A film score composer writes the music played in films. Unlike a typical song, a film score must enhance the atmosphere of the film and help tell the story. A composer may work on a single instrument or work with music software in order to help her write for various instruments. Her salary depends on her status as a composer, and whether the project is for an independent film or a major motion picture.
Understanding Revenue Options
Often, a film score composer is paid under what is known as a package deal. The package deal includes all costs incurred to produce the music, including other musicians, engineers and orchestration of the music. The composer's take-home pay is the difference between earnings and all those production expenses. According to the Berklee College of Music, earnings can come from a combination of creative fees and production. Also, score composers sometimes get small royalties based on the sale of soundtrack downloads and albums.
According to the Berklee College of Music, as of 2012, compensation for composers working on independent films ranged from $2,500 to over $500,000 for a package deal. Composers who worked on major motion pictures made from $3,500 to over $2 million for a package deal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary for all music composers ranged from $21,450 to $86,110. The median salary was $47,350.
A few film score composers have made it big. Hans Zimmer, who worked on films such as "The Dark Knight" and "Driving Miss Daisy," has a net worth of $90 million. Randy Newman, known for the "Toy Story" movies, has a net worth of $110 million. Danny Elfman, a longtime collaborator of director Tim Burton, has a net worth of $75 million. All three composers have been nominated for or have won Academy Awards.
Scoring Other Work
Film score composers also work in television and video game design. Composers working in television make between $1,500 and $55,000 per television movie. However, you can also work on thirty-minute or sixty-minute television shows. Factors affecting pay include whether the show is on network or cable television. The pay for composers who write music for interactive video games ranges from $30,000 to over $75,000, under creative fee deals for thirty minutes of music. Also, they make between $300 and $600 per minute under a creative fee deal for finished music for casual games. Casual games, such as "Angry Birds," are designed with simple rules that keep users entertained.