Round-Up: Articles & Features

2020

Subpixel.
Originally published on Gameumentary in 2017 but updated : We talk about prog rock, composing for orchestra, personal philosophy, early musical memories, workflow, social media, Level, Mini Metro, January, Under the Silver Lake, Triple Frontier, and Hyper Light Drifter.

2019

LA Times.
We discuss Triple Frontier, Under the Silver Lake, and approaching unfamiliar territory.

The 2010s
We talk about Under the Silver Lake, Hyper Light Drifter, starting projects, nostalgia, and remixes.

2018

Native Instruments.
We talk about creative process, tools, and what it was like to write for orchestra on Under the Silver Lake.

2017

Score It.
We talk about silence, influence of nature, crossing mediums, temp score, motifs, and mixing genre.

2016

Adventures in Success.
I recall the untold story of 'Jack Brooze', my eWrestling alter ego as a teenager.

2015

Vehlinggo.
Aaron Vehling and I had a very thorough conversation in New York over dinner. We talked a lot about creativity and lifestyle.

2014
**It Follows Vignette.
This is the vignette that was created for the It Follows DVD.

2013
Gamesauce.
Talks about my background, my experience at MIT Game Lab, working on Bomberman, developing January, crafting the soundtrack for Fez, and general thoughts on music in gaming.

Round-Up: Discussions

From a Piece by Kilian Eng.

Podcasts & Video Interviews

2020

Steven Melin.
We discuss the major projects I've turned down, including Stranger Things. We also chat about how to discover your style as a composer and how to navigate career direction in a world of endless possibilities.

Composer's Concepts
We talked about everything from my music influences growing up to working on games such as Fez, Hyper Light Drifter and films with David Robert Mitchell.

Ashton Gleckman
We discuss film scoring specifically, and the work on It Follows, Under the Silver Lake, and Triple Frontier.

2019

From and Inspired By
We talk in detail about Under the Silver Lake.

Humans Who Make Games
We discuss the chiptune scene, history of music in games, compositional process for video games, the changing internet culture...

Rock n' Roll Beer Guy
We drink beer and talk about my youth, career history, philosophy from project to project, software, and other stuff !

2018

The Game Music Podcast
We talk about the early years of my career, procedural music in Mini Metro and Beasts of Balance, techniques used in Fez and Hyper Light Drifter, among other things.

2017

Lost Beat 6.
We talk about creative process, philosophy, career experiences, and peership.

Game Dev Loadout.
We talk about authenticity, building meaningful relationships, maintaining consistency over long periods and not focusing on too many different projects.

Checkpoints.
We talk about creative processes, procedural audio systems, chiptunes, my evergreen love of Ice Hockey games, being exposed to Zelda in utero, Cave Story and my early musical steps creating entrance music for electronic wrestlers.

Indie Insider.
We speak about my background, FEZ, Hyper Light Drifter, the art of seizing an opportunity, maintaining motivation and inspiration in your work over time, and negotiating pay as a contractor/freelancer.

Super Marcato Bros Podcast.
I spoke with the Marcato Bros. about my career, and more specifically about my sound, and the specifics of projects like FEZ, Hyper Light Drifter, It Follows, Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, Gunhouse, and Mini Metro.

2016

Biya Byte.
We talk about Hyper Light Drifter and It Follows, and work process. We also talk about VR.

Butterfly Effect.
I spoke with Tristan Ettleman about the draw of chiptunes, the doors Fez opened, and writing the score to It Follows in three weeks.

Composer Quest.
I spoke with composer Charlie McCarron about the early stages of Under the Silver Lake (most of which ended up changing), the musical succession from FEZ to Hyper Light Drifter, and the cross-pollenation that happened between Hyper Light Drifter and It Follows. (Note: Charlie asked me about 'The Water Shelf', and I thought he was talking about 'Acropolis Falls'). We also (try) to improvise a Beach Boys style ditty, but whether we succeeded or not is up to you to decide.

The Collective Podcast. (currently down)
Ash and I talk about breaking into the music industry, the business side of making music, the importance of inspiration and collaboration, and where things are headed in the future.

Dear Air.
I speak with Gamespot's horror podcast about my career, ewrestling, Rescue the Beagles and horror, naturally.

How Was Work? (currently down)
I talk with my friend Randy about moving to Los Angeles, workspace tinkering, and Beasts of Balance.

Sonic Academy.
I join Chris chatting about how I got my break scoring games, producing over 40 albums, and why I turned down the chance to score Netflix's hit 'Stranger Things'

Written

2019

Pop Disciple
We talk upbringing, process, FEZ, It Follows, Triple Frontier, Under the Silver Lake.

Headphone Commute
We primarily talk shop, about studio setup, gear, process, and things of that nature.

2015

People I Think Are Cool.
I talk about It Follows, FEZ, creative freedom and expectations, live performances, switching format/medium, Wikipedia, musical cross-pollination, horror, Fantastic Fest, interviews, blogging, social media, patronage, streaming, income, work history, reading, Jodorowsky, Adventure Time, Mini Metro, GTA, Katamari, Keita Takahashi and my minimalistic philosophy and how it seeps into everything I do.

The Damn Fine Podcast. (currently down)
We talk a lot about vinyl and soundtracks.

Train Station at 8.
We talk about video game music, live performance, listening habits, Doom, LA Noire, Tom Francis, Zan-zan-zawa-veia, Sonic the Hedgehog, The Floor is Jelly, domain names, Hearthstone, Peter McConnell, tone, soundtrack lengths, retro music facsimiles, The Hero’s Journey, Hideki Naganuma, Jake Kaufman (virt), Kirby, April Fools, Shnabubula, brain training, Jeff Bridges Sleeping Tapes, music in dreams, Mini Metro, etc…

Waveform City. (curreently down)
Dropped by the local synthesizer museum to talk synths, naturally!

2014

Composer Quest.
I talk about January, generative music, music theory, programming, The Floor is Jelly, postmortem, Monkey Island, iMUSE, time management, FEZ, Chopin, FZ, remix albums, hair, Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar, my solo piano project, songwriting, lyrics, advice for composers, etc…

Inside Video Game Music. (currently down)
I talk about my musical background, music rights, contract terms, NEUTRALITE, collaborative process, time management, FEZ, synthesis, “Adventure”, musical analysis, note entry, quantization, tempo, looping, soundtrack variations, Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake, mastering, leveling, Leq, January, programming, my solo piano project, It Follows, temp love, name origins, using an alias, identity consolidation, listening habits, favorite games, games with great music, Jukio Kallio, Eirik Suhrke, etc.

Shutup Songwriters.
Kyle and I talk about style & genre, entrepreneurship, expectations, creative process & the role of technology, instrumentation, process, old ideas, FEZ, “The Greatest Video Game Music, Vol. 2”, the internet, musical background, chiptunes, limitations/constraints, bitcrushing, tape emulation, sketching, switching from design to music, Berklee College of Music, going to school for music, navigating being an artist and a business, identity, etc.

Top Score.
I talk about FEZ, musical narrative, “Fear”, “Glitch”, “Sync”, “Puzzle”, soundtrack variations, “Continuum”, Chopin, name origins, January, my solo piano project, etc.

Bleeps n' Bloops.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iHB3-f-SyQ)
Group discussion about games and such at Fantastic Arcade 2014.

2013

Bandcamp.
Bandcamp did an episode about video game music and spoke to me and a lot of other independent game composers like Danny Baranowksy, Austin Wintory, Jim Guthrie, Laura Shigihara, Ben Prunty, and Jimmy Hinson.

Sup, Holmes?
We talk about coming up, Fez, Shoot Many Robots, KRUNCH, Bit.Trip Runner 2 and many other games.

2012

Revision3
We talk about FEZ.

In Depth: Contracts

When trying to negotiate an agreement as an audio contractor, it’s important to know your ideal conditions. Contracts often contain compromises, and so it is important to know where you are flexible. If you can find projects you are passionate about, you may find that contractual deliberations go smoother by default.

Always Have a Contract

I once hired someone I knew for a long time to collaborate with me on some music for a project that was a work for hire. In my haste and naïvety we never put together a subcontractor's agreement for rights assignment, and later on they decided in bad faith that they wanted to challenge the right of the client to use the music. The client, out of fear of breaching their own contracts with other parties, put all their indemnity on me. We ultimately had to replace the music we wrote, which I also had to pay for. As you can imagine, this ended up costing me quite a lot of money. I never thought something like that could happen, but Murphy's law reared its ugly head. From them on, I've always made sure to have a contract. Let this be a lesson to you!

The Speculative Wizard

It’s important to gather as much info about a project as possible up front, and then speculate about the outcome of the project before you even lay out contractual terms. How much work do you estimate will be needed? Do you think this project will be financially successful? What will the schedule be like, and how convenient or inconvenient will it be? The answers to these questions can all affect your cost. If you feel the project is destined for greatness, you might consider asking for a revenue share (typically called ’back end’ in the film industry). If you’re less certain, or you need money to live on in the present, it can be better to ask for a higher fee up front. There is no shortage of options and variations when it comes to negotiating a contract.

Self-Worth

One of the many considerations in coming up with an asking price is estimating the value of your work as a part of the greater whole. Music sometimes comes together very quickly, regardless of its quality. The contributions of coworkers may take far longer to execute and be of a different level of importance to the success of the project. There is no cut and dry method in regards to estimating the worth of sound to a project. Either way, this is a complex, subjective issue that deserves careful thought.

What's the Budget?

It’s never a bad idea to ask if there’s a budget. Sometimes, especially when working with larger companies, you may find that their opening offer is already higher than yours.

Gambling With Your Time

You may find a great project to work on that either has no budget or is non-commercial, like a student film for instance. If you have the bandwidth, feel strongly, and think the project could garner lots of attention, a pro-bono project can be a great career move. Sometimes, a commercial project may not have a budget, but there is the possibility of revenue later.

Being a freelancer is all about relationships. Working purely for a revenue share is an act of faith and investment in the success of a project. It may not yield any financial rewards, but your colleagues will appreciate your generosity and belief in them, and it may solidify your relationships with those people. You may find yourself working with them again in the future.

Rights

There are many secondary sources of income that can arise from a work commission. Some of the most common are soundtrack sales, licensing, and royalties from music ownership. I always try to keep the rights to my music, and 100% of the proceeds from soundtrack sales when possible. These can be great ways to pad your income on a project, and also provide you with an additional set of negotiating points when trying to draw up an agreement. On a project with a very small budget, you could ask for full ownership of your music, as something to compensate for a less than desirable flat rate. This would also enable you to generate more income from your music in the future, should others wish to use, stream or perform it.

Crowdfunding

There are times when asking the public to help fund your involvement in a project is a possibility. I have seen successful Kickstarters whose sole purpose was to pay certain team members, such as composers or sound designers. A project you are looking to join may already be running a Kickstarter to raise money for its development. They might consider including the expense of your services as part of their crowdfunding goal.