hey jbl,

just thought i'd put in my "two cents."  like scot says, the pop market is really where the money is, so if you can write tunes, by all means do it!

if you're into the classical stuff more, definitely try and get into some film scoring.  like scot was saying too, even if you just write the tunes, it's extremely common for others to actually do all the orchestration.  the reason is that the music is basically all done dead last when the budget has gone over and  the deadline is essentially there, so the composer then gets about 6 weeks for a score more or less!  as a teacher once told me, composers in the film industry are the "pimple on the butt of the fly on the horse's butt...or something like that..." :)

anyway, even john williams has an orchestrator, granted i've heard that he gives his orchestrators pretty specific sketches.  anyway, it is an extremely tough business to get into, and like many other jobs today, it's really who you know and who knows you.  it's a very people involved business, and that's why most people head out to la to get the contacts going even if they have to do odd jobs just to live for a while.  

speaking of that area, it might be nice to hear from smg, as i believe he's on the prowl trying to do this very thing out there.  maybe he can speak of his experiences thus far...

that being said, the best way to get started is exactly what you mentioned...check the film schools at local universities, and other indie film websites.  you'll probably end up doing that for next to nothing, if not nothing, but you build your contacts, and hopefully, the idea is that they'll call you again when they have the money to pay you!

if you want to get started right away, take some clips of tv commercials or cartoons or movies and try putting your own music to it.  then get a website going and show everyone what you have to offer.  try to do a lot of different styles.  for example, some things that i've done to get me going include the movie "contact" (right in the beginning where it was just all silence and planets for around 3 minutes) and the tom and jerry cartoon:)

also, if you can  get into tv jingles, there's plenty of money to be made there if you can stand it!  again, you just have to get in with the people and be able to talk to the "creative" ad agents and understand what they're trying to tell you they want when they really sometimes have no idea!

finally, if you're so inclined, start selling sheet music on the side.  sibelius or whatever.  i've been selling stuff from my own site for a while, and it does ok...basically just enough to pay the hosting plus a little bit to keep it going.  it at least gets your stuff out there.  the key to that success is google basically.  the things that sell the best are contemporary / moderately easy piano charts, and like scot said, there is money to be made in big band charts as well.  

anyway, alot to read there!  i hope that gives you a few ideas,

good luck!
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