Game edition DTF has prepared a translation of the article game composer Winifred Phillips, where the author gave tips for those who want to find work in the field of creating music and sounds for games. They relate to the education portfolio, networking and communication with developers. From time to time between the orders I collect the actual advice about career strategies for composers in the gaming industry (many of my readers are beginners and they need some help). In this material Ive included a few useful ideas from three sources — articles the former an audio designer, Rockstar North, elegant discussion on Reddit about the ways of effective communication (found in the sub-forum GameAudio) and roundtable discussion at GameSoundCon about best business techniques for professional game sound. The record producer is the Solid Audioworks (formerly a senior sound designer of the famous Studio Rockstar North) will Morton posted the exhaustive material for the portal Gamasutra.
In the article “make a statement. How to find a job in sound design or music for games” he talks about the importance of experience, relationships and a sound presentation to create the right impression about yourself to a potential employer or client. Most of the article — good tips for a job search in any field, but some of the ideas seemed useful to me for video game composers. First, Morton suggests that education (which he calls “qualified”) does not matter. Personally, I never took on the job only for the diploma and never denied to someone just because of lack of education.
However, Morton recalls. Not worth it to neglect education, as to give too much attention to grades and earning a degree. “The learning process involves, what you get is knowledge, and this knowledge is valuable,” he says, adding that time at University is the perfect time to gather indicative portfolio. He also suggests that portfolio should be filled with materials created outside of the educational projects, otherwise itd be too much like the work of classmates.
Collecting material for his book “A Composers Guide to Game Music”, I found that the skill of working with sound is acquired in very different ways. Knowledge can be acquired in educational institutions, learning by yourself or from a mentor. In the book there is a quote of a famous conductor Sarah Caldwell. “Learn everything I can when I can, anyone can”.
So thinking and Morton, advising you to concentrate on the knowledge, not its sources. “Its a cliché, but knowledge is definitely power,” he says. Finally, Morton offers to make connections during learning, and better if it is a friendship, not just business contacts. This approach is relevant when we find friends and acquaintances in the profession. Morton mentions a few times that friendship is more important than professional relationships.
“People like to work with those they do not just know, but who are sympathetic,” he says. According to him, to expand the circle of communication on major events of the industry — for example, GDC, GameSoundCon Conference and Develop. Social networking is a great way to keep in touch after conferences. If you met someone at an event, contact them through LinkedIn, Twitter or by email and write them a message after the event. It also stresses the importance of a strong portfolio and be able to share them at any time.
“Account on Soundcloud to keep the link — like Morton. ? Now publish on the Internet just as never before.”. Nuggets of useful information can sometimes be collected during the public discussion of the topic. This conversation on Reddit turned out to be particularly useful. She began with the question.
“If you create music and effects for games, what kind of feedback youd expect from a game designer (who knows the sound only at a basic level)?”. The subject was opened by the designer, who had difficulties in effective communication with the composer. This view seems to me quite curious. Developers with no experience in music is sometimes difficult to understand game composers. Look at the situation from the other side at the same time interesting and useful.
One of the most common advice is to send “temporary” compositions (temp tracks) to reach an understanding. The user SimpleMusicAnswers gave a precise definition of the term. “Look tracks, similar to what you need, and show them to the composer. They are called “provisional” (temps)”.
As pointed SimpleMusicAnswers, this will not only simplify communication, but also clarify the intention of all participants. “Music is very subjective, and these compositions give the project leaders and composers of clear guidelines”. “This is beneficial to the composer and the project Manager adds the user alechungry, indicating that the exchange tracks can help both parties better understand each other. The composer discovers what the designer likes or dislikes”. Misunderstandings and failures in communication were frequently mentioned throughout the threads.
The user SamMcA cites as an example the worst-case scenario. “Nothing baffles the composer, as when the project Manager says he wants more French horns, but in fact he wants more oboes”. Continuing this thought, a Reddit user bstix warns that “use descriptive words only when you agree about their meaning. If not, it is as unintelligible how to describe the overall color words”.
One of the most interesting comments were left by anonymous. “Make sure you have an understanding, even if I have to get colleagues to repeat what they just heard”. One day I found that some developers appreciate it when I keep telling them that they are trying to convey. For example, describe in a short letter the direction of their work, telling their wording. So you can show the team that I understand their idea — this will help to develop mutual trust.
Confidence (and lack thereof) in the subject mentioned a few times. You likely hired the composer for his music and abilities — so listen and respect his vision. User notice SimpleMusicAnswers. “Distrust is more common in indie games, because game designers want to control the whole process, but experienced developers learn to trust each other that each has ruled his part of the creation of the game.”. Just in case.
Heres a fun video with a roundtable of composers and Directors at Sundance 2015, which discussed the temporary composition. Although the discussion is more about temporary music in the film industry, some observations can be useful and game composers. The GameSoundCon conference 2015, held a round table discussion about business techniques useful for anyone working with sound. It was attended by sound designer Cole Hicks from Kole Audio Solutions and two members of the Hexany Audio. A leading composer Andy Forsberg and sound designer Richard Ludlow.
Below are a few tips heard. First, the discussion touched on interpersonal relations with emphasis on the importance of strong ties. Worth talking louder than usual, a bigger smile, and firmly shake hands, but it does not turn into a “car salesman”. The goal is to leave the impression of being “confident, but not arrogant”. We also spoke about relationships, when Dating, it is better to contact once a month or so.
Need a quiet persistence and friendliness. Meetings should not focus on the business. If the relationship got to the point where you are going to start working on clients project, the dynamics of the relationship can change dramatically, warns Hicks. Your experience in the gaming industry (not only in the creation of the sound) may be more important for indie companies than for developers of AAA projects. Indy may not know what kind of music they need — they need help.
Working with developers and professionals, should be mindful of other factors. Hicks warns that AAA commands may not rush to communicate with composers. But when they do get in touch, their understanding of the desired music are usually clear, precise and stable. In any case, it is useful to create and maintain interpersonal relations, to try to make the communication more human. Although it is possible to make all communication on the Internet, Hicks warns that “sometimes the communication face to face or at least voice communication is necessary not only to understand the needs of developers, but also to develop trust.”.
In conclusion, Hicks said that if you really want to work on a specific project, you may need to spend the money. “Personal experience I have found that the more invested the time and money to order or to demo, the higher was the probability that I will be offered a job. You can hire a musician or engineer, but in the end it will pay off”. After the conference, Hicks published a synopsis of his presentation on the website Gamasutra, and her slides are available on his official page. Also you can find many useful tips.