Tips for budding composers by Jessica Curry aged 40 and a half

Jessica's feet

Hello hello, I get lots of emails from up and coming composers who ask me how to get started in the games industry. I thought I’d collate the rambling advice that I bombard them with and hopefully these tips will serve as a useful starting point for emerging talent. So…

Find people whose work you love and get in touch with them. I did this when I first left film school. I saw work that I really responded to and asked them if they'd like to collaborate. This was a brilliant way to get started and led to some really interesting collaborations. I think it’s good to aim high but also to be realistic. Think about the hundreds of emails that your recipient probably gets every day. You’re much more likely to get a response if you get in touch with, say, games courses and let them know you'll write music for them- they are potentially the stars of the future. Tailor your email and let them know what it is specifically about their work that you love.

People don’t owe you a living. Ignore this advice at your peril. Don’t be an arsehole. Being nice is good business sense, as well as just being better for your soul. Be known as someone who delivers on time and is fun to work with. Your reputation, for better or for worse, will always precede you.

Try to be focused - I ended up doing lots of work because I thought I needed it on my CV- they weren't always commissions that I would have chosen to do. Nothing is ever a waste of time but looking back I wish that I'd been a bit more strategic. I went to an advice session and they asked me to write down the 5 pieces of work that I wanted to make within the next 5 years. It was so simple but it was amazing the effect it had. Rather than trying to bend my work to fit I found ways of making the work I wanted to make happen. Perpetual Light (my choral requiem) was a great case in point. I was desperate to make the work and found a way to fund it. Make your own opportunities- create a buzz around your work.

If you’re into experimental stuff then find collaborators and apply to places like The Arts Council but start small- they like to give small grants and then if you prove yourself then they tend to give you a larger grant the next time round. Be proactive about making work happen. Lots of people I know moan that there aren’t any opportunities but you have to make your own. Don’t sit and wait for people to come to you because THEY WON’T! Whether you like it or not most commissioning happens between people that know each other. This isn’t unfair, nepotistic, a clique or anything else sinister or shadowy. We all want to work with people we like and trust and who we know can get the job done. I don’t mean “start networking”- what a dreaded concept- it’s just about talking to people who you share things in common with. Go to the pub and nerd out about your obsessions.

Keep applications/requests short and to the point. I now sometimes sit on the other side of the fence and it's shocking how little time you get to read through proposals/emails. Often there are mere seconds spent reading them. Say what it is you want clearly in the first paragraph.

Be passionate. Stay true to yourself- don't try and be fashionable, just make the sounds you love. Find your voice and be proud of it.

Don’t work for nothing, people won't respect you (I learned this the hard way.) Dan dared me to double my rates overnight a few years ago and the work instantly doubled along with it. That’s capitalism for you!

Listen, read, talk, ask. The last one is the most important- people like to be asked and you learn way more than if you're frightened to look stupid.

Hope this helps ☺

Oh, and I did an interview for BAFTA with some amazing composers this week. Clint Mansell, George Fenton me and Dario Marianelli talk about starting out as a composer. It’s the best job in the world by my reckoning so best of luck.