So you're working on your first game, short film or even started a podcast series, and now you're ready to add music to your project. You might be at that crucial point where you are undecided between hiring a music composer or licensing stock library music, due to budget constraints or just the apprehension of not knowing how to work with a composer.
Here are top 3 considerations to make that will help you weigh your options better.
1. Establish the music style for your project
Have you already got a specific "sound" in mind for you project? Try communicating that to the composer with references to existing music from streaming services like Youtube and Spotify. This allows the composer to quickly understand the music style you desire, and spend less time on second-guesses with multiple drafts. It will also allow you to pick the right composer whose style and work fits your aesthetic closely, rather than squeezing a pumping electronic dance track from the hapless classical composer.
Of course, not everyone starts out knowing what kind of music style suits their project. The easiest way around this is to contact a music composer, and explain the creative goals behind your project. Being a seasoned music professional, the composer will be able to suggest a few music styles that could fit your project perfectly.
2. Decide on your budget
It is important to decide early on much you are willing to spend on music in your project. There are always many production options in creating a music piece that range from highly affordable to elaborate arrangements. Conveying your budget clearly to the composer at the start of discussions would help the composer accurately quote you with the best musical option available at the price range.
3. Understand the composition process
Being aware of the process behind the music creation allows you to properly schedule the time frame allowed for music within your project planning.
Stage 1 - Drafts
Once the style of the music has been agreed upon, the composer will produce drafts which are structurally completed but partially arranged. The draft will contain less instruments (eg. only piano instead of a full band) but will be complete songs with melody and harmony.
Stage 2 - Arrangement
Once you have given feedback on the drafts (eg. "I need this part of the music to be shorter" or "can we have an impact at this point in the music"), the composer will fully arrange the music tracks with complete instrumentation.
Note: At this point, no more changes can be made to the music style or structure.
Stage 3 - Recording
After the arrangement is done, you can choose from the 3 recording options below:
1) Render the music electronically with virtual music instruments (most affordable)
2) Record the music with live musicians (expensive but top quality sounding).
3) Record the music with a smaller group of live musicians, then reinforce the music rendered electronically with virtual music instruments to give the impression of a bigger ensemble. (best value-for-money)
As a general rule, the emotional sincerity from live musicians is what sets your music apart in a positive way from the electronically produced cookie-cutter music common in today's media.
Stage 4 - Mixing & Mastering
After recording, mixing will take place whereby individual elements within the music will be balanced out and effects will be added to enhance the sonic profile. The music then goes on to being mastered, which involve optimizing the music to sound great on as many audio playback systems as possible, with the option of focusing entirely on a a single playback system (eg mobile phone). If your project is a music album, the mastering will ensure every track's volume is consistent with each other.