Discussion The Video Game Industry vs. The Music Industry

Ive always wanted to know the difference between getting into the video game industry as a game programmer versus getting into the music industry as a music artist. I am into both fields, but I am more familiar with what I have been told as a musician , on what it takes to get into the music industry. However as a game programmer ( or simply a programmer ), I have no idea what it takes to get your game noticed in the game industry.

Heres what I know about getting into the music industry, because I want to know if musicians have the same hardship as game programmers , in the context of getting "noticed".

Before the age of youtube and before the age of internet, publishing games and publishing music was a hard road. At the time I was into composing my music, my talents as programmer were limited and I did not investigate the problems of publishing video games, because the issue did not cross my mind.

My period of time that I refer to learning this, comes from the middle to late 1980s , early 1990s perhaps...

In this period of time for musician in the USA, getting into the music industry, required getting noticed by a representative of a ( big name ) record company. This involves the practice of getting noticed and by what artists referred to ( in this time ) as,"Coughing Up Blood" to achieve this. Why is it called coughing up blood? Because in order to get noticed, you have to sacrifice your music or art that you have worked on for long periods of time for nothing. No payment or compensation. This where the phrase "starving artists" comes from. Your at the bottom of the ropes and your competing with other artists to get noticed , regardless if you play the same style of music they do, or not.

The two ways that music artists used to get noticed....

Going from nightclub to nightclub to play music so that you could gain an audience. The more often you went from nightclub to nightclub to play music, the more likely that someone from a record company would notice you. You have to gain attraction, from people who like your music. If no one knows who you are, or no one likes your music, then no one is going to buy your music. This is where coughing up blood comes in, your booking agent takes a cut, and you and your band gets very little in terms of money to sustain your profession.

The second way, was to send in a cassette tape to the representative to who is in charge of finding new bands to publish. This person was called the A.R. representative ( or Audio Repertoire or AR ). Basically the AR rep, would receive hundreds of tape cassettes each month to review, and when they got to your tape to listen to, there is two things that they would do. Attention span of a AR rep for listening to music is a few seconds ( lets say 10 to 15 seconds ), if your music on that tape you sent in didn't get their attention, they would take your tape, smash it , and throw it away. Some AR rep who go on the road, would take your tape from their car's tape cassette player and throw it out the window while driving. The other thing they did, is If they did like your music, you would be contacted by letter, which is what you wanted. Hopefully good things happen , but not always.

The other thing that musicians have to do, is copyright the music by registering it before sending it out
to be heard, and join a musician union to protect their rights to royalties when their music is played on the radio. ASCAP and BMI are the most popular known unions for musicians to join. From there on as musician , you really need a lawyer, to help navigate yourself through setting up a contract with the record company who is going to publish your music.

This is what I know from what I learned about this industry in the 1980s.

The year is now 2019......

Now we have the internet, and we have youtube, and we have independent CD / DVD producers ( such as disc makers ) where you send in your master and they print out as many copies as you want, for a cost.
If you want to get noticed, just put your music up on youtube. You want to sell it, go to iTunes or even better, Amazon. You don't even have to publish a physical hard copy of your music on a medium to sell to anyone,
they can just buy and download it.

The internet has made advantages for the entertainment industry, especially for music and video games.

Thats what I know, as far I can recall......

Now what about the video game industry?

I have no clue what it takes for a video game programmer to get into the video game industry. In this
context, I am talking about video games for computers such as the games you make with GMS. The other two kinds of video games that I know of are for game consoles ( such as Playstation, Switch, and Xbox ), and
the standup arcade cabinets that you put coins in to play ( like the original Spy Hunter by Bally Midway ).

Do video game programmers have the same hardship that music artists do in getting noticed , even if they publish their game on steam?

Is there anything similar in this process that music artists have with video games programmers in the entertainment business?

Is one profession harder than the other, in the long run?

Do programmers have to worry about something like royalties, like musicians do with their music, when their music is played on the radio?


All industries would be equally difficult to rise to the top in. If there was an easy industry to be the best in, everyone would be doing it.
I worked in the music industry for quite a lot of years. I've seen a lot of people get lucky in different ways like singers with no stage presence end us becoming unknown millionaires for writing songs. Those are the people I tended to work with and for. People who were destine to go no where because they lacked a look or dealt with people poorly or didn't want to go on tour, but extremely talented. So talented they didn't have to leave the house to make millions of dollars... sometimes per song depending who bought and performed the song, but usually hundreds of thousands of dollars on the low end.

As for music or standup comedy, you need to get your material out there. I see a lot of composers going no where despite their talents, while musicians would get out in public and perform, composers don't have that luxury unless they have a keyboard or symphony and can engage a crowd. Even the video game market, you can take your game to conventions, but people aren't forced to play your game like a musician performing as an opening act for free or $20 has an audience that's forced to listen to them for 20 - 60 minutes.

Rob Zombie said when people don't know who you are they're disrespectful and don't want to hear you, so they're just against the fact they have to sit through you where you can see every face and know they aren't happy. Then when you're famous everyone wants to be there for you and how much easier it gets despite the songs being the same. Chances are it's the same with game development. Once you get famous for game X people are more receptive to your next game. You have a foot in the door even if barely anyone will seek out your previous games to play. They want the hits or what's next. Lots of musicians and game developers have had hit games or albums then fallen off the radar with their next few releases because people just want that one hit. Not even one hit wonders, just people who remember X and everything after that is just less than.

There are a lot of facets to both the music industry and the video game industry. Look, sound, feel, it's not just your music or gameplay, it's the look of your act or game. It's your performance, how you deal with people and carry yourself in general. You are the best salesperson for your music, your comedy, your video game, your product. You need to be ready to be presentable and present your product in a manor that people want to support you and give your product a chance, because they liked you or believe in you. That doesn't mean be disingenuous, just be yourself, just be aware who your audience is and your target demographic.

In the case of video games I've had a lot more "luck" or "response" by having better animations, art, and style. Genre also helped too. Twitter is a great way to gauge "response" or "luck." Once people like how your game looks, they're more likely to want to play.
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I think the game industry is better. More people make music than make games, so there's less competition. Also, the Internet has kind of ruined the music industry. People have been getting their music for free so long that they've come to expect it. People still pay good money for games.
It's a pointless endeavor to compare the music industry with the video game industry because of the huge barrier of entry quality requirements. After you're familiar with the tools, you can put out a decent-sounding music album by yourself in about a month with little more than a couple of free VSTs and a music program. With games, it's pretty much impossible to put out something presentable in that period of time unless you're using pre-made assets or you're making a platformer or puzzle game. It will take months to years to complete a project depending on the genre. Very few are talented enough to handle all the work creating equally compelling gameplay, art, level design, music, sound, writing, etc., so even independent games are normally done in teams. This combined with the difficulty of either coordinating a group of people or having to do everything yourself, over an extended period of time tends to lead to dropped projects. For every indie game released on GameJolt, there's another 50 that were worked on in silence and canned because it was too much work and the creator lost interest.

More people make music than games, but making outstanding games is harder than making outstanding music.
@nacho_chicken basically summed it up, I think. Games have a higher barrier of entry, but I think talent much more closely correlates with success in this field because of that. It's much harder to find a great game than great music, just because great games have so many more moving parts.

Everyone seems to have different tastes in music, too, but most games seem much more "objectively" judged; even a five year old can tell that the physics in Mario are fun and well made.


šŸ§ *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
The industries are similar in that joining them means you get overworked, start hating your hobby as you work on a watered-down, designed-by-committe project that's similar to everything else being released, and some fat guy in a costume that is hostile to new technology (and Youtube in particular) takes all the money in the end anyway. I think there's a reason the indie scene is so big these days, both in terms of people making and playing games.