Become a computer nerd and lose all your friends.
That’s the best advice Konrad OldMoney can offer anyone interested in composing music for videogames.
Hard counsel to swallow, but it’s paid off handsomely for OldMoney. To date, he’s composed music for hugely popular videogames like FIFA 17, one of the fastest-selling games ever sold in the U.K.; Fight Night Champion, which topped the U.K. sales charts; and SSX Deadly Descents, a franchise that was the fifth best-selling game in the U.S. in 2012. All this via EA Sports, an arm of the Electronic Arts videogame production house.
“After years of playing games, and eating Church’s Chicken Number 6 combos with gravy on the side, I met [music director for EA Sports] Ricardo Almeida and [game designer and producer] Freddy Ouano.
They happened to be fans of dancehall music, which is what I was making lots of at the time, and they gave me a shot producing music for SSX Deadly Descents,” he says.
OldMoney says working with Almeida’s and Ouano’s vision allowed him to zero in on what kind of music he needed to make and for which kinds of game players. “When you do your research on the target demographics, and you make authentic music that resonates with their taste, it really pays off,” he says.
“When you do your research on the target demographics, and you make authentic music that resonates with their taste, it really pays off.”
Hearing OldMoney break down his creative process is hugely insightful for someone who’s never played videogames. While announcers in a game like FIFA 17 are talking – “and they’re either talking while you’re winning or losing” – you have to “make music that has room for them, but leaves the player feeling the pressure of being down a few points near the end of the game.
“How do you create that emotional response without overpowering the announcers?” he asks, anticipating the question. “For something like that, I would get rid of drums, ‘cause they’re too distracting, and use synth arpeggiation as a clock instead. Maybe speed everything up by 15 bpm [beats-per-minute] or so over the 30 second clip, to raise the feeling of urgency.”
OldMoney says when making music for games, you have to consider who’s playing them, and what types of sounds will resonate with them.
OldMoney, born Konrad Abramowicz, immigrated to Canada from Poland when he was 10. Coming from one of the most homogenous countries in the world to multi-cultural Canada was eye-opening for young Abramowicz, but getting exposed to diverse sounds was, for him, the biggest thrill.
Aside from dabbling in dancehall and hip-hop, OldMoney has worked with several high-profile artists working in different genres in Asia. The list includes Korean hip-hop superstars Tiger JK and Yoon Mirae. The producer is also working with Dawid Kwiatkowski, who he calls “the Polish Justin Bieber.” We ask OldMoney if it’s challenging for a Canadian producer to approach artists globally and convince them to work with him. “Networking and collaborating is a very important part of the music industry and in the era of the bedroom producer, it’s easy to overlook that,” says OldMoney.
Eight years back, OldMoney produced a song for his old band Smokey Robotic. It got the attention of the two Korean stars, and he began collaborating with them. OldMoney is returning the favour, trying to get Korean artists exposure in North America. His new single, “Undefeated,” which appears on the official UFC3 soundtrack – along with tracks by Cardi B, Snoop Dogg and Future – features Korean emcee Junoflo. “It’s nice to open markets for artists who have done the same for me,” he says.
OldMoney easily explains the difference between composing for games and for singers. “A game project has usually been really fleshed out by the time it hits my desk,” he says. “There are hundreds of songs, clips, and thousands of sound effects to consider. My value on games lies in being able to understand and deliver exactly what the producer and music director are looking for. Whereas an artist will often come to me in search of something that they can’t really put their finger on, and we go from there.”
OldMoney’s reputation has been growing steadily, with several big-name game companies – the names of which he’s forbidden to disclose – seeking his services. He attributes being in-demand to being reliable, delivering premium content on time, every time, and his attention to detail. In an article in Forbes magazine last year, OldMoney was quoted as saying his clients want “that Konrad sound.”
Here’s how he describes it: “A bold cup of expensive coffee, with a shot of Jameson, first thing in the morning,” he laughs, before getting serious. “I have a strong foundation in hip-hop, that pocket-in-the-drums that makes your neck snap back and makes you want to bang your head. That’s my favourite thing to add to my music, regardless of genre.”