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  • Writer's pictureJack Hughes

GUEST POST: 5 Alternative Income Streams for Composers - Sam Allen.

Welcome back to the NFO blog. Today we are excited to share with you a guest post penned by Composer and Manchester resident Sam Allen. Sam has chosen the topic of alternative income streams that composers can undertake to supplement their composition work.


As media composers many of us find that more of our time is spent in-between projects than actually working on projects. If this is you, there are some avenues for work as a composer that you may not have considered.

Here are 5 real world examples of less conventional ways to make money and build your profile as a media composer.

1 - Custom Music Beds for Online Content

At the start of the year I was approached by a hair dye brand to create some background music for their long format tutorial videos. This is just like submitting music to library services or publishers, except this way you cut out the middleman and can work directly with their music brief. You get work and they get music that’s customised precisely to their purpose.

Content creators can massively benefit from your musical and technical skills as a composer.

2 - Orchestrating for Pop Music

Recently it seems to me that the orchestra is cool again. It lends gravitas to pop songs, especially when the arrangement shows off strings in a ballad or brass in an uptempo song.

Good examples include:

Nothing But Thieves (post rock) with a small orchestra, recorded at Abbey Road.

Royal Blood - Limbo

(this one’s particularly creative)

The skills acquired working as a composer for media are obviously transferable. As a composer, we will have a greater understanding of things like melody, harmony, and instrumentation than perhaps the average singer songwriter. Producers and engineers find this really useful, there has been a trend recently of bands releasing ‘orchestral versions’ of songs.

These arrangements seem to impart the emotional heft of the orchestra with the appeal of pop/rock music, and the fun thing is that these arrangements are easy to make. For example any held pad chords can be converted to MIDI and with minimal effort (maybe some revoicing and phrasing) be played by live players. In this mini-genre, the orchestra can be thought of as a nice big expensive keyboard/sample player.

Orchestration & arranging for pop music artists can be a great supplement for your compositional work.

3 - Music for Occasions or Ceremonies

Often overlooked, but music tends to be present at life’s most poignant moments. Composers may be asked to write music for a bride to walk down the aisle to at a wedding for example. This is a really interesting brief because the composer is able to combine what they know about the couple and artistic licence to create musical themes. It is also an interesting example of using live music for a specific purpose.

The composer can even ‘sync’ the music to the entrance of each of the bridal party. Thereby creating a deeply personal, custom music experience for someone's special day.

Weddings & events are big business. Don't overlook them as a potential income source as a composer.

4 - Synth Programming

We composers have a vast skill set when it comes to programming synths, we really do know our LFO’s from our VCO’s, and this is not something to be overlooked. From time to time I am approached by local bands wanting to bring another level of production to their live shows. We modern media composers have such a useful toolkit of synth knowledge, that we can provide to these clients. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the studio and into the live/gig world.

Synth programming is something that media composers tend to have a high degree of expertise at. You can lend your programming skills to other projects outside of composition.

5 - Music Director for Shows & Theatre Productions etc.

If you’ve not noticed, since you’ve been locked in your studio working to picture all year… live shows are coming back!

As composers we know what it takes to bring an idea in our heads, to the piano (or instrument), then to the DAW (maybe via Sibelius) and to live players. The skills involved in this process are composition, arranging, performing, tracking, editing, mixing, music preparation, copying, organisation and then conducting. Music directors for live shows do exactly this all the time.

I’m here to tell you that you have the skills to direct live music! Steady income can come from leading bands.

Maybe send some cheeky emails to established bands and labels to see if your skill set may be of use live. You never know what doors that could open.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post!

For more from Sam you can check out his website and socials via the links below:


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