Many thanks to composer, Joris Daniel Hoogsteder, for submitting this guest article, where Joris discusses how to be a great composing assistant and working your up in the world of music composition. Joris has composed music for video games, films, commercials, musical theatre, and has produced various pop songs. Currently, Joris works for Moonwalk Audio, with composer Adam Gubman, and delivers on a wide range of projects.
Many aspiring TV, film, and game composers, whether they are still in college or just starting out, will at some point ask themselves: “how will I be able to break into the industry?”
The music industry for composers is a tricky one. Being good at your craft is a pre, but still, it often feels like a catch 22. In order to get the right gig, you need to know the right people, and in order to get to know the right people, you need to have done the right gigs.
I was in this position a little while ago; sending out a gazillion emails, trying to pitch for different projects, and going to every networking event to meet new people. While the latter is something I think a composer should always be doing, it didn’t get me very far. There’s always someone pitching on a project with more experience or connections.
I’m a firm believer that young composers can benefit the most from a great internship or assistantship. This is beneficial for gaining more experience, but also to make great connections and building relationships. During my last semester of my masters program, I got the wonderful opportunity to be a studio assistant at Moonwalk Audio, a video game music company. At first, my duties were pretty rudimentary, as they should be. Basic audio editing, writing one or two stings (3-second transitional cues in video games), and preparing MIDI files for the score copyist.
Very soon after, my responsibilities grew exponentially. There are a couple facets to being a great assistant and an overall helpful asset to any music firm/business. We are in the music industry, and the quality of your work can not be measured in numbers. Therefore, you want to make sure that people can trust you and your abilities, and can always count on you. You are in it for the long haul, and trustworthy relationships are key.
Being proactive is most important. We do this work because we love it, and we want to do this all day long. Show that attitude! Your enthusiasm goes a long way.
Also, you want to be able to think ahead all the time. For instance, when preparing scores for recording sessions, be aware of who you are writing for. Does the ensemble need key signatures or strictly accidentals (LA vs. EU)? Or when creating stems for a mix, make sure everything is labeled clearly, or include a little “readme” file when things get complicated. It sounds pretty basic, but little things like these show you’ve got your head in the game.
Starting out as an assistant has helped me grow a lot, and has opened doors to many great opportunities. Because I met the composers of Valve through Moonwalk Audio, I was asked to arrange the live music for orchestra and rock band for the large scale DotA2 competition “The International 7,”(link below) which was a great honor and an amazing experience. Also, because of the skills I was able to showcase being an assistant, it led to working on the music for the 2017 film Baywatch, and writing and co-writing music for NBC Today.
Nowadays, I get to write music for about 20-30 games a year. I’m still happy to do copy work, audio editing, and stems work whenever the workday calls for it, yet I feel the emphasis of my work has shifted to a much more creative role.
My advice to any young composer in the industry that is starting out is to aim for that assistant job and build relationships. Put in 200% of your effort, prove your worth, and pay those dues. Some days it may feel like little baby steps up a very long staircase, that’s true, but it is worth it. Going this route has taken me to places I would never have imagined achieving.
DotaA2 The International