As 2011 winds down, I’m coming towards the end of my sixth year living in Los Angeles and working as a professional composer. Since crossing the five-year mark earlier this year, I notice that people who describe this as a “five-year town” actually have it about right. It took about five years to reach a point where I was able to find that composing work was coming in steadily and consistently.
In the past month or so people from the first three projects I ever wrote music for contacted me; my first three gigs after graduating from Berklee, all from just over five years ago. They all came to me with new projects. Now, I’ve worked with repeat clients plenty of times in much shorter spans of time, but I find the fact that they all contacted me within the same month to be pretty fascinating. It made me consider how it really can take about that long for a filmmaker to be ready to embark on a new project, considering the time it takes for writing, development, pre-production, production, etc.
“The old saying that this is a
‘five-year town’ has a lot of truth to it.”
In theory, relationships I developed four years ago will be blossoming into new projects in a year, projects from three years ago will cycle back around in two, and so on. Which means that if the rotation is about five years, it thus takes about five years of investment until you can reach a consistent loop.
The point of all of this is to say to young composers stick with it. If you have only been in LA a year, a month, or a week, don’t be shocked that your career has not yet taken off! It requires a true investment of time, and from personal experience I can attest that the old saying that this is a ‘five-year town’ has a lot of truth to it.
For more experienced composers, I wonder if “five years” is also a good guideline for the time it takes to advance into the next stage of your career. I would love to hear from some veteran composers about the different phases of their careers (scoring student films and freebies, scoring low budget films, advancing to studio projects, etc.) and how long each of these phases lasted before they were fully established in the next level.
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