As a little experiment, I decided to type “being a composer is” into Google. The top results were “being a composer is hard” and “is being a composer hard” well, googling people, you have answered each other’s question!
My two pence on the subject is this. I am mainly talking about composing music for tv, film, games etc here rather than concert works, but a lot of the same things apply.
You have two umbrellas of difficulties as a composer. Firstly, you have to excel at writing, producing and usually also performing music (it’s cheaper for you if you can perform more instruments on your tracks yourself). Secondly you will very likely, unless you are very lucky, have to be excellent at marketing yourself, getting to know people, being friendly and nice to work with, and taking care of the business side.
That is one hell of a massive skillset right there.
What you’ll find meeting or talking to successful composers, is that most of these things do apply most of the time. Sometimes careers get propelled quickly with a stroke of luck early on. Sometimes it takes years and years of graft to get where you want to be. Maybe it will be peaks and troughs all the way for you. Even if you’re offered all the work you could ever want, you still have to do that work, and do it well. I’ve been doing this for almost 6 years now full time, and I still never know what’s around the corner!
There are no hard and fast rules, no one route into the industry or one way to do things, but one thing for certain is: being a composer is hard.
Some other little insights from Google search:
“Become a composer without going to college”
I studied a degree in music composition for media. I cannot imagine even considering giving this career a go without having had that training. I learnt so much on that course, I still utilise that knowledge probably every day! Sure, there are composers who have been successful without going that route, but I think people in the industry are finding it’s a good way to find out who’s serious about composing. There are a lot of music courses, and a lot of music graduates, far more than there used to be. It’s hard enough sifting through those young composers to find the good ones, let alone if they haven’t even studied academically. I guess what I’m saying is – if you are that serious about it, why not study it?!
“Become a better composer”
I am so glad there are a lot of people googling this! I think we should keep this in mind at all stages of our career. There are always things you don’t know, things you could do better, ways to sound better, the list goes on. We can always become a better composer if we are always open to learning.