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Photo credit: Riot Games
What does a TV show based on a video game and the music industry have in common?
Near the end of 2021, Arcane took the world by storm after debuting on Netflix. Not only did it dazzle us with its beautiful animations and compelling story, but Arcane also rocked us with its incredible soundtrack.
Before we can dive into Arcane's production, we first have to talk about who made it. As the name implies, Riot Games is an American video games company known for popular games like League of Legends and Valorant. However, video games are not all it is famous for.
“At Riot, we’ve always loved music. In fact, in certain countries, people don’t call us a game company. They call us a music company and they say we’re making games to do marketing for our music.” - Nicolo, Riot Games CEO
It’s no surprise Riot has such a reputation when you look at their history. Since 2014, Riot has released an official theme song and an animated music video alongside their League of Legends World Championship. As well, they are known for showcasing lore through various cinematic music videos featuring characters from the game. Without a doubt, they’re the highlights of each year.
In fact, fans loved these songs and animations so much that the videos' comment sections were often filled with people asking when they were making their own show or movie.
And that’s how Arcane came to be.
Following Arcane’s season finale, Riot released a 5-episode documentary series called “Arcane: Bridging the Rift” that detailed the show's creation. Of course, the music was one such video.
Here’s a breakdown of what went into Arcane’s amazing soundtrack:
Given their reputation, Riot knew that music needed to be a vital part of Arcane. Unlike other shows and movies where music is added post-production, Arcane’s music was composed alongside everything else.
Photo credit: Riot Games
What did Arcane’s music team come up with?
For the score, the team explored themes for every character, individually. As a result, each character ended up with their own unique melody. Whenever that character had the spotlight, their melody was there with them. However, that doesn’t mean the mood was the same each time. As the lead composer, Christian, put it: “sometimes they’re darker, sometimes brighter, sometimes faster, but they’re always there.”
Outside of the score is where they began to push boundaries. Typically, TV shows have one lyrical theme song at the beginning of each episode, and that’s it. Arcane’s music team looked at that and went, “but what if we did one song for every episode along with the theme song?”
That’s how after 1.5 years into production, the team started developing a full 12-track album. Their goal was to have a moment in every episode where the music takes over.
Of course, this ambitious plan did not come without its challenges. Arcane’s music team struggled with various issues, including:
As can be seen, Arcane’s music team overcame these challenges. And their hard work certainly paid off. Not only was Arcane a hit with fans, but it also was nominated for 21 different awards and won 17 of them.
For music, specifically, they were nominated for Best Soundtrack at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards. They didn't win. However, how many other companies can say their first TV show based on a video game stood alongside soundtracks from media giants like Disney and Universal Pictures?
While season 2 of Arcane is in production, it doesn’t look like it will be coming out anytime soon. But when it does, it’ll be exciting to see what the music team has in store for us.
Interested in learning more about Arcane’s music team and their process? Check out the full music episode “Musical Misfits” on YouTube at the link below!