Jack Lewis: How to stand out as a composer

Jack Lewis, VP Production/A&R at Extreme Music/KPM Music touches on how to stand out as a composer in the production music industry. He shared his thoughts with us in the run up to the Production Music Awards 2022:

What makes production music unique for artists?

“Production music is a great creative outlet for artists, both from a PR, and a revenue point of view. At Extreme Music we sign artist led projects to our ‘Hype’ label. The roster includes past Production Music Award winners such as Shashwat Sachdev, Malory, Lynden Arden and The Rigs. Artist projects enable music supervisors to learn more about the people behind the music through the artist’s online presence and social media. There’s a story to the music which helps the tracks stand out in the vast ocean of production music.

The end user engages with artist releases using apps such as Shazam. Having a ‘face’ behind the music greatly increases audience engagement. For example, If someone Shazams a track they hear on TV and lands on ‘Dark Drama: Volume 5’ they are unlikely to engage further. If they land on an artist page with photos, bio and/or links to socials, they are more likely to share/add to playlists and engage with the artist’s past and future releases.

A well-placed sync can take an artist to the next level. In 2020 one of our artists, ‘Everybody Loves an Outlaw’ landed a sync on a huge Netflix film which resulted in the track going viral, receiving over 180million streams on Spotify and 1billion plays on TikTok. Obviously not all syncs are this big, the nature of production music ensures that there are lots of smaller syncs out there earning royalties which build over time.

In most production music agreements, artists are not signed exclusively, which means they are free to go on and sign to commercial labels/ publishes. The EP or album which the artist signs does not tie them into any long-term publishing deal, giving the artists freedom to carry on creating and making industry connections whilst gaining income and PR through syncs.

Another benefit for artists working in the production music space is the access to other writers/producers/engineers. Libraries cover a broad range of genres and often have hundreds of composers on their books, collaboration is very much encouraged. Composers who collaborate can cover more ground and hit more briefs compared to someone working alone.”

How to stand out as a composer/artist?

My team receive dozens of submissions every month. In order to stand out as a composer you need to either bring something new to the table genre-wise or be laser focused on what you excel at. Here are some tips to help get ahead in the industry:

  • Send a link to your BEST work, the link should contain no more than 5 tracks
  • Highlight your genre specialities, we’d be more likely to open a dialogue with someone who is amazing at a niche genre than someone who claims they can write in any genre
  • If you are going to write in a genre which is oversaturated (such as orchestral/film score style) then don’t try and copy what the big composers are currently doing, make it unique, have a story behind your sound and try and get it across in a couple of sentences
  • Be open to notes/feedback. If you can’t adapt your tracks to fit a brief, then you’re in the wrong game
  • Be original. Do not rely on sample packs/melodic loops. Anyone can use these; you need to stand out from the crowd

If you are serious about making a career in production music then you need to become adept in all aspects of music production, or build a team around you who can cover all bases. You’ll be more attractive to a library if you can write, produce and mix your own tracks. 20 years ago this would have been almost impossible due to the amount of equipment you’d need and the studio space to operate it, but the barrier for entry has been lowered due to the availability of ever-improving recording software, plug ins and virtual instruments. Now you can write and a produce a number one hit in your bedroom on a laptop.

The downside (for composers) of this low barrier is that it’s harder for you to stand out due to the massive amount of music being released on DSPs every day. It’s more important than ever to find a unique voice – if not, you’ll get lost in the noise.” 

Jack Lewis – VP Production/A&R, Extreme Music/KPM Music

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