by Jeffrey and Todd Brabec

Although the time frame allowed a composer to create the score for a film varies depending on whether the composer is involved in the film from inception (rare), involved in the film commencing with the postproduction period (the norm), or involved with the film as a replacement for another composer whose score has been thrown out by the producer at the last minute, the standard amount of time allotted composers to compose and record a full background score for a major film ranges between 4 and 10 weeks.

Factors affecting the time frame include the amount of music needed as well as the complexity of the instrumentation desired. The actual duration of many contracts, however, can be significantly shorter if the picture is behind schedule, over budget, or being released sooner than the studio originally planned.

Any of these factors compress all postproduction aspects of the film (composing, recording, editing, dubbing, sound effects, etc.) and can force a composer to "spot," score, and record a major motion picture in a 2 to 3-week period. These postproduction "crunches" are particularly true for summer and Christmas releases—the two times of the year when the film studios jockey for position for success in the peak ticket-buying seasons.

Although the "duration of services" clause will vary based on the particular studio or production company contract being used, the following clauses are representative.

Example 1. "Composer shall commence services on September 1, 2004, and complete all of the services as expeditiously as possible in accordance with the postproduction schedule of the movie".

This clause is somewhat open ended, and the writer must stay aware of the film's postproduction schedule in order to write, record, and deliver the master recording on time.

Example 2. "Services are to be commenced on the `spotting date' of the picture and completed within 12 consecutive weeks from that date".

This contract gives the composer a definite period of time in which to write and record the score. For most writers, a definite time frame is preferable to the indefinite period of the first example.

Example 3. "Services to be commenced upon the signing of the composer-production company agreement with delivery to the producer of the complete recorded score, the original manuscripts of the score, and all musical orchestrations and arrangements of the score, by no later than December 31, 2004".

The time allotted to composing and recording the score in this type of contract depends on the date the contract is signed versus the "no later than" delivery date arrangement.

Example 4. "Services to commence as of the August 31, 2004, signing date of this contract, with the original master recordings of the score to be delivered to Producer on or about October 2, 2004".

It is also important to include in these contracts a provision that covers the composer's compensation if the producer requires his or her services beyond the specific number of weeks set forth in the agreement. For example, a contract might specify "$10,000 a week in additional compensation."

© 2004 Jeff Brabec, Todd Brabec

This article is based on information contained in the new, revised paperback edition of the book "Music, Money, And Success: The Insider's Guide To Making Money In The Music Industry" written by Jeffrey Brabec and Todd Brabec (Published by Schirmer Trade Books/Music Sales).