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NZGDC15: Marshall Smith

Marshall Smith introduced the Screen Composers Guild to the game developers conference on Friday morning, noting the considerable similarities between composition for TVCs, games and apps. Those similarities were good news since many musicians, like so many creative artists, have to work across a range of forms to make ends meet.

Smith noted that his company The Sound Room has worked for several major international brands and broadcasters, and has a wholly NZ-owned and -operated sound library. The main thrust of his presentation, however, was to beat the drum for original music content in games and apps – not only to support NZ artists through commissioning, but also to take and retain control over games and brands.

“I’d argue that’s hard to do if you take tracks from libraries that anyone else can also use,” Smith said.

Having unique, bespoke sound design and music that was specific to your identity “is part of how you make your game stand out in a crowded market”.

Discoverability and standing out from the crowd had been topics raised earlier in the day by other speakers. Smith reiterated a point that had been made about a game’s visual marketing materials – that they should make an immediate and positive impression.

In a session immediately before Smith’s presentation, PikPok’s Jayde Marter had talked about some of the practical aspects of composition for games. PikPok’s latest release, Breakneck, has also been doing its bit to promote NZ artists, bot only commissioning the soundtrack from Kadington but also using in-game pop-ups to link to Kadington’s Don’t Kick the Cat EP on iTunes.

Smith noted that the Sound Room did a fair amount of work on Japanese pachinko games, which were mostly “very loud and intense”. While his preference was always to use NZ artists where possible, Smith noted that finding Japanese industrial gothic vocalists in Auckland was a challenge.

Marshall Smith is an owner of The Sound Room and president of the Screen Composers Guild of New Zealand.

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