Destiny Composer Explains The Difficulties Of Gaming's Work-For-Hire

By William Usher 4 months ago discussion comments
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The jobs landscape is in a pretty ruined state for some countries; finding work is becoming extremely difficult and maintaining a decent paying job is even harder. Well, this kind of hurdle in life isn't exempt from even the most well recognized names in the gaming industry, including the man who helped bring Halo and Destiny's themes to life, Marty O'Donnell.

GamesIndustry.biz managed to get in a quick word with O'Donnell ahead of his keynote speech at GameSoundCon on October 7th in two months.

The legendary composer discussed the issue of work-for-hire, how Paul McCartney stung his ego a little bit and the troubles of being a freelancer in today's ever-aggressive media industry.

Marty stated that...
"I got a chance to work with Paul McCartney over the past couple of years, and that was for me personally a super highlight of my career," "He's a really nice guy, amazingly talented, fun to work with, easy to work with. At one point when I was talking to him, we were talking about some specific thing and he made this comment: "Well I don't want to do that. That would be a little too 'work-for-hire.'"

"I looked at him and said, 'Paul, when have you ever done anything work-for-hire?' And he laughed. But for him, it was a statement that he didn't want what he was doing to sound like work-for-hire,"... "He always wanted what he did to sound like it was coming from him, and it's important to him. It's an artistic expression, not a commercial expression."

I'm betting there are a lot of zings going off in the minds of freelancers and work-for-hire media enthusiasts right now.

Unfortunately, not everyone can be Paul McCartney, and unfortunately not everyone gets a say in how that creative expression comes across to best represent the product, the work and the artist. Sometimes you just have to roll with whatever you're given, especially when it comes to collaborative projects where you're brought into someone else's idea and they want a specific, artistic outcome for their project.

However, O'Donnell switches gears still maintaining focus on the work-for-hire bit, but he focuses on a different part of the job: residuals. Marty tells GI.biz...
"If you're work-for-hire and you get paid by the hour, who benefits?"... "Does the author benefit when their creation has a life outside of what they were paid for? If that hasn't been looked at closely or taken care of the right way, it can be sort of a... disappointment. I think it's an area that the game industry has been a little bit behind on. Other industries like TV and movies, when it comes to writers and artists and composers, I think there are systems there that are maybe a little bit better for the artists. The game industry needs to look more closely at it and think about how to change."

Marty O'Donnell was recently fired from Bungie, a studio he had long worked with for well over a decade, helping shape the musicality of the Halo series and the first entry in the franchise-starter, Destiny.

O'Donnell filed a lawsuit against Bungie for unlawful termination and for unpaid wages. He won a settlement worth $95,000.

It's not all sad news and dour notes, though. O'Donnell does offer some hope for those in the audio field, saying...
"For audio professionals, I think they have to stay light on their feet, have a lot of good tools they're familiar with: third party software, middleware... Besides just being fluent with digital audio workstations and understanding how to do sound design in foley and write music and put things together, I think people are going to be more valuable also if they know how to work with middleware like Wwise and FMOD and things like that. The more tools the audio guys have at their disposal, the more valuable they'll be as freelancers."

Well there you have it. Be versatile. Be nimble. Be open.

You can look for O'Donnell to deliver the keynote at the GameSoundCon, which is scheduled to take place between October 7th and October 8th. You can learn more about the event and O'Donnell's presence by paying a kind visit to the official website.

(Main image courtesy of Edge)
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