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Put Your Music in Games for $1,000 per Minute.

23 Aug 2004

Put Your Music in Games for $1,000 per Minute.Put Your Music in Games for $1,000 per Minute.The experts tell artists what they need to know about placing music in video games - A Report by The G-Man.August 23, 2004 -- The average price paid to composers for game music is $1,000 per minute, and many games contain an hour or more of music. That's the good news.

The bad news is: composing for games is almost always completed as a work-for-hire, there is not yet a royalty arrangement, there is no monitoring by performing rights organizations such as BMI or ASCAP, and you may spend a year or more working with the game developers to fit your music to the needs of the project.

If you're still game about getting into this business, the workshop presented by Leslie Waller's L*A*M*P (Los Angeles Music Productions) was a superb place to start. Waller persuaded some of the most-respected people in game music and audio to reveal the facts about this steadily growing industry.

SWITCH ON:
The day began with an overview from Jeannie Novak of Indiespace. Wait, that sounds boring. It wasn't. First of all, when Novak is interested in a topic, she has the ability to make it fascinating. In under an hour, she was able to quickly present the history of gaming, the most typical types of game content, and some of the ways the marketplace for games is changing, including this surprising fact: "women over 50 outnumber teen males in playing online games."

More importantly, Novak touched on a wide range of ideas, any one of which could have been a topic for a panel or a chapter in one of her books. These included:

* Changes in culture affect the approaches to all entertainment.
* The interactive nature of games is a controlled way of introducing something new into your life.
* Business utilization of gaming is on-the-grow in such areas as recruitment, training, educational development, community-building, and marketing/advertising.
* "Advertainment" will continue to grow in ways both subtle and blatant, including what Novak calls "advergames."
* Games, interactivity, wireless communication, television and advertising will begin overlapping in ways we haven't yet imagined.

MONEY AND TIME:
Without a break, Novak moved from solo speaker to moderator, keeping the pace fast (but not overly furious) in a presentation entitled "Playing the Game: Money, Schedules & Contracts." The experts on the panel were Christian Johnson, Director of Sound for Vivendi Universal Games; Aaron B. Marks of On Your Mark Music Productions; Alex Brandon, Audio Manager for Midway; and Greg O'Conner-Read of Music4Games, Inc. Each of these youthful veterans of the game industry had excellent points to make, such as:

* Marks recommended that composers ask for additional payments as their music gets utilized in different platforms and in ancillary areas (commercials, movie trailers, motion pictures, soundtrack albums, etc.)

* Johnson emphasized that production quality is very important in way demos are judged, followed by thematic development and additional orchestrations of musical themes. He also admited that "I am not a great game player," but pointed out that it is "best to have composers work closely with game developers."

* Brandon got even more specific, noting that a "Composer needs to know how to read the 'game engine' documents or be able to work with someone who can read them." (The game engine determines how your music works in each game.)
O'Conner-Read felt that "musicians for games need to be gamers."

* Marks countered this somewhat by saying, "When I'm asked if I can do something, I always say 'yes' and then go find out about it."

* On the subject of demos, Novak suggested that musicians consider taking existing game visuals and re-scoring them using their own music, an idea that met with approval by all the panel members.

NUTS AND BOLTS:
On a two-person panel called "How to Score Music to Video Games," Billy Martin (Lunch With Picasso Music) and Lennie Moore (composer of game music for "Outcast" and "Plague of Darkness") demonstrated how game composers get down to business. Topics covered included: how different games call for different compositional approaches, costs that are associated with creating game music, and much more. Martin pointed out that scoring games often means "You're solving challenges you may not have faced before." Using onscreen breakdowns and numerous recorded examples, Martin and Moore gave an insiders' view to this fascinating business.

Moore made the observation that "You don't have to be a gamer, but there are things you should know, such as terminology used by developers, styles of games, and different ways of integrating music into a game." (See the URLs at the end of this article for reference.)

KEYNOTE:
Many consider Tommy Tallarico the leading composer for games, having worked on more than 200 game titles representing total sales of more than 50 million units. Among the many points Tallarico made during his often funny (and sometimes street-language) presentation:

* Average age of video game player is 29, higher than commonly thought.

* The video game market achieved $23 billion in sales last year.

* Sports games represent about 30% of the industry.

* With a company called G4 having bought the TechTV channel, there is now a 24/7 video game television network.

* The importance of networking, because "The best demo doesn't always get the job. Sometimes, it's because of the connections you've made."

A lively Q&A session followed Tallarico's presentation. Moses Avalon, author of "Confessions of a Record Producer" and other music business books, raised several vitally important issues affecting people in the music industry, especially publishers and attorneys, as well as to those who might otherwise consider writing for games. Topics he brought up included the lack of songwriting royalties in gaming as well as the seemingly incomprehensible position of the games industry that online games-playing is somehow not counted as a public performance for any song in the game.

Tallarico, for his part, admitted that an organization he founded, G.A.N.G. (Game Audio Network Guild) is "looking into all these things." They'd better, because until this is resolved, the best composers will think twice about writing for games.

THE FUTURE:
The event concluded with a listening session that was often fascinating and sometimes disheartening. It seemed to some observers that any music score that was derivative of orchestral composers such as Elmer Bernstein or John Williams was praised by the panelists; anything that broke new ground was not. This unfortunate situation prompted more than one attendee to bemoan the fact that "Music for games is going to be more of the same for at least one more year."

With the seconds ticking down at the end of the day, Tallarico sent a bolt of electricity through the room when he announced that he was issuing an open invitation to all attendees to audition for a composer position on a new video game project. With this "handshake audition deal" offered to the packed room at Cinespace in Hollywood, the L*A*M*P game music event ended on the most optimistic and exciting note possible.







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