The Visibility Cloak Method: How Composers Can Find Work
I remember back in 2016, I went to LA to speak at a game development event on the sound design of Hyper Light Drifter.
I went in, gave my talk, got my standard 3-and-a-half hour long standing ovation, and got off stage to mingle with the attendees for the rest of the night.
And one simple moment hit me so hard that it's stuck with me ever since.
As soon as I got off stage, a really great and lovely composer came up to me and asked "man, I'm really struggling to find work here. Do you have any tips?" He looked liked he'd been losing sleep over this question. It was easy to tell that finding work was stressing him out.
I gave him some tips on networking, posting online, doing talks, and general ideas on how to build himself up as a go-to composer. He thanked me for my time and went on his way.
Less than 20 seconds later, a local successful game developer came up to me and asked "do you have any tips to find a composer for my games? I can't find anyone."
Now, remember, this is Los Angeles. Everyone is a composer. We were in a room was full of them.
And still, in a city full of the world's best composers, this successful game developer couldn't find one. And he wasn't even looking for the best, or for some esoteric crazy style. He needed anyone to help him on his next game.
He was already successful and knew how to hire... and yet all the composers were invisible to him, as they are to most people.
There's a huge disconnect here, as I'm sure you can tell.
It may seem like good composers are everywhere, and they are, but the ones who actually make themselves known are less than 0.0000000000001% of the population. The problem usually isn't in their skill, but the fact that they're practically invisible.
Every composer focuses so much on their skill that no one knows they exist. You could write the best piece of music ever made, but if only your mom listens to it, it doesn't matter.
So let's talk about putting on a visibility cloak and letting people know you exist.
Most composers are wearing invisibility cloaks Maybe they write music regularly, but absolutely nobody knows it. They might even show up to a networking event or two every 8 months. But to find work in such a competitive field, we need to be pretty darn visible.
For us game audio people, being visible can mean many things, but to boil it down, it means: have an online presence of some sort (social media + a website), make it easy for people to contact you, show up to in-person and/or online events wherever possible, and post your work regularly (even if it's trash). That's it.
You'd be shocked how few people even have a way to contact them on their websites or social media. Whenever I'm looking to hire someone to help me on a project, I have to discard about 75% of people I had in mind because they make it impossible to contact them.
It's probably pretty obvious as to why we should do this But still, most composers never take these steps. If composing is just a hobby, then you don't need to do any of this, but if you want to be a pro, the people who hire you need to know you exist.
That doesn't mean you need to have a million followers on TikTok and be known across the world.
It just means people need to know you write music, and can do it for their projects. I know people with 20x the followers as me who are struggling, and people with less than 1/10th of my follower count who are crushing it. Don't focus on the vanity metrics.
And making sure people know you exist is relatively simple It just takes consistency. And time. Lots and lots of time.
Unfortunately, many composers will show up to a networking event once in their life and wonder why no one is hiring them. Or they'll post their work maybe once every 5 months and wonder why no one knows they exist.
It took me over 10 years to build a stable, high-paying, self-run career in this field. If you have a computer and YouTube, you already have infinitely more resources than I did starting out, so it'll probably take you less time than that... so long as you're consistent about it.
The trick is not to wait for the right time And instead start now. If you're lucky enough to live near where safe in-person meetups are happening again, go there. A lot.
But even then, you can start an online presence, reaching out to other pros in your field, setting up online chats with developers, and trillions of other things immediately.
Where should you go? If you really have no idea where to look, and where to go, I'd recommend you go through my free courses that you have as a part of this newsletter.
But to give you a quick summary go to Meetup.com and IGDA.org to find in person meetups, google "[your city] game development meetups/groups/discords" to see if there are online or in-person groups for you, and use The Game Conference Guide to find conferences.
Generally speaking, use Instagram as your main social media for talking to pros in the field and showing off your work, with Twitter being a decent secondary platform.
The golden age of it being SUPER easy to find work on Instagram is now over. If you took advantage of my guides when they first came out, you're set. If you didn't, then there's no time like now to dive in. It's still a valuable platform.
"But Akash, you banana-filled Nutella Crepe" you ask, "I live in the middle of nowhere, there's no way I can find work!" While, yes, being in a game industry hub city is a HUGE help, it's not 100% necessary.
The closer you are to a hub (like Seattle, Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Tokyo, etc.) the less online you need to be. The further away you are, the stronger an online presence you have to have until you become established.
If you're not in or near a hub city, then yes, master your online presence.
Whatever you do, just don't wait until you're "good enough" The real truth is you'll never ever feel good enough to don your visibility cloak. Ever.
Even when you're being paid 6 figures to write 30 seconds of music, you'll still feel that you don't know what you're doing.
No one knows what they're doing. Everyone is an impostor. Just start.
So let's summarize what we learned today
While there are trillions of composers, the ones who make themselves known are almost non-existent
You don't need followers to make this career work for you. But an online presence is extremely handy, especially when you don't live in an huge hub city
Don't wait until the "right time", or until you're good enough to become visible. That will only hold you back
Banana nutella crepes are, indeed, the perfect dessert
So don't skulk around invisibly And actually let people know you exist. There's so much composition work out there that no one is taking. If you put on that visibility cloak, you'll make everyone's lives so much easier when it comes to hiring you.
I know a lot of you will have questions about this Which is great! Get on my mailing list and respond to any of the emails you get from me to ask me your questions directly!