How to Be a Composer TODAY: 3 Life-Changing Tips PART 2 Redefining Success

In the last article How to Be a Composer TODAY: 3 Life-Changing Tips PART 1, I discussed three life changing tips to help you as you embark on your music career.

Redefining Success

You need to find out what YOU want. Redefine success for you. What is important? If you value freedom, then find a gig that pays enough for bills, downsize your lifestyle some, and enjoy your freedom! Do you value fame or prestige, do you need to support a family or want to balance family and working from home? Do you want to homeschool your kids or teach at a university? Do you want to mix the next great album, become a Youtube star, or create an app that hits #1 in iTunes? It is all possible. But you need to set up your goals.

What does your music success look like?
  • The retiree that sells folk song albums online and gigs with his band
  • The educator that instills a love of music on the next generation of musicians
  • The choral director who both ministers and directs or her choir
  • The audio tech who spends hours recording with indie musicians
  • The songwriter who makes a living writing jingles for businesses
  • The DJ who mixes electronica every Friday night at a popular club
  • The composer who scores video games and apps
  • The music teacher that performs during summer vacation
  • The musicians who designs meaningful music apps
  • The non-profit arts administrator who finds ways to tie the arts to the community
Some of these gigs are less glamorous or lucrative than others. And notice that I didn't mention the super duper megastar that owns a dozen homes and her own perfume line, though that is also possible. 

Music Marketing 101 with Sabrina Pena Young


Music schools do not prepare you for today's music industry

That is the fact. Many schools are still stuck on a model that assumed that there were ample jobs in music education and academia, and that classical music was viable. The reality is that everything has changed drastically. A talented high school audio engineer can make a full time living working as a freelancer if he or she has the right skills. Meanwhile talented musicologists with doctorate degrees earn little more than a Walmart manager. Do you need to go to college? Yes, of course! But does your college degree guarantee you a job? No, not at all. 

Expert Music Advice Today at Musicxray with Sabrina Pena Young

We live in a skills-based economy.

If you want to be a composer, you will most likely acquire a great number of skills that will translate easily to paid work, especially if you learn technology, writing, business, and other skills that translate well to fields that are more stable than strictly the music industry. 

Are you talented at writing symphonies? 

I bet you could write a riveting soundtrack for a video game or app. 

Can you write a moving vocal line? 


Look into jingles, music licensing, and writing songs for today's Youtube filmmakers. 

Are you a music theory guru? 

Design an app that teaches others what you know. 

The reality is that you must adapt what you have learned as a composer to make it as a composer today. This is not anything new. Bach worked as a director and music educator, the great majority of our favorite composers taught in some capacity, were writers, and took on additional duties to maintain their careers. 


The amazing thing about today's economy is that it is global. You can just as easily collaborate with someone in Australia as someone down the street. It really is that simple! 

So leverage what you know, be flexible, expand your knowledge, and you will find that learning how to be a composer is rewarding and exciting!

Young is the foremost expert on virtual opera production and online collaboration with the debut of her machinima opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. Libertaria includes a live international cast and film crew, virtual choirs, sound synthesis, machinima, and contemporary choral writing, produced entirely online using crowdsourcing, social networking, and the Internet. Critics call Libertaria "Groundbreaking" and "Wagner 2.0". Works performed internationally at the Beijing Conservatory, the International Computer Music Conference, Miramax's Project Greenlight, the Athena Festival, the New York International Independent Film Festival, Art Basil Miami, Turkey's Cinema for Peace, Art Miami, and Pulsefield International Exhibition of Sound Art, the Holland Animation Film Festival, Australasian Computer Music Confetence, Buffalo's Women and Arts Festival, and countless venues worldwide. Young's recent projects include the social media opera The Village and a recent TED Talk on opera and the Internet at TEDxBuffalo.

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