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Hi all. No idea if this is the right forum or not, but I'll roll with it anyways. I'm Daniel Caton. I used to lurk on the site a ton, then made a handful of posts a few years ago and dropped off the grid entirely. In hindsight, that wasn't the right decision, since I left a few people hanging on some projects and messages. If that's you and you're reading this, well, I've realized lately that I owe a good number of people some serious apologies, so I'll be sending some messages out about that as soon as I can figure out how to properly word them.

As important as that is, though, that's not why I'm making this specific post. I'm running into a problem, and I was hoping some of you might at be able to help me figure things out. I'm planning to apply for an internship for next summer with a game development studio somewhere. With any luck, it might look good on my resumé when I'm out searching for a job the following summer. Ideally I'll be doing sound design and/or music, but hey, I'll make coffee and sweep floors if that gets my foot in the door. The trouble is, I don't have any connections anywhere. I've talked to teachers at my college, I've reached out to my friends and extended family, and I just haven't been able to find anything. I can still send out applications, sure, but it's a competitive field and I was really hoping that knowing someone somewhere in the industry would give me a slight edge in getting my foot in the door.

So I suppose my question is this: what in the world should I do now? I'm working on learning FMOD, Wwise, sound design, and music composition in order to put them on my resumé. I'm seeking out projects to score for my portfolio. Are there places I should look to meet people and make connections? Are there good places to find developers who need soundtracks? In short, are there any ways I can increase my chances of getting some kind of relevant internship? I know this isn't really a game development site and you may not be able to help, but right now I'm just grabbing at straws. Any advice you might have is more than welcome.

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If you're just looking to get experience in music scoring, just Google around for Game Development boards and Game Development Engines (GameMaker, RPGMaker, Unity, etc.), post that you're wanting to do some work for free and see what you can get out of it. Word of warning that these boards are depressingly filled to overflow with lots of other composers willing to bite off their own wiener if they thought it would get them hired and even trying to work for free is kinda hard to come by (be prepared to see a lot of SAM FOSTER threads), but then again there are some occasional posts by others looking for composers as long as they don't have to pay them. You'll just need to go and look.

And don't get suckered into the "I need connections to be successful!" bullshit. That's just a quarter-truth told by other composers so they can look like they're awesome for giving you advice without it actually dampening their own chances of getting more work. You don't get hired because someone knew you and happened to have your contact info handy when they were talking to someone else, you get hired because you have the skills that impresses people enough to say, "Man, you should go check out that Daniel Caton guy and see if he's not tied up right now." Quality of craft is always the first priority.

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EDIT : Strangely enough, i was searching articles and found one by said person i'm working for on this exact topic! He's echoing a lot of what i've already told you, including the value of networking, but he's saying it with over a decade of experience under his belt, so i'd read this and see if you find it helpful. http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1402/getting_a_job_creating_sound_and_.php


OP : I think aiming to go straight to an in-house position is the wrong way to approach things. From what I've heard from industry professionals I'm in contact with, the majority of studios both major and indie now outsource audio work to freelancers (either individuals or an audio post production company) and then have the small team of in-house veterans handle the final implementation and overall direction. I don't think the "making coffee and sweeping floors" thing really applies much to anything these days, not even in recording studios. Most seem to get into development by starting as QA testers, and i can't see a clear path from that into audio.

I'm no success story but I've recently landed my first bit of paid work, so I can offer some insight into how I got there. My advice would be to work with others in the audio field and try to get some hands on experience with them instead of a game company. I'm going to disagree a bit with Meteo's comment about not needing connections. Networking is extremely valuable for getting your foot in the door because it allows you to find opportunities you would otherwise be unaware of, and more importantly it let's you interact with professionals on a more casual, human level when it's face-to-face. I attended a popular audio meet here in the UK, got drunk and had a blast with some famous audio faces, and all I had to do was show up. I wasn't digging for jobs here but it let me build a rapport with a few people early on.

My 3rd university year gave the opportunity to develop a hypothetical game for a real developer (one who has close ties with Sony) and while I was lucky that my University catered for such a thing, the company director (who is also the sound guy) did give me some useful advice when it comes to asking for work that I can share with you. You have to be casual, friendly, enthusiastic and ask them if there's any work that they can't be bothered to do. It's pretty simple. We all can't be bothered to do things. Don't say you'll do it for free, but don't ask to be paid either. Leave it in the air and see what they offer, until you can confidently say your skills are worth x amount of money. Using this advice helped me land some work with somebody from the networking event mentioned previously. His company is currently providing audio for an indie game. I didn't have to show him any of my previous work. Just by keeping in contact from the networking event and knowing that i was an enthusiastic audio student seemed to be enough for him. That's money in the pocket, my name in the credits and portfolio material for the future.

Before all this though it's most important that you can demonstrate your audio skills, obviously. The scary thing about going into game audio is you're now expected to know pretty much everything (sound design, composition, middleware and audio programming in multiple scripting languages).  The ability to create procedural audio via code is also becoming more prominent and your implementation skills will put you a cut above the rest. You're on the right track learning both FMOD and Wwise, but not every developer will want to pay the expense so it's important you learn how to implement audio directly into Unity and Unreal, at least enough to cater for smaller projects.There's no better way to show these skills than using the tutorial projects that engines like Unity come with, populating then with audio via middleware or in-engine and even tweaking the default game to something more personal to show that you have some coding capabilities. Making the audio react to the game in interesting ways should be priority number one. I'm sure most devs are sick of seeing the same practice projects in portfolios, so show them you can take initiative and be creative.

Hopefully some of this information is helpful. Go get 'em!

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This is all useful advice, and I really do appreciate it. Thanks so much.

@Meteo Xavier, I do understand that networking's a whole lot less useful if you don't have quality work. I have a basic portfolio/demo reel now that I'm adding to and adjusting as time goes on. It's just music right now, but I'm working on throwing some sound design shenanigans on there as soon as I can get it to a quality level that I'm happy with.

@DarkEco, I do understand where you're coming from as far as the freelance vs. in-house debate. In this case, I need an internship somewhere as a graduation requirement for my university, so I figured that trying to work with a studio somewhere might fulfill that requirement while also adding something useful to my resumé. My general thought process is this: since I need to intern somewhere next summer anyways, why not pick somewhere that'll help me out when I'm getting a regular job later on? Therefore, game studios. Other options are out there, sure, and at the end of the day, I can always work with my professors and find something that'll get me that degree, even if it's not exactly what I might prefer. In this case, it's just... well, why not try?

To address your main point, I do recognize that the freelance vs. in-house debate is an important one, and it is one that I've been considering. I'm aware that in-house composers are so rare that I might as well rule that one out entirely. I'll admit that I'm not as familiar with dedicated audio post-production companies, though it seems like something I really should have thought of before. Onward to Google, I suppose. And lastly, freelance work is always an option. There are a lot of considerations, though, and it's not turning out to be an easy decision. Even ignoring the question of what exactly the jobs entail, the lifestyles are just very different and right now, I'm having a hard time deciding which would work best. On the surface, freelance appears to offer a little more freedom, but in-house (either with a game studio or a post-production company) seems to offer a little more stability.

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6 hours ago, Daniel Caton said:

@Meteo Xavier, I do understand that networking's a whole lot less useful if you don't have quality work. I have a basic portfolio/demo reel now that I'm adding to and adjusting as time goes on. It's just music right now, but I'm working on throwing some sound design shenanigans on there as soon as I can get it to a quality level that I'm happy with.

I would say it's bullshit that it's bullshit that you don't need connections to be successful, BUT It's not about "who you know", as they say — it's about who knows you.

Anyway, while posting on forums isn't inherently bad and doesn't hurt to do it, just don't become one of these people who just spam those forums over and over — it's the laziest way that people take to make themselves feel like they're chasing their dreams.

Try to find a IGDA or other indie game dev community that has meetups near you as well. In the one near me, they used to host the meetups at Bioware and a lot of people from that company still attend the meetups. You never know who you might meet at these things.

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First off, for a career primer on what all this stuff is like, there's really nothing more accurate and comprehensive than the GameSoundCon annual survey. Here's the report from 2017: https://www.gamesoundcon.com/single-post/2017/10/02/GameSoundCon-Game-Audio-Industry-Survey-2017

Networking is absolutely the most important thing you can do as a composer (really, as a person who seeks to stay ahead in any industry). As shown in the report, little over half of all reported gigs were recruitments and referrals. I've been presented a lot of opportunities by knowing a lot of people who have things going on. For example, a composer/business mentor I met years ago contacted me recently to tell me he (and even his assistant) is starting to get too busy for the gig load that's coming into his company, and that he wants to rope me in to help out with that stuff and sees my skillset as up to the task.

As for groups and places, you really want to join the Game Audio Network Guild, and start attending GDC if you can afford it. They have cheaper Expo passes that don't give you access to audio panels, but don't at all inhibit your ability to network or attend the guild mixers/events. GDC is really the most important networking event for any sub-industry of the game industry. Getting to know the faces of all the people who you're in the industry with is really essential. The Guild itself gives a lot of resources, like discounts, sure, but also things like contract templates for your gigs.

That being said, it's important to learn how to network. Do not go around handing business cards and expecting that to do anything, and also don't be that person walking around asking if anyone's hiring. Networking is about building actual relationships with people, colleagues, friends. I essentially go to GDC just to hang out with people. When you meet someone really cool and fun to talk to, it's very memorable. When you meet someone who hands you a card and is like "I write and produce music", it's a massive yawn. Literally everyone else in the room might do what you do, and half of them might do it better.

Think of it like this, it's like creating a spider web. You can make a lot of connections and build a really huge web... but it's just going to rip and fall apart when it tries to catch something if all those connections are weak. Even if you have a small web of strong connections (closer to what my situation is like), that web will hold steadfast when something runs into it. The ideal is, over the years, starting with a small one and building it up to a large one, but always keeping it going strong.

Lastly, OCR is not a great place to get advice about this stuff. There's not a whole lot of professionals here who are actively in the industry who hang out on these forums. I highly recommend joining "Business Skills for Composers" on Facebook. It's a group of a few thousand people and a lot of very successful guys who like to mentor hang out there. The advice is really invaluable, and the amount of existing material that covers topics like how much to charge, how to network, how to pitch, managing your rights to your work, maximizing your opportunities (whether it be $$$ compensation or planting seeds for more opportunities), etc.are way more than enough to chew on for the first year of career development. It's a very focused group and heavily moderated, so all the content is on point and they make sure all the discussions are productive. There's really no first step I'd recommend more than joining BSFC and reading the discussions, and asking your own questions. Lots of people employ the advice they get there to great effect (for example, people don't realize they can often raise their rates a lot, and companies will accept the price).

Here's a great guide that @zircon sent me when I was younger and had no idea what any of this was about. http://tinysubversions.com/2005/10/effective-networking-in-the-games-industry-introduction/


As a final note... from the perspective of networking, your strongest asset is you, yourself. Your personality, your work ethic. When people are looking to hire, spread the word, refer gigs, w/e it is, they don't contact people who are flaky, people who are assholes, people who are unprofessional or not confident, etc. Being a composer is like being a salesperson in some respects. It's not just your product, and it's not just going around posting ads; it's very much about becoming someone people trust and like working with so that these relationship will keep bearing more fruit. You need to develop a personality that people will look at and say "i really like this guy/I really like working with this guy."

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