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HuggetSukker

Reality check for a composer

15 posts in this topic

Hi folks. I'm pretty new at scoring games, trying to get a little ahead. I can't expand my portfolio fast enough. After doing a couple of slightly confusing unpaid gigs, I find myself in need of a reality check, motivationally and technically.

Long story short, I want you to listen to my music, and tell me what you think are my weaknesses and strengths, and give me any good advice you can think of. Keep in mind that only some of it is specifically made with games in mind. Most of it is just made for practice, but I'm sure it all says something.

[url="http://soundcloud.com/fisk42"]http://soundcloud.com/fisk42[/url] Edited by HuggetSukker
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Totally agree with what bschmidt said.
I also wanted to quickly note, that making money with music is not easy, so you should be willing to create music for super cheap or even completely free, that is ofcourse if the developers are trustworthy to actually finish what they started.
At first the more you put your self out there with a good price, the more awesome your portfolio becomes, and that's when people will notice you and you can start charging more.

Ignatus Zuk.
-5

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Thanks to both of you!

I think I'm a bit damaged. I've lost a lot of sensitivity towards orchestration (or perhaps consciousness?), and always hear the compositional contents before their "wrapping". This is bad. I guess it may be good for picking up styles within composition (counterpoint, structure, harmony), but bad for learning the art of production, or combining the two disciplines. You've convinced me of where I should focus.
Also, I think most composers who are in some way a little inspired by retro videogames, have had a long time to get over that phase. I'm weird (freak weird), because I didn't even get properly into that phase until very recently. I became fascinated by the compositions of many video game classics and it did part of the damage on my style. It's silly. But it's mostly due to lack of production skills.

[s]@IgnatusZuk: Yeah, I agree. I don't need breadcrumbs from the developers who contact me. They're doing it really low-budget, and there are a lot of good composers working for free. So if I had to be paid, I wouldn't have a chance to get ahead. It makes perfect sense.[/s]

Edit: What I wrote above was misguided. Edited by HuggetSukker
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[quote name='IgnatusZuk' timestamp='1349568296' post='4987526']
I also wanted to quickly note, that making money with music is not easy, so you should be willing to create music for super cheap or even completely free, that is ofcourse if the developers are trustworthy to actually finish what they started.
[/quote]

I don't agree with this at all - sorry to say, but I think its pretty easy to make money. If you put yourself out there and if you are good enough you should almost surely get a project to work on. I know this from personal experience. Just look through the classifieds section and if you see a dev project that your music would suit you e-mail them even if they aren't requesting a composer. This is how I got my work and in 1 month I had 4 projects (when I had no previous experience).

Hope this helps,
Caleb Faith
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I dig the content. I do agree that the tones used are a little outdated. They would definitely fit a retro style RPG or something.

I would challenge yourself to make more than that. This shows you have the talent in composing :)
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To simply put it, starting new with really anything is always hard, no one knows you.
Once you have a portfolio with previous games you've composed for, you're more likely to be desired by developers and see that you have what it takes to do what you say you can do.
I guess my advice is more on self marketing and long term, but you should keep it in mind.
-3

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Some additional thoughts on the job side of things:

Offering your services for free won't make you stand out from the crowd - there's hundreds, probably thousands of people doing just that, and many of them actually make good music.

Also, it's really hard to determine a point where you can say "Okay, now I'm charging for my services" if you've just given your stuff away for free until then - the afore-mentioned companies who are actually able to pay you will think of you as a hobbyist. Especially if your name is all over the internet with posts like "I'm offering my services for free because I'm building my portfolio."

Nothing speaks against doing hobbyist projects to gather some experience - but I strongly advise you to separate those from your business.
It is indeed possible to get a paying job just by demonstrating determination and providing appropriate and good-quality mock-ups, and there's other ways of showing reliability and trustworthiness: good communication skills and an honest interest in the project will get you far.

Making a living as a music freelancer is doable, but don't expect an easy ride. For me and for most other (young) musicians I know, it's a constant balancing act between being flexible job-wise (music production, teaching, live and studio jobs - sometimes spreading myself too thin) and focusing on the "big picture" (the age-old question, "Where do you see yourself in x years?").

That said: I'm by no means a veteran like Brian or a well-established composer like Nate (nsmadsen, you've probably seen him around [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/wink.png[/img] ) - listen to what these guys have to say, they really know what they're talking about.

Best of luck,
Moritz
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I'm not a music producer so take what I say with a grain of salt. ;)

Besides what everyone else said I want to add that most of your songs sound a little bit too "crowded" to me. They often lack a distinct melody / lead instrumentation.
A notable exception seems to be your newest track "cute village" which I really enjoy. (thumbs up!)
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Sorry another little bit:

When I decided to make Madsen Studios my full time gig, I did a bunch of big and small things to make it feel official. I got a new logo, new business cards, shirts, etc. I keep regular business hours, like a job. Drafted up official looking contracts, invoices and form letters all using a waterprint of my logo. I also completely redid my accounting methods. All of this combined made me feel more legit, even if I was just starting out. It helped give me a bit more confidence when talking to potential clients. My father once said "...you want to start a business, then treat it like a job." I guarantee everyone, the moment you start charging for your services, you'll feel more serious. More legit. Now, you might temporarly lose all of your freebie clients and have no work for a little bit but that first paid job that you land will feel that much better! Plus you'll know you're on your way to making this your living.

Because at the end of the day, most people here want to make game audio their living instead of their hobby. Something to consider.

Side note: This industry is feast or famine by it's very nature. So having a few dry spells is normal. However if you find yourself going on 6 months with absolutely zero work, it's time to reconsider how you're marketing yourself. Is your music up to par? Are you marketing to the right kind(s) of clients? Are you spamming people too much? Etc. Find some successful composers/audio folks you respect and study how they're marketing themselves. Maybe even ask for advice! (Most people are very willing to help out.) Edited by nsmadsen
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Nsmadsen clearly knows what he's talking about.
But this is exactly the problem, when I or any other developer needs music for a project, I will go to someone like your self who's done a lot of previous work and has an impressive portfolio.
So how do the small composers stand out? offer better deals? work harder?
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[quote name='IgnatusZuk' timestamp='1349622176' post='4987688']
But this is exactly the problem, when I or any other developer needs music for a project, I will go to someone like your self who's done a lot of previous work and has an impressive portfolio. So how do the small composers stand out? offer better deals? work harder?
[/quote]

It's pretty simple, really. Rates. You've said it yourself, and I agree, that your rates can increase as your build more experience and stature. More credentials. My rates have changed quite a bit from when I first started out and odds are there are plenty of indie games which I cannot take on at this time in my career. Boy, that sounds elitist, doesn't it? But I don't mean it as a negative or insult at all. The reality is I'm less able to take on audio jobs which might only have $50-200 to spend on the entire audio budget. In those cases, even though I may have more experience and credentials than someone just starting out, I'm not the right fit. This presents an opportunity to folks with less credentials that [i]can[/i] take on lesser paying projects.

Believe it or not, it actually goes the other way too. I have a good friend who's well established and has worked on some major projects. Now he's having a really hard time getting small(er) projects because potential clients automatically assume he'd be way beyond their means. So the trick really is to market to the right kind(s) of clients you're after and make sure they know what you're willing to offer.

But please don't fall into the trap that you have to offer free work just to make it. You don't and your work and time are worth more than that! [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

As far as your other suggestions (offer better deals, work harder, etc) - yep! I firmly believe that everyone has points in their careers where they have to prove how much they want it. Life will knock you around some and you have to dig deep and show yourself (and others) that you're here to stay and that you really want it. One point, obiviously, is when you're starting out. My epiphany came in the fall of 2005 when I realized that my dream of doing audio for games wouldn't happen unless I made it happen. Nobody else could (or would) make it happen. I was in a career path that I hated and left me very unfilfulled. It wasn't easy or quick but it did happen.

I'm being long winded but look for whatever ways you can get yourself out there and make a reputation. It's just my personal belief that trying to succeed by giving your stuff away from free isn't a good approach for you or the industry. Edited by nsmadsen
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[quote]So how do the small composers stand out? offer better deals? work harder?[/quote]

One trap new composers sometimes fall into is the belief that their skill as a composer is 99% of what it takes work as a composer. Yes, it is true that--when that first gig or two come along-- you'd better have the chops. Making sure you've done your woodshedding as a composer/orchestrator is certainly job one.

But a huge part of starting out is convincing someone that you are worth hiring. And your compositional prowess is only part of equation.
In addition to your music being high quality, if someone is going to have you do their game, they want confidence that you're not a flake, that you will deliver what you say, when you say, that you will be good to work with in the face of criticism---Remember that by hiring you they are making a bet that [b][i]you[/i][/b] won't screw up and therefore screw up their game project..
So how do you do that--- In a word, relationship.
Relationships are personal things-- it's that one on one human to human connection that lets the game developer know "If I take a chance on this composer, they won't let me down."
That takes many forms-- it's being professional and set up professionally as Nate said (web site, logo, etc.). It's being personable and exuding competence. It may include being passionate about games and gaming. I know of one composer who got their first game gig at GDC 3 years ago, simply because he struck up a random conversation with someone while playing in the indy game area. They talked for 2 hours about different games, what they thought of these indy games. That conversation gave the developer such confidence in this complete stranger that he used him on a game 3 months later. A lot of threads have discussed the importance of networking-- we're not kidding [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]. Go to [url="http://www.GameSoundCon.com"]GameSoundCon[/url]-- Go to [url="http://www.Gdconf.com"]GDC[/url]-- Go to your local college's "Video game programming club" events who are generally filled with people looking for people to write music for their videogames, but don't have a clue as to where to look for them.

Building a relationship almost certainly does not include working for free. Think about that. If you work for free, the developer has exactly zero influence over you.. If something better for you comes along, you might just decide to walk away-- If you wilt at first criticism of your work and go away, that leaves them in a lurch, potentially putting their game schedule at risk. If however, they know that you'll get a check (even a small one) when you deliver, they will have much more confidence you won't flake out on them.

So even a modest, token sum will probably make the developer feel better about your relationship than a freebie will. And it really makes your relationship a professional one.

Brian Schmidt
GameSoundCon Oct 24/25 2012
www.GameSoundCon.com
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[quote name='IgnatusZuk' timestamp='1349622176' post='4987688']
Nsmadsen clearly knows what he's talking about.
But this is exactly the problem, when I or any other developer needs music for a project, I will go to someone like your self who's done a lot of previous work and has an impressive portfolio.
So how do the small composers stand out? offer better deals? work harder?
[/quote]

How does anyone stand out? By being good at what they do and actually DOING it. If somebody wants to become a composer, they need to practice composing music. Post it online, show it to people, get critique, like the Thread Starter is doing. Put your best stuff out for people to see, and do what the other guys in this thread have suggested. Another thing is to not worry about working outside your comfort zone. Doing just retro-style video game music isn't going to set anyone apart from the thousands of other people trying to do the same thing. Invest in real software, samples and a MIDI keyboard, and make great-sounding music. Create albums or miniature soundtracks and put them up on Bandcamp. Get known as a composer, not just a "video game composer". Compose in different styles, expand your horizons and become someone who can create many kinds of music efficiently, professionally and of great quality.

And, I can't stress this enough, practice, create, practice, create.
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