4. International 101
4. International 101 - US, Germany and the Rest of Europe
4.1 The United States
When it comes to the United States, that 90% that you do in advance is imperative to finding the right contacts, networks and through them, opportunities. Linking with organisations in advance, seeking out potential international bursaries at American institutions and researching what has succeeded (or not) before is what turns an exploratory and often expensive jaunt into defined career and business development. This is because from opportunities in Hollywood and Nashville, to artist-led residencies in downtown New York, to the most prestigious (and well endowed) arts venues and programmes, the good ol’ USofA has it all. But it’s complicated, gargantuan and decentralised. Now what to do first? As usual, read, communicate, understand and learn.
The United States is too big, complex and expensive to not be prepared for. If you do not have representation by an agent or publisher, you do need an active, complete and coherent social media profile, where your profile and content is updated, and speaks with one direction and strategy. In the USA, like the UK, one composition can lead to many future commissions, but that composition or installation must be carefully prepared, documented and communicated before you export, or even think of contacting any future partner. The key is availability: with the USA, you don’t need a finished product - you just need your compositions to be available online, either via SoundCloud or Bandcamp.
If you ask someone ‘how do I break into film composition’ in the United States, you’re asking the wrong question. The objective here is to identify singular opportunities, such as ‘I want to meet this person’ or communicate with ‘that residency or composer’. Awareness in the United States is through exchanging information, contacts and networking - whilst all the while ensuring the touchpoints for your content, whatever it may be, are easy to access.
Saying that, here are a few key organisations and steps one can follow.
There are a number of organisations that provide network development, workshops, contacts, databases and practical knowledge to composers to assist in successful American business development. Each have their own mandate, but they share a similar spirit where musical exchange and developing one’s musical and business network as part of their service offerings.
American Composers Alliance
● This is another domestic organisation that offers a huge network to potential partners and opportunities for UK composers to export into the USA. It is primarily classical and opera based, but has another network of score commissioners and composers. It’s BMI based and only Americans can be members, but its website is a good port of call to opportunities in the United States, in that community of compositions.
American Composers Forum
● The American Composers Forum connects music composers with potential commissions and does work with international composers, both in terms of composer twinning and opportunity development. Even if some opportunities are not for UK composers, one can ‘follow the trail’ of opportunities offered to develop better contacts and networks.
ASCAP AND BMI
● Both organisations have UK offices and offer networking, workshops and potential gig opportunities via their UK hubs. It is best to get to know the music partner manager
NARIP (National Association of Record Industry Professionals)
● NARIP’s name is slightly misleading, as instead of being a label association, it represents music supervisors and music placement representatives in the US. It conducts and coordinates a number of events called ‘Music Supervisor Sessions’ that composers can attend and offers a significant network of contacts, all of whom place music into audio-visual content. For any composer interested in working in this way, being in touch with NARIP is key. And they have a UK hub, lead by Sharon Dean from Respect Music.
● ICAS (described in section 1) is an international organisation, but has an American wing of festivals and artistic organisations that commission compositions, create mixed-media installations and offering networking and artistic development for members, through its associated organisations.
National Association of Composers
● NAC promotes American ‘concert hall’ music, but offers a number of contacts and information that can be taken to develop a further understanding of the market. For example, all the email addresses and addresses of its current members are on their website here, including composer contacts for both ASCAP and BMI.
New Music USA
● New Music USA has a strong relationship with Sound and Music and is the closest organisation in the country to offer similar services, including commissioning support, networking, granting (sometimes to work alongside domestic composers) and gig opportunities.
Society of Composers
● Society of Composers is a primarily-online database of opportunities for composers. It is US-based and focused on opportunities there, but there are numerous links that can offer network development, and partnership opportunities. It has over 1200 members, all of whom are listed and linked on their website.
What Are My First Steps:
Releasing Recorded Content:
● Most recorded content in the United States is released through global digital distribution entities, such as The Orchard or Kobalt Music and Label Services. Two US based artist-centric distributors offer more composer and artist centric services - CD Baby andArtist Without a Label (AWAL). Both offer simplified uploading and reporting structures to manage releasing in the United States. In addition, Finland based Music Kickup offers free distribution services for composers, which cover the United States and Ditto Music offers a direct-to-composer platform that personalises the service better than other distributors. There’s a number of players in the market, many of which are not market-leaders, so composers need to be careful about where music is uploading so it can be tracked and managed. We recommend sticking to larger distribution companies, such as The Orchard or Proper. Anything associated with a major label - all of whom offer their own white-label distribution service, is activated in the United States.
● Similar to the United Kingdom, physical releases of recordings are mainly restricted to mail order, direct-to-fan or through Amazon. Over 40% of the United States physical retail market is controlled by WalMart, who take a small number of titles. Very few shops, outside of independent ones that deal with the aforementioned distributors, sell vinyl releases.
● There is a comprehensive list of music distributors and available here.
Hints Galore - What To Expect:
You have to be careful which social media properties to use in the USA (and everywhere for that matter). In the United States, many composers still use Reverbnation and Sonicbids to showcase their work, but the industry standard internationally, at time of writing, is SoundCloud and Bandcamp.