We sat down with the owner of the Otherworld agency Fabian Malabello to talk about what it takes to run a composer/sound designer agency and what kind of project they are working on at the moment. Have a peak.
Thank you for taking time to speak with us Fabian. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your agency and what does it do?
Firstly, thank YOU, Zdravko! It’s my absolute pleasure and honour to be doing an interview with you, for The Audio Spotlight – it’s such a fantastic blog and resource.
Greetings readers! My full name is Fabian Malabello, and I’m the Director of The Otherworld Agency – an agency for composers and sound designers who specialise in creating original soundtracks and sound effects for video games. I work with over 20 composers and sound designers, and outsource their creative services to video game developers. I’ve recently brought on marketing agents who have a lot of experience and ‘reach’ in different sectors of the music industry, who I contract to promote the video game soundtracks that the composers produce. So, The Otherworld Agency is slowly becoming a kind of… ‘One –Stop Multifaceted Shop’ for audio people and video game developers.
Could you share with us how you decide which composer or sound designer will be assigned to a certain project?
If I’m pitching for a game, then I usually show the game developer music demos of one, two or three composers and/or sound designers, who I think would be a good fit for the game (sometimes I’m WAY off when pitching this way, but 95% of the time, I’m in the ballpark) and then I invite them to send me a brief of what they want for the game. Once I receive a brief for the game, I’m typically able to pick the composer/sound designer, who I think would be the perfect fit for the project. This just comes down to my understanding of what the client wants for their game. All of my composers are very unique, and so whenever I ask them to create a new music demo for a video game, it’s because they have the exact flavour that the client is looking for; they typically meet and exceed the expectations of the client.
You represent composers and sound designers from around the world, how does that work? Are there a lot of obstacles when negotiating a deal for a composer when he/she is miles away?
Ah. Time zones. Dreadful things. Actually, the only real obstacle is that I live so far away from the rest of the world – in Perth, Western Australia. Which basically means that every single person I speak to, unless they live in Southeast Asia, is awake when I’m meant to be sleeping. I’ll usually be ready to pass out by around 3:00 a.m., and then I’ll probably get a call on Skype to talk about one of the games we are working on. It seems my own mortality is the only real obstacle! With email, though, everything’s usually quite easy. It doesn’t really matter where my composers or sound designers are, as I often give them just under a week to create a couple of demos to submit to the client, and they typically complete the demos in half the time. As long as we keep the deadlines away from our doorstep, then time zones are never really a problem.
Could you share with us some of the projects which composers you represent are working on at the moment?
Definitely! We’ve currently got 14 publicly announced games in development at the moment. One of them actually just launched a Kickstarter – ‘Graywalkers: Purgatory’ (a plug in a plug – so meta) by Dreamlords Digital, which Cedric Baravaglio is composing the original soundtrack for.
Another game, that I’m quite excited to be a part of, is called ‘Super Mutant Alien Assault’, which features an original soundtrack by the incredible heavy metal/electronic producer ‘The Algorithm’.
I’ll lastly mention a project that isn’t actually a game, but a documentary about video games. Four of my composers are submitting original music as part of the reward package for everyone who pledges to the Kickstarter. The documentary is called ‘Gameloading: Rise of The Indies’ and it’s actually incredible. I managed to get a sneak peek at the 15-minute version of the documentary, when I met up with Lester and Anna (the documentary makers) earlier this month. I can’t begin to praise this project enough for the love and effort put into it.
Gameloading KS: http://kck.st/ZpDlBn
There is a quote on your website “To work within budget and deliver ‘A grade’ audio.” What do you consider “A grade audio”?
When I say ‘A grade audio’ I mean audio of a highly professional quality; Audio you’d expect to hear on the latest AAA console games. As an agent, my brand entirely comes down to the compositional and sonic quality of the audio that my composers and sound designers produce. This means that I need to play quite an integral role in the supervision of the audio before it gets submitted to the client, as I have to apply quality control. Saying that, the composers I work with trust me to bring out the best in them and appreciate the honest feedback and constructive criticism I give them. It’s win-win.
Let’s talk about you for a moment now. Are you also a musician and/or sound designer? Could you share with us your experience as a musician or sound designer?
I used to be a drummer for about 12 years, but I stumbled upon a very unique kind of drum one day, called the ‘piano’ (you hit it but without sticks. I know – It’s the epitome of madness). Ever since then, I started composing, and then got into producing computer music. I’m currently writing music for a video game called ‘Dumb Warrior’, which has been ridiculously fun. I’m blending Celtic and chip music together, and getting a couple of famous musicians to record the acoustic medieval instruments for it.
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
This isn’t something I learned from a problematic situation, but it’s something that I’ve realised isn’t often discussed when a game developer requires a Kickstarter campaign to fund their project; When it is discussed, it’s sometimes a bit of a surprise to the game developer, as not all of them have considered this expense:
Any composer who is creating an exclusive soundtrack – but NOT assigning the copyright of the music to the game developer – for a game with a Kickstarter campaign, it is vital to define and clarify exactly how much money is owed to the composer per backer who is owed the game’s soundtrack as a reward for their pledge. This money should be paid to that composer IN FULL when the Kickstarter is successfully funded and finished. For instance, if the digital soundtrack is valued at $5.00 and 1000 people who pledged to the campaign and are owed the soundtrack when it’s released (regardless of whether the backer pledged $10 or $100), then the composer is owed $5000.00 once the Kickstarter campaign has been finished and paid out.
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
One for the composers: Don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t work on just any video game and try to compose music that is not what you enjoy composing or something that requires a style of music that you don’t excel at. Keep looking for the kind of game that you think you would be perfect for. There are thousands of game developers out there, making thousands of new games every year – there’s always going to be more work and opportunities. Be patient and be very particular. It’s important to broaden your musical horizons, especially for your own personal artistic growth, but in the beginning just find your niche and define yourself as the kind composer you truly want to be.
For any composers or sound designers who are interested in applying to be represented by The Otherworld Agency, email theotherworldagency at gmail.com with your name, a short biography, credits and any relevant music/sound examples (preferably uploaded on Soundcloud, Youtube or the like).