Guest Post: Five Hard Truths

Founded in 2005, The Hit House has built an enviable track record providing custom music for movie trailers, TV commercials, videogame marketing efforts and other projects in the competitive Los Angeles market. The company’s executive producer/co-founder, Sally House, shares her thoughts here on what it takes to work at that level.
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Founded in 2005, The Hit House has built a track record providing custom music for movie trailers, TV commercials, videogame marketing efforts and other projects in the competitive Los Angeles market. The company’s executive producer/co-founder, Sally House, shares her thoughts here on what it takes to work at that level.

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At The Hit House, we are delighted to have built up a team of sound designers and composers that have created music for national ad campaigns, televisions shows, movie trailers and production libraries. In the spirit of sharing some of our industry insights with others, here below are five of the hardest truths we’ve discovered that we believe musicians who aspire to work in sound design and scoring really should hear:

1. “You might not be good enough”
When it comes to doing business in the creative arts, talent alone isn’t the only ingredient you need for success. Just because someone can draw well, doesn’t mean they can become a famous fine artist. You’re not necessarily a great composer, just because you’re a great guitarist. You need more than talent. You also need a relentless amount of drive and ambition. Plus professional level production skills and a deep understanding of the process are also basic hardcore requirements.

2. “You’ve got to have a thick skin”

If you want to do sound design and scoring for a living, you can’t be precious about your creative work. If you can’t handle insight, notes, and sometimes, flat out criticism, keep music as a hobby. The subjective nature of music will sometimes force artists to completely scrap hard fought compositions in the name of meeting the needs of their clients. Sometimes you can work all day on an assignment and your clients will tell you ‘That’s not what we’re looking for.’ That’s a hard reality for a composer to hear, however it is an unfortunate reality of the intersection between art and business. If you’re being paid for your music, the clients’ demands must be factored into your creativity.

3. “You’re one piece of a puzzle - one part of a team”

If you want to succeed in making music for others, you must let go of your ego. This work isn’t about you—it’s about a product, a brand, a sales pitch. Be inspired to be part of a team, not a loose cannon or a prima donna. Remember that you are writing purpose driven music—so you need to pay attention to what your clients are trying to get their target audience viewers to focus on. Your composition might be brilliant, but no one will be happy if it doesn’t help convey your client’s intended message. Your music must work to elicit the intended emotional response in the viewer or the person who ends up on the other end of the receiving message.

4. “You can’t give it away for free”

Music has been commoditized terribly, to the point where clients don’t expect to pay for its real value anymore. There are tricky negotiations that all creatives face at one point or another in their careers if they want to make money from their art. Some artists will take corporate gigs on spec for no pay or release their work free online in the hopes of getting noticed, but I should emphasize that this can set a dangerous precedent. If you position yourself as someone who’s attitude is ‘Well, I’ve got to give this away for free, or else I’ll never get attention,’ suddenly you’re The Free Guy, who is creating brilliant work without the appropriate compensation. A very hard lesson to learn is how to say no and not selling your creative talents short.

5. “You can’t lose sight of the bigger picture”

In an industry that can be notorious jaded, it is extremely important to hold onto Your optimism and appreciation. You should think to yourself how lucky you are that you’re creating music for a living. You’re doing what you love, and you’re living a dream that countless others might never have the opportunity or the courage to achieve for themselves. Embrace your successes and never give in to failure or pessimism.

Sally House is the Co-Founder & Executive Producer with The Hit House, a premier, multi-award winning, custom music and sound design company in Los Angeles. Recent work from The Hit House has also been used in national and global television campaigns for clients such as Netflix, Google, Playstation, Lexus, Jell-O, Porsche, HBO, Honda, and The Ritz Carlton; in motion picture campaigns for the very recent films Creed and Pan, upcoming films Jungle Book 2016 and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip, and for the recent films Minions, Spy, Ted 2, Pixels, Ricki and the Flash, Godzilla, Big Hero 6, Book of Life, Frozen, Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, among others.