For the second year, APRA AMCOS hosted High Score: Composition and Sound Art for Gaming, its one day event dedicated to one of the most booming music sectors.

Part of the Melbourne International Games Week program, this year’s sold-out edition featured composers discussing their craft, networking, and even insights for game developers.

For those who missed out, here are some key takeaways:

  1. Don’t just rush into a project


    Keynote composer Kevin Penkin (credits include Made In Abyss, Florence) gave the advice he wishes he got as a young composer:

    “Chill out! This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. Don’t rush, take the time you need to discover the music you want to write and how to write it well.”

    Kevin Penkin at High Score
    Kevin Penkin. Credit: Andrew Watson
  2. Hone your own sound and own it.


    As Fabian Malabello from The Otherworld Agency answered in one of the day’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions, “Be an artist! Your favourite musicians don’t work in every single genre, they focus on the style and sound they do well – you should do the same.”

  3. Composers and audio designers work hand in hand to build aesthetic and immersion


    Biddy Connor and Michael Theiler showcased their amazing work on Paperbark (a wombat’s journey through the Australian bush – incorporating viola, banjo and autoharp alongside Australian nature samples recorded on a camping trip.)

    The bushfire sequence was so good, the number one question from the audience was “Is the wombat okay?!” closely followed by, “How do we do that?!” Jeff van Dyck and Anne-Marie Weber similarly showcased how background audio, stings, sound effects and foley came to together to give depth and detail in “deck builder brought to life”, Hand of Fate 2.

  4. Australia has a wealth of talent


    High Score’s host Angharad ‘Rad’ Yeo, of ABC ME’s Spawn Point, pointed out:

    “All of our speakers today are locals and key parts of the Australian industry. It’s exciting how diverse these amazing people are and what they bring the field.”

  5. But the industry is still small enough that first impressions and professional relationships matter


    Giselle Rosman from IGDA Melbourne: “We’re all really busy. If you’re spending less than half of a day on a job application and haven’t done your research on what we produce – you’re wasting your and my time.” Repeat offenders begin to stand out, but likewise with a good intro: “A well written introduction meaningfully engaging with our work and how you’re relevant is the only way you get remembered well and get a reply.”

  6. Diversity is economically beneficial


    Lisy Kane producer from Girl Geek Academy and Melbourne-based developer League of Geeks points out: “Diversity in a team brings more viewpoints and information to the table when you are problem solving it just makes good business sense.”

    Simply put, your team is more efficient when they can “bring their whole selves to work”.

    Diversity in teams panel_photo Andrew Watson at high score
    Credit: Andrew Watson
  7. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket – diversify your funding


    Kaushali Seneviratne (Creative Victoria), Gemma Bastiani (Pozible), and Liam Routt (Film Victoria) all agreed:

    “You don’t have to pick between match funding, traditional funding or crowdfunding – you can and should do them all,” but definitely take the time and plan ahead.

    “Call up and talk to us, it’s what we’re here for – we want to help you put in the best application/pitch at the best time for you and your project.”

    “The number one mistake everyone makes is not talking to their grant administrator.”

  8. Communication and team skills are key


    Lauren Clinnick from Lumi Consulting said:

    “We all want to be able to file you and your music into our mental filing cabinet – give me good descriptions and key words and I’ll remember you when appropriate projects come up. Otherwise you just end up in the ‘I do music’ bucket.”

    Lisy Kane agrees, “The best people to work with are clear communicators – if there are delays or you need more time that’s fine but keep me in the loop.”

    Lauren reminds us, “reliable and professional gets hired over brilliant and annoying every day of the week.”

  9. You will need to communicate your and music’s value to your developer/studio


    Lauren Clinnick also reminds us, “Music and sound is key to a games branding, it’s one of the ways an audience can experience the product beforehand, defines the game during, and lingers long after the play experience has ended.”

    Be prepared when discussing costs with a developer to set your prices and if you give a discount make it clear what the original cost and the discount percentages are.

  10. Hold onto your rights, and remember your audio can go anywhere


    Fabian Malabello (now wearing his Boss Battle Records hat) and Jill Stewart from Remote Control Records remind us that game music can go everywhere:

    “Don’t forget you can (and should) release your music via Spotify, iTunes et al. Synchronisation licensing is absolutely a thing, you can do it as an independent artist or through a sync agent.”

    But make sure to check your contracts with a lawyer if you’re unsure, “You need to hold onto your rights in order to be able to release your work – bear this in mind with exclusive licences and employment contracts”.

  11. Bonus note: The audience asked awesome questions took the most beautiful notes


    Check out artist and attendee Jennifer Reuter’s graphic note-taking on Twitter for a unique and beautiful summary of the day!