How does one communicates his needs to a composer?

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I need music for a project. I've been listening to a lot of royalty free online music and assembled a little collection, but they're lacking two important things. First, they don't sound like they are part of one soundtrack because some tunes differ too much from one another.  Second, most of them don't match the theme of my game exactly like I want it to.

I know the first problem is fixed by hiring a composer that will make the whole soundtrack fit together. The question of this topic is for the second problem. I have the idea of what I want the music to sound like, but I can only express it in very general terms.

How does a non-music person communicates what he wants his music to be like? Do I try to find music that sounds like what I want and let the composer write the soundtrack from that? Do I ask the composer for previews and choose what to keep? Do I let the composer make his own vision of what would be the best music for my game? What happens when your client doesn't like the music you made for him?

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Short answer: reference tracks. Give your composer a handful of tracks or artists that are in the style you want. Feel free to add any comments you feel relevant. (e.g. "I want a track like this one, but a little faster, and with no violins".)

When working with a freelance artist or composer, there is always the risk that they will work hard on your project and still produce something that you don't like. You can reduce this risk by agreeing to check the work early, e.g. via previews like you said, and offer direction based on what you see.

Some freelancers might agree to a contract where, if you choose not to use the final product, they get to keep the product (and sell it elsewhere) and you pay a reduced fee (because you didn't get the product, but you still had work done for you).

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A composer's goal is to match your vision, not their own. Therefore a good composer will ask you a whole lot of questions.

Of course, as  composers are human, and as they need to add to your idea to merge it into music, there may be losses in communication. So you should gather as many drafts as soon as possible. 

Besides, I might be looking for a project to work on ;)

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Lots of good info in the first two responses!

Reference tracks (with good notes) are an absolute must unless you've hired a composer because you know his/her "signature sound" and want that sound for your game. A good collaborator will be able to ask you the right questions to suss out why you chose your reference tracks.

After sharing the tracks and talking over what aspects are part of your vision, I've had success producing a ~10 minute musical collage of different ideas and sounds that I think would work for the project. It's a good way to quickly get a broad scope of musical ideas for review and to avoid sinking too much time into work that will get rejected.

Good luck!

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Yup, reference tracks. And talk to me more about what you want the player to be feeling. Show me as many pictures and videos of the game and world you're creating. Tell me your story then I'll translate that into music and audio! 

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