What does a Composer do?

A theatre Composer writes original music to help tell a story or convey atmosphere and emotions. They may write music for voices and instruments to perform, or it may involve electronic and digital tools.

For traditional plays, a Composer would write the music that underscores the production. In musical theatre, this would include writing songs, and Composers may collaborate with a Lyricist and a Book Writer.

As well theatre, Composers can write for film, television, video games, radio, advertising, recording artists and more.


What are the main responsibilities of a Composer in theatre?

  • Creating and arranging the score
  • Meeting with Directors/Producers to understand requirements of the production
  • Studying the script to get a strong sense of the show
  • Working with the Sound Designer to ensure that the music compliments additional audio
  • Working closely with Singers, Musicians and the Musical Director
  • Making any necessary revisions to the score once the production is in rehearsals


What qualifications do I need to be a Composer?

Some Composers can write music by ear, but usually you will need a very strong understanding of music theory and techniques.

Qualifications and subjects that may be useful include:

  • Music theory
  • Instrument and/or voice exams
  • Studying music or a music-related course at degree level
  • Music composition
  • Songwriting
  • Orchestration


Search our training opportunities in music here.


What skills do I need to be a Composer?

  • Reading and writing music
  • Music composition and songwriting
  • An understanding of different instruments (it can be helpful to be able to play a range of instruments)
  • Arranging/orchestrating
  • Ability to work independently and collaboratively
  • Networking and people skills


What does a career as a Composer look like?

There are many different ways to begin a career as a Composer, but a typical path can be to study music and then take up a mentorship or residency with an established Composer.

Some Composers’ work begins as their own project, for example writing a musical, but often you would be working on a commission from a theatre company or Producer.

Composers most often work on freelance contracts, but it is possible to find residencies. Some Composers will also work part-time as Music Teachers and/or offer arrangement, orchestration and transcription services.

Read our blog 'How to become a freelancer in theatre' here.


How much can I earn as a Composer?

Salaries and fees can vary a lot depending on the type of production, and the individual’s skill level and experience. Composers may be paid per minute of completed music. The average salary for a Composer is around £40,000 per year, across the different industries.


Search for Composer roles on The Stage Jobs here




Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

Published: 23 March 2022