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jamiesalisbury

Advice for pro composer moving into games

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Hi all, I'd be very grateful for some advice if you can spare the time.

 

I'm a professional composer - just to give you an idea of the level I'm working at (I'm not attempting self-promotion here!) I've done a little TV, short films, a commercial for a major mobile phone company, theatre music, soundtracks for contemporary dance and production music for the likes of EMI/KPM, Immediate Music, Cavendish and Abaco. These soundtracks include live symphonic orchestral scores, recording in London, Prague and Budapest and mixing and mastering at Abbey Road.

 

Following a day at the Games Music Connect conference, it's dawned on me that I'd really love to compose for games, and that my music and way of working is also very much suited to it.

Problem is I have hardly any contacts in the world of gaming (having just written for one iOS game a couple of years back) and haven't played games (for time reasons, not motivation!) for about 10 years.

I'm too busy to justify starting at the bottom of the ladder, writing for peanuts to get established, but at the same time I have no illusions that I'll be writing for AAA titles with little prior games music experience.

 

So I need to present my showreel to companies working at a decent level, but probably not wasting my time with sending my showreel to Sony until I have a few good games under my belt!

Question is, how do I know which companies to approach - ones that will have a reasonable budget for music? 

And secondly - would a plane ticket to GDC next year be worth the cost and time (I'm based in London)? Can you suggest any other ways I can meet suitable developers? 

If it helps to know what my music sounds like, search for me (Jamie Salisbury) on Soundcloud and listen to "Endworlds Showreel" (didn't want to link directly as I wasn't sure about the rules on self-promotion here).

 

Any advice would be really appreciated!

Thanks

 

Jamie 

 




 

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I'm too busy to justify starting at the bottom of the ladder, writing for peanuts to get established ... how do I know which companies to approach - ones that will have a reasonable budget for music?

 

So you want to get big juicy contracts without spending time developing contacts.  Got it.

 

The small indie games developed in a basement won't have a budget you are interested in --- unless they become popular, by which time your opportunity is passed.  

 

Medium size studios don't really pay well, and generally contract the work out to people they know or people who come recommended within the industry --- but you wrote that you don't want to spend the time doing that and are looking for bigger budgets.

 

The big companies that do have money also have a pool of many experienced people to choose from so they won't bother with an unknown, which you will remain until you have done some of the things above.

 

 

 

In that case you are going to need to have a carefully crafted and carefully timed approach. Some reading about doing that. You might also want to get involved with groups like the Game Audio Network Guild to help get the inside information on jobs.

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Thanks, appreciate the link. 

To be clear - I'm not looking for big bucks at all. Just enough to justify my time - I've got a family to support, I'm not fresh out of college so I just can't do those free/micro budget gigs anymore. I'm pretty good at what I do, so I don't think it's unrealistic to aim a little higher. That's what I meant by "reasonable budget".

I know what the top end budgets are like and I know I won't get that straight out of the gate, as nice as it would be!

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1. would a plane ticket to GDC next year be worth the cost and time (I'm based in London)?

2. Can you suggest any other ways I can meet suitable developers?

 

1. GDC is probably the most worthwhile game industry event. But would it be "worth it" to you? Nobody can tell. 

2.a. Yes. Local networking, and European game developer conferences. Subscribe to Gamasutra and gamesindustry.biz, get hooked into the network.

2.b. You don't necessarily want to meet developers only. You should also meet publishers.  And lead designers, and design directors, and audio directors.

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Thanks Tom, that's useful advice. I'll check out those sites. Unfortunately it seems I just missed the big UK conference "Develop" by a couple of weeks.

Re: the worth of me attending GDC - do you have any idea how likely it is that a U.S company would use a UK composer, rather than someone local? From my perspective there's no issue at all in working remotely and I do it all the time, but I just wondered if you knew what the games industry perspective was likely to be. 

Thanks for 2b in particular - I'm coming from a position of no knowledge of the games industry whatsoever, so even just getting the hang of understanding what job titles to look for is very useful.

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Audio isn't my field, but I met a good deal of game audio professionals and hobbyists when I attended San Francisco Bay area game developer meet ups. Seems like there's a lot of competition and not a lot of jobs in an industry that isn't easy to get in at any positions.

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Well people say that about film...and TV, and any good creative industry....it's true to earn a living as a composer you've got to beat off a lot of competition for the jobs and I'm not moving towards games because I think it'll be easy pickings. But from what I learned at Games Music Connect, there are opportunities if you're good enough, and it's an expanding industry, unlike Hollywood for example, for which opportunities are getting ever slimmer and budgets ever tighter.

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It's very common for US game companies to hire composers all over the world.

 

GDC is a must-attend if you're serious about doing games.  It's a tremendous networking resource, provided you're not a wallflower.

 

Do you like games?  That can be a big plus.  It's much easier to network and hold a conversation with a developer at GDC if you know and love games, know what's current, and have opinions about them.  Do you think Speilberg would want someone scoring his film that hadn't seen a movie in 10 years?

 

Also, apologies for the plug, but on November 3-4 in LA, there is GameSoundCon, a conference and seminar specifically for composers and sound designers who want learn more about doing music and sound for video games.  There are a ton of differences between doing game music and doing film music.  Big disclaimer: I run GameSoundCon.  Also, there's a discount for people who read GameDev.net (if you go to the music and sound forum, you'll see it).

 

GameSoundCon is just ahead of a new conference from the GDC people called GDCNext also in LA on Nov 5-7.

 

As frob mentioned you should look into the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.), a non-profit group that many professional and aspiring game composers belong to.  They occasionally put on events, talks, or just social get togethers.   They also host the annual GANG Awards each year at GDC, which recognizes accomplishment in game music and sound.  Another disclaimer: I'm President of G.A.N.G. so may be biased.

 

Don't be afraid to go after some smaller games-- even medium sized facebook or iPhone games can have audio budgets in the low-mid 5 figures.  It's not the half-million dollar (or more) audio budget of a big AAA game, but they also take one tenth the time to do.

 

Feel free to email me if you have specific questions about either GameSoundCon or GANG.  I'm easily google'able.  (though please note that I did not win the Nobel Prize for work in Astrophysics a couple years back--that would be the other Brian Schmidt)

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Thanks so much Brian. I've seen G.A.N.G mentioned a few times, but wasn't expecting the president to reply to my question!! Haha. Brilliant. I'll check it out soon and see about signing up.

Looks like GDC is a no-brainer, will be an expensive trip, but I'm always prepared to speculate to accumulate.

I've not played games in about 10 years, but that's purely because I just saw them as a time-suck and a distraction from my work at the time - if anything I enjoyed them too much! My plan is to get one of the new generation consoles when they come out. I'm really looking forward to it, because I can now just enjoy gaming without guilt because it's research now! I'm sure the changes since I last played will be jaw-dropping.

I just attended Game Music Connect in London with Jason Graves, Marty O'Donnell, Jesper Kyd, Joris de Man, Alistair Lindsay (Sony) and Paul Lipson (Microsoft) - I learned a HECK of a lot in 8 hours! Amazing guys without exception. Lots of fascinating stuff about interactive music in particular.  If your event is similar then I'd highly recommend it to others, although it's unlikely I'll be able to afford the time/expense to come over for it myself. 

I have written one iOS game (as yet unreleased) but it was an enjoyable experience and as you say, paid surprisingly well.

 

Thanks again, I may well be in touch re: GANG.

 

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I've just realised GDC Next (Nov) is sooner than GDC (March next year).

How do you think it would compare in terms of my aims - i.e wandering around with a stack of CD's trying to meet the right people? Would the same companies be likely to be present at both?

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