4 Tips For Getting Into Game Music
I’ve worked as a composer for many years, and games are a platform I particularly enjoy composing for. As a game composer, you get to work with a myriad of genres, on wildly different projects and you’ll get to meet some dedicated, creative teams and individuals along the way.
But getting your music into games is not easy. Competition is fierce and finding out where to go can be tricky.
Here are my tips for landing a game project:
1. Be visible in the right places
Make sure you have a web page set up with easy access to your demo material, references and contact details. I’d also recommend putting together a demo or demos specifically aimed at game projects. Go through your portfolio and pick the tracks you feel show your best skills when it comes to game composition.
But wait a minute.. what exactly IS game music? It can vary a lot, so I’d recommend that you listen to as many game soundtracks as you can to get a feel for it. Also check out this pack of indie game music for inspiration.
One important element is that you shouldn’t be afraid to stand out. If you have a certain style of composing that would work well in games, use this as your unique selling point. Don’t try too hard to create run-of-the mill game music. There’s room for a lot of different genres in game composing, so use your unique sound to your advantage.
You can also feature your demo work on sites such as SoundCloud and similar – the important part is that your demo material is easily accessible and that prospective clients can easily reach you.
You’ll also want to register on game developer sites. One of the most popular sites is Gamasutra, which has been around for many years, and attracts an audience of pretty much everyone involved in game development, from designers, programmers, artists and composers. Set up a Contractor profile on the site to make sure you’re visible to the community. Also do some research in the indie game community, and be sure to create a profile on all the relevant development sites you can find. Make sure you’re linking to your web page on every profile you set up and include the link in your signature as well when posting on forums.
2. Become part of the community
There’s a very active community surrounding game development, and you’ll want to become part of that too. Keep up with the discussions going on at sites such as Indiegamer, Gamedev.net and the Unity3d forums, and take part in the talks when you have something to contribute.
As you’ll want to make yourself visible as someone who knows about sound and music, these are of course the types of discussions you’ll want to take part in. Keep a positive attitude, offer help wherever possible and pitch your work where appropriate.
On LinkedIn, you’ll also find several groups dedicated to game development.
3. Find projects in the making
When you want to land a game project, timing is everything. You’ll want to get involved as early as possible, so keep an eye out for new projects – and keep tabs on how ongoing projects are evolving – on sites such as Indie Game Magazine, Gamasutra and Develop, and in developer forums.
If you spot an interesting project, don’t be afraid to pitch your services to developers where you feel you have something to offer.
And if possible, compile a custom selection of tracks that you feel could work great for the given project. This shows the developer that you know what they’re about, and that you have a feel for what they need. If nothing else, it can be a great starting point for further talks about the direction the music should be taken in.
One key element: Don’t be spammy! Don’t send unsolicted 10mb mp3 files in the email, don’t continue contacting a developer if they’ve said they’re not interested, don’t constantly pitch your services in forum posts etc.
Oh, and about pricing: If you’re starting out in the game music industry, you might be asked to work for free. If at all possible, avoid this unless you see your work as an investment. Instead – if it’s a project you believe in and you think will do well – try to negotiate royalties down the line. And if the client has a limited budget, don’t discount your work too much.
Instead adjust the amount of audio you’re creating so it matches whatever budget the client has. You can also license existing tracks from your portfolio on a non-exclusive basis, instead of creating new content from scratch.
It’s in everyone’s interest that the game gets to sound its best – but it’s also only fair that you get compensated for your work, so try to work your way around any budget constraints instead of just selling yourself – and everyone else in the game audio business – short.
4. Network Away
A major part of landing game projects – and pretty much any music project, really – is networking.
Find out if any developer conferences are coming up near you, and check out who’ll be attending. If you spot any interesting companies or developers, get in touch with them beforehand and ask if you can meet up with them at the conference. You’ll also want to see if there are any developer communities in your area. IGDA and similar organizations often have local meetups, and these can be a great place to meet up with developers and fellow artists in an informal setting.
Lastly, if you’re going travelling, it’s always worth checking out if there are any interesting developers in the place you’re going to. If so, drop them a note letting them know you’re passing through, and ask if you could stop by and present yourself. Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face contact.
Hope you can use it, and I wish you all the best in landing that next game project!
Asbjoern Andersen is a composer at Epic Sound, where he’s worked on a number of game projects.
He also runs Great Game Music, which features the very best in royalty-free game music.