When it comes to getting your music in video games, it all boils down to just two things: being a little braver than usual and making the right connections.
Getting started on this path might seem a little daunting to newbies, and most of us look up to the greats like Hiroki Kikuta and Austin Wintory for inspiration. But it’s important to remember that they started out just like you and me.
Kikuta was rejected by his first choice for work, and Wintory landed his first gig by word of mouth. That goes to prove the point I made in the first paragraph: that all you really need to get your music into a video game is some courage and a nudge in the right direction.
1. Have a portfolio of your music and sound design.
This is the first point because it’s the most important one, hands down. Having a portfolio for potential clients to refer to can give them an idea of the music you’ve been making, and whether your style would be a good fit for their game or not.
Don’t worry too much if you don’t have any experience working with any game companies! Get creative with your skills and love of music — you could even compose music to existing games to show off your own take on them by layering your composition over gameplay footage!
2. Repeat after me: Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio!
Yep, this point is so important that I’m including it twice. I’ve been approached by budding composers asking how to get a job composing music for video games. When asked to produce a portfolio, these students often have nothing to show for their passion other than a bemused expression.
Life doesn’t work that way!
For most creative projects, a portfolio or showreel is incredibly important because it showcases both the breadth and depth of your work. Whether you’re working with fellow music composers or wooing potential clients, they need to be able to see what you can do before giving you the job!
3. Remember to take legal/copyright precautions.
So now that your portfolio is all good and ready to go, there are a couple of tricky legal things to keep in mind to keep yourself out of hot water. Some game developers would prefer for their content to stay out of fan-made videos, while others actively encourage it. It all boils down to a simple matter of preference!
You can visit these two links where you’ll find a list of game developers that are completely in favor of let’s play style videos, gameplays and other community videos using their intellectual property.
Check out the “Let’s Play”-friendly developers Wiki here! The developers in this comprehensive list contain the names developers who explicitly allow “Let’s Play” style videos of their games to be created, shared, and monetized.
There’s a simple workaround this if you’re not keen on doing too much research — just keep your videos unlisted, and only send them to potential clients or collaborators. That way, even if you don’t build an audience, you can work without finding yourself in a bit of a legal pickle.
4. Send your resumes to game companies!
The easiest way to land a great opportunity is to keep knocking on doors. While you might be embarrassed about sending your resume and portfolio multiple times, in the digital age, opening an email is much less of a hassle than opening a letter.
Reach out as often as you like, because some companies receive tons of emails a day and might have missed yours, or skipped it because they didn’t need a music composer at that time. The situation changes, so sending in a little reminder now and then doesn’t hurt!
In fact, I got my first job as a music composer after my 2nd email to the same company. The first email was sent to them 3 months prior.
Or, for a foot in the door, you can apply for an internship or even work unpaid for experience!
5. Join your local game dev/game music community to network. Be friendly, nice and a little thick-skinned!
Exactly what it says on the tin. I cannot stress enough how important it is to network!
Forming bonds within the community and making friends while sharing an interest is all well and good, and if your work is right up their alley, people will think of involving you as their project comes to fruition.
Don’t be afraid to share your work for constructive criticism too, and always approach a project with an open mind! Which leads me to my next point…
6. Keep working on music/sound and improve your craft.
I believe that people are drawn to hard-working people. No matter the industry, the person who works hard will garner respect, even if they aren’t well-known. The same applies to your craft.
Others will have a much more positive impression of you if they see you as a hustler working hard to fulfill your dream. There’s no room for false modesty here — whether you believe your work is good or bad, share it and work on improving it.
7. It is good to join Global Game Jam, which happens every year, all around the world!
If you didn’t already know, The Global Game Jam® (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam event (game creation) taking place around the world at physical locations.
It embodies the idea that in today’s heavily connected world, we can come together from all around the globe to be creative together and share experiences, all while expressing ourselves with video games.
It’s great exposure for anyone looking to network!
8. Sell your game music tracks at game asset stores
Once you have a collection of game music tracks, you can start thinking of ways to make use of them. One way is to sell them at game asset stores such as Unity, Unreal Engine Marketplace and Game Dev Market.
We started out selling our very first 8-bit music pack back in 2016. It is okay to start small and slowly build up your music library. We composed music packs whenever there’s a lull period. This helps to keep our discipline to keep producing music and to keep the creative juice flowing.
You can start by composing the music of your favorite genre, subsequently, a genre of music you hope to tackle. We see this as a great opportunity to stretch ourselves and trying new things.
This way, you are building up your portfolio, positioning yourself where game developers can find you, and also setting yourself up to earn some money. It’s like killing 3 birds with one stone!
Custom Project Opportunities
We were hired to write more music tracks because game developers bought our music pack and wanted more music tracks of the same genre. We wrote 5 additional music for Kefir!’s Last Day on Earth: Survival in 2018 because they bought our Exploration Game Music Pack. In April 2020, we signed a contract to write 7 Music, and is in the midst of creating sound effects for Meta Interaction’s Ghost of Dragon (currently in development), because they liked one our Mourning Stars track. The opportunity here is endless.
We highly recommend you, music composers, to have a shot at selling your music tracks at game asset stores!
There you have it, tips from me on how to get your music into a video game! Work hard on your craft and keep knocking on doors. Do you have any questions? Let us know in the comments below.