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Working the Grammy Angle

February 25, 2000 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

Because the Grammy's are awarded to honor excellence in recorded music and judges the music on its own merits, not just any game soundtrack is eligible. Many past and current games have an outstanding score but unless the music is available in its own stand-alone format, it won't even be considered.

To make the eligibility requirements, a game score has to be commercially available as either its own separate music CD or stored in Red Book audio format on the game CDROM, or 'enhanced' CD, which can play back the music on a standard CD player. NARAS has the exact definition of a commercial release, but for our purposes, it must be a serious commercial distribution and not from our own 'vanity' label, burned on our
CD-R, available only through our personal website.

Even though the music is available, there is no guarantee it would be noticed by the voting membership and perhaps a little schmoozing may be in order. One issue we probably also need to address is how the Academy gets a complete list of released game scores. More to think about.

Keep It Rolling

I mentioned earlier it was our responsibility to keep the ball rolling. As we gain the momentum, more and more game soundtracks will be nominated and eventually win the coveted golden gramophone. It won't just happen because of a stellar soundtrack, someone has to be there to lend support and actually vote for the accomplishment.

Game music: gaining momentum.

It was no accident that game scores were noticeably absent from the 3 Grammy categories this year. Competing this year with the like of John Williams, Phil Collins, Randy Newman and Madonna, all major players in their own right, is an undertaking indeed and will take some organization and support from our very own industry to do it. There are things can do together.

  1. Join NARAS. The biggest single step we can all take together is to get on board with the 14,000 musicians, composers, producers and other recording professionals of the music industry. Not only is NARAS the place to be seen but it actively represents the music community on issues of intellectual property rights, piracy, preservation and censorship, subjects which we too share concern. NARAS is also responsible for numerous outreach, professional development, cultural enrichment, education and human service programs which are worthy of our support as well. Our support is keen and brings us in as part of the family.

    The NARAS official rhetoric gives some great reasons to join:

    -Participate in the Recording Academy's Awards process.
    -Opportunities for professional education and networking.
    -Participate in music education and cultural awareness activities.
    -Receive award winning trade publications.
    -Respond to legislation which effects the music community.
    -Receive the Grammy Award guide.

    We have gotten this far. It has taken quite an effort but who would have ever thought game music could stand up on its own? Let's be frank, though, until more voting members from our industry join and become actively involved, the odds will not increase. We are competing directly with the Television and Film industries, both highly entrenched organizations with many years of history to draw upon.

    Tommy Tallarico, with over 130 games to his audio credits, also agrees. "We need 70, 80, 200 people to help weed out stuff, that's the way the Academy works. So we need members to join NARAS. The more video game people we have, people that do what we do, compose for multimedia, composers, producers, players, anyone who's played on a game tune, the better. We need anyone who does music and sound for games to get on board."
  2. Start an organization of game music. I always notice around Oscar or Academy Awards time the various film industry trade papers are cover to cover advertisements and memorials, highlighting this film or that actor and the great accomplishments of the previous year. This isn't by accident, this is a calculated assault on their voting membership, campaigning vehemently for their studios or their actors performance. It's become so much a part of big Hollywood business that their financial gains can expand exponentially with an award winning actor or film on their résumé's.

    Why couldn't we do the same for our piece of the Grammy pie? With an active organization campaigning on our behalf, our publishers, developers and game score composers could also benefit from this kind of assistance. While an organization sponsored by game composers would serve us well, the greatest boost would be realized if we also had the financial backing and support of the larger game companies, all of us pulling together for the same purpose. Not only could we campaign effectively for a Grammy but use this as a forum to establish industry standards and as a source of information of audio knowledge with benefit to us all.

    Anyone among us, who is willing to stand up and lead the charge, feel free to do so. You have my support and that of many others.
  3. Encourage soundtrack production, release and creative marketing. By helping others discover the benefits of releasing game soundtrack albums, we can encourage the industry composers to put forth that extra effort required to put one together. As more are released, it will further drive others to do the same, either matching or surpassing the quality of music available to the public, pushing us all to our creative peaks and putting more emotional content in our productions. Eventually, the garbage will fall by the wayside and game music will attain an ever higher level.

    We also need to sit down as a group and share ways to market these offerings. By collectively using our creative minds, we can grab the buying public, lead them to the stores and show them how great it is to buy their favorite game soundtrack. The Japanese market has this down cold and we could learn a few tricks from them.

    At this years Game Development Conference, there will be a panel discussion on some of these very issues. For those attending, I hope you will be there (Game Music Soundtracks; Gateways to Profit, Publicity and Grammy Potential, Friday, March 10th, 2:30-3:30pm) to lend your ideas for the benefit of the industry and view first hand the enormity of our task. After the dust settles, I trust someone will pick up the ball and continue to run.
  4. Show support, wave the flag. Suppose I have this idea. I go on and on, adrenaline flowing, I'm charged and really pumped about it. Suppose I write it down and present it to the gaming world and it turns out everyone loves it, they are ecstatic. Suppose no one bothers to tell that to me, though. Do you think I am going to continue in my quest thinking no one approves of the idea and waste my time with it? Probably not. (But then again, this is me we are talking about, the guy who doesn't take 'no' for an answer.) Unless we tell those who take the reins and drive this herd to market that we support them and that we believe in the fight, they will eventually fall by the wayside. As we grow in our efforts and as our numbers swell, we need to line up at the curb, wave the flag and fire them up, whatever they need to make it a reality.
  5. Encourage others to do their part. Because of my busy schedule, I sometimes discover it hard to find the time to do, even what I know is important. A swift kick in the ass from a coworker, colleague or even my wife can get me off my duff and moved into action. We all need some form of encouragement on occasion and that may be all it will take to get our brethren to do their part. Encourage each other, share the benefits of the industry, politic. It's not hard to do.

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