GDC 2015 Audio Gigs: How to Find Get and Keep them Coming

So the second talk that I took copious notes for, was from Richard Ludlow of To be perfectly honest, I had no interest in staying for this talk. None of the amazing gigs I've been lucky enough to get have been through networking, they've been through friends, or more precisesly, friends I've made through work. There isn't any magic formula for "getting" gigs and networking events that purport to do that seem to be selling relationships as a means to an end. No thanks.

So. I'm ready to go soak up some SF sunshine when Richard says (and I'm paraphrasing) "When you're at a GDC party, social or networking event, don't go looking for a gig. Look for someone you might want to be friends with.  Talk to those people. If you hit it off, those are the people who someday, may call you with work". This really resonated with me, and it's how I now approach all potential "networking" events. Not as a chance to find work. But as a chance to find someone that I like, can hang out with, and therefore, might want to work with. 

But Richard's talk wasn't all friendship braclets and holding hands.  Once you have a meeting with a potential client, he had a list of things you should suss out in the initial meeting. He recommended start off with casually asking questions - I would also reccomend doing some googling so some of these aren't straight up questions, but talking points you can bring up.  

• how big is your team and what is the breakdown / roles

• are you doing this full time

• how long you have been around

• what are your past projects

• where are you located

• how is the being funded

IMHO that's a mouthful to ask casually. So do some homework on the client first. RIchard then reccomends getting down to question about the game. 

• what platform are you developing on

• what's the development cycle like?

• what is your timeline for audio and ship date?

• what, if any, is the story

• what's the estimated gameplay length

• how many, levels?

• how many main characters?

•what are the core mechanics

• what are the game's influences

• who's the publisher

The above is the beginning of the nitty gritty - you should definitely be writing it down. Now on to the stuff that it's often so tempting to start with. The audio related questions: 

• what's the musical style

• how many minutes of music

• how many SFX assets?

• Is there narration? Budget for casting and VO and ACTRA?

• Is there music interactivity?

• are you interested in using a  middleware solution or implemenatation servicies?  

• do you want live players?

• do you want to music to be a work for hire or do you want to license the music?

• are their cut scenes & trailers that you want my services for.

And finally the questions everyone hates to ask - budge. 

• is there a general range you're looking to keep audio in

If it seems appropriate (ie they ask you what they should spend on audio) ask them what the budget of the game is.  

Now at this point in my career, I usually get told that I have the gig or I don't. But Richard says this is where you make a bid. It should include a cover letter, propsal, and cost breakdown.

• cover letter - introduce yourself, express excitement for the game, outline the highlight of the proposal, have a brief bio

• creative proposal - get them excited about what you want to do for the game, include detailed ideas about music and sound and specific about implementation, as well as cost details.

• cost breakdown - keep this all modular. music can be broken down by themes, arrangements, transitions, stingers. SFX by primary sounds, UI, ambiences as well as number of iterations. Dialogue can be broken down into casting, actors, direction, recording, and line processing. Finally, although Richard didn't address this in the talk, I emailed him about mix and implentation costs. Based on his response you may want to roll mixing and middleware implentation costs into your other assets - asking a client to pay for both the middleware licsense and for you to use it to implement can seem like insult to injury - same goes for the mix. Seeing as when you throw assets over the fence it can ruin the sounds (and your reputation), I'd be willing to try and find a way to absorb mixing and implementation (if the implementaion begins and ends at the middleware) depending on the project. However, if assets are to be implemented directly into the engine, that's definitely something you can charge for, preferrably at an hourly rate.

Richard also reccomened sending two quotes, one as music for hire, one as licensed music. 

After this, my notes get pretty monosyllabic. Here they are, verbatim:

• copyright

• what is being delivered

• delivery milestones

• how much

• developer rights

• composer rights

• credit

This seems to revolve mostly around music, after you've been offered the gig. Sorting out the copyright is very important, obvs. So is having a clear handle on what exactly is being delivered, and how much of it. Also having a rev limit, and some discussion about what contitues a revision, and what constitutes a "change order" - ie an entirely new piece of music with a new style / emotional content / pallet. I'd also personally have an agreement esp with work for hires, about who owns rejected content. Having specific talks about both composer rights and developer rights are crucial.

Finally richard also mentioned that audio style guides are for short conversations, but uh, I didn't include any examples in my notes... He also said that for an in depth coversation, dig deep and ask for six tracks that appeal to the dev for this project. Once you get those tracks, send a couple of tracks back to the devloper based on your discussion, and get some detailed feed back from them. 

I'm sure that Richard probably said something about how to keep clients, or maybe he ran out of time. So I'll leave you with this nugget: you can be brilliant, easy to work with, and meet your deadlines - to keep working you have to be at least two of those.