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Ben Fowler: Music graduate to international composer

It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for music graduate Ben Fowler.

13th December 2017

Since obtaining his first class degree (BA Creative Music Technology) and a distinction at Masters level (Music through Research) in 2013, Ben’s career as a freelance composer has gone from strength to strength – creating music for TV adverts, documentaries and even a feature film, for which he has been nominated for the Best Music Award at the Austrian Film Awards

His clients have included Sony, Capital One, Terra Mater Factual Studios and Red Bull, where he was one of the first composers to contribute to the Sounds of Red Bull music library to be used on a variety of media.

We took the opportunity to interview Ben when he returned to the University to speak with some students on his former programme and share his experiences in the industry.

  • Congratulations on your career successes so far. Tell us a bit about your journey to date.

I was plunged into this career quickly after University; in fact, I started working for Red Bull while still studying my Masters. I wanted to find a career that incorporated my passion into my work. I had initially contacted a whole list of game design studios to see if they needed a composer and had not received a single positive response. But I wasn’t ready to give up.

Instead, I came across competition sites, where composers work on pitches, videos or creating for already established artists. I entered and won a couple, getting positive feedback. One competition was for Red Bull. I composed a few tracks and out of the five winners, two were mine!

Unfortunately, the project never aired, but because of it, Red Bull contacted me again regarding their music library. I contacted one of my former lecturers, Dr Rowan Oliver, who looked over the offer with me and encouraged me to go for it. And I did!

This has put me at the forefront of what they are doing and enabled me to go for other opportunities, including scoring for the feature film MindGamers. The director wanted to work with a new composer, so I sent him some of my work and won the opportunity. My Masters was in Electronic Music Composition and Sonic Arts, which really suited the style of film.

It was such a great experience and made me realise what I can achieve.

  • What is the best part of your ‘job’?

I have the freedom to express my creativity and make a living out of what I love doing. I work for myself and make music – it is all I want to do. I feel very lucky to be doing this.

It can be difficult at times when you come across projects where it isn’t something you are used to or comfortable with. I approach it by trying to find something to learn from and use in future projects

  • How did your degree equip you for your current career?

When I came to university, I was not sure of what aspects of music I wanted to pursue. There were so many options and the modules were so varied, especially in the first year, you a got a taster of all the different routes you could take for your career.

My focus was film and TV composition. The lecturers were great at offering guidance, like needing to write music quick enough to fit film schedules – advice which has stood me in good stead. 

  • Why did you come back here to speak with our students?

I felt it was important to show people that this career is a real option. The music industry can seem difficult and overwhelming from the outside, so I wanted to share my experiences and say that your course is not just about the three years you are here. It is about using those skills in the real world.

When I was young, I though composing for film was something that would never happen, for people who were at a crazily unattainable level. Now it’s my reality. It would have been good to realise earlier that this was a possibility.

It was also really special to hear my music in the new facilities of Middleton Hall – when you’ve just heard it through headphones and speakers, having it played on cinema quality equipment is amazing.

  • Any advice for our students and graduates?

If you are hoping to break into the music industry, you need to be resilient, as there might be a lot of rejection. There might be times when you just want to get your music out there and it is not working – keep at it, keep going and keep trying. If you have exhausted all possibilities on one route, start looking at other options and genres.

It’s also important to be a multitasker – today’s modern composer is more about just sitting down and writing music, it’s important to know how to produce, mix, master it. List is quite long, but it becomes natural when you have been in the industry longer. Initially you also need to be an agent, accountant, and social media expert – not necessarily things that will come naturally!

Finally, take every opportunity you can (within reason!). My entering a competition led to composing for a film

To view Ben’s work, visit his website www.benfowlermusic.net