Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games Capstone

This was the class that I was looking forward to taking during my final term with Berklee Online. The idea of being able to work on one piece for an entire term, to focus on and consider a piece of music for an extended period of time was really exciting to me. It did not disappoint.

This course was a great way for us to put together everything we learned throughout the degree program into one project. It required that I utilize topics covered in Music Theory 1-4, Film Scoring 101, Counterpoint, Music Notation & Score Preparation, Orchestration 1 & 2, Music Composition for Film 1 & 2, and Mixing & Mastering on a regular basis. It was the perfect way to finish up the “Music Composition for Film, TV, and Games Degree” program.

One of the biggest takeaways for me from this capstone project was to break music cues out into smaller, stand-alone, Logic project files. I fell into a trap trying to work with one large file so that I could get a sense of how one section was flowing into another, contextually. Unfortunately, it just made for much bigger problems later in the project as I started hitting technical issues with my DAW (clicks/pops, memory overflows) even with frozen tracks and large buffer sizes, which brought all forward progress to a halt. If I were to do it all over again breaking everything into seperate projects would be the first thing I would do (after spotting and mapping everything out).

Another important takeaway for me with this project was having a musical sketch of the entire piece from beginning to end. It really helped to have a “roadmap” to pull everything together and work from. This helped maintain forward momentum and alleviate writer’s block.

Super happy to have been able to study with Ben Newhouse again as he’s one of my favorite teachers ever, not just with Berklee. His approach to the material was always clear, methodical, and well thought out. He always gave really helpful, useful, and timely feedback on all assignments and communications, and was very inspiring as an instructor and person.

Here’s the capstone piece that I put together. It’s a rescoring of the excellent BMW Films “The Hire – Ambush”.

Here’s what we went over during the twelve weeks.

Week 1 – “Overall Industry Profitability” – Jan 9th – Jan 13th
Introduction, Meet and Greet, Course Overview, Need for a Macro Industry Analysis, Porter’s Five Forces—Plus One, Bargaining Power of Suppliers, Bargaining Power of Buyers, Nature of Competition, Influx of New Entrants, Availability of Substitutes, Government Policy, Workshop: Business Terminology, Summary of Strategic Recommendations, Discussion 1.1: Trends and Changes in the Industry, Degree Review Quiz: Music Notation, Assignment 1: Introduce Your Capstone Project, Recap

Week 2 – “Client Needs and Your Solutions” – Jan 14th – Jan 20th
Introduction, Clients, Creativity, and Being a “Hired Pencil”, Discussion 2.1: Horner Follow-up, Musical Expertise, Budget, Customization, Risk, Quantity, Time, Aesthetics: “Different” or “Similar” Music, Client Need Profiles, Possible Solutions for Common Client Needs, Discussion 2.2: Three Different Clients, Degree Review Quiz: Music Technology, Assignment 2: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 3 – “Finding Clients” – Jan 21st – Jan 27th
Introduction, Conference Networking Strategies, Film Festivals, Film Societies, Organizations, and Conferences, TV Industry Conferences, Video Game Conferences, Databases and Cold-Calling, Film Schools, US Film Schools, International Film Schools, Industry Publications, Discussion 3.1: Elevator Conversation, Degree Review Quiz: Music Theory I, Assignment 3: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 4 – “Composer Marketing Materials” – Jan 28th – Feb 3rd
Introduction, Demos, Audio Demos, Video Demos, Demos: A Possible Approach, Cover Letters, Networking Letters, Credit List, Resumé, Business Cards, Website, Discussion 4.1: Website Content, Course Reading Quiz: Lessons 1-4, Assignment 4: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 5 – “Copyrights” – Feb 4th – Feb 10th
Introduction, Copyrights, Compositions and Recordings, Musical Composition and Sound Recording Copyrights, Music Licensing, Performing Rights Organizations, International PROs, The Term “Publishing”, Work Made for Hire, Contract Considerations, Evaluating Contracts, Workshop: Copyright Terminology, Discussion 5.1: Your PRO, Degree Review Quiz: World Music, Assignment 5: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 6 – “Royalties” – Feb 11th – Feb 17th
Introduction, Will I Get Royalties?, Evaluating Royalty Opportunities: Television, Film, Workshop: Royalty Opportunities, Video Games and Music Libraries, Royalty Valuation: Inflation, Royalty Valuation: Present Value and Discount Rates, Royalty Valuation: Net Present Value, Workshop: Net Present Value, Royalty Stream Example 1, Royalty Stream Example 2, Discussion 6.1: Royalties or Upfront, Degree Review Quiz: Music History, Assignment 6: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 7 – “Make It Once, Sell It Many Times” – Feb 18th – Feb 24th
Introduction, Multiple Payments from Multiple Clients, An Independent Film: Example 1, An Independent Film: Example 2, A Television Episode: Example 1, A Television Episode: Example 2, A Television Episode: Example 3, A Music Library Cue: Example 1, A Music Library Cue: Example 2, Key Observations, Discussion 7.1: Selling a Single Product to Multiple Buyers, Degree Review Quiz: Film Scoring, Assignment 7: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 8 – “Pricing” – Feb 25th – Mar 3rd
Introduction, Industry Rates, Cost-Plus Pricing, Competition-Based Pricing, Ability-to-Pay Pricing, Price Discrimination, Price Takers and Price Makers, Pricing Strategies for Composers, Workshop: Pricing Terminology, Discussion 8.1: Ability-to-Pay Pricing, Course Reading Quiz: Lessons 5-8, Assignment 8: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 9 – “Intermediaries” – Mar 4th – Mar 10th
Introduction, Agents, Hollywood Agents, Music Libraries, Submission Services, Break Even, Agent Break Even, Music Library Break Even, Submission Services and Probability, Workshop: Break Evens and Submission Fees, Try Multiple Approaches, Discussion 9.1: Submission Services, Degree Review Quiz: Video Game Music, Assignment 9: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 10 – “Other Jobs” – Mar 11th – Mar 17th
Introduction, Music Supervisors, Music Editors, Orchestrators, Music Preparation, Composer Assistants, Production Assistant Jobs, Discussion 10.1: Composer’s Previous Jobs, Degree Review Quiz: Orchestration, Assignment 10: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 11 – “Temp Scores” – Mar 18th – Mar 24th
Introduction, What is a Temp Score?, Benefits of Temp Scores, Weaknesses of Temp Scores, Creating Soundalikes, Composer Opinion of Temp Scores, Discussion 11.1: Temp Scores, Decreasing the Need for Temp Scores, More on Temp Score Weaknesses, Degree Review Quiz: Music Theory II, Assignment 11: Capstone Project Update, Recap

Week 12 – “Communicating with Clients” – Mar 25th – Mar 31st
Introduction, An Alternative to Theoretical Musical Terminology, Creative Flexibility, The Benefits of Incorporating Feedback, Confidence and Expertise, Do Not Say Bad Things About Your Music, Discussion 12.1: Communicating with Clients, Course Reading Quiz: Lessons 9-12, Assignment 12: Capstone Project Final Submission, Recap