How Gaming Can Be An Outlet For Indie Artists

For most of history, indie musicians have more or less been on a creative island. This is just the way many would like it, but it does make exposure a little bit tricky. There are innumerable musicians all working toward the same goals, and there’s often a sense that it’s every man for himself, even if bands will tour together or occasionally collaborate. The last 10 years or so have seen the rise of an interesting partnership, however: one between musicians (and sometimes instrumental-only composers) and game developers.

More specifically, the connection tends to involve smaller-scale games or indie game developers. Unlike the major studio, AAA console games, which might have sizable budgets to spend on soundtracks, smaller game makers have to make do with what they have, which is what makes them such interesting partners. In many cases an indie musician can take less pay to work a job that at least has the chance of netting him or her some meaningful exposure.

So where would such a musician actually look for a game like this? There are a couple of primary answers to that question.

1 – Mobile Games

The past decade has basically seen an explosion in indie games in the mobile medium, which has been wonderful for all involved. These games are often designed with fairly tight budgets, and sometimes even the massive hits – like Supercell’s Clash Of Clans, for example – come from teams of developers that started with fewer than 10 people. Within the ever-expanding business of mobile games, there are now a lot of indie titles that have notably incredible soundtracks. Games like Canabalt, Oniken, and To The Moon have essentially become famous as much for their audio tracks as for the actual gaming content within them.

2 – Casino Games

Not very many gaming categories today boast more variety than casino games online. And they’re more accessible than you might think, as well. While the idea is of course for people to place bets on these games, there are plenty of them available for free, and others offered with no-deposit starting options such that people can get a feel for games without having to spend money. The games themselves cover a range of themes that’s basically limitless, and which therefore calls for all sorts of different soundtrack styles. And while the companies behind casino games tend to be large and flush with cash, the budget fo an individual casino arcade game among thousands is better suited to an indie hire than a major music studio or famous artist.

Either of those categories can produce the kinds of games that might pair well with a private artist simply looking for an opportunity to showcase talent and reach an audience. And now, the important question: does it actually work?

Well, we of course can’t say for sure that it works or doesn’t work in every case, nor can anyone guarantee you success for trying, if you happen to be an artist reading this. However, we can say that there are success stories. Consider for instance the partnership between musician Jim Guthrie and the company Capybara, which produces indie-style mobile games. Capybara reportedly gave Guthrie few thousand dollars up front to compose the whole soundtrack for the game Sword & Sworcery, and it has since become one of the more popular mobile games in existence. Guthrie, maintaining the rights to the audio even as it was attached to the game, wound up selling hundreds of vinyl copies, hundreds more LPs, and upwards of 30,000 digital copies. And better than all of this, he blew up his own name.

Again, it’s no guarantee of success. It is, however, an interesting avenue for the modern indie artist to pursue.
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