Skip to main content

Career Story: Musical Composer

Bryan, 34, is a composer and small business owner based out of Los Angeles. Hear his advice on how to pursue a creative career out of college.

Close Disclaimer

The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.

My name is Bryan Senti.
BRYAN, 34
COMPOSER AND BUSINESS OWNER, HOOK AND LINE

I am 34 years old.

My job title is composer
and small business owner.

And my salary is complicated,
it fluctuates.

But last year it was $250,000.

My small business
is called Hook and Line,

and it's a small
music production company

that services
the advertising industry.

There I write music for advertising

and hire other composers
to write music for advertising.

Um, in addition to that,
I have a film agent.

My film agent tries
and goes around to procure work

and then I also go around
to procure work

and then I score, I score films.

Outside of that,
I also produce artists.

I also perform with other artists,

and I would say that's pretty much
what I do for a living.

I'll get a phone call
from an advertiser

or an agency,

and they'll ask me to write
a certain kind of music

for a client of theirs.

At which point, I'll negotiate terms,

negotiate a contract with them.

If I can't do it entirely on my own,

I'll hire other composers
and kinda manage

their schedule
so that they're, you know,

they're meeting the deliverables
that are needed for the client.

When it comes
to film composition,

I don't negotiate the contract,

my agent will negotiate the contract.

But from there,
I'm negotiating the arrangements

with the musicians that I will hire.

Sometimes I'll hire a contractor
to hire musicians,

but, oftentimes I'm the one
hiring musicians individually.

The collaboration process is great,
you know,

you want to form a really good
friendship with the director

and be able to get yourself
on the same page as them

creatively and aesthetically.

At which point,
you're just bouncing ideas

off of each other.

I'll have a director come here
and we'll work together,

sometimes, in tandem.

It's, it's fun, you know?

Specifically with film.

And then also
with producing artists, as well.

Obviously with advertising,

the role is more just,

meet whatever expectations they have

for whatever kind of style
they're trying

to envision for their product.

When I produce other artists,

usually an artist comes over

and shares some work that they have.

Usually it's kind of in its
nascent form

and it'll just be them on guitar,
or them on piano.

At which point we'll discuss kind of

production influences
that they may have,

maybe reference bands
or records that they have in mind,

and then
I will begin the process of

producing the work.

Which is kind of removing it from,
from that nascent stage

and providing all the different
production elements

and arrangement elements
that we would see fit.

Well, let's just say,
somebody comes to me with

a song that
they've written on a guitar,

you know,
maybe they want to produce the song

in kind of a more straight forward,

folk singer/song writer direction.

Then maybe I could suggest
that we bring in a pedal steel,

maybe a string quartet,

maybe have some piano,

maybe use an upright base.

So I'll arrange it that,
in that respect.

And then we'll discuss
whether or not we want the music

to kind of have a more vintage feel.

Have it played naturally,

in a normal acoustic setting,
or do we,

are we thinking more strange
or interesting audial space

through production techniques.

Like, reverb or um,

different kinds of distortion,

or you know,

play with these different kind of
tools that may be out there.

I think to be a composer today,
you have to be able to

do a bunch of different things.

And excel at a bunch
of different skills,

both in terms of how well you write,

and how well you produce music.

And how you manage your own business,

and how you manage your own finances
and deal with other people.

So, I think what makes
somebody successful,

in music specifically,

is that, is that

understanding of managing

one’s creative interests
and what they need to achieve,

and want to achieve creatively,

and how they're going
to be able to execute it

from a business standpoint.

My name is Bryan Senti.
BRYAN, 34
COMPOSER AND BUSINESS OWNER, HOOK AND LINE

I am 34 years old.

My job title is composer
and small business owner.

And my salary is complicated,
it fluctuates.

But last year it was $250,000.

My small business
is called Hook and Line,

and it's a small
music production company

that services
the advertising industry.

There I write music for advertising

and hire other composers
to write music for advertising.

Um, in addition to that,
I have a film agent.

My film agent tries
and goes around to procure work

and then I also go around
to procure work

and then I score, I score films.

Outside of that,
I also produce artists.

I also perform with other artists,

and I would say that's pretty much
what I do for a living.

I'll get a phone call
from an advertiser

or an agency,

and they'll ask me to write
a certain kind of music

for a client of theirs.

At which point, I'll negotiate terms,

negotiate a contract with them.

If I can't do it entirely on my own,

I'll hire other composers
and kinda manage

their schedule
so that they're, you know,

they're meeting the deliverables
that are needed for the client.

When it comes
to film composition,

I don't negotiate the contract,

my agent will negotiate the contract.

But from there,
I'm negotiating the arrangements

with the musicians that I will hire.

Sometimes I'll hire a contractor
to hire musicians,

but, oftentimes I'm the one
hiring musicians individually.

The collaboration process is great,
you know,

you want to form a really good
friendship with the director

and be able to get yourself
on the same page as them

creatively and aesthetically.

At which point,
you're just bouncing ideas

off of each other.

I'll have a director come here
and we'll work together,

sometimes, in tandem.

It's, it's fun, you know?

Specifically with film.

And then also
with producing artists, as well.

Obviously with advertising,

the role is more just,

meet whatever expectations they have

for whatever kind of style
they're trying

to envision for their product.

When I produce other artists,

usually an artist comes over

and shares some work that they have.

Usually it's kind of in its
nascent form

and it'll just be them on guitar,
or them on piano.

At which point we'll discuss kind of

production influences
that they may have,

maybe reference bands
or records that they have in mind,

and then
I will begin the process of

producing the work.

Which is kind of removing it from,
from that nascent stage

and providing all the different
production elements

and arrangement elements
that we would see fit.

Well, let's just say,
somebody comes to me with

a song that
they've written on a guitar,

you know,
maybe they want to produce the song

in kind of a more straight forward,

folk singer/song writer direction.

Then maybe I could suggest
that we bring in a pedal steel,

maybe a string quartet,

maybe have some piano,

maybe use an upright base.

So I'll arrange it that,
in that respect.

And then we'll discuss
whether or not we want the music

to kind of have a more vintage feel.

Have it played naturally,

in a normal acoustic setting,
or do we,

are we thinking more strange
or interesting audial space

through production techniques.

Like, reverb or um,

different kinds of distortion,

or you know,

play with these different kind of
tools that may be out there.

I think to be a composer today,
you have to be able to

do a bunch of different things.

And excel at a bunch
of different skills,

both in terms of how well you write,

and how well you produce music.

And how you manage your own business,

and how you manage your own finances
and deal with other people.

So, I think what makes
somebody successful,

in music specifically,

is that, is that

understanding of managing

one’s creative interests
and what they need to achieve,

and want to achieve creatively,

and how they're going
to be able to execute it

from a business standpoint.