LA-based musician and music producer, Ben Babbitt grew up in a family of artists and was constantly surrounded by music. In this episode, we talk about his music influences, Kentucky Route Zero, Spotify, and more.
In this episode of “Off the Record,” LA-based music producer and musician Ben Babbitt shared insights and stories behind the 7-year development of the award-winning computer game, Kentucky Route Zero.
Ben Babbitt is a music producer who composes music for video games, commercials, and clients such as Chanel and Vogue.
During this episode, we talked about his music influences, his view on streaming platforms, such as Spotify, and his opinion in terms of how an artist’s success is measured.
Tune in to learn more about Ben, and the changes that he would like to implement in the music industry.
Kentucky Route Zero (2:50)
While enrolled at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Ben meet his friend Jake Elliot, who was one of the writers and creators of Kentucky Route Zero. Having finalized the concept of the video game, Jake was on the hunt for music that could be featured in it.
Finding it interesting, Ben shared some old music that he had produced once for a class and was then asked to join the team. Ben’s musical contribution towards the game ended up taking 7 years.
Kentucky Route Zero is an award-winning and praised game in the gaming world. It has been named Game of the Year in 2013, and won the BAFTA Video Games Award, among others.
The Strategy behind the Game (6:10)
Kentucky Route Zero is a point-and-click game, where the story is the center of the action. Through the writing and creation of the storyline, a unique atmosphere and vibe came together.
As the whole story takes place over the course of one night, the game is surrounded by a very confused sense of time.
The video game is set in rural Kentucky, in an ambiguous era. The player starts off as the character of Conway who is a truck driver working for an antique company. Having decided to leave his job, the game follows his last delivery.
Music Influences (11:57)
Growing up, Ben had been playing in bands and was surrounded by family members that would sing songs at family gatherings. Having had these early inspirations, Ben grew a fascination with music and the atmosphere it can create.
I am drawn to things that are creatively interesting.Ben Babbitt
Often times being asked to produce original music for bigger brands, such as Chanel or Vogue, Ben has sometimes shocked himself with the music he has composed.
Typically when working with famous brands, the goal is to compose something unique and different.
Becoming Successful in the Music Business (23:27)
Finding it difficult to experience or perceive how other people view his work, Ben finds it validating and exciting to be recognized. Having received a BAFTA at the beginning of April, Ben still feels like he is trying to arrive.
I guess I am more old school in that I value the quality of the work that I do more than reaching out to the world or increasing my visibility.Ben Babbitt
When thinking about how he got certain opportunities, he realises a lot of jobs simply happened naturally. Reflecting about the case of Kentucky Route Zero, Ben finds himself lucky in having met the initial creators of the game.
Take a peek into the video game and the music Ben composed, below:
Critic on the Music Industry (34:15)
The music industry, for example, is very white male-dominated. And, also in terms of the economy, it is very dominated by big streaming companies like Spotify.Ben Babbitt
According to Ben, as the industry is dominated by big streaming platforms, many artists and creators are not getting the recognition and value which they deserve.
Currently, there is a on-going movement addressing the royalty rates’ issue of streaming platforms and asking for a change. Spotify generally pays between .003 and .005 cents per stream — which Ben believes is an overestimate, and does not account for the pay that the label would take from this already small amount.
Spotify and others have increased the inequality and wage gaps between the bulk of the population and the bulk of people that are creating work, that is giving these platforms value.Ben Babbitt
Ben does not think that streaming platforms affect the number of records that are sold. Instead, he mentions many people have been talking about how Spotify rewards and upholds a way of valuing music based entirely on its repeat listening value — meaning the more you listen to something, the more valuable it is perceived.
The result is that labels start to take advantage of this gamification and injecting content into these streams. Ben believes this approach is incredibly limiting.
Listen to the Full Conversation
Are you interested in learning how to follow Ben’s path?
Check out the advice he gave when asked our three questions!
#1 What do you think all artists should know?
All artists should know that culture moves in waves and trends. Your work may or not line up with those, but it is important to remember that it doesn’t determine the value of your work.
Just because something doesn’t line up with a trend now, that doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future.
It is super important that artists figure out what is important to them. If you are too fixated on being deemed relevant by culture and trends that are relevant in one specific moment, then you will stand in your own way.
#2 What do you think every brand should stop doing right now?
Brands that are following the trend of making very broad statements about inclusivity and diversity need to follow through with what they are saying, and make it actionable.
Brands need to make their statements actionable and put their money where their mouth is.
#3 If you could spend €1,000 on a collaboration, what would you do?
I think I would try to find a collaborator to work with visuals for a release, or someone that can contribute with work that I cannot make myself.