Breaking The Video Game Music Industry
Breaking the Video Game Music Industry
Breaking the music industry is not an easy thing to do and the harsh reality is that few musicians, however talented, will headline stadium shows, no matter how good they are.
That is not to say there is no career in music though; from session musicians through to film and TV, there are opportunities to create music for a living. One ever-expanding industry, which can provide a great opportunity for music makers, is the video game industry. We’ve already examined this briefly in our article Video Game Voices Giving Life to the Game, but we have now got practical tips on how to break into the industry.
Before you start, you must be aware of how many different levels of video game music there are these days. The epic, sprawling plains of Red Dead Redemption 2 have soundtracks comprising of many hours of music, changing with the environment, the time of day and the mission the player is competing on. On the other hand, mobile games such as puzzlers and slot machines draw more from shorter, looped tracks, which came to define the 8-bit generation of gaming. In between, there is a hybrid too, a selection of games that need themed music that are reactionary, but also simpler to compose. Many of today’s slot games are often inspired by pop culture with Foxy Games having titles based on films including Beauty and the Beast and Jokerzier. Just like the films, these slot games make use of music and often that ties into the themes they use as their basis and provide challenges in setting scenes without being too complex. It is a vast world, across different devices, titles, genres and styles which offers an opportunity for everyone and anyone with the right talent.
How does a budding musician go about getting into the video game industry?
A college degree isn’t necessarily required to become a video game composer, but you would certainly need an understanding of traditional music scoring techniques, with orchestration and composition high priorities, but also a grasp of more game-specific areas such as sequencing and spotting areas within a title which requires changes of mood.
A firm understanding of the video game industry is absolutely essential. If you were to work on a classic console title, you’d need to adapt your approach to creating music, working in blocks that can interconnect with each other, but that are also undefined in length, to fit with the gamers’ experiences. It would also help to cultivate contacts in the industry, network online and understand what stages of development games are currently in, so you know what to pitch.
In terms of practical skills, any aspiring composer would need to have a basic understanding of recording software such as Logic and Protools. You may want to find a niche too; are you someone who composes big, orchestral tracks suited to the expansive open worlds created on consoles, or are you more comfortable with shorter, looped jingles that act as a backdrop to mobile puzzlers, slot machines and basic platform titles?
The main key is being enthusiastic about both areas, music and gaming. Brian Schmidt is a renowned composer of video game music and has been for over three decades, and he explains how the only reason he got the job was that he was good at the pinball game he played as part of his first interview. By combining his two passions, he has managed to forge a career many young people just starting out would be proud to have.
Be passionate, be prepared to freelance and be aware of what is happening in the gaming world. Be ready to network extensively and most of all be prepared to play games. Taking those skills forward might allow you to hear your piece of music on the next huge title to break on consoles.
Breaking the Video Game Music Industry