Even though I’ve been composing game music for almost ten years now, I’ve never actually done this professionally. I’ve had a few paid gigs since 2012 (working on my fourth right now, fifth one coming up next year), but it’s always been in the form of part time work, composing in my spare time with day jobs providing financial security.
Unfortunately — or fortunately, depending on how you look at it — this isn’t the kind of music production that you can do just casual-like, an hour here or there a few days a week. Especially not if you’re on a deadline. Virtual orchestration is convoluted and time-consuming by its very nature and you need to be focused and patient to come up with good stuff. And as you probably all know, focus and patience aren’t at their daily highs at 9:00 PM after a long workday when you’ve put your kid to bed and squared away all the little mundane obligatories that make up your everyday life.
When I composed the soundtrack for Talisman DE I was working day and night as the deadline loomed closer. I got home around 6 PM, made dinner, ate, spent some time with my daughter, then put her to bed and immediately sat down at my computer and resumed working on the music. I rarely went to bed earlier than 3 AM. At 6:30 AM the alarm went off, signalling a new day. Lather, rinse and repeat. Even though I’m pretty happy with the way the soundtrack turned out in the end, some of the tracks still give me a bad feeling when listening to them (I’m not going to say which ones), as they were composed and performed in some kind of sleep-deprived stupor in the wee hours of the night.
This experience was thankfully short — and I could probably have avoided it altogether by planning ahead. I had plenty of time to compose the music, I just tinkered a bit too long on the earlier tracks. But on the upside it made me realize that this isn’t a good extra income job. In fact, it’s a terrible one. It’s a full-time job and if you try to squeeze it into a few hours every evening after regular work you will either 1) deliver shit music or 2) burn yourself out in just a few months. Potentially both.
This, and a brush-in with fatigue-induced depression earlier this year has made me come to an important — possibly life-changing — desicion.
As of this autumn, I’m taking the first steps towards making composition (and other music-related activities) my main source of income. It’s taken a long time for me to even consider this, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.
Is it realistic? Yes, I think so. I’ve been unemployed for a year now, and looking at the economy and job openings, it’s not going to get any better anytime soon. Besides, music is what I’m best at so it’s not like I have a reasonable chance at competing with thousands of other applicants for flipping burgers, telemarketing or other random everyday jobs. Looking at skills and experience, I’m so specialized that hoping for someone else to hire me is less realistic than becoming self-employed.
Is it viable? This is still up in the air (and I will never know if I don’t take the plunge) but I think it might be. I have small but close network of developers and publishers who like my work and wouldn’t hesistate to hire me. Sadly, due to archaic Swedish bureaucray it’s nigh impossible for me to take a freelance job that doesn’t provide a paycheck at the end of the month. And if you’ve ever worked with small indie developers, you know that they might not be able to pay you until the game is released months from the present.
In short, the system that is in place to make sure that I don’t starve to death during a period of employment is modeled after regular, full-time, monthly paid work, not freelance activities with unclear time frames. So due to this, I’ve been forced to turn down a couple of job offers the latest year. This is, to be frank, madness. And one of the reasons that has moved me towards this desicion.
So, getting to the point — finally! — I’m going to make a serious attempt at doing this professionally. And I’m going to need your support more than ever. If you like what I do and want to hear more of my work, I would apppreciate if you could spread the word in any way you can. Point people to this site, my Facebook page, my Soundcloud account or my Youtube channel. Links here:
And no, it’s not your job to do my marketing for me. But your support plays a big part in potentially turning a hobby in to a full-time job.