Musicians, composers, producers and publishers have long seen placing music in film and TV as the metaphorical “gold mine” of building long-term residual income. But music placement in video games is rapidly becoming an essential component of diversifying music licensing income. Composition, production and editing work in gaming can also be a boon.
Why? The video game industry brings in more annual revenue than the film and music industries combined. The digital age — streaming — has cut traditional sales revenue for the music industry. But advances in interactive entertainment technology like online gaming have enabled exponential growth in the video game industry. And, just like movies and TV, today’s advanced video games need vast amounts of music and audio. So it makes sense that many music professionals are now working solely in game audio production.
Of course, composing and producing music for interactive entertainment technologies (i.e. video games) shares a great deal with producing live or studio music. This intersection between industries is the focal point of the Southern Utah University (SUU) online Master of Music (M.M.) in Music Technology – Studio Technology Emphasis, which prepares students for a number of interesting careers in music and entertainment.
What Will I Learn in This Master’s Program?
Coursework in this program covers a breadth of topics aimed at providing students with a versatile array of music-related skills, all integral to building a successful career in modern music production. Students develop core knowledge and skills surrounding audio recording, live sound production, electronic music composition, music history and the music business from the technological perspective.
Students further explore their interests by choosing either the studio technology emphasis or the game audio technology emphasis. Both areas of emphasis delve into the nuances of scoring for film, the common business matters involved, and the history and development of electronic music. Both areas of emphasis also include a capstone project.
The studio technology emphasis includes more advanced coursework on live and studio sound production and recording, including advanced use of recording software programs and live sound reinforcement equipment. The game audio technology emphasis focuses on music and audio production for interactive entertainment such as video games.
What Is Unique About Video Game Audio Production?
Producing and editing music for video games is different in many ways compared to traditional music production. Video game sound design is complex in part because it must be reactive to the player’s actions and experience. A theme song may play throughout a scenario in the game. But, at any given moment, a player may do something that triggers another musical theme, requiring each piece to transition back and forth naturally.
Plus, sound design in video games involves many layers of triggered audio, from the sound of a character’s feet crunching snow to the clash of swords. All of these distinct audio components must effortlessly coexist. This involves a more modular form of composition and production, which synthesizes sounds, music and computer programming, and integrates it in real time to create a seamless audio environment. In turn, this necessitates a close collaboration between the game audio production team of sound designers, editors and composers.
What Types of Career Aspirations Would This Degree Be Applicable To?
With the versatility of knowledge and skills this degree program imparts, graduates may pursue various careers in music, ranging from sound design to music entrepreneurship. But the two areas of emphasis available in this program are clearly geared toward their respective industries.
The studio technology emphasis prepares students for careers as music producers and sound engineers in recording studios as well as live sound engineers in clubs and theaters or with touring bands and traveling productions. The game audio emphasis prepares students to work in many areas of video game audio production. Sound designers create manipulatable audio assets and artifacts. Editors integrate music, audio and imagery into the interactive gaming environment. Music supervisors oversee this entire process, hiring and delegating the various responsibilities, dealing with the business aspects of licensing and contracts, ensuring the final product is up to quality standards.
Many of these lines of music production and composition work require much of the same skills and knowledge, while areas like game audio editing demand specialized technological knowhow. Composition can be an entirely different process when working on static audiovisual sync cues for a film versus malleable cues in the interactive gaming setting. Yet the fundamentals of music production, electronic composition, audio recording and the music business covered by SUU’s online Master of Music in studio and game audio technology can prepare students to excel in any of these professional pursuits.