StudioAlethea: “@DanielPharos How did you first get into game music? It seems like an interesting avenue for my music, but I’m not sure how to start!”
Thanks for your question. I get that every now and then. Why not answer it here…
Both things are essential parts of me. Through my elder brother I came in contact with games quite early (with 6ys I think), Atari console with Pacman. I did the whole gamer thing, a little game designing, learned some programming when I was 12 (I am successfully crap at 8 languages now). Did MUDs, text adventures, played 1000s of games on C64, Amiga, SNES and so on. We had a mailbox (BBS), user meetings…
Music came later. I made some shitty MODs in the early 90ies, learned to play guitar, joined metal bands, released more and more stuff, gigs, nightliner tours…
I am actually somewhat hardcore with those 2 things (depending how you want to define it). In my best times I had 6 rehearsals a week with 3 bands. I recently sold my 3000 Amiga disks (I kept the best of course).
Hardcore because honestly I refused to learn something decent outside those 2 areas of interest, I have no fallback plan, so my only chance to save my wasted youth is to be a (music + games = ) game composer. So, the shift came natural to me.
My first try was with the game Gothic I, which turned out to be a hit. Sadly, I was too young & stupid, I couldn’t handle the software and didn’t take it so seriously, so my music did not make it into the game (though that stuff is quite good). That regret was another factor to drive me into the biz. So I tried again, and again.
First, a few student games, then, I got contacted by a company to do some small commercial game. And a 2nd, and a 3rd… I continue to work for students and non-commercial projects, sort of 50/50 at times. So, here we are, I am shifting to full time (finally) next month.
So, How To Do It?
Everybody will find their own formula for themselves. I am not the most successful one on the planet, duh, so my formula isn’t solid gold, but it works for me a little.
- Help and be helped. Karma works for me. If you help developers of a non-commercial game, they might remember you forever. Help out your contacts if you see an oppertunity for them! It’s not only about your progress. Only with the help of your contacts you will move up to the next step. I hope I am helping you a little now.
- Prove yourself. Many situations will test you, your character, your music, your stamina. Try to shine in those situations. Impress somebody. You might create a happy regular customer or even a good friend.
- Game Design Students produce games and need help all the time. They also are the future of our industry, so search for schools in your vicinity and approach them. Approach students of that school online. Look at their game project website before contacting them.
- Networking is the mother. I believe “who you know” to be the most important thing, sometimes even more important than the quality of your music. (Look at me! 😉 ) Go to events nearby, approach people, bring business cards. Meet up with the people you already know, introduce them to others you know and get introduced to the ones they know… Stay in touch afterwards! Also via Linkedin and its many local brothers like Xing in Germany.
- Know Games. I am totally against musicians bleeding into the game music industry just because it seems to make money, not “feeling” it. If you are not into games, it will show. Grab some games, experience what it’s all about. I don’t get to play much anymore myself, but I try. If you honestly don’t get them, stick with diapers ads. Because you can’t “also do a little game music” because you need to…
- Be royalty-free. Game Biz does not like collecting societies like GEMA. So if you also need to be the next big movie composer, and compose for hit records, you have to make a commitment. Games or not?
- Educate yourself. There are a lot of books out there. I want to make a list some time. Grab them. Get magazines. Also look at Gamasutra.com, get the free Develop magazine and the not so free Game Developer. And your local alternatives.
- Local, local, local. Yeah I say that all the time. Like an actress shouldn’t attack Hollywood right away, try to find a market for you where you don’t compete with Hans Zimmer. If you are in Usbekistan, chances are any local gamedevs will be needing that music of yours!
- Get education. I am a lecturer for the School of Entertainment and Technology. If you are in Germany or Austria, have a look. Otherwise, there is a lot of education out there, for example at Berklee, who also offer online courses.
- Work on your stuff. I mean, not only your own instrument skills, but digitally record music as often as you can, get together a demo reel. Put up a website, put the songs up, and send link to anyone you know and meet and who might care. Do not wait for anything. Run. If you have nothing to do, it will take you only a day (I swear) to find a game on this planet which will be happy to have your music for free. Blast them off their feet. New brilliant demo, new friend, repeat.
It’s all a bit much at the same time, and so it does feel all the time. Playing games and reading books can be hard at times when you have a lot of music to produce. But these are I think a few starting points off the top of my head. OK? Anything else? Make sure to contact me if you need something.