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Hiker
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11th July 2008
Old 11th July 2008
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Cool how to become a composer in a game company

I've been searching for a job as a composer in a game company for a couple of months, but what I've found out is that game companies tend to have a contractor musician rather than hire them as full-time employees.

And here is my confusion.

Surely the company liks to hire great musicians or let's say famous musicians. But the way you become famous is to make great music. However, companies don't like to hire full-time employee as their composer, which means you probably wouldn't get the chance to compose game music.

This seems like endless circle that is always back to the starting point.

Is there anyone who has some experience in the field of interactive audio could say something about this? I am eager to hear your suggestion.

Thank you.

Last edited by Hiker; 11th July 2008 at 08:01 AM.. Reason: typo
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11th July 2008
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Music biz rule of thumb #504: if you have a salary you are getting ripped off.

I think the companies like the idea of 'fixed costs.' They pay "X" for what they need, don't have to worry about it in house, don't have to buy the equipment, don't have to deal with tempermental snotty composers, can have as many writers that they need for any particular moment, etc....

It all makes sense.
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11th July 2008
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Thanks, James.

I know it makes sense. What I worry about is where to get started.
Threre's no job about music on the vacancy list.
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11th July 2008
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The model today closely matches what Warner and Disney have developed over the last 15+ years. Artists move from one company to the next for animation work. Nobody hires full time staffs but they contract only for budgeted projects. The same is now true for artists and musicians working for game companies. You have to bid your services or network profusely to garner a gig which will be for a contracted period of time.
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11th July 2008
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A big part of the music industry is figuring out how to keep yourself employed. Get that one down and you'll do well.
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11th July 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiker View Post
Thanks, James.

I know it makes sense. What I worry about is where to get started.
Threre's no job about music on the vacancy list.
video game companies hire whoever they think is "cool" or "moody" enough to fit their game.

the interesting thing is, composing for video games is actually quite different than scoring a movie. scoring is traditionally linear. of course they make minute picture changes at the last minute throwing off all your timing but thats a different story. the hard part about video games that most "fashionable" composers don't adapt well to is the idea of short interchangeable pieces of music. video games require that you compose in layers that augment, or de-emphasize the players "stress" - so the games require layers that are interchangeable and layer-able. this is very different than working with a linear piece of video.

so i wouldn't be surprised if video game companies are running into the common problem of hiring whoever is cool only to find out they can't do what they need to do.

maybe the "en vogue" composers just write changes and melodies and have an invisible behind the scenes person try and conform it to interchangeable loops.

in short, you have to do something that gets you "cred" before these video game companies are going to chase you down.
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11th July 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryancook View Post
video game companies hire whoever they think is "cool" or "moody" enough to fit their game.

the interesting thing is, composing for video games is actually quite different than scoring a movie. scoring is traditionally linear. of course they make minute picture changes at the last minute throwing off all your timing but thats a different story. the hard part about video games that most "fashionable" composers don't adapt well to is the idea of short interchangeable pieces of music. video games require that you compose in layers that augment, or de-emphasize the players "stress" - so the games require layers that are interchangeable and layer-able. this is very different than working with a linear piece of video.

so i wouldn't be surprised if video game companies are running into the common problem of hiring whoever is cool only to find out they can't do what they need to do.

maybe the "en vogue" composers just write changes and melodies and have an invisible behind the scenes person try and conform it to interchangeable loops.

in short, you have to do something that gets you "cred" before these video game companies are going to chase you down.

Well yes, contracted composers just focus on the music itself and don't care too much about something you mentioned.

Like you said, there is an invisible behind the scenes person who try and conform it to interchangeable loops. And this is usually the Audio Director who's working in the game company as a full-time employee.

Besides, composers write music exactly as the audio director told them to do, like length, style, mood changes, etc.

In short, the audio director in the game company set the whole structor and the composer offers the music sample back into the company.
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11th July 2008
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[QUOTE=Hiker;2568573][quote=bryancook;2568041]
maybe the "en vogue" composers just write changes and melodies and have an invisible behind the scenes person try and conform it to interchangeable loops.

Quote:

Well yes, contracted composers just focus on the music itself and don't care too much about something you mentioned.

Like you said, there is an invisible behind the scenes person who try and conform it to interchangeable loops. And this is usually the Audio Director who's working in the game company as a full-time employee.

Besides, composers write music exactly as the audio director told them to do, like length, style, mood changes, etc.

In short, the audio director in the game company set the whole structor and the composer offers the music sample back into the company.
but it all relates to one another. you can't just offer random changes and melodies that do not conform to a certain length/tempo. not to mention how the interchangeable layers feel against each other. i think the composer has to be intimately involved in what you call the "audio directors" process for it to come across as musical. but then again, maybe people don't care.
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11th July 2008
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[quote=bryancook;2568631][quote=Hiker;2568573]
Quote:
Originally Posted by bryancook View Post
maybe the "en vogue" composers just write changes and melodies and have an invisible behind the scenes person try and conform it to interchangeable loops.



but it all relates to one another. you can't just offer random changes and melodies that do not conform to a certain length/tempo. not to mention how the interchangeable layers feel against each other. i think the composer has to be intimately involved in what you call the "audio directors" process for it to come across as musical. but then again, maybe people don't care.
Yes, the audio director gets everything ready and the composer just writes music in such condition, or let's say, limitation, incluing tempo, length, style, etc.
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11th July 2008
Old 11th July 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiker View Post
I've been searching for a job as a composer in a game company for a couple of months, but what I've found out is that game companies tend to have a contractor musician rather than hire them as full-time employees.

And here is my confusion.

Surely the company liks to hire great musicians or let's say famous musicians. But the way you become famous is to make great music. However, companies don't like to hire full-time employee as their composer, which means you probably wouldn't get the chance to compose game music.

This seems like endless circle that is always back to the starting point.

Is there anyone who has some experience in the field of interactive audio could say something about this? I am eager to hear your suggestion.

Thank you.
I'd have thought it'd be a bit like getting signed to a label, just send demos to various game developers.

Maybe starting with the small timers, online freeware and shareware game developers, slowly building a reputation, and a CV. It probably takes years, and a whole lot of effort.

Yeah, if it were me (and hey, it might be one day, film and game composition are very interesting to me), I'd get a little 'reel' demo together, a sort of 10 minute montage displaying your ability to convey a range of emotions and moods in musical form, and send it to every address I can find, and follow any leads as I get.

Very time consuming though, it might be an idea to hire someone to help you, kinda like a band manager I guess.

Maybe I'm naive though, and have no idea what I'm talking about... this is just my personal opinion on what I'd do in your shoes.
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11th July 2008
Old 11th July 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiker View Post
Well yes, contracted composers just focus on the music itself and don't care too much about something you mentioned.

Like you said, there is an invisible behind the scenes person who try and conform it to interchangeable loops. And this is usually the Audio Director who's working in the game company as a full-time employee.

Besides, composers write music exactly as the audio director told them to do, like length, style, mood changes, etc.

In short, the audio director in the game company set the whole structor and the composer offers the music sample back into the company.
Sort of.

Games companies don't have in-house composers. Nor do they just hire composers to do their game. They hire companies that specialise in producing game music - and it's a LOT more involved than just writing. This is a big bucks industry - and they are cautious horses!

The only way in is the same as anything else - keeping knocking on the door. Pitches are NOT put out to employment agencies - but rather sanctioned through music production companies - like mine.

I hire composers for gigs - game/tv/film/ad companies come to my sort of company and ask us how to do it..... I have a departmental team that specialises in game music production - sample looping, interactive production and composition, voice recording, mixing, recording, DS sample conversion, casting, legal work, licensing, FMOD, localisation, budget management and music "culture" - target market moulding!

It's not a simple case of applying for jobs in game companies - there aren't many (one or two and not with the big boys). It's ALL outsourced. You would need to set up a company and show what you can offer..... It IS hard to get into, but so is the music industry and TV and film world. As are adverts.
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14th July 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
Sort of.

Games companies don't have in-house composers. Nor do they just hire composers to do their game. They hire companies that specialise in producing game music - and it's a LOT more involved than just writing. This is a big bucks industry - and they are cautious horses!

The only way in is the same as anything else - keeping knocking on the door. Pitches are NOT put out to employment agencies - but rather sanctioned through music production companies - like mine.

I hire composers for gigs - game/tv/film/ad companies come to my sort of company and ask us how to do it..... I have a departmental team that specialises in game music production - sample looping, interactive production and composition, voice recording, mixing, recording, DS sample conversion, casting, legal work, licensing, FMOD, localisation, budget management and music "culture" - target market moulding!

It's not a simple case of applying for jobs in game companies - there aren't many (one or two and not with the big boys). It's ALL outsourced. You would need to set up a company and show what you can offer..... It IS hard to get into, but so is the music industry and TV and film world. As are adverts.
Well it's not a bad news to me. It could actually be a good news, which means I could look for some companies like you called " music companies", besides those game companies.

Actually such music company, which it's more like a studio I think, produces music for several areas, like ads, cartoons, films, etc., not restricted in video games. But video game industry, which is so different from others, is much more interactive. Therefore, it requires communications in high efficiency and frequency. And this is the advantage of the "full-time" composer that the external individuals or companies would not have, in my opion.

I don't know how the studio and the game company cooperate. As I saied before, the contracted composer actually quite relies on the audio director. The composer is making samples. What the cooperation between the studio and the game company? Do the studio just make samples, or help invovle in the design of the game audio?
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15th July 2008
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ah you see.... that's your mistake.

The in-house teams DON'T hire in outside music production companies (many of whom DO specialize in games) precisely because of expertise. Outsourcing of artwork, character design, script, acting, sound FX and music produces (if controlled correctly) a higher quality product. Internal teams are static - look at companies like Rebellion or Reflections. they do better when they outsource - get the experts you need, when you need them. No point in having a six member audio team when you make five games a year. It's also been my experience that games companies (because there is no standards organization to adhere to) just don't employ the right people in sound areas. That's why the outsourcing option is better. Development companies produce (on average) only one title a year. they're not going to run a high end expert driven studio for that. It would be a waste of production resource. Oh - and just to stamp on your apples - music production companies don't often have "jobs" as well. I have a team of 6 people. All of them are project by project hired (apart from two who are full time).

As for interactivity - that is something that the outsource companies begged for !! The in-house teams are still scratching their heads!

Same for TV. Same for film.
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27th July 2008
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When you do have experience at an in-house company

Hi,

I was reading through this thread, and I'm curious about who are the right people to contact in order to submit a demo to write music. I did work in house at a music production company that specialized in game audio, so I understand the submission requirements to a certain extent, and how to write good game music. Also, I do have a fairly decent list of credits in casual games...

Now the question is, who exactly should I be talking to about submitting a demo? Developers? Publishers? Music Production companies that gear toward game audio?

I feel like I understand the film industry a bit better, and that's a tricky one to break into also.

That's all, I appreciate anyone's comments on the matter of finding contract work as a game composer...

Thanks....
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22nd September 2010
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is there a forum perhaps of indie game producers that are after composers?

i would really like to get into this, even if im writing for games that might not even be made public. Just for the chance.

This is an interesting thread though, worth the resurection.

Craig
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22nd September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craig9045 View Post
is there a forum perhaps of indie game producers that are after composers?

i would really like to get into this, even if im writing for games that might not even be made public. Just for the chance.

This is an interesting thread though, worth the resurection.

Craig
There are job listings on Gamasutra, but they tend to be limited to high-experience positions (at least whenever I've checked the site). But you're right: there must be game developer fora where composers/engineers can network with start-up programmers to start padding their resume/experience.
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22nd September 2010
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i can recommend this read:

How to Get Your First Job Composing for Video Games

it describes a kind of "method" for freelance game composers which basically involves a lot of effort to get the job.
i guess you can't sit down and wait for them to find you...
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24th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishmac View Post
i can recommend this read:

How to Get Your First Job Composing for Video Games

it describes a kind of "method" for freelance game composers which basically involves a lot of effort to get the job.
i guess you can't sit down and wait for them to find you...
That was a good read man, makes you want to get good work lol
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24th September 2010
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Interesting thread, much info. Wondered what might be involved in such an endeavor. I recently ran into an old friend who only knew of my visual artwork from my past life. I let her know that I rarely produce visuals anymore and that it was all music now, and has been for many years. She asked why I was doing what I do, " for the fun of it?", I said no (honestly do not find producing any creative art , FUN). Especially involving competition. " Oh, to make money?" No, Too much endeavor. I had not actually analyzed my compulsion up to that point in time. " I'm doing it to be heard", I said without thinking. "That's a good reason", she replied. Think it would be cool to compose music for games, good luck on your Quest. thumbsup
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24th September 2010
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thanks man, hopefully get a project soon

When i get something ill keep you updated!

Craig
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24th September 2010
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I'd like to point out that most of the smaller projects (99% of them I believe, including indie projects) require the "musician" to also create the sound effects. So it's probably only 40% composing stuff and 60% recording, editing sounds, consulting the programmer and fighting with the designer and producer of the game...

What ever you do, remember to behave. The game industry is quite small and the word travels fast if someone is really talented or a total jackass...

Oh, and the best way to get experience AND noticed by development companies is to first do audio work for a couple of really small indie projects. If you do REALLY good job, it'll be quite easy to get noticed by the bigger companies when you send them a showreel of your work.
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24th September 2010
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This is narcoman's territory.

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26th September 2010
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Well I work as a game composer, and the way it worked for me, was sending a demo reel to nearly 30 companies. All over from the absolute top to the 2 headed indie bedroom producers.
And it worked out for a 3A project, as well as some indie projects.

Just be really good and let everybody see your name everywhere.
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26th September 2010
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cool guys cheers.

Ive advertised a little and currently have two possible indie game makers asking for help in some way for their audio.

I am interested in creating an example of my work though as you suggested, is there an industry standard format of video to put the audio to? like trailers or snippits from movies/games?

i know these are basic questions, but you dont ask you dont get.

Thanks
Craig
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26th September 2010
Old 26th September 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by craig9045 View Post
cool guys cheers.

Ive advertised a little and currently have two possible indie game makers asking for help in some way for their audio.

I am interested in creating an example of my work though as you suggested, is there an industry standard format of video to put the audio to? like trailers or snippits from movies/games?

i know these are basic questions, but you dont ask you dont get.

Thanks
Craig
what I did, was starting with replacing game trailer music with my own, OR having single music tracks, but what was crucial, was to make them as multimedial as possible, in sense they needed to be very evocative, by using evocative name for the track, and fill it with music that would reflect that perfectly.
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8th January 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sONIC_jUNKIE View Post
what I did, was starting with replacing game trailer music with my own, OR having single music tracks, but what was crucial, was to make them as multimedial as possible, in sense they needed to be very evocative, by using evocative name for the track, and fill it with music that would reflect that perfectly.
So the reel you sent out was a video file with your music superimposed over or an mp3 reel?

If it was audio only, how many clips and how long each?

thanks
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8th January 2012
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@Umlaaat:

Video / showreel always works much better than sending just music files. This is because with a video you're demonstrating your ability to write music which fits and/or augments the mood of the game.

Friendly tip 1:
Resist the urge to write epic cinematic orchestral battle music (รก la Hans Zimmer) with East West libraries and putting it as the first song on your demo list. Lots of eager-to-be game musicians send their demos to our company and 99% of them always do the above, so I would imagine they're doing it when they're sending their demos to other companies aswell. I'm usually the one listening to the demos we get and if there's a mediocre Hans Zimmer battle scene copy as the first song, I usually skip the rest of the songs. This is because almost always rest of the songs are also in the similar lines as the first one, including the quality of the music.

Friendly tip 2:
Be diverse. This is really important for getting work in the gaming industry. Developers are usually the ones hiring the audio guys for their projects and they don't like hunting for the talent all the time. If they know someone who can come up with almost any kind of music, the devs are likely to use that person regularly for their projects. Especially if the results always end up being really good.

Friendly tip 3:
The demo song compositions AND productions need to be top notch. They have to sound professional in all aspects. Game developers aren't interested in working as a music producer who hires the composer, engineer, session players, mixing engineer, etc. You will be the one doing all those tasks either all by yourself or by hiring extra talent for the project. Since the budgets for the audio usually aren't very big, creating the music is usually a one or two man show. You most likely need to learn how to do it all.

About the demo video:
Make sure you demonstrate the quality and diversity you can provide for the client. Also make sure the songs fit the video material's mood. As an example, here's the demo reel from the sound guy we usually use for our projects:

#28
9th January 2012
Old 9th January 2012
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Wow, really great stuff there.

matt
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9th January 2012
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Ok so do you need to make a new and unique demo reel for each gaming company you're pitching or would they get the picture if you made one or two from game trailers that weren't related to their specific company? I'm not a sound FX guy but a musician. Do FX need to be in these things as well?
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9th January 2012
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Just make one kick ass demo reel and send it to all the potential clients. If you want to concentrate only on the music, then no SFX are needed. Just make sure the people watching the reel understand that you're not going to provide SFX.
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