Composer Showreel – part 1

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Your showreel can make or break your business. Maybe that’s an overstatement – but this one video can seriously help you win your next project. 

A showreel is a short video that demonstrates you as a composer. Essentially your “musical CV”, it typically shows a variety of tracks all in one video – making it easy for a potential client to find out all about your music. 

This industry is all about relationships, so there’s some debate as to whether or not a showreel is essential. Many composers are successful with purely music-only demos and not having a showreel at all. However, many filmmakers love them because they’re a very easy and concise way to discover a composer’s work. They’re also great to include on your website and to send to a director/producer when pitching for a project. Either way, showreels are still something that can get you work, so creating them is definitely a skillset you need to have. 

We’ve asked the Film Scoring Tips community to give us their favourite tips to help make your showreel as good as possible. This is certainly not a comprehensive guide to creating a showreel, but if you’re working on your first showreel or trying to improve an existing one, we think these are all useful tips to help you get started. Best of luck on your showreel – it might even win you that next gig!  

Top tips for your music showreel

Show your best work

It goes without saying. Your showreel needs to be as good as possible. That doesn’t mean you have to include everything though! Be selective and be willing to trim, edit or even rework each track to ensure it’s the best it can be.

But the music is only 50% of your showreel. Filmmakers are visual creatures and beautiful cinematography will go a long way to help keep your audience engaged. Plus, showing previous projects which had high production values can help demonstrate your eligibility when pitching for high-value productions. If you can, include as many examples as possible of the types of project you want to be working on. 

Create a unique showreel for each project

Be specific. Many composers create an annual showreel of their favourite releases that year. If you’re pitching for a project though, it’s usually best to be especially selective of what music you include. Filmmakers want to see music that’s relevant to their project. 

If you only present heavy metal tracks and adrenaline-fueled action cues, you’re unlikely to be hired for the next Downton Abbey. And do your research. Watch the filmmaker’s earlier work – what music choices did they made? That will help inform you of their musical tastes. Rather than having one generic showreel, consider making one for each project you pitch for.

A relevant and tailored showreel is much more impressive than a generic one. It’ll show them just how much you want the job, too.

Get the right length

60 seconds? Five minutes? There’s no industry-standard for the length of a showreel. Our survey revealed durations vary all the way from 60 seconds to 10 minutes. There are no rules or universal standard. But be realistic. The person watching might have 20 other showreels to watch, and you can’t expect them to listen to 200 minutes of music. The longer your showreel, the less likely they are to watch it all the way to the end. 

A good rule of thumb seems to be 2-4 minutes. That’s still context-dependent, though. You might get away with a longer video if it’s for someone who’s already expressed interest in you.

Start with your best piece and end with your second-best piece

I love this tip sent in from one of our survey respondents. Start with your best piece to capture your audience’s attention and impress them from the beginning. Then finish with another showstopper, to ensure they remember you.

Coming up next

Stay tuned for part 2 to discover what you can learn from the cinema, how to put a “call to action” in your showreel, and what software is ideal for your showreel editing needs!

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Robert Drane

Combining marketing and music, Robert Drane is a writer and composer based in North Yorkshire, England.

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