Salaries For Music Composer


Everyone is familiar with the work of music composers, even if they are not aware of the profession. Whether it is films, television, advertisement jingles, or video games, each of these products requires a music composer. A music composer creates and writes the music of a project. They are also known as music directors in certain countries. This term was coined for Western Classical music and film scores, however today it can include songwriters too under certain circumstances. Let us know the salaries for Music Composer also the role and responsibilities of a Music Composer in this article.

Salaries For Music Composer

Salaries for Music Composer

Being a music composer is a highly skilled job. The best and most experienced earn millions, however salaries for music composer, on average, is around $106,368 in the United States, whereas they can earn anywhere between $20,183 to $542,164. Unlike most professions, a music composer is not on a regular payroll. They are paid per project and deals can be negotiated with the studio or the record label. Additionally, they are paid royalties for every project, which takes their annual earnings to higher numbers.

Are there reasons why music composers earn more than 9-to-5 working employees? Yes, absolutely. Continue reading to know what they are.

Role of a Music Composer

To know why they earn a minimum of 6-figure digits, one has to understand what exactly a music composer does.

A music composer comes up with the music and writes it down on staff notation paper for every element of the song. It is then performed by musicians and, in some cases, vocalists. Every aspect of the score or song is made by the composer, including deciding the tempo and scale, which instruments have to be used, and so on. In certain cases, multiple composers work on the same score. This mainly includes music bands, who write songs together.

Jeff Bezos Career Advice
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It is important to know that composers and musicians are not the same. A musician simply plays what the composer creates and writes for them. A composer may be a musician, but a musician is not necessarily a composer.

Responsibilities of a Music Composer

Due to the nature of their job, being a music composer is a highly skilled job. They need to know the nuances and sounds of every instrument and chose the correct instrument and/or vocalists to fit the song or the scene they are writing the score for. Furthermore, they need to create the conductor’s sheet music— which has every instrument’s part written together.

Therefore, being a music composer requires you to know many intricate details before creating the actual piece.

Here is a list of responsibilities of composers, simplified for your understanding:

  • Creating a musical score that is apt for the scene or fits the song
  • Deciding and writing the score for each instrument/vocalist
  • Setting the pitch, tempo, and speed
  • Knowing about different vocal ranges 
  • Knowing music theory

This showcases why a composer’s job is very taxing and hence, higher paid. But besides his salary, the music composer will also earn royalties. The reason for this is fairly straightforward and is covered in the next section.

Music Composers and royalties

No one becomes a John Williams or a Hans Zimmer overnight. It takes a lot of practice, effort, and making the right industry connections to get to a certain level. Like any other industry, the more you work, the better your chances of recognition and “promotion”. In this case, the promotion would be working with bigger studios and filmmakers. And since it is a creative job dealing with intellectual property, a music composer earns royalties on every track (film score or album) they release. 

Payments made to the copyright holders of music for using their licensed material are known as royalties. A music composer will receive this from various institutions and platforms, while a Performing Rights Society, such as ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI in the United States will collect these and distribute them to its owners, (usually) every three months.

The music composer is entitled to 50% of the total royalties generated from his work, whereas the other 50% goes to the publisher (a.k.a the record label) unless it is self-published. For every new project, a contract is drawn with the record label releasing their work, confirming their percentage of royalties.

Furthermore, to protect the copyright of the composer, he will receive royalties as long as he lives, and his family will continue to receive these amounts up to 70 years after his death. So even if a music composer’s salary was on the average to lower end but his work generates a lot of sales and listenership, his royalty cheques will be huge. Thus, even based on a few hit scores, a composer and his family can be financially stable.


Music composing is a creative field. Everything depends on self-growth, the project, and the film studio. Also, composers can work on standalone projects instead of signing multi-film deals, depending on them. As future projects can be uncertain, it means no fixed monthly income. Hence royalties are very important and can be considered a composer’s main source of income.

Hopefully, this information helps you decide whether to choose this as your profession. At the end of the day, it is all about your passion and creativity, which would help you become a music composer. 


1.Is a music composer and songwriter the same?

The traditional definition suggests they are different, but today, depending a country’s music and film industry, a composer and songwriter can be the same.

2.What are the best music schools to be a music composer?

  • The Juilliard School, NYC
  • Berklee College of Music, Boston
  • Royal College of Music, London
  • USC Thornton School of Music, L.A
  • Trinity College of Music, London

3.Is a degree necessary to become a music composer?

A music degree would be a stamp of approval from a prestigious institute but the most important thing is a flair for composing and creativity. Although, attending music school will help you make  inside connections to enter the industry.

Salaries For Music Composer

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