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Post mortem – Photosynthesis

Post mortem – Photosynthesis

I just did a recent post mortem on a hybrid track I composed/produced called Photosynthesis. In this video, I discuss the various sample libraries used and how I have my session set up. I show each sound element by itself, with and without effects applied and then show how the end product sounds. Other topics in this video include automation as well as side chaining compression to make drum impacts sound larger in the mix.

You can hear the whole track here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLsYKFpO3-M This track is currently available for license. As I get more time, I’ll be doing more of these videos to share tricks and tips on audio production. If you have a specific question, I’d love to see how I can help answer it!

If you need custom audio, hit me up!

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World of Pixels

World of Pixels is a brand new song for everyone’s Friday!

It’s an ambient, peaceful, electronic track that I wrote recently for fun. It’s available for licensing currently. One thing I really enjoy about this piece is how the melody evolves each time it’s stated. It’s never repeated the same way. Either a new instrument joins in, new chords support it or the melody notes themselves change. I like using the visuals of pixels in the title because they can be both harsh, jagged and beautiful and smooth.

Using low-fi, chip-tune like sounds is a challenge as they can be really harsh around the edges. But when produced differently, they can be quite beautiful and smooth. I hope you enjoy the song!

Feel free to reach out should you have audio needs that I can meet!

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Up to No Good – Jazz Theme

Start your Monday morning off right – with some new jazz by Nathan Madsen! 😛

This is, perhaps, my favorite track I did while at Beecave Games! It’s a jazz theme much in the style of those 1930’s cartoons. I really enjoyed working on this one and I’m quite proud of it (both in regards to the composition and the production). Devin Lawson did the great artwork. This theme isn’t released yet – at least not currently – but I was able to get permission to post the music to my demo reel.

Wanna see more of Devin’s great artwork for this theme? Go here: http://devinlawson.com/portfolio/high-jinx-1-and-2/

Need some audio work from me? Get in touch!
As always, thanks for the comments and listening!

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The Quest for Donuts

Ever been on a quest for donuts? Who doesn’t love donuts?! I mean… really. Come on. And this song captures the feeling of going out and chasing the dream that is donuts. Originally written for a slot theme being produced by Beecave Games, which sadly ended up not coming out. But fear not! I was able to get official permission to share this orchestral track with you all and I sincerely hope you enjoy it!

Side note (no pun intended): My favorite part of the song is breakdown section that happens after the crescendo at 1:22. But the piece is short enough that you should really just listen to the whole thing. Several times. 😛

This track is not available for license and all rights are reserved. Reach out should you have any audio needs!

Thanks!

Bio:
Nate is an established composer/sound designer, based in Austin, TX. Aside from making various kinds of noises and music, he also teaches private lessons (saxophone and piano) and performs with live bands. On the weekends he likes to sit and watch the grass grow.

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Blood and Rust album released

 
 
I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest album, Blood and Rust. This album features over 36 minutes of music that was written for the MechWarrior: Tactical Command iOS video game, developed by Personae Studios. After the game’s launch, I spent some time further fine tuning these tracks, expanding on ideas and making the music more suitable for a CD setting. Much of the music is aggressive with a fusion of orchestral and electronic elements. I composed, produced and mixed all of the tracks with the exception of Into War, which John Rodd mixed. I hope you enjoy it!

Note: ALL of this music is available for licensing, so please contact me if you’re interested!

Take it out for a spin with the player below… or better yet BUY it with the links! 😛

Global Game Jam 2012

 
Madsen Studios LLC will be joining with Glass Bottom Games which is taking part in this year’s Global Game Jam at Austin University. For those taking part in the event, I’m looking forward to meeting you and seeing what kinds of games we all come up with over the next 48 hours!

The Big Picture

 

This blog covers some very important concepts that are useful to young(er) freelancers. The inspiration for this entry comes from several discussions I’ve had with other freelancers as well as some interactions I’ve had with some clients in the past. When discussing money it’s helpful to remember one core idea:

A client wants to get the best content for the cheapest price while a freelancer wants to work on quality projects and be able to make a decent living.

Most of the time clients are very fair and even if some have misconceptions of what a standard rate in the gaming industry would be, they’re willing to pay more for higher quality. When the topic of money comes up, I always find it helpful to present my rates then compare and contrast them with what the standard rate is at that time for that kind of work. This helps give scope and scale to those numbers. After all if a client is expecting to pay $500 for exclusive rights to a 2 hour orchestral score and then gets quoted 10 or 20 times that amount, sticker shock isn’t uncommon. So treat this as an opportunity to educate your potential client.

Give you client options.

Instead of just stating one flat rate, supply several options for the client to choose from. Does Starbucks offer just one cup size? Of course not! They offer several options and this appeals to different types of customers. Me? I’m a venti guy almost all of the time. I want the largest beverage I can get. My wife likes the tall (or small for you non-Starbucks type) serving size. Different prices, different amounts, different tastes. So when constructing the rates consider what options might appeal to a wide(r) range of clients.

Offer perks.

If possible, offer some perks to help entice your clients. Sometimes this can mean extra work sometimes it can be small things but if you surprise your clients they’ll often remember that and come back. Often times a little bit of extra work on the front end can outweigh the reward on the back end if you really surprise and exceed expectations.

Be flexible.

Let’s say client X really wants to hire you as the composer of their next indie game but their budget falls short of your normal rates. This is a promising project that you feel could be a nice addition to your resume and credentials. Why not offer up some compromises that are not listed in your normal rates sheet? Just for example, you accept a lowered rate upon completion of work and in return for that discount get a percentage of all game sales. Look for ways to make it a fair trade off for you work/talents and energy but still giving the client what they need. Just because you have established rates doesn’t mean they’re set in stone or you cannot think creatively outside of the box. What counts is that you feel the exchange is fair to your work and time. Working for free (aka for credit only) is hardly EVER fair. If you’re even considering working for free – don’t. Instead make it an exchange of services. “I write music for your game and you design my new logo.” “I provide sound design for this project and you redesign my website.” Place value on your time and craft so the client will place value (at least to some degree) on it as well. Place zero value on your work/talents/time and your clients will place lesser value to it – if they place any value to it at all.

Don’t forget the big picture.

You know this point is important because it’s what I named this article! In many ways all of the previous points fall under this simple principle. Always keep the big picture in mind! Remember that your client has goals for your work – sometimes using the content in a series of projects. Other times releasing a soundtrack in additional to the game or project. Part of your job is to make sure you’re getting a fair rate. Which is better: getting paid $500 for non-exclusive rights to do a 30 second music track or getting paid $5,000 to do a three hour soundtrack at exclusive rights with no royalties or profit shares? The first option basically means you’re working for $1,000 per minute at non-exclusive rights. The second option means you’re working at a much lower “per minute” rate – roughly 28 bucks a minute. So when looking at only the rate vs. amount of content (and the type of rights required) the first offer seems better. But what if this is George Lucas and the film is Star Wars 18: Luke Stubs His Toe Part 4? Things change yet again. Hence the title of this blog – keep the big picture in mind at all times while negotiating and reviewing potential projects. And yes, sometimes this can be hard to do.

Let me provide a real life example – I was recently asked to produce sound effects for a royalty-free sound effects collection. They offered to pay me $1,400 for about 500 SFX. At first glance this looks somewhat enticing. But I dug deeper and learned that this team wanted exclusive rights to all content meaning I’d never be able to use these sounds again. Furthermore they said no royalties, bonuses or additional payments would be made after paying $1,400. This means they could sell my work over and over again – each time profiting from it while all I would earn was $1,400. Suddenly it doesn’t sound like that great of a deal. And keep in mind that since it was a royalty-free library that was going to be distributed, my source files would have to be 100% original. That means even more time recording, doing foley and then editing everything. All for $1,400. They weren’t going to put my name on it. In the end I thanked them for their interest but explained I couldn’t work for that low of a rate.

Easy, right?

So when a client approaches you about job X make sure you look at all the parameters of that job. Ask tons of questions. Make sure everything is setup and that you agree to it. Don’t make a rush decision just because the headline looks good – take your time. Keep the big picture in mind. What are the client’s goals? What are your goals? Be realistic about how much time and effort will go into the job. Be flexible with your rates but don’t undersell yourself – otherwise you could be working for just peanuts. Using some of these approaches can help you make smarter decisions and propel your business forward. Good luck and happy hunting.

Freelancing: Reality vs. Perception

 

Before I took the plunge into full time freelancing I had a romanticized view of what the job would be like. In some ways my expectations were pretty much on the mark and in other ways I was completely mistaken! Now, after nearly 15 months of being a full time freelancer, I thought I’d share some of my perceptions and how they did or did not match up with reality, along with some tips to help avoid some common pitfalls.

 

Perception: I’d be 100% productive 100% of the time.

Reality: I needed consistent periods of time away from the creative parts of my job to stay fresh and inspired.

 

I wasn’t naive enough to think that I’d constantly be busy with clients. I knew that freelancing would require a good bit of effort but I did expect to at least have a steady stream of new music flowing out of my studio. That wasn’t the case. I didn’t realize how much of my time and energy would be spent on other business and non-related business items. If I had to estimate, about 30 to 40% of my time is spent looking for my next gig while the remaining time is doing the actual work. Of course there are periods when I’m super busy and lucky enough to land multiple projects at one time and remain booked solid for a chunk of time. I’m in one of those periods right now where I’ve consistently had work to fill up my workday since May and it’s been great! But I also know that dry spells happen to everyone. The important thing is to know what to do when those deserts show up. More on that in another article.

One thing I do when I’m feeling less than inspired is focus on the administrative sides of the job. They have to be done anyway and can provide a nice break from the creative process. I’ll send out a slew of networking emails looking for new clients and more work. I’ll write articles about audio production (much like I’m doing now!) or research new hardware/software solutions to keep my gear up to par. Other times I’ll do some house chores or exercise. And to be totally honest sometimes I’ll just tune out with a great movie or video game.

 

Perception: I’d wake up every single morning excited to be able to work from home.

Reality: Sometimes you just HAVE to get out of the house.

 

Ask anyone who works from home and they’ll probably tell you that it can make you a bit stir crazy at times. This wasn’t something I anticipated at all but found myself suddenly just dying to get out of the house even though I had work to do. So I went out for a few hours, got a Starbucks and when I came home I felt better. You’re not a robot and even though your home is (hopefully) a warm and comfortable place for you – a change of scenery can really work miracles! Side note: a similar issue is always having work’s siren call when you’re supposed to be off of work. It’s very easy to slip back into your office and do a “few more things” and end up working very long hours. When crunching this is pretty much expected but when you’re not crunching do yourself (and your spouse/significant other/friends) a favor leave it until the next day. Working too much can just stress you out – even if you don’t feel the physical symptoms. Doing something outside of work for a while is really good for you. You’ll come back to your work more rested and excited to tackle the next issue.

 

Perception: Working in your PJs would be awesome and completely liberating!

Reality: While working in your PJs certainly is glorious, showering and dressing like a grown adult can be a nice change and make you feel more professional.

 

When you’re freelancing you ARE the company, right? You want to come off professional and taken seriously, right? Part of feeling like a professional is dressing like one. There were times I’d start to feel like I didn’t have a “real” job – that I wasn’t a true professional. Call it shallow but waking up, getting ready and dressing like I was actually going into an office environment instead of another room in my house helped! Suddenly it felt less like a random weekend day and more like a productive week day with work to be done. It can set the tone for the day. I know, odd. But it’s a small mental trick that I’ve found works sometimes.

 

Perception: Every single client would be highly professional and pay me right when the work was completed, delivered and approved.

Reality: Most of the time clients will pay you but it takes effort and, in many cases, time to get them to pay you. Even with a set pay date in a signed contract.

 

Alright, I’ll come clean. This wasn’t exactly a perception I had before plunging into full time freelance work. It’s more a talking point that is very important to me, especially given some recent events. Before going full time freelance, I moonlighted (freelancing on the side for those that don’t know that term) for several years and learned about clients and payment the hard way. But I’m often reminded how vital it is to keep everything legit, documented and within a contract, even when it’s a friend contracting you for work. Business is business. Keep it that way! Save yourself from the trouble later. Trust me. And when it comes time for collecting payment remember that you ARE the company. Just as you’re responsible for fixing or providing IT solutions when your hardware/software go bust and belly up and responsible behind the branding of your company, you’re the accounts receivable dept for your company. It’s up to you to follow up with clients and ensure that you get paid. We can talk in more detail about HOW to do this the right way in another article but for now the point’s been made – you’re gonna wear all kinds of hats when freelancing and being a one man company.

 

I think that about does it for now. Freelancing is a state of mind and it takes a great deal of discipline to be able to do well. Just as with many other things in life, listen to your body, follow your heart and give yourself plenty of opportunities to recharge. When you’re facing a hard situation, talk to other freelancers. Not only can this give you a compassionate ear of someone who’s been there, it can often provide new solutions and methods to help resolve the issue you’re having. Until next time have fun creating audio (or whatever it is that you do) and enjoy life!