Composing for money?

Composing Music for MoneyShould we do it for the money?

We are artists, and we are composers. Naturally, we have an urgent drive to follow our passion when ever creativity strikes us. It’s what makes us happy, whether we get payed for it or not… right?

The real question is whether money can get in the way with our creativity.

Personally, I don’t think so!

In fact, on the contrary, money can actually greatly stimulate our creativity. This is especially true when we get hired or commissioned to compose for a huge ensemble. That way we get paid for doing what we love, and can be sure that our music will get performed or even recorded by an orchestra that we could otherwise not afford to hire ourselves. How can this possible be bad? Well, it isn’t bad at all!

Let me explain.

Some of my best work was created under a work-for-hire contract, with a tight deadline attached to it, and for good money. Sure, when you get handsomely paid, working is a lot more fun. But the best thing about it is that you can afford to focus on just doing that – composing good music – and drop other things you would otherwise have to do in order to pay the bills.

But artists work best when they are poor, right?

This is the silliest wide-spread opinion about artists of all! No, we don’t have to be poor and suffer in order to create great art, no matter what musical genre we work in. On the contrary, it actually helps us not having to worry too much about money, our health, etc. What we really need is time and the right conditions that help our artistic seeds to grow. For example, exposure.

My personal tips for you when it comes to the money question:

Tip 1

Composing your music for money means that you get paid for doing what you love. Strive for it!

Tip 2

Composing music you don’t like just for money must be avoided. First of all, chances are you are not able to do a good job, and second of all, you risk getting known for music that you don’t like. Stay away from it!

Tip 3

Don’t feel bad about asking for money when people want you to write for them. Don’t think that you have to do everything job for free until you are famous. This day may never come. Also, people will take you more seriously when you attach a price to your work.

Tip 4

Deadlines are actually a good thing.  They force us to be creative on demand without wasting valuable time.  Deadlines usually come with the job; so you better learn to appreciate them.

Tip 5

Don’t be afraid of challenging offers. For example, if someone asks you to write music for a symphonic orchestra don’t turn it down just because you haven’t done anything like it before. Take the job and trust you talent. There is always a first time for everything.

Finding the right balance

When I first started writing music I did it for no other reason than for the love of doing it. Composing is fun and if creativity struck I just had to drop everything else and follow it. There was no past, no future, only the need to compose.

In the past this would really get me into trouble. I was late for school, I composed during chemistry class, I even blew off dates with girls, just because I had to write down my ideas whenever they hit me.

As I got older I learned to temper my urge to compose and manage my life in a way that I balanced my creativity with my responsibilities. After all, we have to make a living doing what we love!


By Thomas Gunther

Thomas Gunther (known in Germany a Thommy Günther) is a jazz pianist and contemporary keyboardist, composer & song writer, arranger & orchestrator, music producer, and educator of contemporary music genre and styles. Originally from Germany, he lives in Chicago IL, USA. He has been an active member of the Chicago music scene for over 20 years, a professor of music at Columbia College Chicago, and creator of,, He is an expert in music notation using Finale (by Makemusic) and produces and records music with Logic Pro x (Apple, inc).

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