Author: Contributor

How to Find Work Online as a New VG Composer

Contributor: Chris Lines (http://www.gamecomposeradvantage.com/) shares his advice on becoming a successful video game composer. This is a short version of a longer series of articles from Chris’s site to help game composers. You can check out the longer in-depth versions here.

Many composers have either studied music formally for a long time or are self-taught to a pretty good level, and yet they haven’t actually worked on any video games at all, let alone been paid for one.

FGI was in a similar position until a few years ago… I’d always written music since I was fifteen, been in bands, had my own studio set up for years. But apart from a small amount of production music, and the odd student film, I had never really achieved that much. I decided something had to change…

I noticed that there were plenty of game composer websites talking about VSTs and DAWs but none on the actual hard work of freelancing. So I invested thousands of pounds in the best freelancing courses and books I could, and learned about positioning, pitching, selling and running a freelance business in general. What I learned wasn’t specifically tailored for musicians – most of my fellow students in fact were designers, photographers, web developers or other freelancers, but I found universal lessons that could be applied to music too.

What Most Composer Do Wrong

It’s all too common to see posts on game developer forums where composers are offering their services – and often for free. I have never done this. If a composer does get an answer, they’ll generally be asked to write for free, or for ‘exposure’. More likely than not they just won’t get a reply. When they don’t get inundated with offers to write music they then get disappointed.  “Why on earth not?”, I hear them cry, “I’m offering to write for free! What could be better than that, right?”

Most composers don’t see things from a developer’s perspective though. Try it for a moment – why would they trust this person who posted on a forum offering to work for free? Is this the way a professional composer would act?

There Is Another Way

What I quickly learned from my studies is that rather than posting adverts on forums and waiting for the phone to call, I came to appreciate the power of the hustle. By spending time upfront researching the most suitable developers, picking the games I really wanted to work on, and only then contacting the developers directly, things seemed a lot more hopeful.

Now I rather glossed over the part where I mentioned research – but this is essential and is where most of the effort should go. There’s no point pitching just anyone who is making a game. You need to choose carefully – take your time. The best places to look are game developer forums where devs are posting about what they are working on, but there are also sites like Kickstarter. Here’s a link to Quora with some suggestions of game developer sites.

And once you have found a game you like the look of you need to find the developer’s email address. Sure you could contact them via the forum, but I think email is best. You might have to do some digging and Googling to get an e-mail address, but again it’s worth it. Once you have an e-mail address you can then quite honestly tell them who you are, what you do and genuinely offer to help. It’s not magic – just maybe a bit braver than the average composer, and that’s the point. You don’t want to be the same as everyone else.

Get Used to Hustling

It has to be said, 9 times out of 10 a cold pitch doesn’t work. Game devs either already have a composer or they have settled on an alternative approach to the music. Or they just weren’t a good fit in the first place and just don’t reply. Don’t worry! Keep trying and occasionally… just occasionally… it does work.

Now it has to be said that cold pitching (even with the right research) is a numbers game. You’ll send out dozens and dozens of e-mails before you get any interest. And even when you do, you might only get a ‘maybe’. It’s then your job to keep in touch, keep pitching, making contacts and eventually something good will happen.

The point of this article is to show one method of finding work online. There are others, and I
should make the point that real life meet-ups, conferences and networking are just as important – they just aren’t the focus of this article.

What If You Aren’t Ready?

I’ve found a lot of composers are put off getting themselves out into the market because they feel they aren’t ready. This could be for a variety of reasons:

  • they don’t have a good enough website or portfolio,
  • they don’t know enough about games in general or interactive music
  • plus many other reasons.

You should at the very least have some kind of portfolio showing off your music, even if this is just a SoundCloud page. Otherwise how on earth will a developer hear what you can do? More than that is obviously nice, such as a smart, clean website with a dedicated portfolio section and maybe a blog, but it’s not needed in the beginning.

As for having expert knowledge of interactive music and middleware? In reality for your first few gigs as a game composer you aren’t going to need to know much of this stuff, if anything. Don’t wait till you are ready… take action now and learn as you go.

#Ludo2016 Conference Review

We are proud to publish the following review as part of our contributor articles series. Feel free to leave comments, and do let us know if you would like to send us articles to share with the wider community!

Contributor: Sebastian Urrea

I came into Ludo 2016 as a newcomer, not knowing quite what to expect. I was coming down from an extraordinary experience visiting London and the surrounding area during the week leading up to the conference, and I was excited to see what it would be like. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t in academia, hadn’t done research, and I didn’t have any papers to present. I just loved video game music. I had studied music, and enjoyed theory and musicology, and had applied it to video game music on my own. I was thrilled when I learned that there were others who were doing similar things in an academic setting. I had been planning a trip that happened to align perfectly to allow me to be in England at the time of the conference. So on a whim I had registered, hoping to see what I could learn and who I could meet.

What I found exceeded my expectations in many ways. First, the papers. The presentations included discussions and examinations of a very diverse body of music, and everyone had a different way of examining their chosen interest. Papers included discussions of classic JRPGs and Nintendo games through old arcade games, indie games, hip hop, horror games, and new virtual reality games. Some papers looked backward, at history and culture, and some looked forward, to innovations in the field and new possibilities for integrating music and games. I learned about music that I had never really listened to (for instance, arcade music of the 70s and 80s), and I learned about new music that I didn’t even know about (Elise Plans and David Plans’ discussion on new developments in music and biofeedback in games makes me excited to see what the future of video game music holds).

At first I was disappointed that the presentations didn’t include more subjects with which I was familiar. But really, that would have been less interesting. I learned a lot more from the really diverse set of presentations than I would have otherwise. The topics discussed had a great balance across different aspects of video game music, and I am certain that anyone in attendance would have found things both familiar and new.

Amongst such diverse music, everyone focused on something different. Discussions ranged from the analytical (James Tate’s examination of the musical style of Jeremy Soule, or Morgan Hale’s analysis of the music of Undertale), to cultural/ethnomusicological (Hyeonjin Park’s discussion of musical representations of deserts across games, or Keith Hennigan’s critique of Irish music in video games), to technical (Blake Troise’s discussion of compositional techniques with NES hardware), and more. It made me really appreciate how diverse and expansive video game music really is, and how much opportunity there is to delve into different topics and explore and discover new things.

The choices of keynotes were excellent. Having someone like Andrew Barnabas in attendance with such a history of work in the industry was thrilling to everyone. It allowed for a bridge between the theoretical and academic to the practical, and was a good learning opportunity for everyone involved. It also gave rise to some great discussions (did you know he was responsible for adding the snippet of singing in “A Whole New World” in the video game version of Aladdin?). Neil Lerner’s talk of Pac-Man and its sounds was a great reminder of the technical aspects of video game music, and how it can be important to consider how they factor in to composition and production.

Spending time with everyone outside of presentations was equally as fun. Many of the attendees were already friends from previous conferences or from shared work. But most importantly, Ludo 2016 provided a friendly, open atmosphere to everyone involved. After all, we were all there because we were critically interested in a pretty geeky and new area of music, and this conference created a unique opportunity for everyone to explore that interest freely and openly. The fact that any of us could immediately go up to someone and express our interests, by saying something like, “Hey, have you played this game?” or “Did you ever listen to the soundtrack from this other game?” made for a really unique and refreshing experience. When presenting, the whole group was engaged in every talk, giving positive feedback and sharing knowledge from their own areas of specialty. And I think everyone who attended the pub trivia quiz night enjoyed being stumped by the questions that were just as diverse as the presentations that were given.

Looking back at the conference, my biggest takeaway is my impression that the field of video game music is really a lot broader than I had realized. I had my own interests that I had honed in on, but seeing so many people studying such a range of topics was inspiring. I left feeling that there is a lot of potential to be explored in studying music from a range of games larger than I had realized, and in ways that I had never even considered. I have a lot of faith in the people who attended the conference and who are dedicating themselves to studying it, each in their own way and with their own perspectives, and it makes me excited to see what the future of Ludomusicology will be as it continues to grow. I look forward to what future Ludo conferences will bring!

GameLark Records Volume 1 Released

Contributor: Allen Brasch, GameLark Records

GameLark Records is a new record label specifically for video games remixes and covers. The first album, GameLark Records Volume 1, features 19 tracks from 19 different artists in the video game remix community. I fell in love with the video game remix community while working on my Youtube channel, GameLark Remixes. As I scoured Youtube looking for new artists and remixes, I was astounded by the sheer diversity of the community.

Eventually, I was inspired by collaborative charity albums such as ‘Multiplayer: A Tribute to Video Games’ and ‘Operation 1-Up’ to create my own label. The goals were simple: find the most diverse group of artists possible, produce top-quality music, and build a platform for the selected artists. Believe it or not, most artists are busy making music and don’t always have the time to promote their work. The album helps to bring attention to all the artists on the label, both big and small, and new fans are created in the process.

This is just the first album from GameLark Records, but I believe the label has a bright future. Every song on this first album stands on its own, but I believe the myriad genres complement each other rather than detract from the album’s cohesion. After all, this album is as diverse as the community that it represents. GameLark Records Volume 1 releases today on Loudr, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon Music and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy it.

OverClocked ReMix Forum for Ludomusicology

Contributor: Ryan Thompson (University of Minnesota)

OCRemix-ForumFirst and foremost, this blog post is announcing the creation of an online forum where we might communicate in a public space about the work that we do, and the things surrounding that work that are of interest to us. I was recently named as the moderator for such a space graciously hosted by the folks at OverClocked ReMix, an “organization dedicated to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form.” While of course we are not specifically dedicated to that end, OCR’s goals certainly intertwine and meet our own goals of developing research and facilitating a greater understanding of audio in digital media.

In addition to having a space for two way discussion of current events in our field, I am hoping to utilize the new forum to maintain active databases of resources, including literature specifically dedicated to game audio (whether written by scholars or industry professionals) and conference announcements, among other things. This helps both researchers focus on research instead of scouring lists of books and articles looking for these types of resources in the first place. Together, we can create a space to discuss game audio in a way that invites people who approach the topic both from academia and from the industry, who have a different set of skills and insights to contribute to discussions surrounding digital media. Game studies of all types are interdisciplinary by definition we can help find those places where music intersects with gameplay, artistic design, computer programming, and countless other aspects of video games. Having a space for people with all of those skill sets to engage in discussion will prove fruitful for everyone involved.

Lastly, as a field, we currently don’t have a well designated space for interested people not specifically connected to academic research to communicate and reach out to us. As OverClocked ReMix has proved over the more than 15 years it has been operating, fan interest in game music continues to be a powerful force both online and at conventions. There are useful ways that researchers can tap into that body of knowledge researchers looking for obscure games or obscure events in game audio could ask questions to a much larger group of game players than their academic peers.

It’s my hope that this new forum helps drive conversations about game audio between all sorts of people who wouldn’t have been in touch as readily before, and that it is just the beginning of how we can partner with organizations larger than ourselves. Come join the conversation about game audio at OverClocked ReMix, and all of us might learn a thing or two from each other in the process.

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