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Performance Royalties and Video Game Music


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#1 bschmidt1962   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1711

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 01:17 PM

Hey everyone..
If you haven't seen this weekend's Ohio State Marching Band performance of videogame music (pacman to Halo), you should; here's a link.

I also used it as a discussion starter for a gamasutra post as well as a GameSoundCon presentation on music performance rights, music composition and videogames. Music rights and music for videogames in general is not well understood by game developers, so please feel free to pass this along to your game developer/producer buddies...

http://www.gamasutra..._Videogames.php

I would also love feedback on how it could be improved, particular reading it with the eyes of a game developer/publisher..

Thanks
Brian Schmidt

Edited by bschmidt1962, 09 October 2012 - 01:18 PM.

Brian Schmidt

Executive Director, GameSoundCon:

GameSoundCon 2014:October 7-8, Los Angeles, CA

 

Founder, EarGames

Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC

Music Composition & Sound Design

Audio Technology Consultant


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#2 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 3630

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 03:02 PM

Excellent article Brian! Thanks for posting this!!
Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#3 Moritz P.G. Katz   Members   -  Reputation: 1041

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 07:14 PM

I agree, very interesting!

Over here in Germany, things are a bit different.
First off, we don't really have work-for-hire - the copyright always stays with the creator of a work, we can only hand out performance rights. (which is a good thing, though it can make working as a remote composer for devs based in the US complicated)
I think there are a few exceptions for creating software in a true employment relationship.

Most game companies based in Germany tend to employ composers who aren't in the GEMA (the German PRO) because they like to avoid the hassle of paying for putting trailers containing the music up on the internet. Just heard from a colleague who landed a lucrative game scoring job and one of the reasons was because he is, unlike many good composers, not in any PRO.
The GEMA is kind of notorious over here and it's not really popular even with many musicians, for various reasons - for example, they've just raised the fees for clubs playing music immensely which causes small clubs to go out of business, which in turn created an uproar among people who never even heard about PROs before. (the majority)
Also, they've got a - well, let's call it archaic - democratic structure that only enables the top-earning 5% of the members to have a saying in those things. And they don't accept Creative Commons licenses into their catalogue at all. Well, the list goes on...
I'd love to know, how popular or well-known are the PROs in the US?

I'm in the GEMA because I compose for TV documentaries and commercials from time to time and I was able to exclude the online rights from the performance right contract.
The live performance rights are still in there, though: If people should ever play a cover of my music live (unlikely at this point, but who knows?) or if I perform my music live (which I sometimes do, however no game music yet), the deal over here isn't 50-50, but 60-40. I'd receive 60%, the publisher receives 40%.

Anyhoo, I didn't want to babble on too much - my point is: Internationally, it gets a bit more complicated.
Brian, If you have any expertise working with composers and PROs from other countries, I'd love to hear it. Information on that is really scarce, though it's a very interesting topic that'll probably get more relevant in the future - maybe even for me or for other people on this forum, who knows?

Cheers,
Moritz

Edited by Moritz P.G. Katz, 09 October 2012 - 07:15 PM.

Check out my Music/Sound Design Reel on moritzpgkatz.de


#4 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 17274

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 08:37 PM

Thanks so much for sharing Brian! Posted Image

#5 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 17234

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 09:27 PM

I'd love to know, how popular or well-known are the PROs in the US?

There are at least three big ones (BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC) - they use the same mafia-style shakedowns and don't really benefit the lesser-known musician (subjective opinion about a subject I don't really know much about).
I don't know how how "well known" they are - probably not known much at all. Most Americans that I've talked with don't understand or think about copyright law, which is not surprising, since the United States' copyright laws are almost contradictory in what they allow and disallow, and there's alot of undefined grey.

I only know about the PROs because I was casually curious about copyright issues for church services, after seeing copyright claims on a few projected song lyrics during a service. Apparently worship teams can't play (modern) music in churches unless the church pays the annual licensing fee to one of the organizations. Posted Image
Though, looking here (CCLI is not one of the big three - I guess it sub-licenses, or else contracts its own musicians?), the prices seems quite reasonable - and though I roll my eyes at the ironic humor of the situation, at the same time I understand the whole artist-wants-to-be-paid-for-his-work thing, which is very similar to the software piracy issue.

Edited by Servant of the Lord, 09 October 2012 - 10:08 PM.

It's perfectly fine to abbreviate my username to 'Servant' rather than copy+pasting it all the time.

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#6 bschmidt1962   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1711

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 10:06 AM

Thanks, Moritz for the story from your side of the pond. Copyright law and performance rights are similar, but just different enough between countries to make things "interesting."
In the US, if a game's music were to be used in a trailer, it'd be the broadcaster that paid, not the publisher. And though things are in flux; on the internet, it would be YouTube paying.
PROs in the US are very popular with traditional media composers. In fact, that is many composer's primary source of income. It is not uncommon for a small film or tv show to pay very little for the composition, on the assumption that the composer will make their real money through performance payments. In fact, a lot of composers lament that this has caused the "up front" fees for composing music for TV in particular to drop tremendously..sometimes to zero.

Servant-- Thank you for your info-- I hadn't heard of CCLI.
The copyright code (in the US), does provide an exemption for music performed "...in the course of services at a place of worship or other religious assembly". So there are no ASCAP, etc fees due for music performed during a church service. That said, if a church holds a fundraiser and plays music (eg at a youth dance, etc), then they would need to pay fees just like any other group. I'm not saying that good or bad-- that's just how the law currently reads.


If people should ever play a cover of my music live (unlikely at this point, but who knows?)

As you said...you never know-- I was blindsided when I found out that The Pixies covered one of my game songs (for a game that didn't really sell all that well).

Brian Schmidt
GameSoundCon

Brian Schmidt

Executive Director, GameSoundCon:

GameSoundCon 2014:October 7-8, Los Angeles, CA

 

Founder, EarGames

Founder, Brian Schmidt Studios, LLC

Music Composition & Sound Design

Audio Technology Consultant


#7 Moritz P.G. Katz   Members   -  Reputation: 1041

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 02:53 PM

As you said...you never know-- I was blindsided when I found out that The Pixies covered one of my game songs (for a game that didn't really sell all that well).

Haha, really? That's awesome, Brian. Are you talking about the Narc theme?

Many thanks for the insight on US PROs, guys!

Over here, most "small-time" composers have to look at any PRO earnings as surprise bonuses because you can almost never tell, even roughly, how much money you're going to end up with due to complicated and ever-changing distribution rules.
Things that are played on private TV and radio stations generally pay out next-to-nothing and the relationship of the GEMA with YouTube has been a very difficult one - they could never really reach an agreement. That's why we often see a "Sorry, the GEMA hasn't given us the right to play the music in this video, so we can't show it to you" message when browsing YouTube - the GEMA basically uses software to scan videos for music in their catalogue and sends out cease-and-desists.

Also, churches do have to pay GEMA fees if GEMA catalogue songs are performed - whether they raise money or not!

Phew, it's fairly difficult to talk about this stuff in English - there are some words I've never needed before and had to look up. I hope what I'm writing is somewhat intelligible, apologies if it isn't.
Wish I could make it to Ohio for the GameSoundCon though to talk about things like this in greater detail - maybe next year! Posted Image

Cheers,
Moritz

Check out my Music/Sound Design Reel on moritzpgkatz.de





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