work independently |

expressive |

organised |

variety in work tasks |

desk based |


mid level |

senior |

Business Types: 

music |

gaming |

radio |

performing arts |

film |

audio |

animation |

What You'll Get?


Commissioned either for a specific piece or for a set number of minutes depending on the project on a freelance basis.


The hours are varied and you have more freedom to plan own working hours.


Rates of pay can vary according to the nature of the project, status of composer, and medium. You can receive a set fee for a commission and for composition it is worth referring to Independent Society of Musicians or The Musicians Union rates. Fees per minute can range from £50 - £1000 for TV and film and are a lot higher for advertising. 

What Would You Do?

Working as a composer could mean a variety of different things. You could be commissioned for a piece of music for an orchestra, or you could be writing compositions, scores, and producing arrangements for film, tv, jingles for radio and video games. It is common for composers to be skilled in one or more instruments.

You’ll be working for yourself predominantly. There are publishing agents who might take you on once you are more established. 

You’ll need to have a portfolio of work and build up your networks. People are often booked for more work off their previous experience and examples.

What You'll Need?

Skills and abilities:

  • to be formally trained, and common to gain an undergraduate degree in music composition, music theory or similar and be able to play one or more instruments to a high grade.

  • IT literate and will require access and use of music notation and composition software such as Sibelius. Access to kit for recording your music is useful.

  • Be organised, self-motivated and maintain relationships.

  • TV and radio work tends to be quite collaborative and more specific in output. If you are commissioned for music in your own right, then there is the potential for more creative freedom there.

What Can You Achieve?

It is often a portfolio career, alongside doing a day job related to music and includes teaching, arranging, audio engineering, instrumental performance, or arts administration. The work is more unpredictable from a career prospect particularly in the early stage. 

Where Do These Jobs Exist?

These jobs often exist by word of mouth, so be prepared to network, and showcase your activity. You might have to shout a bit about your work. It’s also helpful now to build an online presence, website, social media presence that you can point to when having initial conversations about your work. Companies will post job opportunities online. 

How To Apply?

It is important to remember that each piece of work you do is an audition piece for the next role and keep your show reel and credit list up to date on your website. Less likely to have formal interviews for this role and instead be asked to produce examples of relevant pieces.

What Else Can You Do?

As soon as you can, take opportunities to have lessons in music theory, composition and learn to play at least one instrument. Compose a lot and try out different media and styles and get your classmates, bandmates, or music group to play the music you’ve written. 

The BBC runs an annual competition for 12 to 18 year olds across the UK who create their own original music and the Musicians' Union has advice on how to promote yourself.

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