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How did you get into the game music industry?


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Well yes my topic is the game music industry, but more specifically how one would go about breaking into that field and to start shaping a career. So i guess to get started I would just like to know how some of you at OC Remix came to be were you are today.

Got an open-ended question from a student, Johnny, looking to get some insight as to how some of the community members broke into the game music industry (or have at least dipped a toe in the water with some pro/paid work).

If anyone would like to share their story, and/or distill how they've gone about finding & creating opportunities to break into the VGM industry, that would be great!

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Well, generally, I should think it best boils down to one of two ways:

1. You answer calls looking for composers for indie games on indie gaming forums and other game-related projects and avenues until you build a decent enough portfolio and start climbing to bigger and better games until eventually you're working on more mainstream material.

2. You go to college for a full music degree, also build a portfolio for small gigs in and around the want ads posted at music colleges and submit your resume around to game companies until you get hired by one of them and just go forward from there.

Not every history is quite that neatly compacted, but if I've learned anything from listening to the histories of others who found success, it boils down to that on objective information - the rest of it is just individual subjective practices and plain and simple luck.

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I've only ever gotten 3 VGM jobs, all of which were competed for and won via the OCR forums, only two of which have come through with payment, and only one of which has actually been released.

The other paying music composition jobs I've gotten were in conjunction with voiceover jobs, where I offered a bundle deal to a commercial client.

Any other ways I've attempted to gain VGM jobs have yielded nothing.

In short, I am of no help at all.

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I actually am working on a major guide project I hoped to make a part of the OCR Music Workshop forums that goes into much, much, greater detail for this subject as well as offering good objective advice for getting better success out of music endeavors.

Offering a package deal of services is one of the things I go into on it.

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I'm working on 3 VGM OSTs right now. I got one gig because of networking through a personal friend whose brother is an indie game developer, and it's a pretty small gig.

The next rung up the ladder is for Approaching Infinity. I got this job sort of "accidentally on purpose." I'm a huge fan of roguelikes, and after playing through FTL and loving the shit out of Ben Prunty's soundtrack for it and seeing that zircon is writing an OST for Dungeonmans (another roguelike), I wondered if I could get a piece of the roguelike pie. So I googled something along the lines of "upcoming roguelikes" or "roguelike 2013" and started emailing the devs of ones that I thought were developing a

promising-looking game. I stumbled upon one dev's blog who had JUST made a post about wanting a composer for his game. So I responded with a bunch of links to my tunes. He replied, asking me to write a sample track, so I did, and he liked it, and now I'm getting $$$$$$$$$$ to write the whole OST.

For my last and most involved game, I got the gig indirectly through having released a remix album through GameChops. I know that Dj CutMAn (or however he capitalizes it) is pretty well-connected among indie game devs and in the convention scene, so releasing an album through his label would get my music heard by at least some game devs. And it did. And they liked it. And now I'm co-composing the soundtrack for Bacon Man (check out our MAGBooth!) along with Kyle Landry and Braxton Burks.

I've had several other paid gigs for non-game music commissions as well, and the two secrets to my modest success are to network and get to know as many people as possible in the gaming scene -- not just other composers, but devs, artists, programmers, etc. They'll hook you up with work. Also, they're cool people. Secret #2 is to be able to write in many, many different styles and to do so routinely. Every dev or potential employer who has asked for samples of my music has noted that they like how all of my tunes sound different from one another. That immediately establishes confidence that you will be able to meet their various stylistic needs. Flexibility is crazy important when you're writing in a genre as nebulous as VGM.

Chilling on indie game dev forums and getting to know people there certainly couldn't hurt, either. Although a lot of composers post their music on those forums, NOT a lot of composers spend time actively posting in topics related to anything but their own music. Again, NETWORK. Set yourself apart from the grayscale of composers and make your personality known. Go to conventions and make your FACE known, as well. In fact, that's how I got my very first VGM composing gig, by talking to a dev at MAGFest about writing music for his game.

Another random idea is to volunteer to write music for Ludum Dare or other indie game jams to get a foot in the door with various teams of developers. You won't make any money, but you'll be doing a huge favor for game devs who you'll get to know personally, and they won't forget that when it comes time for them to develop a game they'll actually sell. The practice doesn't hurt, either, if you've never had to work with a team which requires you to quickly respond/rewrite based on critiques.

And no matter how good of a composer you are, if your production isn't reasonably polished and skilled, you're going to struggle to come across as professional enough to write for a game.

Edited by ectogemia
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While I haven't been paid for music outside of OCR, it was OCR itself that linked me to some contract work in a completely different media field - being video editing.

One tip I can give is to practice your skills on a consistent basis. I rendered my first attempts at video montages when I was a University student, where some of my avant garde Music Technology assignments required them to be put to visuals. Since graduation, my video editing skills had worked out in my favor for music videos accompanying my remixes, the various OCR project perspectives I've done and any other random gaming plights.

When you get the hardware to work with your skills, learn what it's capable of and see how appropriate you can work with it. I had gone from using stock FX and simple Windows Media Maker transition manipulation in my early post-grad days to studying what my father's old copy of Magix Movie Maker (and all versions since) had and thinking of ways to make the various transitions and positions work on the fly. Since they were also timed to music, timing is also the biggest key when it comes to using your various assets.

However, you could be the most skilled in your field but won't go anywhere. That's why having links from other people would also help. If someone notices what you do and likes it, and wants to recommend you to someone else, then go for that opportunity and see what it leads to. In my case, that very unnamed OCR staff member was the link between myself and my first paid video editing contract.

It takes a lot to build up after that, but if you enjoy what you do and want to keep pushing yourself, then you know you've got the right frame of mind to do stuff on a commercial basis. :)

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The jobs will definitely not come to you. If they do, you're quite lucky. My first real job was mostly due to the fact that am friends with the guy who hired me. In the end, you have to pound the pavement and do all of that self marketing stuff. Learning that stuff requires a lot of trial and error and reading some books. I'm sure there are some here who will be better informed as to these sort of things.

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