This is the first in our series of interviews with successful media composers – that is to say composers who make a living out writing music for stage or screen.  This time round I was talking to Tom Linden who recently wrote all the music for the rebranding of the UK’s Channel 5′s news and has worked with artists such as Basement Jaxx, reggae legends the Twinkle Brothers as well as exciting up and coming artists such as British electropop group Frankmusik, asian R&B Djinn and latin American artist Luis Lema.

His compositions  have been used on TV Series such as Top Gear and Green Wing, documentaries like Northern Skies and Animal Planets, as idents for Desperate Housewives, MTV Cribs and on TV commercials for Baileys, Orange, Visa, Amnesty International & Firetrap. His music features regularly on BBC, Channel 4, ABC, TV3, MTV, Channel 5,  ITV, Discovery Channel & Sky.

What’s the best way to understand a brief before you start a job? ”Generally I read between the lines – clients do not always say what they mean! For example something uplifting for the client may not be the same as it is for you.  Also it’s good to ask what stage are they at in the production – beginning , middle or end – it helps you work out how stressed for time they are and how soon you need to get things done.  Ask as many questions as you can – the closer you can get to the director or producer the better”

Tom also said that he generally asks how many people are pitching on the job, as he tends to avoid doing pitches if they are giving the brief to tens of composers.  It shows great indecision on their part and often ends in you feeling that you are not being respected.

What’s the first thing you do before composing for a pitch?.  Tom told us that generally melodies start coming into his head quite quickly. “I ask them what they want to achieve emotionally, and then see if they supply any musical references – it’s always best to listen to what the client offers, unless its three tracks in completely different styles!  Further to that he told me that its good to allocate the amount of time you think it will take you in your head – and if it goes over that don’t be afraid to mention it to the client ” a low paid job is not worth killing yourself over! Try and stick with clients who treat you well as much as possible.

What’s the most common type of comment you get from a client? – “That they have not made any decision yet!!  The trick is not to get paranoid – in many cases they want you to compose it very quickly and then they take a long time to give feedback

Words of advice for upcoming composers :  ”Be as passionate as possible when writing and recording every track you do as they will always be useful later even if you don’t win the job you are putting it up for.  A good track will always find a home eventually, so try not to get het up at any stage!