Composing music1

by Russel Hlongwane


The dictionary defines the term ‘’composing’’ as; ‘’to create a literary or musical piece’’. However, assuming that you respect the craft of music and appreciate the economic value of such, I think we can redefine the term. Composing is the ‘’first step to generating revenue for various departments in the multi- billion dollar entertainment industry’’.


Remember a series of triggers are affected by your composition (your song). To list a few, your composition (your song) will be recorded, of which will result in CD sales. In promotion of these cd’s you have to perform and given enough budget you will receive video airplay. To remain relevant you will need radio airplay which will result in royalties and if influential enough you are sure to get endorsements. You will note that every of the listed activities have revenue potential, all due to your composition.

Why do you compose?

The multi- award winner and platinum selling DJ Cleo said ‘’I don’t care what people think I only release a song which I know will be a hit. I don’t release it if it won’t be a hit’’. Of course the objective for composing differs from artist to artist. However, assuming yours will be for good music standards and commercial gain then you ought to have the end user in mind, this is only natural since every maker crafts with the consumer in mind. And in this breath, you need to create a product (composition) that is pliable. It has to be radio friendly and if you need it on television then it has to be viewer friendly. Remember that every television channel has guidelines on which to air videos, so it’s in your best interests that you are familiar with these.

Notoriously, a musician composes and performs his own music but if you’ve been in the music for long enough, you would have come across a mere ‘’composer’’. A mere composers job is to create (to sell) a piece of music to be performed by another musician/s. Composers may also write (to sell) music for theatre, TV, radio, film, computer games and worth noting that music for computer games is on the rise. All this composer does is creates music and sells it. You will actually find that many hits of a particular era or season all come from the same composer until he runs flat. Some of your greatest artist might have bought a hit or two from this composer. You may ask, how is this transaction carried out? It must always be bourn in mind that a song has two copyrights.

The richest composer

The worlds highest grossing musical composer is John Williams who made music for blockbuster movies such as Star Wars, Hook, ET, Jaws to name a few. Closer to home, composers have always played the background however this is changing with the introduction of WAWELA awards. The prestigious awards are to launch in June 2013 and were introduced to recognize these integral components of the system by awarding them accordingly. For the budding composer you may want to familiarize yourself with CASA – Composers Association of South Africa ( CASA is an association serving music composers in Southern Africa.

So before you place your finger on your keyboard, or put pen to paper with the objective of composing, be aware of the knock on effect of that composition. The more pliable the composition, the more revenue potential it holds. It goes without asking that a great composition is every musician’s responsibility.



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