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Q&A: Getting Music Placed in Video Games

This post was written by James Aviaz and originally appeared on the Songtrust blog.

After getting our first listen to the upcoming Halo 4 soundtrack – as written by former Massive Attack producer Neil Davidge – it seemed the perfect time to give some insight into video game music and placements.

We spoke with Josh Kessler, VP of Business Development for Downtown Music’s licensing agency dms.FM. Josh has been involved with the placement of huge artists into games like FIFA StreetSaints RowMLB 2K, and Guitar Hero.

ST: What is the process for placement of music in video games?

JK: The largely-music driven games from big publishers usually have in-house music departments, though some companies contract out music supervisors to consult creatively. The smaller developers generally keep things in-house, where music choice can come from producers, audio designers or anyone working intimately on a game.

As with films or TV shows, game companies reach out to music service companies like dms.FM with specific requests. It’s always a good idea to check the credits on past games and make sure your music is relevant to the needs of an upcoming game title.

ST: Which genres/ types of music get placed in video games most often?

 JK: I think indie rock, hard rock, electronic and hip hop are by far the most popular. There are also many games that need period music and others looking for specific styles like metal, so it varies widely.

ST: How can an unpublished songwriter get considered alongside the big boys for placement?

JK: Build an audience and demand for your music commercially is the best way to get noticed. You can also link up with a pitching company with a proven track record of pitching songs to game companies.

ST: Which is your favorite video game soundtrack?

JK: Saints Row 3. Diverse soundtrack with tons of music including some great vintage ’80s and contemporary music. Many big songs and lots of emerging artists. 

ST: What are some good ways to find out about upcoming video game placement opportunities?

JK: Read trade magazines and blogs, as well as developer and distributor websites. Production timelines for games are very long, so keep in mind music decisions are usually made about 8 or 9 months before the game is released.

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