We Spoke to the Minecraft Composer Who Makes A Living Off the Gaming Community
He has never asked for a heart on Hypem or bootlegged a remix of Drake, but his music is heard more than any DJ Mag Top 100 producer's.
(Photo by Robert Zetzsche/Flickr)
East German producer Daniel Rosenfeld has never played in a club. He has never asked for a heart on Hypem, offered downloads in exchange for Facebook Likes, or bootlegged a remix of Drake. Despite all of this, Daniel Rosenfeld's music is heard more often than the sounds coming from any DJ Mag Top 100 producer. Daniel, who goes by the name C418, composes music for Minecraft's 16 million users and has been a self-sustaining, independent musician since 2011.
Like many great partnerships of the early-2000s, Daniel's connection with Markus Persson (Notch) began on IRC (Internet Relay Chat). The two shared a love of Aphex Twin and would exchange projects with each other; Markus sent Daniel his early prototypes and Daniel sent Markus his songs. Both were impressed by the each other's work and after a time, Markus got the idea to pair Daniel's music with his pre-Minecraft prototypes.
"[Markus] gave me complete freedom with what to do so I just went crazy," Daniel tells me. "When you see [Minecraft] it's immediately apparent that you want a certain style of music because it's low resolution and everything is blocky."
Poring through the comments on his Bandcamp reveals just how successful his endeavors have been. Daniel attributes his success to the uniqueness of the Minecraft community and the direction that he decided to take the soundtrack. "When dubstep was big, Ubisoft told the composer for Far Cry 3 to make dubstep and to me that was really weird," he tells me. With the green light from an ever-supportive team at Mojang, Daniel decided to forego trends and make the most unusual music that he could imagine. He describes it as acoustic and orchestral.
Using a simple setup composed of Ableton Live, a Moog Voyager, a Prophet 8, and "a shit-ton of VSTs," Daniel has since scored more than 50 original tracks for Minecraft.
When I ask if the support has surprised him, Daniel responds honestly:
"It's really bizarre. I think everyone that creates has to cope with the fact that people actually don't give you money because they like you, but because they get something out of it. I still have to cope with that; I always think that people only give me money because they want to help me out, you know. It's really hard to wrap your head around that and I'm still confused by it actually."
Perhaps the biggest benefit from working with Markus has been Daniel's discovery that he loves the kinds of games that take people seriously as composers. When he isn't making what he calls "Minecraft money," the widespread support from gamers has allowed him to quit his job in trades and become a full-time independent musician. He sells his music through a variety of online distributors and is producing music for upcoming games that he says are a challenge to compose for, but that he's glad.
With Microsoft's recent purchase of the game studio, Daniel is, like many on the team, unsure of what to expect in the future. Despite living away from Mojang's offices, he sees of the entire team as good friends of his. He laughs at the idea of a Minecraft 2 and is more worried about disruptions to the company's internal structure. "Mojang doesn't want to just have work relationships, they want social relationships between friends," he tells me.
Though Minecraft's future in new hands remains uncertain, Microsoft's commitment to maintaining its community and Daniel's equal commitment to pushing his work further, leave me confident that the game's soundtrack will maintain its uniqueness.
Ziad Ramley plays Minecraft and is on Twitter: @bluuuuueeeeeee