Electronic Arts, one of the largest video gaming companies in the world, has moved the bulk of its video game scoring work to Nashville in recent months.
EA and other video game companies were embroiled in disputes with the musicians’ union in California, where most of the scoring work had traditionally been done. Video game scoring involves composing and recording original work, often orchestral, and utilizing dozens of musicians.
But Nashville has proved to have the musician talent to deliver for gaming companies and, unlike California, is a right-to-work state. That means companies aren’t bound to use union musicians.
Nashville music industry veteran Steve Schnur, worldwide executive for music and music marketing for EA, said his goal is to put professional musicians to work. Schnur said he would gladly use union musicians in Nashville if they would agree to the contract terms he previously operated under in California.
But Schnur said he is committed to keeping EA’s scoring work in Music City. Schnur said the typical project costs more than $200,000 and involves major game titles.
“We started recording all our scores here with exception of occasional recording in London,” Schnur said.
Talent was key
Tennessee’s right-to-work status played a role in bringing the scoring work, but Schnur said the move wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for Nashville’s talent. Skeptical of the local talent at first, composers have been sold on Nashville’s deep pool of musicians, who have already recorded several projects for EA, Schnur said.
“I chose Nashville because No. 1, the musicianship is as good as it gets. Nashville is not about just banjos and fiddles,” Schnur said. “Its cellists and violinists and brass are equal to what I find in L.A. and London. It’s a right-to-work state so a musician here can choose to work if he or she likes to. And what a fantastic idea. We haven’t had one musician say no to working on our projects.”
Schnur said he’d like to see more gaming companies bring their scoring work to Nashville. He has a long history with the local music industry, previously working in artist and repertoire at Arista and at other labels. He also has served on the Country Music Association board of directors.
Schnur, who lives in Oak Hill and commutes to Los Angeles, said scoring work could spill over into film as well because many of the composers work in both sectors. He said he hopes an increase in film and video game scoring will help the Nashville music industry, which has been in flux in recent years.
“I’m trying to speak out on behalf of Nashville anywhere I go,” Schnur said. “In London I was at a game composer conference and talked in depth about my feelings about the musicians of Nashville and scoring here.”