Some Common Questions About Doing Music Full Time Answered

bscPicThis is a compilation of some common questions I’ve answered for various people over the last few years.

  1. How long have you been at this, and did you have a “big break” or sort of tipping point where then the gigs started coming to you? Or would you say it was more about persistence searching games out and steadily upping the ante?

I’m not sure I ever had a big break. But what happened was I slowly gained clients little by little. I took a “dealer” approach, if someone came to me and said “I need 2 songs and I only have $100” I said, “SURE! No problem” and gave them the best 2 songs I could make and told them what it SHOULD have costs, this made them very grateful. If they wanted something next time I said ‘well, i know you had a budget on your last game so i wanted to help you out, but you’ll need to pay full prices now…I have literally had a guy ask for 1 chiptune song for $30 and have that turn into $2000 worth of songs after a successful kickstarter a couple months later.

So yeah i guess it’s about steadily upping the ante. I still don’t think I’m like a super pro. As you saw in the article my plan is more “avoid a full time job” and “live off the internet” than, make music my career, although that was the dream on the inside of it.

  1. Would you say geographic location is still a major contributing factor in business?

It would be if you wanted to do like film scoring, but I only have 2 local clients, i’ve never even talked on the phone with most of them, my big spenders are in the U.K. and Japan oddly enough.

  1. Is game composition your day job, or are gear and other business expenses covered by other means of income (day job etc.).

It has been my only day job for stretches of months. Right now it’s about 50% of my day doing music and 50% doing programming and database admin stuff. They both make about the same money in the end, but the programming keeps me through dry spells with no music work. In the times that I did ONLY music, the time spent marketing (instead of other jobs) helped me get new clients and I’d imagine if I marketed myself consistently, I’d always have enough work only on music. I should also add that I live very simple. I don’t have big debts or spend luxuriously. You probably couldn’t do this with a mortgage and kids.

Also if i took boring sound jobs like podcast editing/recording cleanups, I could have a regular 20+ hours of work, but its so dull i’d rather program.

  1. What are your views on percentage based payment? I know you’ve written about pricing elsewhere, but have you or would you pass on a gig because the developer did not

Well, I’ve made like $600 off % based payment in the last year, so, no. I’m not a big fan. I do take the risk if I think a game has potential, but usually, I prefer up front payment and let them keep the rights. I’ve taken some flack from other musicians on this. But do you really want to pay less and hear the same song in another game? If I cared about the game I was making, I wouldn’t.

  1. Do iTunes or something like CD Baby/Tunecore really help your exposure and provide earnings on the side for game composers? I saw that some of your stuff is up there but was hoping to hear about this?

The CD Baby album is actually my client’s. He put it up. I sometimes make a deal with my clients who can’t pay much to retain the rights to their music and sell it myself. It does not bring in major money, just a steady trickle and definitely gets me some exposure.

  1. Do you retain rights to your music, or does the company? How do composers like Danny B, C148, and Disasterpeace post their stuff on bandcamp/keep it in their name? (I have a client who wants to retain bandcamp exclusivity for tax purposes?)

Well, there are different ways and schools of thought on this. Most people want to retain the rights. I have something in my contract saying I have the right to display it in my portfolio and sometimes for people who can’t pay full price, I ask for the rights to sell the music as a soundtrack of their game, but I havent made much off doing that.

  1. The one thing I’d probably hate having to answer, just, how do you get well-paying and sure-to-be-finished game composition jobs? Or any composition jobs? 

See the article on that one. If a game is nonexistent, I charge full prices in case it never comes out.  i.e. you’ll see a “Cannoncraft” score out there by me, it never came out.  i market myself constantly, troll kickstarter, email little obscure gaming companies. msg folks on facebook etc. just keep hammering away and build your clientele.

  1. Does it change when you do music 8 hours a day for money?

When something you love becomes your job it can lose some of its magic. I was surprised to hear even career musicians who have years of experience and giant fan bases say things like that in interviews.

The articles mentioned are all here: Index to Life As a Freelancer Series On VideoGameDJ.com.

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