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Member Since 18 Sep 2010
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#5188154 Music Identification - Contract Question

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 20 October 2014 - 09:05 AM

I've never seen a clause in a contract that went to this level of detail (and I've composed music for around 140 or so games over the past couple of decades).


It's probably much simpler to create a good chain and record of delivery.  For example, when a piece is delivered, what is the mechanism by which you 'sign off' on it and accept it?  Put something in that process that unambiguously makes record of what they've delivered to you.

One simple thing is that at the final stage of acceptance of a music deliverable, in addition using FTP, dropbox, etc, have them email you the same piece in mp3 format, so you have a clear record in your inbox (from their email address) of what was delivered.  Make payment contingent on that.


One note on the analysis tools .  it's trivially easy to make files with different SHA256 signatures for the same piece of music, since all that does is say that files are exactly the same.  All the composer would have to do would be to create a slightly different 'mix' of the same piece, which would sound exactly the same, but it would have a different SHA256 sig.  I'm not familiar with echoprint, but would guess that it can suffer from a similar issue.  


While I understand your concern, I think the place to address this is in your delivery/acceptance mechanism, not the contract.

#5178877 Survey:Composing Music for Video Games & Game Sound Design

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 08 September 2014 - 10:02 AM

We just posted the results of our 2014 GameSoundCon Game Audio Industry Survey.


The survey covers issues of salary and compensation, contract terms for composers, sound designers, audio directors and just about anyone involved in creating sound or music for games.


We broke the industry into three main groups:

1) large budget games available at retail (eg Xbox, Playstation, "big" PC games, etc)

2) professionally produced casual games

3) indy games.


  • Game Music and Sound is predominently a freelance gig (60%)

  • Game Music is overwhelmingly "Work for Hire (95%)

  • Average Salary (employee): $70,532*

  • Average "AAA" per project fee: $76,822**

  • Average Indy/Casual per project fee: $9,830**

  • Game Audio is overwhelmingly male (96%)

  • Most game composers also deliver SFX

  • "per unit" royalties rare (<2%)

  • Game Soundtrack clauses are rare

​And here's a finding I was very surprised at:

  • Even in "large budget games," most music is 'mostly virtual' (54%)



You can download the full report at www.GameSoundCon.com


* Salary representes annual wages, excluding bonuses, health care benefits, profit sharing, stock or any non-guarenteed compensation.

** Project fees do NOT include recording or production costs. 

#5177525 GameSoundCon LA Earlybird Registration Final Days

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 01 September 2014 - 04:34 PM

Hi All,


As luck would have it, our back end registration service for GameSoundCon (123signup) has been having issues this weekend and there were periods where people were unable to register.


So we're extending the Earlybird Discount for GameSoundCon until Thursday Sept 4.


I apologize for anyone inconvenienced by the outage issues.


Thanks and hope to see you in October



GameSoundCon 2014 Los Angeles

October 7-8, 2014



Don't forget the  GameDev Net discount for visitors and regulars to GameDev.net.  By using the code, GDNET, while registering, it will take $50 off registration

#5174619 Video Game Music and Sound Industry Survey

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 18 August 2014 - 10:13 PM

I got over 500 respondents to the survey!

I'll be slogging through the data over the next week (though also have 2 games to work on, so it might be a bit delayed).


Thanks to everyone who either filled it out, or forwarded it around!



#5172656 Audio Programming for the Non-programmer

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 10 August 2014 - 04:34 PM

Are there any good resources available to concentrate solely on audio implementation programming and not learning a whole broad language? Should I even bother? 



Broadening your skills is almost always "worth the bother" :)..


If you can find a cheap community college programming class in something like C++ or C#, it's probably well worth it.  Not necessarily because you'll be coding in the game itself, but to give you a much better perspective on what it is the programmers actually do :)...  Or to quote Marty O'Donnell.. "Oh, and everyone should learn some programming."


"Scripting", which is sort of 'programming-lite' is also very useful, for being able to create complex audio behaviors--either for things that FMOD/WWise don't do, or for the (very large) percentage of games that don't use middleware.


Knowing how to code of course won't make up for inadequate music/sound chops.  But presuming you shine in those areas, understanding more of the tech that goes into the game can help differentiate you from others.  In the end, it's all about making the game better, and if you can talk turkey with the programmer, or even help them out, it's only a plus.


As a one-person anecdote, I'm working on a game right now that, because I was able to whip up a (very) simple demo using middleware, convinced the developer it was worth the $'s to license it.  And the game will sound that much better for it.


I have a quote on the front page of the GameSoundConweb site from the audio director of Volition discussing his hiring process:


I see a lot of applicants who have experience in [traditional] media... if this is all you got, then you will be outgunned


..if you've got other skills that make you valuable, like knowing how to script... or knowing how memory and streaming work.... well, that is awesome, because that sounds like someone I might want to work with.


And to re-iterate... If you still need to get your composition, orchestration or sound design skills up to snuff, you're better off spending time practicing those.  But if you're competitive on those-- knowing some coding can only help you in a career in game audio.

#5171985 Got offer to create music for my game, how to respond?

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 06 August 2014 - 09:18 PM

It's very common for musicians (or artists, for that matter) to have a right to use the created work for self-promotion (i.e. be able to put it on a demo reel).


Welcome to the world of negotiating with contractors!  Sounds like you're doing great!



#5171671 Got offer to create music for my game, how to respond?

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 05 August 2014 - 11:41 AM

A couple comments on this great thread.

Be wary of people who "give" you things with conditions (royalties, retaining copyright).  Everyone, particularly Servant, has given you sound advice, so I just want to remind you of one thing:  This person contacted you unsolicited and wants to stack the deck.  I'd steer clear. 


I would respectfully disagree GoCatGo


It is not uncommon for a composer to negotiate a lower rate in exchange for keeping copyright, especially for a game without much of a budget.  In fact, that is something I've often recommended that new composers do if they find themselves talking to an indy developer.  Although most work in game music is work for hire (see this article from yesterday), the exception is indy games, where budget constraints leave room for more creative business arrangements.


If you're worried about a 'big publisher' deal down the road (as dsm or GoCatGo point out), then you can generally solve that pretty easily by seeing if they'll add a 'buyout' clause-- i.e. in exchange for $X, they agree to sign over all rights.


It comes down to this:  When you hire someone, you can either just pay them and own everything, or pay them below market value and see if they want to share the risk with you.  When a composer offers $0 upfront, but a percentage of sales, they aren't trying to be shady or greedy.  They are recognizing your need to keep costs low, and are saying they are willing to share your risk.  And part of sharing the risk is sharing the reward in the event the game becomes successful.  Because usually when a composer does a game for $0 upfront + % of sales, the odds are they will make virtually nothing.  


The one thing about Servent's proposal that i disagree with is that you are asking them to share the risk (i.e. they don't get paid unless you have some sales), but with no additional compensation for taking on that risk. If you're worried about paying them too much if the game becomes the next Angry Birds, then put a cap on royalty compensation.  But the cap has to reflect the fact that they are sharing the risk; i.e. it should be quite a bit higher than if you had guaranteed them payment upfront.  3-4x would be reasonable.


Also, make the agreement based on sales, not on profits.  The reason for that is that it is incredibly easy for you to provide sales #'s (iTunes, Steam, Google Play reports, etc.), but virtually impossible for you to provide objective profit #'s without giving them access to all your books.  You probably don't want to do that.


(also $75/min is rather low for music, even for an indy game, but that's a whole other topic :)).



#5170193 Video Game Music and Sound Industry Survey

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 29 July 2014 - 05:37 PM

Hello Game Dev Net community,


You may have read that the Gamasutra industry salary survey came out last week.

The results were a bit.....perplexing.  Specifically, it would seem that "audio" salaries are higher than "programmer" salaries.  What's with that?


This anomalous result is actually for a couple of reasons

  • The survey received relatively few audio responses (this was mentioned in the survey report).  Low response numbers mean low survey accuracy.
  • The survey is designed to track salaried employees-- But much of the work in music and sound is done by freelancers/contractors
  • The survey is sent to the GDC Attendee mailing list.  This biases the results to those who attendeed GDC, which tend to be the most senior audio people.  ("Low man on the totem pole" doesn't get sent to GDC)

To get some results more meaningful to our industry, I've created a brief (13 questions only) survey about contracts in game music and sound. If you have a moment and have worked in the game industry professionally in the past 12 months, please consider taking the survey about the last game that you worked on.  


Please only take the survey about a game that you worked on in a professional capacity--i.e. you got paid for, and please try to be as accurate as possible.




I'll be posting the analysis and results of the survey sometime next week at www.GameSoundCon.com 


Thank you!

Brian Schmidt

#5167020 How much more work is needed for an S or C corp?

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 15 July 2014 - 10:51 AM

Hello fellow washingtonian!


This is definitely a question worth spending a few hundred talking to your attorney about.  Most small companies these days are LLC's, which were created to provide the protection of the 'corporate shield' without (as much of) the paperwork hassle and taxation issues.


The big thing about C Corps (aside from taxation) over S corps is that you can have different types of shareholders, which can be useful if you're looking to get VC funded, bought out, etc.  That said, I'm not aware of anyone who started under S (or even LLC) who got bought out where that wasn't an issue the lawyers couldn't deal with-- that's what they do...


If you're serious enough about this (and it sounds like you are), then definitely find a good corp attorney and get their advice.  


Disclaimer on my immediate experience on this: I've done S-Corp and LLC, but never C Corp.

#5165372 Rates for Voice Over?

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 07 July 2014 - 03:56 PM

Hi Tamara,


Those are actually quite strange rates for games.  That kind of pricing is generally more for long, spoken narrative (corp videos, radio spots, etc.).  Did you get that from "voices.com"? :)...


For games, we usually hire either by the hour of recording, by the character or by the 'phrase' or some combination thereof.

For large games, go by the SAG rates, which specify things like the # of characters you can get for a 4-hour block, etc.


For smaller games, be prepared to be more flexible.  Not necessarily on money, but on things like the # of characters, etc.


The SAG contract for games is largely predicated on the "AAA" model game, where you have major characters, plots, and many thousands (or tens of thousands) of lines of dialog, where a "line" is a complex character sentence.  (eg "Ok..I've set up the accompanying troops to deploy to the east forward area..")


By contrast, most small games require far less, and are also less likely to have complex plots.  But they may want more characters, etc.  And the dialog is likely to be much simpler (eg "hey, great shot!"  "you found the treasure", etc.).  As such, things like the SAG 4 hour minimum dont' really make sense.



#5165116 GameSoundCon 2014, October 7-8, Los Angeles, CA

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 06 July 2014 - 03:07 PM

GameSoundCon 2014 Los Angeles
October 7-8, Millennium Biltmore hotel, Los Angeles, CA
Hi GameDev.net'ers:

This year, the 10th GameSoundCon will be held October 7-8 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel  in Los Angeles, CA.  


I've created a GameDev Net discount for visitors and regulars to GameDev.net.  By using the code, GDNET, while registering, it will take $50 off registration.  



At GameSoundCon, we cover the technical, creative, production and business challenges of working in the game industry as a video game composer or game sound designer. The main sessions will cover a lot of the questions I see here on gamedev.net in depth (and much more!).  Last year, we moved to LA and attracted over 200 composers, sound designers and game people from 5 continents


We've got a great lineup of speakers, including an incredible keynote speaker (who will be announced soon!), Other speakers and panelists include Guy Whitmore (Peggle 2), Paul Lipson (Audio Director, Microsoft Game Studios), Penka Kouneva (Prince of Persia, Transformers), Winfred Phillips (Assassin'sCreed 3: Liberation), Charles Deenen, Lance Hayes (Forza 5), and many more.



This year, we are running 4 concurrent rooms:

Room 1: Game Sound Essentials

Game Sound Essentials is 2 days of sessions on the fundamentals of video game music and video game sound design.  Think of it as a 2-day crash course in the essentials of game audio.

Room 2: FMOD Studio Hands-on workshop

FMOD Guru Stephan Schutze is coming from Australia to lead a 2-day "bring your laptop" hands-on workshop in the all-new FMOD Studio.

Room 3: Game Sound "Pro"

For those who have a few games under their belts, the Pro Track covers some more advanced topics in game audio, from compositional techniques, audio integration,to  VO and score production challenges.  This year in our Pro Track, to better reflect where the growth in game music and sound jobs has been the highest, we are placing a slight emphasis on "procaz" games--professionally produced casual games.

Room 4: WWise Hands-on Training

The folks from Audiokinetic are coming down for a day of hands-on training on WWise, covering new features, music and sound design using WWise including the brand new MIDI functionality.


We also have a couple more surprises planned....which we'll let you know about over the coming few weeks.


We are also hosting our annual GameSoundCon networking Mixer for GameSoundCon attendees on the evening of the 7th, following the first day of the conference. Mix and Mingle with speakers, panelists, other GameSoundCon attendees and local Game Audio professionals.


If anyone has any questions about GameSoundCon, please don't hesitate to contact me


#5159351 How much do programmers earn?

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 09 June 2014 - 03:55 PM

One note on salary surveys... 

They almost always skew high for a couple reasons

1) self reporting, people sometimes inflate their salaries

2) the people who know about and take the survey tend to be a bit savvier and more experienced (thereby skewing the survey pool towards more experienced people)

3) high-end outliers can skew averages.  


I.e if 9  people answer "50k" and one answers "250k", then the Average is $80,000, even though "50k" would be a better number.

(for that reason, the 'median' salary is a more meaningful number than 'average')

#5159158 The "Drawings -Figures" section in a patent

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 08 June 2014 - 05:07 PM

So how should I describe legally, two different figures that relate to the same embodiment?



Are you trying to self-file a patent?  I strongly recommend having a patent lawyer answer these specific questions.

it's a lot of effort and expense to file, and 'wording' isn't the place to try to save $$'s... :)..

#5134583 Business Start up model with Freelancer or Contractor.

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 25 February 2014 - 05:06 PM

As Tom says, you need to hire an attorney.  Dont just go to a web site and fill in the forms!


But you also need to decide what you want :)...

Remember, a lawyer gives you legal advice.  That is different from business advice.

A lawyer explained it to me this way.. Business decisions are yours to make, and yours alone.  What a lawyer will do is explain the legal ramifications of those decisions.


So (for example), a business decision might be "2 of us will form the company, and everyone else will be considered freelancers/contractors for the project"

The legal advice might be "well, if you do that, then you need to form the company in such and such a way, and here is an agreement your contractors need to sign, etc."

Of course, a lawyer might also offer up some business advice as well, mainly because they may have seen similar situations before, or because there are very clear legal reasons why you might want to make a particular  business decision...

#5132149 Small puzzle game: Do I even have to bother with music?

Posted by bschmidt1962 on 17 February 2014 - 04:14 PM

And yes, I will pay for it, even if it's just a pizza ;)



You know what they might appreciate even more?  How about a new logo for their composing business?  Or a design for their business card, etc?


That's also a bit more fair trade-- your expertise in creating visual assets (presuming you did at least some of the art for your game) for their expertise in creating sound assets..