With the rise in media consumption, a position like music director has become more sought-for than ever. But what exactly entails having the job in various contexts? Let’s find out.
There are many kinds of jobs and roles you could get in the entertainment industry. And music and sound are two of the most important and lasting career fields you could choose. Of course, finding a job in any field isn’t easy. However, with the correct information, you can know how best to get started.
Among such careers, one is called a Music Director. In this article, I will cover what a music director is, the multiple positions the term describes, and how you could get started securing the job. I must mention that this article is by no means a complete guide. Instead, it will provide you the basic information of each position so that you can find more about it using the better-known term.
What Is A Music Director?
The term music director is used to describe a person who oversees the music of production, performance, or organization. It could range from the conductor in an orchestra or a stage manager in performance to the composer or music supervisor in film or TV shows. The term’s meaning changes depending on context and territory.
For example, in India, you’ll often see a music director composing the score and the songs in a musical film, most of India’s contemporary films. Similarly, in the rest of the world, you’ll often hear the term describing an orchestra’s conductor, who also takes the role of a recruiter, marketer, and relations manager.
In the following headings, we will learn about the various positions described as a music director. And I will also write about how best to approach each position and become a music director. Let’s get right into it!
What Is A Broadcast Music Director?
You’ll find a broadcast music director on TV channels and radio stations. They represent the station when communicating with record labels, making airplay decisions, auditioning new music/artists, etc. Often, they also act as the voice of the audio crew in a board meeting.
However, suppose you take all the subtle responsibilities of a broadcast music director away. In that case, their main job becomes to ensure that a piece of music is available for a radio/TV to air. So, they also handle the legal part of licensing music, much like a music supervisor in a production.
As with most positions in the entertainment industry, a broadcast music director must have experience and networks in the broadcast industry. You can have both by getting started with a low-level job like DJ, assistant music director, etc., in a radio station.
Other than the business side, you also need a passion for the music itself. Furthermore, some channels are highly genre-specific, whereas others go with what’s trendy. You need to either adapt accordingly or find a station that fits your preference.
As for academic qualifications, most experienced workers do not find anything more than a general college degree necessary to have the position. Even so, proficiency with computers is essential.
What Is A Musical Director For Touring Artists?
A musical director (MD) supervises the music arrangements and staff members of a touring artist. They oversee the reproduction of the studio recording live on stage or television so that the artists can focus on their performances. Sometimes, this work might even include playing pre-recorded audio clips.
Experience is the most important qualification in becoming a musical director for artists. You need to be confident in ensuring a show goes smoothly. The role can include recruiting sound technicians, audio engineers, and players necessary for the performance. Furthermore, it might require you to negotiate with vendors, city officials, site staff, stage managers, etc. Sometimes, you might even be dubbed the production manager, who handles the lighting and staging alongside the audio.
What Is A Music Supervisor?
A music supervisor is a person who is responsible for the musical aspects of visual media such as film or TV series. They are often tasked to be the communicator between a director and the music composer or the legal mediator between the director and stock music companies.
This position is also called a music director in most countries. A person in this position generally has vast expertise and knowledge in music, licensing, and negotiating. They are the ones who recruit and secure music artists. Similarly, their role also includes gathering a list of credits, fund management, royalty collection, and so on. They oversee the soundtrack production based on the vision of the project’s director/producers.
There is no set academic path to become a music supervisor. A degree like Bachelor in Fine Arts in music or a business degree is adequate to get you started. Instead, expertise in the legal practices of music licensing and a broad range of music styles/artists is much more critical. Contrary to popular belief, detailed knowledge in composition/producing music isn’t nearly as necessary.
There is no universal list of qualifications for this position. However, a large number of connections and the ability to manage money as well as creativity are must-haves. Since the film industry primarily runs on a network of friends and associates, you’ll likely only find the job from the producers or directors you are acquainted with.
What Is A Film Score Composer?
A film score composer writes synced, original music for motion pictures like films, TV shows, trailers, and commercials. They compose according to the vision of the director or producer(s) of a project, making sure that the music enhances or adds emotional impact to each scene.
In the Indian film industry, a film score composer is often described as the music director. They produce the songs of a musical and its background score in collaboration with the director/producer.
A successful film score composer has an in-depth knowledge of music and music genres. Since most film scores are based on western classical music, knowing how composition and orchestration work is also essential. While, in the past, composers often relied on orchestrators to orchestrate their music, modern composers are forced to write, orchestrate, record, mix, and master music using sampled instruments. The better your production skills, the more chance you have of getting recognized and accepted.
Furthermore, having a network of directors and producers is as important as learning to make music. The film industry is over-saturated with musicians (and every kind of creative artist, frankly). So, word-of-mouth is almost always how you’ll find more work. Academic qualifications like a Bachelor’s degree in music can be helpful for you to learn music, but it’s not necessary.
Another vital skill to have is knowing the language of the film industry. You cannot expect a director/producer to speak in musical terms. Instead, you’ll have to learn the guesswork of knowing what they require you to do. Often, their instructions can be extremely vague or even misleading. However, the more you work with a director, the more you understand their ideas and vision, hence why a director often works with one composer instead of switching every project.
What Is An Orchestra Conductor?
A conductor is the traffic officer of an orchestra. In simple terms, they interpret the written score and control how fast and loud the performers play using hand gestures. However, their role also includes ensuring appropriate entries from each ensemble and shaping musical phrases.
For example, if a conductor reads “accel.,” which means play gradually faster, it is up to the conductor to decide how fast. They decide based on the piece’s feel and style. Hence, each conductor has a different “voice” that lends character to the entire orchestra.
Furthermore, as a conductor, you might also be responsible for personnel decisions, fundraising, and becoming the public face of the orchestra. Another duty is to make sure the music performers are well-rehearsed and familiar with the piece to be performed. Such responsibilities make the term music director fitting for an orchestra conductor.
Note: This position is also called Generalmusikdirektor (GMD) in Germany and Austria.
Having advanced academic knowledge in music is an important factor in becoming a conductor. And that too in a reputable music school, as it helps you secure the job. Furthermore, since conductors are responsible for interpreting the entire score instead of an instrument part, attending workshops and practicing can be essential too. Unfortunately, finding a vacancy for a conductor is extremely difficult, so you’ll likely start as a music teacher or even a performer. However, having such experience makes you more likely to secure the position.
People often use the term “music director” to describe a lot of positions. Hence, I’ve written this article to clarify what each major position represented by the term means. From here, you can find more information using the position’s unique term (or related term) to find more information.
Each of the positions in this article relies heavily on knowing the right people and keeping such relations. Social media is a fantastic way to get in touch with people who aren’t nearby. However, if you find festivals or events where people of your intended industry will be attending, endeavor to join.
For the positions where your creativity is the most crucial skill, try your best to have a presence on social media and demonstrate your skill online. One right person noticing your skill is all that it takes to tip the balance in your favor.
I hope this article has been helpful and that you have learned a thing or two from it. All the best!
K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.