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Jonah-B

Demo reel 2012 - Do you think I'm ready for contract work?

15 posts in this topic

So I recently finished my demo reel for stuff that I've composed throughout 2012. I feel I've made a great deal of improvement over the years, but there's always room for more. Up until this point the only professional work I've done is selling stock audio to various companies. I've never actually created an original soundtrack for a paying client, but lately I've been pushing the envelope and trying to gain my first client. So far there has been no interest. The whole thing is a bit on the scary side, and it leads me to wonder if I'm ready for such a big step. The last thing I would ever want is to take on a job then fail to deliver something satisfactory. What do you guys think of my work? How did you guys know when you were ready for a step like this? What sort of things have you done to get your work out to potential clients?

 

Here's the demo reel:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4xocHT7LAM

 

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Hey Jonah,

I think your music's ready to get used in games, the arrangements are solid and you seem to be able to deliver a nice range of genres/moods/timbres.
The sounds you use are sometimes a bit too "plastic-sounding" (I think Nate used the wonderful word "MIDI-tastic" the other day) to my ears. You might want to invest in a few good instruments and samples to give your music a hint more value - for lack of a better word I can think of in English.

The arguably more interesting part now is getting your first paying gig and make it a great project, which doesn't just rely on having good tracks, but on a few other skills as well.

Networking:
Don't rely on people finding you - mingle with the crowd and exchange with people, you're bound to meet someone who knows someone or at least get more people to check out your portfolio. Also, it's fun and you learn a lot of things about how other people are doing their jobs, providing you with valuable insights and putting you ahead of people who can just produce good music.

Communication:
Be precise and thorough in how you communicate with people. This is where the money's at, often-times quite literally. ;)
Whether it's demonstrating genuine interest in a project, double-checking every mail for unanswered questions or typos before you send it or just asking the right questions at the right time, being a good conversationalist makes people feel good working with you - and there will be a lot of information exchange both before, during and after the actual job.
You've probably already made some experience during your stock audio jobs. This is your advantage. Be a nice person as well as a dependable business. It can't hurt to read up on some things, an often-recommended book is "The Complete Guide to Game Audio" by Aaron Marks, which includes a lot of advice on the business side of things.

Determination:
It's not easy being green - especially the start can be rough. It can help to do other music-related jobs to finance your freelance business. For example, I work as a private music teacher and choir leader at the moment and do some live gigs from time to time. The good thing about this is you're constantly networking with other musicians while doing this. In other words: don't spread yourself too thin, but keep true to music if you can! smile.png

Regarding the presentation of your reel:
I think your logo at the beginning was pretty cool! For my personal taste, you used too many different and bland fonts (Comic Sans tongue.png ) - I'd keep it simple and choose one font, at least for everything but the song titles. I went for a classic Courier New in my last reel.
I'd maybe condense the whole video a bit and show some snippets of your best work (I think I liked "Twilight Village" at 4:50 best, by the way smile.png ). People will be curious for more this way - lure them with a carrot before pointing them to your vegetable garden. ;)

Happy New Year and best of luck,
Moritz
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Hey Jonah! I listened to your entire demo reel and I have to say that I think your stuff is very good! I am really new to the free-lance composition scene. Like you, I have a lot to learn as as well as many areas to improve on (I, for one, struggle with balance, which I think you do a fantastic job with. To the point that I actually went back through my music to compare!)

I honestly don't have much to add outside of what Moritz did a wonderful job of explaining. As far as compositonal skills, you need not worry. The difficult part is branching out to find other clients. Be professional, be inviting, be cooperative, and be yourself!

As far as knowing when, I never knew. I just did. Many of the first games I composed for were no-budget games. I only recently landed myself a few jobs creating music for games that are actually going to be sold commercially, with a professional flare. I've only recently gotten my feet wet and, even then, I have plenty more soaking to do. I basically went in with each job, and worked as hard as I could. The best that I could. Gave my all and tried to be as understanding and helpful as possible. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to do this (compose music for games), and I was going to work my hardest to make it a possibility.

As far as clientele, it has been a combination of seeking out clients, to a kind word whispered between developers. Moritz's bit on networking is key.The videogame industry isn't big at all, and knowledge about you gets out due to word of mouth. Unless you're big or getting there (like Austin Wintory), your best bet is to find clients. But also take time to get to know developers. Even some in your local area. Go to game conventions, stuff like that. Anything to build relationships. Edited by M4uesviecr
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I simply say just jump in. Your quality of music is on production level, in my opinion. Now its a matter you'll find the "right" client or not; ones that like your music. How do they find you? make more, share more, get into them. There are a lot of way to do it on the internet days. Play more and more games and find out who made them; if you target on indie games, contact them, have interest in their games (only if you really like them), chat/message them that you can offer great music regarding to the games or next games, be proactive and genuine. In the end its a matter of how strong you are when tackled on different opinions/rejections while keep on improving.

 

Good luck, you can do it! laugh.png

Edited by mychii
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Thanks to all of you for your helpful replies! It's really encouraging. I'm going to work on implementing all of your words of advice. I've come across so many fantastic musicians in my time sharing music online, and the majority of them are only doing it as a hobby. It really makes sense that the portfolio itself won't be enough to land a job. I'm only just now beginning to hit PR head on. I'm working on a plan that includes everything from friendly messages to carefully selected video game developers to search engine optimisation. I'm hoping I'll see results soon, but if not then I don't think I'll be going anywhere. I'm too obsessed with music to ever give it up biggrin.png

 

Once again, thank you all for your thoughtful replies. That's why I love gamedev. It's such a wonderful community! smile.png

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I have to be super quick as I have a meeting in six minutes. Yep, you're ready to start doing audio for games. There's plenty to prep and learn before you start taking on gigs but rest assured the learning doesn't stop there. You'll learn a great deal more ON the job and that's not a bad thing! :P I cannot tell you how many times I've told a client "yep, I can do that." then googled it right after our meeting. Part of this crazy job is taking that plunge and just trying it while studying and learning as much as you can. 

 

The key to know if you're ready or not is pretty simple:

- does your audio make the player feel something?

 

- can you meet a client's needs on time?

 

Especially with more.... entry level, indie projects timeframes and budgets can be more nebulous so you have more flexibility. Is there stuff I hear that can be improved upon? Yep. But that never stops. Do some A/B comparions of your music to stuff you admire and want to emulate. Gotta run!

 

Best of luck! Go get it!

 

Nate

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Oh and reconsider doing a shorter demo reel that is between 2-4 minutes total. Too many folks forget that demo reels are simple introductions and not full conversations with clients. The average time a client or audio director spends on a demo reel is about 10-45 seconds so giving them 10+ minutes of stuff to listen to isn't the best approach. Hook them right from the get-go, be succinct.

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Thank you, nsmadsen! I'm going to do shorter demo reels as you guys advised. Looking back on it I can see how it would be a better approach. Here's a question. Should I do a few short reels with each one focusing on a specific kind of music? Or should I just do one short reel of my best work that shows off some versatility?

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Sure thing!

 

For my own reel I chose the former because you have no idea what potential clients are after and this gives them the ability to hone in on the specific feel/genre they're after.

Edited by nsmadsen
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Sorry for bumping this, but I finished the next demo reel. I took the advice you guys gave me, but I also went beyond it. I'm afraid that I may have gone a bit overboard here! It's really more of an advertisement than a demo reel. I wanted to do something that would stick out and be a little different and hopefully a little more memorable than a typical demo reel. It seems like grabbing people's attention is the hardest part of gaining ground in this field, so attention grabbing was the primary goal here :)
 
I hope it doesn't come off as being too unprofessional, but I am targeting the small independent developers here so I thought something with more personality might be a good thing. It certainly could have turned out better if I had an experienced film maker to collaborate with, but instead I did it myself. Still, I don't think it turned out too bad.
 
I'm curious as to everyone's opinion here. Was this a good idea or a bad one?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NbYiCN1OYA

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Thanks both of you! You make some really good points. This was a pretty off-the-wall and spontaneous idea, and I guess I didn't fully think it through. I still like the initial idea of doing something different to stand out and be more memorable, but I understand that this probably isn't the way to go about it. I really didn't intend for it to come off as annoying or arrogant.

 

Hmmm... Back to the drawing board I guess. I suppose I should be focusing more on the music anyway. biggrin.png

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Thanks, nsmadsen! I think I'm just going to do a simple / normal demo reel for now, then go back to focusing on the music portfolio. I think it wil inevitably be important for me to build up a sort of unique style or personality for potential clients to identify with if I'm ever going to stick out in their minds. Branding is an important part of marketing. This video was a really forced attempt at doing that, but instead it just came off as annoying and devaluing. The hope was that the blatant over-the-top arrogance and the cheesy "car commercial" kind of marketing would be comedic enough to get various people interested in watching, but ridiculous enough that they wouldn't take the content of the video seriously. Once it grabbed people's attention, anyone that is actually interested in hiring me could easily find my work and make a serious decision about it.

 

Now that I actually see the finished video and I hear the feedback, I must say that I agree. It comes off as annoying, devaluing, and unprofessional, and it's not really the kind of branding I want to get across. All well. The only way to make it in any field is by learning from your mistakes then trying again :)

 

Thanks again everyone for the feedback!

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The only way to make it in any field is by learning from your mistakes then trying again smile.png

 

Thanks again everyone for the feedback!

 

The mere fact that you have this kind of attitude and response shows that you'll have a great chance at being successful. Too many times I run across folks starting out in this biz that feel like they know everything or get hyper defensive towards any critique. So major kudos to you for having this positive mindset!

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