Everything you need to know about gaming music and where to get it

By William Davis


Aug 28, 2021

Reading time: 4 min

When it comes to using music to help make a visual production more complete and three-dimensional in nature, this is perhaps never more effectively achieved than within the world of gaming.

The use of music, score and sound effects is key when used in film and TV projects, as well as other uses such as video production for social media assets. When it comes to creating an immersive video game world, the importance of a great soundscape is even more crucial.

This is due chiefly to the work that gaming music does, when done correctly, to create a sense of realism necessary to create a level of gameplay that is necessary in 2021. 

Video games have taken great strides in recent years. The budgets allocated to the creation of the leading titles are akin to feature films due to the revenue they can generate, especially at the top end of the gaming spectrum.

Gaming Music Takes You to a Different Plain

Gaming is all about immersing the player in a new, altered reality. As well as employing top graphic artists and conceptual designers to come up with the look and feel of the game and the developers to bring these designs to life, you’ll need sound effects and background music to breathe life into the world your game is set within.

The best games are those that really transport you to another location, or time, in such a way that is not only wholly convincing but also while maintaining a narrative and telling a story. 

The music, and sound effects, are a pivotal way to make that happen, and it’s a far more complicated process than what you might associate with a feature film, tv shows, or video.

Because the production of a game entails producing a truly three-dimensional piece from scratch, all these elements must work seamlessly together, and the soundtrack is as important as the visuals.

Original scores by Masterpiece composers

As well as using sound effects to give a game that sense of realism, or indeed fantasy, big-budget games tend to bring in composers to create scores that further elevate the video game towards a feature film sensibility. 

In order to produce such a soundscape, you’ll have to hire a talented composer to put the score together as well as musicians, or relevant software, to make that composition into a reality. That could prove very expensive indeed.

Building a realistic soundscape is paramount in gaming

In order to put together a soundtrack for video gaming, there is usually a combination of original score and songs. Think Grand Theft Auto, for instance, with its plethora of ‘80s-themed classics mixed in with the ultra-violence. Unfortunately, putting such a soundtrack together isn’t cheap.

In order to use any piece of music, you’ll need clearance to do so. That might not be such a painful exercise if the composition is from an unrecognized source. But if it’s a mainstream piece of music you want, then it’s not just the headache of securing the clearance; it’s also the small matter of cost to take into account.

Clearly, for the big video game houses, there is little issue in paying for the relevant permissions, albeit some artists may just turn down such requests on the spot. For anyone else, the costs are too prohibitive to consider.

However, there is another way.

Royalty-free music for gaming

Royalty-free music is an excellent resource that is growing ever popular with filmmakers and gaming entities. Essentially it’s music and sound effects that are available for a one-off inexpensive fee that is secured by subscribing to a provider.

The content offered by the royalty-free music companies comes from top musicians, DJs, singers, artists, bands, making it plentiful. A typical operator would have thousands upon thousands of tracks, samples, and effects for you to use and all the relevant licenses and usages are included in the rate you pay.

The great thing about adopting this strategy to score your projects is the sheer scale of what’s on offer. The size and organization of the musical output available means you can happily search through the relevant databases until you find precisely what you are looking for.

The best providers offer vast sound effects libraries and these will be especially important for those looking to score video games. 

Where to get great gaming music

The number of providers in the royalty-free music space is growing at quite a pace, but, by some distance, the most popular and best-reviewed of the bunch is certainly artlist.

They are streets ahead of the competition due in part to their competitive pricing as well as the scale and quality of the content they make available to their loyal users. 

One aspect that goes a long way in showing artists’ commitment to their craft and displaying the confidence in the product they are offering is the fact that even if you were to allow your subscription to expire, you’d still retain the right to use all and any items you have downloaded. 

This is not standard practice and is another reason why they are the leaders in the royalty-free music pack.