My Minimum Viable Studio Setup

My Minimum Viable Studio Setup

To start off as a media composer can be quite difficult. Getting your initial Startup cost and funds together, finding and acquiring clients, building a network of musicians and other composers and of course building your first setup can all be daunting tasks.
To make life a little easier for you, I put together a list of the minimum viable setup, that I used when I first started composing music. Even though that was a very long time ago, the basic principles still apply to build an MVS (Minimum viable setup) today.


My first desk was an IKEA kitchen countertop with height adjustable legs, that were screwed into the bottom of the board. Far away from ideal, but it worked and I did use this particular desk for a couple of years. Considering, that for a while, I actually used an actual door as a desk, the countertop solution was amazing. All a matter of perspective.
Think about your desk as the command station. There you will sit and work most of the time. It should be a desk, that you enjoy and one that is functional.
The main functional implication the desk should have is the right height. Think either of a desk, that you can put a keyboard on top on or, as you can see below, high enough to fit a Master Keyboard including a stand under it.


Maaaaaan. A chair is so important. I wouldn’t go with just any kitchen chair or one from the dinner table. Go and invest in a decent office chair that fits your body. Sit in it in the store, try it out.
My first chair was a cheap but very comfortable and ergonomic office chair from an office liquidation. I like having armrests although I see a lot of colleagues using chairs without them.

Master-Keyboard (and Keyboard-Stand)

My starter keyboard was an Alesis synth, from which I also used the very (at least in my ears now) crappy sounds from time to time. But it had the essential mod wheel and semi-weighted keys; and Midi. So, good enough for starting out. Now I use a Doepfer LMK 2. I like that one very much for playing pianos or strings. For playing any fast percussion stuff though, I use an M-audio keyboard with unweighted keys.
I’d say any keyboard with a Mod-Wheel will do.
For some composers, semi-weighted keys are the thing. I prefer fully weighted keys that feel much more like a real, analog piano.


My first DAW was Cubase Elements (I think it was called that) and I upgraded soon after to Cubase VST 3.5. on PC. Anyway, when I worked at my first job as a composer, the production company used Logic in their studios. So I had to switch and soon was much more versatile in Logic than I ever was in Cubase. Watching over the shoulders of my colleagues and getting good, practical, hands-on training was invaluable.
But, basically, any professional DAW is good and offers all the important features. I use Logic now for over 16 years. And it just works for me.
And as a starting point, the 199 USD investment is totally worth it.

Mac Pro

Yes, I am a Mac user and proud of it. It is just so much more intuitive and the OS is super stable. My first machine actually was a Windows PC. Back then, I didn’t know better 🤓
I had custom custom-built quite a powerful system and worked with it for a couple of years. But with Logic, also the Mac came in my life. First a 17″ MacBook Pro in 2004. Then a Mac G5. Now I have a 2012 Mac Pro. I’d recommend going with a 2012 Mac Pro. Much more affordable than the new generation of Mac Pro’s and you can stack it up modular, step by step, with as many drives and as much RAM as you need.


I started out with a Persons AudioBox USB then a Digidesign M-Box (as a dongle for ProTools) and was quite happy with it. Until I invested big time in a UAD Apollo, their first version of it. The difference in sound quality was astonishing. I will forever be thankful for the switch. This is just to say, invest a bit more in the interface. Don’t buy the cheapest one around, do a bit of research and get one that fits your needs for inputs, outputs and maybe MIDI capabilities.

Monitor Speakers

Your monitors are only as good as you know how to mix on them. When you have a very cheap pair of basic PC loudspeakers, but you know how they sound and translate to the “real world” they are just as good as $5000 midfield monitors (okay I am exaggerating). But you don’t have to start out with a super expensive system, just because you liked the sound in the last big recording studio you went to or one of the mix engineer wizards mixes on them. Get e decent pair of monitor speakers, learn how they sound and apply the learnings on the next mix.

Native Instruments Kontakt

When I started composing music for media there were still Akai S6000s around. And a lot of them. There was no software sampler other than EXS in Logic, and even more important, finding decent sounding orchestral libraries was just not possible. All the good sounding stuff was still sampled by the studios and composers themselves, while or after recording for a project with an orchestra. They just booked one follow up session and recorded samples.
Nowadays things are so much easier and cost-effective. If you are at all interested in cinematic composing today, then there is no way around Kontakt.
All the top-notch libraries and developers use Native Instruments Kontakt as their development platform. So, when you want a decent sounding “in-the-box” orchestra sound, you need Kontakt.
Some of the plugin developers let you use the free Kontakt Player to load their libraries, but most libraries I use are developed for the paid version of Kontakt.


My first libraries were, Atmosphere & Stylus by Spectrasonics, ProjectSAM’s Orchestral Brass and (if I remember correctly) Garritan Personal Orchestra. I am not even sure anymore.
Today obviously the selection is as wide as it can get. There are so many pristine, extraordinary sounding libraries out there, that the right choice is not an easy one. When looking for a library, listen to the examples and watch the tutorials and walkthroughs.


This isn’t by any means a complete comprehensive list of things you might need in your studio. It will serve you well as a starting point when considering becoming a media composer and go further from there.

What does your setup look like now and what changes are you going to make after this post? Just shoot me an email with any questions you have.

What makes a unique composer website

What makes a unique composer website

I kept my marketing and self-promotion efforts to a minimum my whole professional career. Why? Because my most important non-marketing marketing strategy is to be good with people. But if I had to think about one thing as a necessary and rewarding instrument to get people to hire me as a composer, it is my website.
It plays a very important role in my overall business strategy.

Your website is and will be the first thing everybody asks you about when you meet them.
“Where can I find you online” or “What is your website” might be familiar questions.

Taking this into account, it naturally makes sense to actually (1) have a website – but you knew that already, right?  Also (2) having the right content on it and (3) doing it all in the right mindset are points to think about when creating your marketing centerpiece.

In this article, I will guide you through the building blocks of a great composer website, what the content should look and sound like and the proper mindset when building your website and business.

Your website is much more than a couple of cool pictures and a bunch of great tracks on it. I see a website as the best and most affordable way to showcase you and your music and services to your prospective clients.

And I believe because it is so affordable to do these days many composers underestimate and underuse their virtual property.
Sometimes, to a degree, that can be very bad for their business.

So take care of your reputation online. Have not only a website but a website that represents you well and helps attract the right clientele.

Now that we know why we should have a website we go a step further and see what a general structure for a composer website looks like and the suitable content that goes in every section.

There are 4 must-have areas for every composer website.

1. an appealing landing page
2. an about page
3. a newsletter sign up page
4. a portfolio or showcase page

I recommend keeping these main areas as simple as possible, without sub-sub-sub menus or overcomplicated structural subdivisions.

The appealing landing page

A landing page is the first impression your website visitor gets from you and your business. A good comparison would be an in-person business meeting.
You wouldn’t wanna wear a dirty shirt or sitting there without saying anything the whole meeting, right?
Make the first impression count.
Have a sleek design, don’t overload it, but be yourself anyway.
A design doesn’t mean 10 colors and 7 different typefaces.
There are several useful and very affordable ways out there to do this. Squarespace and WordPress (this site is done with it) being the best alternatives as of this writing. I am not going into detail here about how to set both of these up. There is a lot of solid content out there on this particular topic.

The about page

Don’t you want to know who you are talking to? And isn’t the first thing you ask when you meet somebody for the first time: What’s your name? and what do you do for a living? That’s what an about page is all about. Make your introduction while telling your (short) story.

  • Who are you?
  • Where do you come from, professional background
  • What do you do exactly?
  • What makes you different from the next best composer?

These are a couple of suggestions for questions you can ask yourself when writing your own about page. Make this page the most interesting, believable, resonating and memorable page on your website.

The newsletter sign up page

I see so many composers out there, that don’t do that. If you do this right, you are one of the 2% that will succeed online with their marketing efforts.
Why a newsletter, you ask.

Let me explain:
It is very unlikely that your prospective client will come back every day to check what new commercials or image films you composed. Or even a second time at all.
A newsletter is the most affordable and easy way to stay in touch with your clients and those who are going to become.
To do this efficiently, have a sign-up opportunity for your visitors ready and give them a good reason to sign-up.
When they are signing up, they make a statement, that they want to hear from you.

Now you can remind them consistently (not constantly) about what you can do for them, what great projects you did for others and refer to specific offers or outstanding achievements.

The showcase page

Of all the pages on your website, this is the one almost every composer out there has already. Who doesn’t like to show off a little bit once in a while? (I see ya!) But, funny enough, most of them don’t even care what’s on there.
They just drag everything they’ve ever done onto their portfolio page. And their poor client has to endure this mess.


For your showcase pick your 5-10 best-of-the-best pieces.
This can be both videos and music only. Don’t put your latest guitar building tutorial there (unless you build guitars as your main profession, of course).
This is your showcase. Your future clients should be blown away from what they hear here.
And they should be able to determine if your the right fit for them and their next project. As you have found your own voice this should be an easy thing to do.
You will never ever be able to satisfy the needs of every film producer, advertising creative, director or marketing manager out there. Specialize and let shine through what you’re passionate about.
A good idea is also to write at least 2-3 sentences about the project, about what was your role and what was the vision for this particular project and piece. Keep it current and show your latest, best work.

To get the content on your website right is a major step towards your success. To reach real success though, consider the following:

The right mindset

Since you are a media composer, you most probably need some kind of media to compose your music to. Agreed? Okay, great.
That means you are not only an incredibly gifted, creative artist but also a service provider.
What that means is, that your artistry needs to revolve around the needs of your client.
Your client needs to be in the center of your business and – you guessed it – of your website. You bragging about your great studio – let it go.
You need only one picture of you (smiling, friendly and openly) and not several of your gear. Pages and pages listing your gear and software – Nah.
NOBODY CARES – but you. Shocking, I know.
Think and learn (hint: did you set up your newsletter already?) about what clients want from you – and give it to them.
Develop a client-is-king-mindset, if you do not already have it.
If you have your website only to show off yourself, it most probably won’t lead to new clients. You serve your clients and their purpose. And they come to you because of that mindset. If you succeed being humble like that and keep that in mind you will be respected by your clients and they will want your expertise and creative opinion on things.

Putting in the effort right from the start will go a long way for your business and for finding the clients that you are looking for.  Your website is your strategic marketing centerpiece and it’ll work for you when set-up the right way.

How to be better at finding fulfilling work

How to be better at finding fulfilling work

To build a successful and sustainable freelance composer business is one of the visions I have for my life. And because so many people asking me, how I find my work, It seems I am not the only one.
I don’t want work to be the center of my life. My goal is to build a consistent business that supports my life not the other way around.
I have to say, even though I never run out of work, I don’t always work for clients or, if I do, it doesn’t mean I get paid immediately after I finish the project.

What does work mean?

Work is NOT being busy. Business doesn’t mean Busyness.
Sitting in front of a computer is not work necessarily. There are so many other things you can do in front of a computer.

You could just have a wonderful Daydream, where you find yourself on a sunny beach slurping cocktails. Even – my all-time favorite – Facebook-browsing does not mean you are working or doing research. Mostly it is just a waste of time. I deleted Facebook from my phone (again).

Nowadays Busyness is even more destructive to your Business than doing nothing – meaning spending time with your family, friends or in your hobby.
The destructive thing about Busyness is, that you’re likely to burn out, lose interest in what you love to do and being frustrated, that this industry is just not working for you.

You don’t get anything done actually. So you go after what is most promising in the moment. You need a strategy, a vision for your business.

And you will achieve this by doing things that matter.

With this in mind, how do you get more … not busy but work.

# Perfect your craft

I don’t mean “be a perfectionist”. It will never be perfect.
But strive to better yourself every day. Learn something new every day.

If you are a composer like me, try to be better with technology, learn a new plugin in depth. It can also mean take a course in business or for all that matters sign up for my emails. 😉

Also, learning means to fail. Try new stuff.
And if you fail, fix it and adapt. And go again.

Only because you have the hottest, new hardware synth or all the chamber string plugins on this planet you are not good at what you do automagically.

In fact, being very good with less helps you to learn new techniques and explore new ways. Constrain yourself.

# Networking (or becoming friends with people around you)

I tried it all: cold calling, emails, being a Facebook addict (I was set free, yay!). Even driving around the country and giving out showreels and a lot of business cards.

It didn’t really work out for me.

All my work comes from people that I know a long time.
How do you get to know these people?

Meet them –yeahin person.

Go to events, become friendly with a few, be interested in what they do, aaaaaaaaaaand follow up afterward.

Call them. You know each other now. It’s okay. Meet for coffee and so on (romantic, I know). Get to know them and be interested in them so they become interested in you and what you do by being yourself.

That not only helps you develop a stronger and greater network but it also makes you…..TADA: a business person.

# Form your own musical voice and work from there

When I first started to compose music for image films and advertising I didn’t really know what voice I had. How do I sound?

I just did what was asked of me. I got a film with music on it and the task basically was: Create exactly the same music, but different, so the client doesn’t get in any legal trouble.

That not only is a dangerous game to play but it also becomes boring pretty quick – there it is, I said it.

Instead, find a style, genre or type of music you enjoy to make, to produce, to get your hands dirty with. Something that could stand for you and can stay with you for the long haul. So that, if your newly made friends come to you for exactly that.

My experience showed me, even though it might seem scary at first, that if you hone in on your skills, develop a strategy to become a business owner and find your own voice,
your work becomes so much more fulfilling, more lucrative and so much more fun.

In the meantime, Keep. At. It.