As part of my practice as a composer I work alongside young musicians frequently. Many students inform me that they want to become composers, but what is it to be a composer in today’s world and what do they think of when they use the word ‘composer’? Do we decide ‘I am a composer’ when we first perform our own music in a concert, gig or festival, is it when get our first paid commission or our first royalty? Or is it when we decide to create our own sounds?

Composing as a profession is diverse, exciting, messy, challenging, social, varied… we don’t fit nicely into neat little boxes and we shouldn’t have to. This factor makes it difficult for organisations to support the diversity of needs composers may have. There is no right or wrong way to carve out a profession as a composer, only one that works for you.

A survey recently launched by the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) – who support composers from all stages of the career – looks at a range of topics that might impact on composers and music creators at stages of their careers. Issues in the survey include how the BBC can encourage the creation of new music and engage audiences, indications on how composers feel about support and royalties via PRS for music. The final aspect of the survey asks how the ISM may offer more guidance and useful information for composers.

Surveys like this by the ISM are important in order to assess what issues affect composers in an ever-changing musical, economic, cultural landscape. The results allow organisations be aware of current concerns and guide their time and efforts effectively. As a composer I would also be interested to see what results and themes may emerge from the survey. In particular the question asking if composers feel they receive the correct amount of royalties via PRS for music would be interesting to highlight and discuss.

For the survey to be of use having a wide range of composers from all disciplines and backgrounds is vital. If you have any ideas for how your work can be supported I would encourage you to take the survey.

Kirsty Devaney
Composer, Workshop Leader, Researcher