Stay Mello, Vol. 3 – Nine Months, Still Alive

It’s been a long time since I wrote the last one of these—a LONG time—but I’ve been thinking about what to write a lot. I’ve reached another time for decision that would be referred to in videogame lingo as choosing a “critical path”. This seems like a better time than ever to gather my thoughts and display them to you in hopes that it may help you make your own decisions in this field, or that it may simply entertain and enlighten.

FINANCIAL STATUS

Eating every day, being able to take trips for business when I need to, keeping my car in good repair, paying my health insurance, and even being able to buy a game now and then. I’m able to do all of these things with the help of my Patreon, steady work from Midboss on additional Read Only Memories content, occasional revenue from the prototyped fighting game Cerebrawl I continue to work on, small and large contract work and steady merch and album sales.

HOWEVER—the rest of my life feels hollow. I am at the bare minimum. I live in an isolated area with little relevance to my career because it is cheap. I socialize in a very limited fashion. I have about two free hours a day before I go to sleep to relax and work on passion projects. The weekends, which I originally intended to have off, are usually filled with the remainders of work I couldn’t finish during the weeks. I feel most of my time is spent thinking about how to make money in the now, with little consideration to how to profit and succeed for the long-term, for life.

I’m sure I am still MUCH happier now than I would have been doing all this in addition to my previous part-time jobs. I’m aware my amount of freedom in my work outranks many other types of employment, but every choice we make regarding work has its downsides, and these are those for me, represented honestly with as little emotional baggage as possible!

CREATIVE PLANS

As many of you know, I’ve promised a three-album mashup trilogy to be completed within 2016! The first and only confirmed one of these is EarthBIG, an Earthbound and Notorious B.I.G. album built around a very personal story about my creative process. Two more albums—a secret project, and my announced sequel to Night Walks, NIGHT TERRORS, are hopefully coming. NIGHT TERRORS will be released in Fall without a doubt, and it will be a perfect marriage of the music of Silent Hill, the uneasy feeling of listening to a mysterious radio broadcast, and the queasy horror evoked by the imagery of manga artist Junji Ito. There’s also my new work for Read Only Memories Deluxe Edition, which involves implementation of voice acting into the game and creation of some new music, AND my ongoing soundtrack for fighting game Cerebrawl, currently in production.

TAX SEASON FOR FREELANCERS

Oh, man. I’ll probably write an entire separate blog post about this after I get back from my session with a tax professional later this week. Going to figure out how to report a large amount of income/transactions processed through Paypal from Bandcamp, Patreon and direct payments (but not large enough to qualify for a Paypal W-2). The anxiety is real. Please hug me.

THE NEXT BIG DECISION

OK, so this is the most present thing on my mind, right above taxes—where to go with this career next. Right now, I have two choices.

1. Continue with what I’m doing, living the hollow life, while hoping that my current game projects and music projects will pay me back in a big way, and that bigger opportunities will come in 2016. Cannot stress this last bit enough—they NEED to come in 2016 or this ain’t happening.

2. Get a full-time job in the games industry, or at least producing music or sound for an agency or company on a regular basis, and move from Kentucky. This has the risk of cutting me off from doing all the personal work I currently do because of exclusivity agreements or conflict-of-interest stuff, and would certainly reduce the time I have to dedicate to those personal projects even if I could still do them. However, it would allow me to begin my life comfortably, in earnest, in a fresh place, and not worry about money.

I’m currently leaning towards option 2. I feel confident (perhaps over-confident) that I’ll be able to maintain everything that is important to patrons and supporters of my music even if I did take one of these positions. I won’t settle for one that would have me completely shut off outside creative projects in order to work with a company—they’re too dear to me. My main goal is to become a known-name composer/sound designer who pushes the creative boundaries of interactive media, at the top of the industry. I have a fear that I might lose my name and become just a worker in a bigger company, but there’s also the possibility that the right small, supportive team could help me rise faster.

I’ll report back on the process of this decision whenever I have significant updates.

SOME ADVICE ON PROFESSIONALISM

Just want to end this with a little bit of advice to the aspiring musician that could probably apply to a creative person in any field. Learn to properly carry yourself online as well as in-person. Remember that you are completely dependent on any person who has ever taken a listen to your music. Never act superior to anyone that you meet. Judge every business opportunity with equal weight, no matter who it comes from, how uncouthly it may be presented, how quickly it is set in front of you. When you must reject someone, do it politely and make any criticism constructive. DON’T WORK FOR FREE, figure out what you think you’re worth and translate that to an hourly rate, ASAP. And if you tweet trash, make it GOOD trash, trash that reflects your personality so well that no one could be upset about it.

Photography by Joshua Edmonds