The “Pitch Culture”
Some customers might want you to take part in a so called pitch. This means that you write music for the project or present ideas while one or more other composer(s) do the same and eventually the composer gets picked who fulfills the client’s idea of what the music should be in the best way.
While this is highly comofrtable for the client to check their composer under the “actual working conditions” before they hire him/her, it is a very annoying procedure for the composers. But unfortunately it is very common (especially in the advertising business) and a widespread practice in the entire creative work for hire field. Decent customers/companies usually pay a pitch fee for every composer even when he/she doesn’t get picked for the job. However, unfortunately, many companies/customers still think that pitches should be for free which from any creative’s standpoint is highly unethical.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are asked to pitch for free, if you are serious about your business, taking part in this pitch should generally be a no-go. This is especially true if the pitch asks for a lot of work (e.g. scoring whole sequences of a movie etc.). But of course, the decision should always be made individually. If you have the chance to pitch on a huge project with chances of winning the pitch, it might actually be worth your while.
Also, the way you are being approached can make a huge difference. If it feels like your work is not being valued at all and the potential client seems to be exploiting the strong competition in the media composer field, it might be a clearer decision to refuse to participate in the pitch than a client who actually respects the work of the creatives who are pitching for him/her.
However, of course, there are still enough composers who might be too desperate or want this project so badly to actually still take part in this sort of pitch.
The bad thing is that as long as composers are willing to participate in pitches for free this culture of “pitching for free” will get worse.