Updated: Aug 16
Being a video game music composer is about so much more than the gear, the games, and even the music.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a video game music composer. And you know, just like I do, that we’ve chosen a unique profession for ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a student, an early professional, or a seasoned veteran; you know that this job is quirky. Of course, it’s difficult but I’m not going to waste your time with another tired rant about how hard it is to be a working composer. Any profession that requires you to set out on your own is hard, we aren’t special in that regard.
However, the job and its corresponding lifestyle can sometimes be just weird. Video games might be the largest entertainment industry on the planet but our role within this industry doesn’t quite carry the same level of prestige and general social understanding as that of, say, a film composer. At least not just yet. Everybody knows who Hans Zimmer or John Williams is. Not everybody knows who Yoko Shimomura or Jason Graves is (which is a shame). I am not, however, bemoaning our collective fame.
Some of us produce music by making old Gameboys scream. Some of us have entire orchestras jammed into our computers. Most of us are just hunting for our next gig. And absolutely all of us are terrified to raise our rates.
Instead, I’m trying to make a point about how difficult it can be for those who aren’t also video game music composers to understand what we do. Some of us produce music by making old Gameboys scream. Some of us have entire orchestras jammed into our computers. Most of us are just hunting for our next gig. And absolutely all of us are terrified to raise our rates. We got into this because we love video games and we love music. We’re all still learning how to love business, taxes, networking, and work/life balance.
Most people understand what we do on the surface; we write music for video games. They don’t understand that we’re also small business owners. They don’t understand that all of us are (sometimes) reluctantly mixing and mastering engineers by necessity as well. They don’t understand how you can charge how much for a minute of music (and that it’s honestly still way too low of an amount)? They don’t understand why you won’t just get a “real” job?
But, do you know who does understand?
Video game music composers understand video game music composers. We all have so many shared lived experiences. It’s important for us to talk about those experiences with others. In this way, we can all grow and learn from each other. Life is too short to make every mistake on your own. If another composer can teach you about desktop ergonomics and help you save your spine; you should let them.
So, this is why there is a Lifestyle section on this blog. Because I want to share with you my own experiences and pass along the knowledge I’m learning as I go. I’m hoping as more people read this blog, we can share their experiences here as well. You should share your experiences, too. So, watch this space. There will be plenty more coming.
In the meantime, find other communities of video game music composers to get involved with. If you need some help getting started, consider joining the Beats to Play Games to discord server. It’s a community of video game music composers that are looking to grow together in their careers. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out and it was created with this exact spirit in mind. It’s run by several friends of mine and you’ll be welcomed regardless of where you’re at in your career.
Is there anything about the video game music composer lifestyle that you want to know more about? Let me know in the comments below.