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Moving to Los Angeles, Seattle, or San Francisco after College

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by SyMTiK, Apr 13, 2018.

  1. SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    So while I’m currently only early in my time as a student (got another 4 years of school ahead of me most likely) I’m always thinking about next steps for my career, and am curious which of these cities you think are the best to move to in order to find work in, particularly for the video game industry.

    I know LA is a fairly popular choice, but I hear there are jobs in Seattle and SF too from what I heard.

    For me, these are the three cities that I’ve always heavily considered. I mainly want to try to work in the video game industry, as thats really where my heart is but honestly I’ll do any job that involves sound or music xD

    I personally have always wanted to live in Seattle the most out of these three, but I have also dreamt of living in the other two cities as well. For me I care more about what would be best in terms of finding work.

    I’d love to know your guys takes on these cities and your experiences working within them and other cities as well

    Other suggestions are appreciated as well!
     
  2. D Halgren

    D Halgren Senior Member

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    Seattle is certainly the least expensive of those 3. It does have a city center(Capital Hill, Queen Anne) that is livable like SF, but can also be spread out like LA(including the almost as terrible traffic). Maybe @Kyle Preston could help.
     
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  3. ironbut

    ironbut Senior Member

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    You should think about the cost of living in these cities also.
    I just moved from the SF Bay area (San Jose) and the housing costs there are insane.
    A 2 bedroom duplex that goes up for rent for a mere $2500 a month will get folks lined up.
    This would be a great place to live once you're experienced and earning $100k+.
     
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  4. Brendon Williams

    Brendon Williams Senior Member

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    I've only lived in Seattle of these three, and it's been great for me. The game audio industry here is amazing and very supportive, and there are all kinds of games being made, from indies to AAA. There are opportunities to be found across that entire spectrum. And I just enjoy living here in general. Between the Seattle Game Audio meetups, Seattle Composers Alliance, and the numerous Seattle Indies events, it's easy to meet people and network here.

    LA is an obvious choice as a composer, and there are lots of opportunities there, but it's also way harder to stand out since the talent pool is so massive. But there's more work too, so it's kind of a trade-off. For me, Seattle's been ideal for games, but I know that if I ever wanted to step up my the film composing part of my career, I'd definitely want to move to LA. There's really only so far you can go with film here, and most of the films being made are low budget passion projects, which are pretty difficult to sustain a living from. There's plenty of work on the advertising side of things though.

    And San Francisco is good for games as well, but the people I know who've lived in both Seattle and San Francisco have told me that the community feels a lot less connected, so it's a bit harder to network and find your place in the community, particularly as a freelancer. Not to mention it's incredibly expensive there. Most people who live there comfortably have in-house jobs. Personally I wouldn't move there unless I got hired for an in-house position.
     
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  5. Kyle Preston

    Kyle Preston I accidentally do things on purpose

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    Seattle is the most beautiful :) (but I have yet to visit Yosemite).

    Where to live depends on a lot of things, firstly, what kind of games you want to work on? AAA? Indie? All of the above? We have all of those options here in Seattle which is nice. We also have a great community of supportive musicians and composers. There is a sustainable path for plenty of composers here. But if your mind changes over the next few years and you develop a deeper interest in film, I don’t see a way around living in LA. Trust me, Seattle is a hard/impossible town to make a living as ONLY a film composer, in my experience anyway, don’t know about San Francisco. Lots of great info on moving to LA in this thread from last year btw. Mike Greene’s response is great.

    I see you’re from Boston SyMTiK, which makes me jealous. I love that city and really want to move back to the east coast when I’m older. But as an FYI, all of the cool indie games/films I’ve ever worked on had nothing to do with living in Seattle. Well-crafted emails and being the right person for the gig is why I got the job, I could’ve lived in Boston to do that. If you’re more interested in AAA work, I’d encourage you to move to one of the big 3 for sure.

    Right now, Seattle is definitely the least expensive of the three, though that’s changing fast. We’re experiencing an eerily similar tech takeover just like San Francisco.

    Also, you may want to consider music licensing as an option too. When I realized how important autonomy was to me (at least in terms of when I choose to work), pursuing music licensing became a no brainer. And you can do that anywhere.

    One last thing, in developing yourself culturally, where you live matters a great deal. Yes, the internet connects us all more (I’m talking to you from across the country right now which is pretty f’ing cool), but location will always have a much greater impact on your emotional and cultural development than the internet ever will. Typically when I return home after a meetup here in Seattle with my fellow composers, I’m much more motivated and filled with purpose to continue this ridiculous lifestyle (and it is ridiculous). If you’re a softie like me, that may be very important to you, so choose wisely :).
     
  6. OP
    OP
    SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    Thanks for the awesome response! Aaah makes me want to live in Seattle even more badly xD

    Boston is lovely, but I’ve grown up here my whole life (im from Rhode Island, about an hour south of Boston) so ive been yearning for a change of scenery.

    I think I may consider as someone else has suggested to wait until I’m making atleast 100k a year (if I ever do end up making that kind of money) before considering moving to LA. But being that Im mostly interested in video game work, it definitely sounds like Seattle is more of the type of place I’d be interested in. Plus the climate and overall environment sounds more like the type of place I’d wanna be, and the cost of living is a at least a little bit more reasonable than LA.


    Also, by music licensing, are you referring to copyrighting my work?
     
  7. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    That's the best reason; choose the city that feels right for you. (Also, if you like Seattle, I would think you'd have a hard time warming to Los Angeles, even though there are about 100 different "Los Angeles" communities).

    But either way, the chance that your musical life will work out exactly the way you picture is not worth risking all other aspects of your life -- the "actual" will likely differ substantially from the imagined life.

    So what do you do?

    Build good relationships that nurture you (not talking at all about "networking" -- actual friends with whom you have no added agenda). Be good to your friends, cultivate hobbies, date someone you can care about, learn to paint / sculpt / make pots. Do a lot of stuff that is genuine for you and that feeds your soul. Play electric guitar real loud if you like that.

    Nobody wants to work with someone who's got nothing but ambition, no matter how talented. It gets boring talking shop all the time. Be grateful, be humble. Be a person; it's good for you and good for your career.
     
  8. robgb

    robgb I Have Strong Opinions

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    I wouldn't wish L.A. on anyone. I spent many, many years at movie studios (former screenwriter) dealing with creatives and executives and while everyone was "nice," there were also a lot of two-faced jackals who were unwilling or, more likely, unable to make a commitment. As Pauline Kael (some say Dorothy Parker) once said, "Hollywood is the only place you can die of encouragement." Besides, at the wrong time of day it can take you two hours to get from Santa Monica to Hollywood Hills. Not a great place to live.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
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  9. OP
    OP
    SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    Thanks so much for the responses! Im so glad to hear that theres much hope for me moving somewhere other than LA - honestly, not sure its the type of place id wanna be. Maybe at some point my career would call for it, but id preferably wanna keep myself elsewhere if at all possible.

    Seattle is definitely where I can picture myself happy, there seems to be a lot to do and its close to nature and the water which I love. I think itd be an inspiring place to live, a place i can build friendships and have hobbies, and a place that I could see myself living happily.

    ...and not have to worry about walking into the wrong part of LA late at night xD one thing ive heard from most people I know who live or have lived in LA - theres a lot of dangerous areas.
     
  10. gpax

    gpax Senior Member

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    And San Jose is not even SF, or East Bay (Berkeley) where I am. You could not find that much space at that price here, and you would be hard pressed to find anything for double that across the bay in San Francisco. Of course there are always roommates.
     
  11. JJP

    JJP I put dots and lines on paper.

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    "Walking into the wrong part of LA" :rofl:

    Once I was early to a meeting at Disney, so I was chatting with this VP who had called the meeting and I mentioned that I had walked there, because I live nearby.

    The meeting began and she was introducing everyone and telling their roles. She got around to me and just said, "This is Jason. He WALKED here."

     
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  12. charlieclouser

    charlieclouser Senior Member

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    If you wind up in the "wrong neighborhood" in LA, you probably took a wrong turn and kept driving for at least fifteen minutes!
     
  13. Kyle Preston

    Kyle Preston I accidentally do things on purpose

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    Seattle, WA
    Happy to be of help. With music licensing, I was referring to writing music for libraries that get you placements earning you money in various media. I wrote an explainer thing about it last year.

    Oh and actually, Christian Henson put out a video recently that covers a lot of things much better than I ever could.

     
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  14. OP
    OP
    SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    Thanks so much for the information! I’ll definitely look into this further. I’ve had some interest in creating music for libraries and submitting my music to libraries, but I have yet to do so just because I really want to make sure I fully understand how they work so I don’t end up getting screwed over in some way or another.
     
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  15. gsilbers

    gsilbers Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com

    good you can settle for seattle.

    yes, LA has become a bit of a nightmare between traffic and high cost of housing.

    most of the good composing jobs moved west near santa monica and mar vista. which is now where the tech companies are moving to. so my friend bought a house there about 15 years ago for 250k andnow its goes for 1.5 mill. but amazon and those tech companies are paying that much to afford... yet the employeess kids school teachers still get paid normal salaries... so they have to commute form the east.. thus making traffic a nightmare.
    as for dangerous areas.. meh.. not that bad to worry too much about it. i think housing pricng and commute is way worst.
    the upside is that LA is so sprawl that alot of poeple just have aa studio at home and only have to commute for meetings. but thats once you get more established. but just starting out, its better to go daily to a studio or placed where you can mingle and meet your future employers or contrators :) and friends of course.

    i do feel many are leaving SF and LA to other areas like seattle and houston. which makes it idea to move now as it means int he future you will be in the right place.

    i see how seattle has a bunch of public transportation i feel envious about. also, its close to vancouver where a lot of movie and tv shows are being done.
     
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  16. OP
    OP
    SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    Yeah i have heard that while Seattle is the cheapest of the three right now, housing has started going up quite a bit in the past few years as more and more people move there. Im just hoping by the time I finish school in a few years that housing hasnt gone up too much. Ive been considering trying to take extra classes and summer semesters to potentially complete college in 3 more years instead of 4. Im in a 5 year dual major program but i have a lot of gen ed transfer credits, so i think if i do summer courses theres a chance ill be done in 3 more years. Hopefully Seattle wont be too crazy expensive by then.

    I also find the public transportation of Seattle to be appealing. While I am a huge car nerd and love driving, I’d definitely want to sacrifice a car if possible when starting out, try and have the least expenses to worry about as possible outside of rent and food.
     
  17. maclaine

    maclaine Senior Member

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    California
    Having lived in all three places and also being a composer in the game industry, I might be able to offer some perspective. I lived in Seattle from 2010-2015 (having moved from Boston, where I spent 11 years), moved to SF from 2015-early 2018, and just moved to LA recently. Of the three, SF was my least favorite place and I would have skipped it if I could, but I moved there with my wife for her job, and that was the right decision for us as a unit. I know there are game studios there, but the community is much smaller than what I had experienced before in Seattle, and the creative community in general that I was interested in felt microscopic compared to both Seattle and LA. I also think the quality of life there is awful. Too expensive, too dirty, too many crime and drug issues that go unaddressed, and a seeming apathy at the civic level in dealing with all of the city's issues. Also I hated the weather. At least in Seattle you know what you're in for most of the time. SF weather is deceptively nice, just enough to get your hopes up before crushing them.

    Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in general is an amazing place. I moved there for work, and maybe you will as well, but don't discount the quality of life aspects of where you want to live. I go back there frequently, and just one smell of the air when I get off the plane makes me happy and relaxed. The game community there is extremely robust, on par if not exceeding any other city in the country. There are the big tech/game companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Valve, and Bungie, and countless small studios created by former employees of those places. There's an amazing energy there around making games. I know plenty of people making music there and doing quite well, and as Brendon mentioned, the composer community is very tightly knit.

    I've only been in LA a short while, but it's been great so far. Contrary to what you hear from a lot of people, I think LA is great and I really love it as a city. It's very different from either SF or Seattle, so you have to approach it with different expectations. There is so much creative stuff happening here, which of course brings a lot of phonies out of the woodwork, but you have to just keep your wits about you and brush it off. I've found the composers and musicians I've met here to be very nice and humble, though that's just my anecdotal experience. I'm sure I'll have my run ins with jerks, but growing up in the Northeast and living in Boston for so long means I'm used to being around jerks. No big deal. I don't know if this would be the first place I would move if I was just starting out, but others have done it, stuck with it, and had success. The decision to move here came after my wife and I had had enough of SF and were discussing our next step. We actually talked about going back to Seattle, but with where my career was at, I felt like I had to give LA a shot before going anywhere else. It remains to be seen how that pans out, but I'm optimistic. I'd love to expand into movies and TV, but I will always work in games (hopefully!).

    Hope this is helpful. Good luck with whatever decision you make. Getting a career going as a composer and sustaining it is extremely difficult, no matter where you are, but it's not impossible. Be realistic about your expectations while also trying to push yourself a bit. Work hard and try to put yourself in situations where you can seize opportunities as they arise. It will feel like luck in the moment, but looking back you'll realize it's because you set yourself up to be "lucky".
     
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  18. OP
    OP
    SyMTiK

    SyMTiK Christopher B.

    Wow thanks for the awesome insight! That's pretty cool that not only did you live where I am (Boston), you've lived in all three of the cities in question!

    Glad to hear SF seems to be the less desirable of the three options, considering that of the three that was my least desirable option to move for work. Even better to hear too that Seattle seems to be a great place to go! It's definitely sounding like that is where I will likely try to end up after college unless of course other opportunities come my way. Berklee has a lot of connections with LA, and there are a lot of internship opportunities out there.

    For me I don't think I would mind the change of scenery of living in LA compared to what Boston and New England in general is like. However Seattle definitely appeals more to me with the beautiful nature surrounding the city, I think it seems like a perfect mix of the different things I would like to live around.

    Perhaps I'll look into finding an internship next summer that is based in Seattle!
     
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  19. Mattzart

    Mattzart Active Member

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    As a native Venetian Californian, I'd choose L.A. I lived in Portland, Oregon for five years and it rained for months on end, I've heard Seattle is even wetter!

    Frsico is nice if you enjoy panic inducing commutes. The few times I've visited there I dreaded driving around. Turn down a street, oops, it's a one way and I'm going the wrong way.

    I'll do all I can to never leave L.A., though. Born and raised and currently reside in Venice. Don't worry about "dangerous areas", it's usually people afraid of a little ethnicity in my experience that warn you of those areas. Venice used to be one of the roughest "ghettos" in all of L.A. and now you need to be a millionaire to afford to live here. Times change and so has every neighborhood here. Lennox is changing, Inglewood is almost unrecognizable today from what I remember as a kid. Lots of hipsters moving to Compton and South Central. My best advice is just give respect and in return you get respect.

    As for jobs, dunno! I'm still trying to find work myself, ha.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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