• Advertisement
Sign in to follow this  

State of the industry

This topic is 1200 days old which is more than the 365 day threshold we allow for new replies. Please post a new topic.

If you intended to correct an error in the post then please contact us.

Recommended Posts

As long as we're pretending that anybody uses forums like these for anything other than self-promotion, maybe we could start a discussion about the sorry state of the audio industry. 

 

I've been in this field for 5-ish years. I've written some audio for commercials that aired on local television, iPhone games, and other small-time pro projects. I enjoy it immensely. 

 

Yet I am routinely astounded at how cut-throat and competitive this field is, even after all of these years. It is close to impossible to find a listing for a composing gig without 30+ hopeful applicants already submitted - they are often highly experienced composers, as well. With some persistence it is possible to find gigs, but they are rarely well-paying or even worth the trouble. I've only really gotten anything good by operating locally, and even then, it's rare. 

 

Hilariously, I've recently noticed more and more wanted ads from game developers SPECIFICALLY telling composers to bugger off, because they've already got more applicants than they know what to do with - before even posting the ad. 

 

I'm not sure why this field is so horrendously over-saturated. I'm sure it has something to do with how readily available entry-level software is these days. It also probably has something to do with the ignorance of clients - maybe I can tell when a composer doesn't know how to mix & master their tracks, but the client will have no context whatsoever and hire the guy anyway because his name popped up first. 

 

I'm probably coming off as a little bitter, but I don't think anybody will deny that the game audio field is essentially incapable of paying your rent. Unless you are extremely lucky, or you have powerful connections. What are your thoughts? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Advertisement

Great post JB, and Nathan

 

 

I hear you Garrett, and you're very right about it being over-saturated.

 

"I'm sure it has something to do with how readily available entry-level software is these days. It also probably has something to do with the ignorance of clients - maybe I can tell when a composer doesn't know how to mix & master their tracks, but the client will have no context whatsoever and hire the guy anyway because his name popped up first."

 

Well, a little bit.  People don't know good music from bad, but there's also the issue that games simply need a lot more man-hours in art and programming than they do in music.

The typical game has maybe an hour of music?  Say, 30 2 minute pieces if you really push it (which is probably about the number I'm commissioning).

 

How many composers does it take, for how many hours, to do that?  Maybe a couple hundred man hours from a good composer.  That's just a couple months of work.

 

Now, compare with the art load, or the amount of programming for the typical game.

 

Even if composers only make up 10% of game industry applicants, they're already oversaturated because a game (even a high budget one) usually only needs one composer, and only part time towards the end of production, while it may need dozens of artists and programmers.

Indie games can be a little more balanced, but they have almost no budget for music at all.

 

For example, I can only pay maybe $25 -$50 a minute for music (depending on the quality); I know, it's dreadful and I want to apologize for that, but it's just the reality of the situation that most of my budget goes to art and programming.  Would I like to pay more, and hire Danny Elfman?  Hell yeah.  But it's just not realistic for my budget.

 

If it cost more, I wouldn't pay more, I'd have to cut the amount of music I ordered instead, or use cheap stock music.

 

For indies it's a blessing that there's so much competition in the music field: it makes the soundscapes of our games much better than they would otherwise be.  But I wouldn't want to be a composer in this market, and I definitely feel for you guys.

 

Like others said, you just have to struggle to differentiate yourself, and appeal to those who can pay for higher quality and customer service.  It's possible to make a living (even the rates I pay are living wages, but just barely), but it takes a lot of dedication to the art since it means more work, more struggling to find work, and less disposable income.

Edited by StarMire

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of supply, very few demands.

 

It's easier to fake composing skills to a client than it is to fake programming skills, so plenty of people who are kinda beginners are on the market. (but I assume if you are decent you are above them in quality).

 

Mostly it's supply and demands.

 

A sound designer from Ubisoft told me one day that they had a few composers in mind at all time and when comes time for music they just send pictures of the game to all of them and they all answer with crazy stuff in around 48h max. And then they choose the best.

 

This is how easy it is for them and how hard it is for composers. They will never post any job offer for it, they have their pros already.

 

Granted this is Ubisoft and not a small studio but still.

 

 

Also as a person who tried to make a student team to make a small game, after my post where I specifically said that I don't need music because I have a friend for it, I got 5 answers from composers in one day and very little from any other job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not just a matter of supply and demand- as others have stated, the situation has changed as a result of the technology.  Now don't get me wrong- it's easy to be bitter when you spend most of your life learning certain skills only to have those skills made redundant by software/hardware- I can accept that, and I think removing the initial boundaries into the industry is a great thing.  What really gets to me is the move towards loop/sample based music, in which people are able to string together a bunch of loops and deliver something that sounds amazingly professional and polished, if completely unoriginal and generic.  Unfortunately, the average person will listen to tracks like these and think 'wow, sounds just like Zimmer' or so on, unaware that the loops used probably come from Zimmer himself..  and the problem is that is exactly what people will be expecting to hear.

 

The other problem, as mentioned above, is that this is a 'creative' industry (an oxymoron if you ask me..), unregulated and very unstructured.  Things are not so different in TV and Film, although those industries have had enough time to settle into some kind of rhythm- but essentially the problem is the subjectivity of music and the wide range of opinions on different composers.  It is very hard to justify hiring a composer on credentials alone, it is almost always a more emotional decision based on an attachment to that person's music. 

 

It's very disheartening to find yourself with no work, while witnessing people getting paid to arrange pre-recorded loops that they probably downloaded illegily, or holding down one note in Omnisphere and calling themselves an ambient composer, or so on.  But if you truly have something different and interesting to offer, you will eventually be regonised for it, it just a question of how much crap you can take, and how long you can endure it, up until that point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking of Omnisphere and the like, I work for a stock music library (not the cheap royalty free kind for chumps). Our boss can recognize almost any sample from omnisphere, trillian, stylus, and superior drummer. If he hears one sample, he immediately rejects the piece because the sounds are so overused in production music. I've heard heard music that literally uses raw garageband loops with no editing whatsoever. Hopefully people know the difference between good music and layered loops.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am not a composer myself but I don't see any link between loops>bad music , no loops>maybe good music.

 

I mean if they make loops as a preset on plugins it will probably sound good and you kinda paid for the plug-in so why not use it.

 

Yes people from the industry will probably know what it is and it does feel cheap, but 99% of the people who play the game? Probably won't even notice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If he hears one sample, he immediately rejects the piece because the sounds are so overused in production music.

 

That sounds a bit drastic to me, honestly. I mean, sure, I've recognized loops or patches in many production pieces but that doesn't mean it was poor or sloppy work. Take, for example, some of the music from Bastion where composer Darren Korb used some Apple loops but then intentionally made some of them looping point lopsided. On other tracks he created original material around those loops. Here's one such example: 

 

 

It created a completely new and cool feel! Loops by themselves are not bad - it's how you use them. 

Edited by nsmadsen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Haha this is epic stuff!

 

Sums up the "using premade stuff is cheating" thing really well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I wasn't trying to imply that using loops is 100% bad- there's nothing wrong with using loops and samples creatively, but the sad fact is that very few developers are now willing to pay for an orchestral recording session, when they can get the 'same' results from someone with a copy of cubase and a cinematic loops pack.  Convincing developers/producers that it's worth paying for real musicians is becoming harder and harder.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes people from the industry will probably know what it is and it does feel cheap, but 99% of the people who play the game? Probably won't even notice.

 

But I like to think there's more to our art/craft than just being acceptable.  We should be striving for the best results possible, surely?  Pushing boundaries etc.  

And don't underestimate the subconscious- even though 99% of players 'wouldn't notice' it would still contribute to improving their playing experience, and their emotional attachment to the game.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And don't underestimate the subconscious- even though 99% of players 'wouldn't notice' it would still contribute to improving their playing experience, and their emotional attachment to the game.

Errrr... can you give a source for that claim? I study psychology, with a focus on how the conscious and unconscious work recently, and I've never come across anything that would back this up. :P Actually, I'm pretty sure if you had laymen listen to one original composition and one that uses overused loops, and asked which of the two was of higher quality simply based on what they heard (and given that the mixing quality and loudness was roughly similar, so it didn't factor in), most of them would answer the second composition was of higher quality. Why? Because to the layman's unconscious the question is too difficult to answer, so the unconscious substitutes the question with the related but much easier question, "Which of the two songs sounds more like the songs that I like/that are popular/that I know?" And for that question there's a clear winner, and that's song #2. So their intuition will be that song #2 is of higher quality.

 

Admittedly, I have never seen a study about this particular issue, so perhaps there is something I'm overlooking, but I'm very confident in this. :)

 

Cheers,

Chris

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well I wasn't trying to imply that using loops is 100% bad- there's nothing wrong with using loops and samples creatively, but the sad fact is that very few developers are now willing to pay for an orchestral recording session, when they can get the 'same' results from someone with a copy of cubase and a cinematic loops pack.  Convincing developers/producers that it's worth paying for real musicians is becoming harder and harder.

 

I think you're mixing two different discussions or topics here, honestly. There's:

 

- producing pieces using solely loops

 

- composing pieces using virtual instruments

 

- composing then recording a live orchestra

 

Each of these things are very different and serve different purposes. Not every project needs a full orchestra recording. And sometimes just recording one or two live instruments on a well produced bed of virtual instruments can create great results. Some games do better with remixes - think of SSX Tricky. That game (and the music) worked VERY well and it was mostly DJ/remixed stuff that was implemented really well (like having the drums drop out when you were getting massive air then kick back in when you landed). Having a live orchestra for that game, no matter how great the recording was, would be strange and less effective.

Edited by nsmadsen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One other point - it's really unrealistic to think most projects, especially the level of projects found commonly on sites like GD.net, can even afford to pay what it costs to record an orchestra. I'm just about finished with my own personal project (three pieces) where I recorded four musicians (one at a time) in a studio with an engineer. When it's all said and done, this is gonna cost me about $1,000. So for an indie studio, the most cost effective way for most is to hire a composer who's really good at MIDI/VST mock ups. Then perhaps layer in a few live tracks here and there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Honestly again I do mostly sound design and not music but I was like " I am using some soundbanks to do this but what can I do... I can't record guns". And I actually felt pretty bad about it. Then I got my internship and I noticed that where I work, they don't care at all how you do it as long as you do it fast enough.

 

I assume it's the same story for preset music.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was probably overexagerrating my boss's hatred of loops. I wasn't saying loops are bad at all. I am talking about a few specific set of loops (omnisphere, trillian, stylus and such). These are very high quality loops, and they are found everywhere. However, the company I work for is a fairly recent startup, and they are competing with GIGANTIC stock music libraries like APM and Warner/Chapell. He just really wants our music to sound different than the rest of the industry, because we can't compete with the amount of music they're making. As long as he doesn't easily recognize the loop, its fine. We often play around with effects and rhythms to disguise them.

 

Then again, I completely forgot that game music is completely different than stock music, so I'm not sure how it works for games (though I hope to!)

 

Nicholassinger, regarding orchestral recordings:

It's EXTREMELY rare to get a full orchestral recording of pieces for most music projects. Multitracking a few live instruments is a more common way to record.

 

So for an indie studio, the most cost effective way for most is to hire a composer who's really good at MIDI/VST mock ups. Then perhaps layer in a few live tracks here and there.

 

This is by far the most cost effective way to do it. Especially when you can disguise sample instruments when they're mixed with live instruments.

 

Anyways, I have no hatred towards loops whatsoever. It's just a few loop libraries that are very overused that our boss isn't fond of.

Edited by BellJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


I don't use loops because choosing the notes is part of what I consider the compositional process--if someone else is choosing the notes, I feel like I'm giving up part of the compositional responsibility to someone else.

 

Amen! I hate feeling constrained by someone else's decisions about the harmonies or melodies. So if I do use loops, which is rare, it's almost always percussive in nature. Even then I try to change it up quite a bit to make it fit how I (or my client!) want the music to go. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Dannthr for the background story on that track, studying musicians performing on their actual instrument is a great way of getting inspiration.

I played the MI2SE and I think you did a great job!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Preset surfing" - I'm definitely guilty of that. happy.png  Not so much on the production/effects side, but very much so as far as software synthesizers go. I feel that by messing with the settings I slowly learn about some aspects of the controls, but this way I probably won't be able to design a sound that I hear in my head from scratch any time soon.

Though I'd say that sometimes you just find a patch (not a loop) that inspires you, you might write a great track using it and it is just like picking up a new guitar from a music store. Nevertheless, I guess the more presets you use/combine on that track, the more it becomes a case of trial and error, rather than a deliberate piece of work.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Advertisement