The Risers & Downers of the Trailer Music Industry: A Survey of Composers
Updated: Jul 17
TRAILER MUSIC COMPOSER SURVEY
Thank you for taking the time to read the Trailer Music Composers Survey 2023. I hope you will find it interesting and useful. It is just a basic survey asking the composers various questions relating to income, years in the industry and other interesting statistics.
Before we begin, just a quick disclaimer, the following is based on the results of a small survey compiled from a section of the industry that responded to our poll on Facebook. It is purely to serve as “insight” and a guide to the industry but should not be taken too seriously. There are many factors that can distort the outcome of the survey, and therefore it is for interest purposes only.
Now, let’s begin:
Years In Industry
I asked the composers how many years they have been in the industry. This would give us an overall picture of who is responding. Luckily, we had newbies all the way up to veterans:
Income Versus Years In The Industry
From these graphs, you can easily say that the more time a trailer music composer has been composing in the industry, the more money they generally make. However, it’s also plain to see that it is possible to earn quite a substantial amount of money in the early years. Because the composer is not waiting for royalties to come through, it is possible to land big placements in the first few years, providing your music is of top quality. You will see mostly composers are earning $5 000 to $10 000.
Then between 4 – 7 years, the income becomes much more spread with most of the trailer composers earning in the $50 000 to $75 000 per year range, but there are still composers earning even more at over $200k.
Then for the composers over 7 years, the income is spread but the higher ranges from between $50 000 per annum to over $200 000 per annum.
OTHER JOBS BESIDES TRAILER MUSIC
What was higher than I expected was to see over 26% doing music for trailers exclusively, which is an encouraging statistic. However, the biggest slice of the pie belongs to those that write trailer music but also compose for other mediums (production music, game music etc) at nearly half of all respondents. But it was nice to see that 76% are actually making a full-time income from composing music.
Lastly, 8% also earn money from music but not composing, and 20% have a job completely outside of music.
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE COMPOSER'S INCOME COMES FROM TRAILER MUSIC?
Interestingly, most people said they get half of their income from trailer music, which I thought is a pretty good statistic. However, the range went from 10% all the way up to 100%.
HOW MANY CUES DOES THE AVERAGE TRAILER COMPOSER WRITE PER YEAR?
This was no surprise, given the quality that is needed in the trailer industry, but there are still trailer music composers that are doing over 100 cues a year. 40% of composers write less than 25 cues, 36% write between 26 – 50 cues, and then there is a small number of composers that write anything from 51 – 150 cues.
But this is where it gets interesting….
CUES TO INCOME RATIO
The sweet spot seems to be in the 25 – 50 cues range, as those composers tend to earn more money than those doing 50 – 100 cues and above. But it definitely shows that more is not necessarily going to increase your earnings. It may actually stop you from earning more.
More interesting is the hit rate as well, i.e. what percentage of tracks get placed. It may seem obvious, but the more tracks you write, the worse the hit rate is. Therefore, there is probably something to be said about keeping in the sweet spot.
PLACEMENTS PER YEAR
Now, this is more of a subjective one, as I probably should have been a bit more descriptive as to what is classified as a placement. In my initial thinking, only theatrical trailers and TV spots whereby you received an upfront sync fee should be included. But I suspect some people included placements on TV shows or placements that only really incurred backend royalties. However, I still do think it’s worth presenting the graph as it still tells a story whereby most composers are probably landing between 3 – 7 trailers per year. The uprising of 30+ placements is probably due to the scenario above.
EARNINGS VERSUS PLACEMENTS
This is an interesting one, the blue graph represents the average income from getting the corresponding amount of placements, and the orange graph is the maximum composers have earned landing the corresponding amount of tracks (ie: Somebody landing only 1 trailer is generally landing a smaller trailer.
You will notice the orange graph peaks at about $150 000 for 5 trailers and then goes right down to about $75 000. This is because there was a composer landing only 5 trailers but bringing in around $150 000. These are obviously massive trailers that they land.
WHAT ARE FULL-TIME TRAILER MUSIC COMPOSERS EARNING?
Here is a breakdown of earnings for the trailer music composers that say they are full-time trailer music composers:
19% say they earn less than $25 000, so they probably live in a country with a low cost of living or are supported by partners or parents etc.
13% say they earn between $25 000 - $50 000.
13% say they earn between $50 000 - %100 000
19% say they earn between $100 000 - $200 000
38% say they earn more than $200 000.
HOW MANY CUES DO THE FULL-TIME COMPOSERS DO PER YEAR?
HOW LONG DO THEY SPEND ON EACH CUE?
HOW MANY CUES DO ALL THE COMPOSERS DO ON AVERAGE PER YEAR?
HOW MANY HOURS DO ALL COMPOSERS SPEND ON EACH CUE ON AVERAGE?
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