Filtering by Category: Stay Mello

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.

Stay Mello, Vol. 1 - Full-Time Musician Talk

As some of you may know, I recently began a new stage of life as a full-time musician, leaving my job and relying on my musical endeavors to earn my way. Even before I began, I knew that I would want to record my experiences in some way in order to help others who might try to do this, and to help myself if I fail or falter. So, here is the first entry in the series, "Stay Mello".

It has been a month since I left my job, my last day there being June 5, 2015. Since then, I have done three very important things:

  • Managed my spending
  • Maximized my opportunities
  • Reassured my people

Managing spending is a simple one to explain. I'm saving money anywhere I can! I used to go out for coffee multiple times a week; now I designate one coffee shop day, because it is helpful to work away from home sometimes. I have planned a very simple rotating pattern of cheap, easy meals. I try to never drive, or drive much less. I give myself $30 of spending money a week, not including gas or my phone bill, which have separate monthly allocations. I calculated the minimum amount of money I'd need per month to survive, and then calculated the ideal amount, as well. Keeping this amount in my head at all times helps me know exactly when I've hit my goal each month, and with that comes great relief, and an ability to shift my priorities a bit towards more long-term work, rather than stuff to help me GET PAID NOW. I have also stowed away some money in an IRA in order to work towards the future while I have money to do so. Investing/saving is extremely advisable when possible.

Maximizing opportunities is making sure that my fans, friends and other business contacts have as many ways to pay me for things they want as possible. I opened up my services offered to include everything I could possibly do, created a Patreon with multiple new ways for people to support me, including what is essentially a subscription service to me, and I am currently producing merch so that I can make every live show worth it and make some cash on the side of the stage. The greatest advantage to me as a full-time musician is that I am already engaged in a long-term contract project making music for a video game (Read Only Memories) and have another one coming up; these are the BIG opportunities that may be the only things keeping me afloat some months, and they are very important. Try to find a big project for yourself, whether it's working on an album with someone as a session musician or collaborator, or scoring a series of commissions from the same client. Maximizing opportunity is about opening more lanes of possible revenue and getting paid more often as a result. If you have no work, good! You have time to look for it.

Reassuring my people involves talking to the people in my life closest to me--close friends, family, significant other--about what I am about to do with my life and what it means, what I have planned and why I think I can succeed. Nothing is more important than having a support network, especially with something as risky as this. If you are very open with the people who are going to be that network, they will understand your situation better if things go bad, and hopefully be ready to go to bat for you. Alternatively, if you leave the people who love you out of what you're doing, you are endangering their trust in you and perhaps even making them feel of less value by showing them they aren't a factor in this big decision. If someone very important to you criticizes your decision, it can be very hard, but try to make them understand as best they can, and do your business. If you have people who are directly depending on you, like a family, it may be a wise idea to stick with your secure job and do music on the side as efficiently as you can--pursuing music is not worth endangering others' well-being! I realize I am very fortunate in being a young single person without these barriers, at least.

That will be it for my first post, and I'm looking forward to the next one I write, in which we'll all see how I'm getting along. If you feel particularly inclined, there are some donation options at the bottom of the site. Thanks for reading!

Photography by Joshua Edmonds