay that much.

You'd be surprised what you can do in a market this size! Congrats DavidG79, keep it up and you'll get where you want to be, even from little old Columbus. John.
Old 30th August 2007
  #18
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Hey David,

a lunch screening means you will provide lunch. Nobody will come if food is not provided. I work in an agency now and it happens 2-3 times a week. Ask the coordinator how many people she can expect and then what the places people usually order from. Expect to drop between 300-500 bucks for food. And you better have a tight reel, or people will not even give it a second thought. Luckily, age has nothing to do it nowadays. Every producer/creative is looking for that hot new thing, and alot of times they confuse young with being that hot new thing. So use it to your advantage.
Old 31st August 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundguydave View Post

Expect to drop between 300-500 bucks for food.
Man, what a racket! I'm gonna start hosting some "lunch screenings" here 2-3 times a week. Geez! Way to feed (literally) on people's desperation.

That's hilarious!
Old 31st August 2007
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by starcrash13 View Post
Man, what a racket! I'm gonna start hosting some "lunch screenings" here 2-3 times a week. Geez! Way to feed (literally) on people's desperation.

That's hilarious!
Yeh, it's such a wanky field.

I wouldn't pay for lunch. That's not the way it's done around here.

You'd get 10 people turn up, eat, feign interest and the have to leave because they 'forgot' they had something 'urgent' to do.

Old 31st August 2007
  #21
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Usually here, 25-40 people will show up (we're a larger agency, 200+), and if the stuff is good, they will take interest. Although we do get some people that show up clueless, and well, people generally don't want their time wasted. Its sick, I know, but you know how ad people are, they are used to getting their ass kissed all over the place.

Seriously I would start with sending out reels, dvds and follow up with phone calls. Once you get your stuff in a few spots, then hit up the agencies for the lunch screenings. If you have one now that is genuinely interested, do it. But in the meantime, take a cheaper route.
Old 31st August 2007
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundguydave View Post
Usually here, 25-40 people will show up (we're a larger agency, 200+), and if the stuff is good, they will take interest. Although we do get some people that show up clueless, and well, people generally don't want their time wasted. Its sick, I know, but you know how ad people are, they are used to getting their ass kissed all over the place.

Seriously I would start with sending out reels, dvds and follow up with phone calls. Once you get your stuff in a few spots, then hit up the agencies for the lunch screenings. If you have one now that is genuinely interested, do it. But in the meantime, take a cheaper route.
60(ish) was my biggest (but the world's biggest as a group), but I can understand what you're saying though.

Some good advice here.
Old 31st August 2007
  #23
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HAve worked in commercial post for a bit as an engineer, and now work full time as a composer. Worked with lots of ad agencies from the engineering side, from small to large. Its really about connections. I havn't known anyone who had to go buy lunch for a group of people, just doesn't seem right. Maybe taking out a contact or 2 to shmooze, not provide lunch for 30 people, strange concept, specially if you can't afford it. Honestly, unless you are pretty grounded, I wouldn't do that. Specially if a place has that a few times a week.

As an engineer working with the creatives, its really a good opportunity to make contacts, and let them hear stuff. Sometimes they will send out a spots to a few composing houses who will write for the same thing for bigger spots, and whoever gets its gets it ya know. Though it may take a bit to get into the big time if you are new to this. So there is good opportunity with small to medium sized agencies who will be willing to see your reel, and you may get some small gigs, or you may be included in a composer roundup to bid and write for a spot.

Smaller agencies usually don't have budgets for original music tracks, but on occasion they do, a jingle here, a post scored spot here, though most of it is needle drop. I believe you can find work not living in LA, though if you want to be a film composer, then LA is a great place to be.


A great demo reel with music to pics is your best bet, haven't listend to your reel, do you have links?? Specially coming from a composing house and post studio, I could give some opinions if you wanted it. As I told you I write music full time, but I don't really do it for ads, even though I have a very strong backround for that, I am more focused on writing for publishers and Video games and the such. Its a great place to be in.
Old 6th June 2012
  #24
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To the original poster ... I will keep this as simple as possible.

1. Do not buy or make lunch for anyone. If you were invited to a lunch meeting about someone licensing or buying your music that's good. Be prepared to talk about it. Also bring money to pay for your own lunch.

2. Try to make contact with people who are actually in charge of using music for tv etc.

3. You might be a great musician, recordist etc. unfortunately the business of music mainly involves who you know in the industry and who you come to know.

If you need more info feel free to pm me. I have a lot of experience in this area. I have had a lot of help throughout the years and consider myself talented and lucky. Best to you.
Old 11th June 2012
  #25
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I work in a small market - Jackson, MS. Write plenty of music for regional ads and docs. Contacts are everything.

I first made my name as a location engineer on sets. So I came to know a lot of directors, producers, and ad agency people. Contact the largest production companies in your area. Tell them you'll score a spot on spec or demo just to get a foot in the door. If they like it then you're hired. Rinse & repeat.

The big production companies do work for the big agencies. It is a valuable in but still I get more calls directly from directors than agencies.

Also: Very few want to buy a pre-written track. They all have massive needle drop libraries and access to larger ones via the net. The reason you are going to get the call is customization. "We cut the demo to U2 and the agency loves it... do something like that but don't get us sued. Can you have it ready by tomorrow's 10am screening?" There will always be a lot of that. Or the needle drop's timing just doesn't work but they like the vibe.

Speed, quality of production, personality, and commitment to all requested revisions. That will keep the work flowing.

Best regards to all working composers out there,
Sam
Old 12th June 2012
  #26
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suggestion... more attraction, less push.
Develop your own "signature" style. Study all kinds of music constantly. Be yourself honestly. Meet your destiny and get paid $15,000 for a 15 second commercial (= $1,000 per second) for music you composed in 20 minutes (or a lifetime). This formula is a hard fact of life in that biz. It works if you can associate with top tier talent and pick up some tricks. Takes time to achieve, but it's a goal. Friendliness and truthfulness are essential to play with the big stars. Your phrase/lick on a song could be desired if it's known. Forget lunch, get invited to dinner with family at home!
Old 12th June 2012
  #27
I would ask... the buying lunch thing could go either way. When my wife pitches concepts to potential clients she is expected to bring in lunch with her (for 10 to 20 people). She does advertising for the Auto industry. When she pitches ad concepts and new advertising products to new and existing clients, it's just expected she brings food for everyone. It's why she has an expense account.

Every industry is different... but if the Ad agency itself (the one that contacted you) is used to buying lunch for its clients when it pitches a concept, they might very well expect people looking to add them as a client to buy lunch while pitching to them.

I have a feeling they are expecting you to cater the pitch... but you should ask for clarification just to be sure.
Old 13th June 2012
  #28
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This is a five year old thread. Check dates before posting in threads that are not on the first page of a forum.

If the OP is still reading: How is your career in music for advertising going?

Alistair
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