Careers in Music Series #3: Richard Canavan

Note: This article refers to Leeds College of Music (LCoM), the former name of Leeds Conservatoire

By Kath Hartley


Ahead of the Production Music Awards on Friday 24 November 2017, we caught up with the Founder and Organiser - composer and BA Music Production alumnus (2007) Richard Canavan to discover more about his successful career to date.

Richard Canavan

The Production Music Awards were born out of a need to recognise those somewhat ‘behind the scenes’ within the industry - the many talented individuals writing, recording, syncing and commissioning. Inaugurated in 2013 and originally coined as the Library Music Awards, this year’s celebration is set to be the biggest yet.

Ahead of the ceremony on Friday 24 November 2017, We caught up with the Founder and Organiser - composer and BA Music Production alumnus (2007) Richard Canavan to discover more about the Production Music Awards and his successful career to date.

How did studying Music Production at LCoM prepare you for working as a composer for film and TV?

The tutors on the Music Production course really helped give the students a realistic picture of the realities of getting work in production or as an engineer. They made it clear from the outset that jobs were few and far between with studios closing and relatively high end equipment becoming available to the “bedroom producer”. This was massively helpful, and meant that many students were already diversifying their skills before graduating. They encouraged students to explore many different avenues of employment.

The way the course helped me directly with music for film and television in mind, was by equipping me with the skills to produce a piece of music to a high standard.

How has your career developed over the past decade?

After leaving LCoM I made a point to try and score as many short and indie films as possible. Over the years, the teams behind those indie films inevitably become producers of all different types of content, and this has directly contributed to the type of work I’ve been involved with. Today, I’m writing a lot of production music, with a sprinkling of film and television here and there.

Do you approach working for film and TV slightly differently?

I don’t think the format dictates the approach - more the content and the direction from the creative. I work differently on different projects, but it would always be to suit the production. 

What has been the highlight of your career since leaving LCoM?

I scored a film called ‘Fast Girls’ in 2012 which had a Leicester Square red carpet premier. That was great fun - a member of the crowd waiting for celebs along the red carpet shouted ‘Who are you?!

How did you identify the need for the Production Music Awards?

The first Production Music Awards was four years ago (then called the Library Music Awards), but development began back in 2012 when I was meeting to discuss the idea with music libraries. The Production Music Industry is a really creative environment, with talented people working both on the music and at the libraries themselves. 

Once I proposed the idea to music libraries, the feedback was broadly positive. Historically there has never been an awards for production music, and this might have something to do with the idea that in the past it used to be ‘background music’ or an insipid muzak type of thing, but I’m not sure that’s true. Perhaps it wasn’t always something that music producers were keen to shout about, but nowadays production music is a different beast. Some of the best composers and music producers in countless fields are producing music for libraries. Perhaps the awards came along at just the right time to start celebrating the talent in the industry.

What was the idea behind Tune Up?

The initial idea behind Tune Up was to involve composers in the awards process and try and sweep them up into the event itself. Tune Up is a day of seminars and presentation by some of the best in the industry. Composers come along to learn more about different aspects of writing / recording, as well as network with other composers.

Since the first Tune Up, the event has really taken off. We now boast a truly world class line up and we’re hosted at the very special BFI Southbank.

How did the partnership with MCPS Production Music begin?

MCPS seemed like a natural fit for the awards. Honestly I can’t remember exactly how we got started, but once we began chatting about our goals and outlook on the industry as a whole it becomes clear that the awards and MCPS were perfect partners.

How do you manage to keep up with your own compositional activity and manage the Production Music Awards?

A lot of the time I don’t! I try to, but it can be difficult as the awards take up a lot of my time. There are some benefits to that though. An enforced break from music can be very helpful, and certainly keeps me excited about coming back. It helps me to view my work with fresh eyes on returning. The awards take around six months of prep, but that’s not all full time. 

What’s coming up next for you? 

The Production Music Awards and Tune Up are very much the only thing I can focus on for now. They both happen on the 24 November and after that who knows!

What advice would you give for other musicians embarking on a career in music for moving image?

I’d suggest saving up and buying the best software instruments you can afford. When it comes to pitching work, you have to work fast and produce very high quality work. I’d also suggest getting on board with indie film makers. There’s no fast-track into the industry. It involves working hard and maintaining relationships for years and years. Be a nice person and try and treat the people you work with like friends rather than clients.

I’d also suggest writing library music. Its great way to begin earning money, and the barriers to entry are lower than say Film or Television. Library music has the added benefit of helping you to build a portfolio in a professional environment, as well as helping you to focus on what you’re good at.


If you’d like to find out more about Richard and his career, visit his website.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @RichCanavan

For the latest updates on the Production Music Awards, in association with MCPS Production Music – click here.

The ceremony takes place this year on Friday 24th November 2017 at The Ballroom, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5BY. Tickets for the event cost £120, including food and a champagne reception from 7pm. Buy tickets here.

To secure your place at ‘Tune-Up’ – a day-long event for media composers to learn from industry professionals, engage with music libraries and experience demonstrations from high quality session musicians – click here.

By Kath Hartley

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