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Composer looking for help.


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#1 TonyAldrich   Members   -  Reputation: 116

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 11:13 AM

I am an indie composer with no professional experience. I would like to write music for video games. So far, all the music I have written has been for fun, but I would like to make a career out of it. I friend of mine showed me this website and told me it would be a great place to start, but I am not sure what to do now. If anyone with experience could help point me in the right direction, it would be most appreciated. Thanks,
 

If anyone would like to listen, my compositions are hosted at www.soundcloud.com/tonyaldrichmusic



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#2 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3630

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 05:25 PM

There are many "getting started" threads and articles, some on this forum and others outside of it. But a really quick, high level scan of some basic concepts for game composers (and audio folks in general) would be:

 

  • Be nice! Be authentic! Be eager!
  • Constantly try to learn more about your craft. Get inspired by pros in and out of the game industry. Do A/B comparisons of your stuff with theirs and see where it's falling short or shining.
  • Networking is key. And networking is much more than just cold emailing. Strive to create relationships!
  • Know your craft. Scoring video games is very different from other forms of media. You need to understand these differences and how it changes your process/content.
  • Have fun! Passion and energy are contagious. If you're having fun at what you're doing then it rubs off on those around you.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes. It's going to happen. Instead of beating yourself up about it (which sometimes can be my tendency) learn from it.
  • Don't sell yourself or your craft short. There will be folks that want your audio for free or "for credit" only. Avoid them. Make it an exchance, not a gift.
  • With Android and iOS there are more opportunities out there than EVER! So go out there and start working with teams now!

The how, when and what are parts that you need to study and dig deeper into each topic. I learned much of this on the job and I feel it's the best way to learn... at least for me. I've listened to your music and you clearly have some talent. What I'd do is spend some time learning better production techniques, investing in better gear (samples mainly) and keep on striving to get better and better.

 

Hope that helps,

 

Nate


Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#3 TonyAldrich   Members   -  Reputation: 116

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 10:35 AM

Thanks that is very helpful. But what do mean avoid "for credit only" it still gets your name out there. I mean I want to get paid, but I have to start somewhere. I figurede that was just part of the process.



#4 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 17153

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 11:08 AM

[programmer perspective]

 

Even if you put yourself out cheaper than you're worth, you should still charge something. At the very least, it might help ward off developers that won't actually finish their game.

Also, I like cheap! I like free! But nsmadsen is absolutely correct that you shouldn't sell yourself short, and you shouldn't devalue your own time and effort. Be reasonable, but don't be cheap without a very good reason.

 

If a "studio" doesn't have enough to pay you at least a semi-decent wage, what's the liklihood they have a big enough budget to pay for enough advertising, legal advice, and other assets like art, that the game will become a big enough hit to actually get you any kind of attention whatsoever?

 

Games like Bastion and Minecraft and Braid would get you alot of attention. But they are 1 in 10,000, so that is hoping for the lottery.

Instead, you should get paid (upfront) and get credit. Now if the project really interests you, and you personally believe the project will get you exposure, then you could reduce your price. Or if a project won't be successful, has little funds, but you want to contribute charitably to it because it's open source or something.

 

But don't let people pay you in promises - they don't have guarantees that their game will get recognition, so how can they promise to pay you in exposure they don't have?

 

[/programmer perspective]


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#5 bschmidt1962   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1711

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 06:23 PM

I figurede that was just part of the process.

 

 

Charging $0 for your work isn't "part of the process" :)... 

 

Seriously-- your work has value.  I also totally get the notion that many indy game developers have very little to be able to spend.  In that case, at the very least, see if you can barter something in exchange.  Say design of a new logo for your composing business.  That way you are not setting the value of your services at zero.

 

And as Nathan said, learn, learn, learn.


Brian Schmidt

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#6 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3630

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 07:44 AM

There's a huge misconception in the entertainment industry that folks should work for free. Most other fields have very different approaches towards young workers. Aaron Marks discusses the working relationship in his gook The Complete Guide to Game Audio, which I'd recommend you pick up and read. Making it a tangible exchange helps solidify the working relationship. There's more on the line for both the contractor and the client - whereas working for free puts only the contractor at risk. I've also seen (and experienced) the low morale when it comes to working for free early in my own career. It's hard to get inspired and put in the long hours when you know the client is getting it all for free. Trust me. It may not feel like it at first but everyone has a line.

 

I've seen some developers actually prey out young(er) audio guys to get free work. Once that person starts to build up a resume and some credentials, that developer seeks out the next new face to get more free work. Of course, not every developer is like this. It happens in other fields too - especially film. I cannot tell you how often I've read ads where producers/directors will say they raised X amount of cash to film on a RED camera and got B actor and such but have zero money for audio work. Yet they're going to want Hollywood level quality.

The longer you work in this business, the better you'll get at spotting those projects that don't really have any clue what they're doing. Most often it's those projects where the lead or producer is making huge promises but cannot deliver anything tangible. Working for free only continues to devalue you and your work - as well as the audio industry as a whole. You could certainly charge really cheap rates and explain that it's a special discount while you're establishing yourself.

 

I've referenced this video plenty of times before but Harlan really lays it out perfectly (warning rough language):

 

 

There's also a great skit which outlines the various BS lines that we often hear but I'm having a hard time finding it.


Edited by nsmadsen, 12 July 2013 - 07:49 AM.

Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#7 TonyAldrich   Members   -  Reputation: 116

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 12:26 PM

Thanks everyone this has been a very helpful and eye-opening conversation. So does anyone have any advice on actually finding work in this field? Is it as simple as putting up a classified, or is there more to it than that?

 

Also that video was hysterical. And makes a good point. Thank you.


Edited by TonyAldrich, 12 July 2013 - 12:31 PM.


#8 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3630

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 02:37 PM


So does anyone have any advice on actually finding work in this field?

 

Put together an attractive, concise and easy to navigate website that features your work. There are many ways to do this so I'd recommend poking around various sites and seeing who attracts you and why. Then take some of those elements and incorporate them into your online demo. Your demo need not be super long - in fact the more concise the better. I've seen audio directors/managers browse online demos and it's amazing how little time you get. Sometimes it's 5-15 seconds. I like to think of the online demo as an introduction instead of a long, drawn out conversation. 

 

So, in short, take your absolute best stuff, put it into a format that is quick and easy to work with so someone can easily figure out who you are and what you're about. 

 

From there, attend conferences, be active in the industry, get to know people and become a sponge. Soak up all of the positive vibes and good tips you can find. Then just work-work-work at it. I've been building my network and career since 2005 and it takes a good while to get momentum going. But keep at it. The early years are the proving grounds but they can also be some of the most exciting! 

 

Hope that helps, 

 

Nate


Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#9 TonyAldrich   Members   -  Reputation: 116

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 10:31 PM


So, in short, take your absolute best stuff, put it into a format that is quick and easy to work with so someone can easily figure out who you are and what you're about. 


So instead of just linking to my soundcloud, I should take snippets of my best work and put them together into a neat little package? I'm just trying to understand. Also, where would I find a conference to attend, because right now, this website is the only connection to the industry at the moment. :S So I definitely need to make some more contacts.

#10 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3630

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 10:44 PM

As a starter or intro - yes take snippets of your work and put them in a neat, little package. You can always leave links on how to listen to more work once they're interested. But if you post a 7 minute opus odds are most folks will not listen to the whole thing. Linking to a ton of songs can also work against you. Finally the problem with Soundcloud is that anyone can have an account there. That place isn't about you, it's about Soundcloud. For this reason, I've found it's best to have a special spot on the web that's solely about you and your music. 

 

Google video game conferences - there's TONS of them out there. Especially you're able to travel a bit! I've been to the Game Developers Conference six times (three in Austin and three in San Fran) and it's incredible. There's also http://www.gamesoundcon.com/ which Brian heads up. 


Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios




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