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scourgez

audio

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im looking to get into creating and distributing audio for games and the media industry as a whole. is there any veteran that can help me with what i need to know legally? also what do i need to watch out for with distribution, client privacy and such?

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The legality of distribution is covered in the FAQ.

The short version of copyright and trademark law:

If you made it up you can do whatever you want.

If somebody else made it up or if you based it on something that somebody else made up, you must get written permission first. In this case, you should consult a lawyer.



As for the other quesitons, please give a little more detail and background.

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Scou wrote:

>is there any veteran that can help me with what i need to know legally?

Yes, there is.

>also what do i need to watch out for with distribution, client privacy and such?

Your clients will have you sign contracts that their lawyers draw up. Those will lay out the details that pertain to stuff that you create for your clients. For the most part, those contracts will be "work for hire" agreements, meaning you are selling your ownership of the sounds you create for your client outright, in exchange for cash and your name in the credits.

I don't understand what you have in mind, "distributing audio for games" - the publisher of the game distributes the game, complete with audio. I have no idea what "distributing" means, in the way you are using it in the question.

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thanks to you both

by distributing audio, i mean providing audio for game makers to use, like gamebeatstudios and such.

i just had a cobweb and couldn't get past it.

thanks

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It looks like they just do contract work.

The options they offer are:

1) You can get a non-exclusive license to use their works. That means they can keep selling it to anybody else. You get whatever their contract says you get. They have worked with a lawyer to develop a standard contract for this. These are often called "stock" assets.

Non-game example: Radio stations get non-exclusive contracted licenses to play music.

2) You can get an exclusive license to use the music. That means that you are the only one who gets to use the music. You get whatever their contract says you get. The contract will probably exclude a lot of things, like the audio samples they used to develop the audio. In other words, you get all the rights to the finished music, but probably don't get the rights to their special audio files and samples they used to compose the music. They have worked with a lawyer to develop a standard contract for this. They also work with a lawyer when a client has additional requests and is willing to pay for them.

Non-game example: You contract with an architect to design a building. They can't re-sell the building design to anybody else. The architect reserves the rights to the custom templates and tools they have developed over the years. They also probably reserve rights to keep any custom tools and templates they used to create your blueprints, although that is often negotiable.


3) You contract their services as a 'work for hire'. They come in, they work with the existing audio staff, and give you all of the results. They have worked with a lawyer to develop a standard contract for this, and probably also work with a lawyer for every new job they get to review NDAs and similar contracts their client wants them to sign.

Non-game example: You contract with a building crew to build your house. They bring in some tools like nail-guns and saws. You provide all the resources like blueprints, lumber, nails and hardware, and so on. They bring their tools, do the work, and take their tools when they are done. You keep everything.


Additionally, they work with lawyers and get proper legal agreements with the people who provide them with audio samples, and the sub-contractors they use.


In every case they have worked with lawyers to review the contracts.


If for some reason you are going in to business and can't afford a lawyer (aside: how can you afford not to?) then there are two books you really must get and read from nolo press: "Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off" and "Consultant & Independent Contractor Agreements". The first book discusses what you will need to get from your own sources. The second book has fairly good contracts you can use when you are either giving or receiving various types of services.


[Edit: Added a non-game example to help describe the options. ]

[Edited by - frob on June 13, 2006 9:35:36 AM]

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thanks frob, more insight is always appreciated.

i know i haven't been very clear but you all have helped me with this

i realize now when i say providing audio i meant that i am working with 2 musicians and we are creating audio from scratch for people to use in any media (games, commercials, film/tv, etc.)

again thank you all for contributing and i will definately check out those books

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>when i say providing audio i meant that i am working with 2 musicians and we are creating audio from scratch for people to use in any media (games, commercials, film/tv, etc.)

You could have said so in the first place! :rolleyes: Guys who don't clearly define their questions are the scourges of these forums. (And I'm not even gonna mention guys who refuse to use the Shift key or punctuation keys.)

Sounds to me like you're talking about creating "stock music" (NOT "stock audio" since "audio" is a broad term but "music" is a narrow term). And that makes me wonder "why." And "how are you going to make money from that." Hope you have a business plan...

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Quote:
Original post by tsloper
Sounds to me like you're talking about creating "stock music" (NOT "stock audio" since "audio" is a broad term but "music" is a narrow term). And that makes me wonder "why." And "how are you going to make money from that." Hope you have a business plan...


Actually there are companies that do this. They are more commonly referred to as "music libraries" or "production music" and primarily serve the TV/film industry. They range from high-end Hollywood boutique libraries licensing stock music tracks for tens of thousands each (very elite clients), to the more common libraries which license tracks for hundreds to a few thousand dollars, to small independent composers who are willing to license tracks from their libraries for ludicrously cheap or even free in some situations.

Off the top of my head, some of the more well-known libraries are FirstCom, Megatrax, DeWolfe, and Omnimusic. I know some people who make a good part of their livings creating music for these libraries. Interestingly, EA recently woke up and realized they were sitting on their own production music library. Since they own rights to tracks from a variety of games, they opened their own business licensing these tracks to other companies. About time, IMO. I had been talking about the fact that they hadn't done this for years. Nothing like leaving an asset with the potential for secondary revenue collecting dust on the shelf!

Anyway, the trick to starting a library is to have a catalog of music ready for licensing. The music needs to be at a quality level and price point that is of interest to your customers. I'm not sure how those elements intersect in terms of the game industry. Libraries are able to offer some good deals on sync fees (licenses) to film and TV productions because the music is broadcast and the composers and publishers are paid royalties which cost the production nothing. Games are different because they are not broadcast and not covered by BMI/ASCAP/SESAC agreements. There is no secondary royalty structure built into the deal, and most companies don't want the extra headace of royalties. They just want to pay their fee for the track and be done.

As a result, most of the music libraries I have seen trying to cater to the game industry are pretty low-budget affairs and I really wonder if they turn a decent (or any) profit. The money just isn't there. Nonetheless, it's worth looking into to see if you can find a business model that works.

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Muzo wrote:

>Actually there are companies that do this.

Which is my point. If the OP is going to try to create an amateur business that competes with existing businesses, I hope he has a good business plan. The hard part will be making himself known to all the game producers and creative directors.

>They are more commonly referred to as "music libraries" or "production music" and primarily serve the TV/film industry.

Yes. Such a business in the game world would primarily serve low-budget projects, certainly not A or triple-A titles (probably not even B titles).

>most of the music libraries I have seen trying to cater to the game industry are pretty low-budget affairs and I really wonder if they turn a decent (or any) profit.

Which bolsters my point.

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You'd be competing against freelance audio-producers that do 'custom' tracks, though. Why would I want your 'canned' track, when I can get roughly the same quality, and custom made to the format/specifications/mood/setting I'm looking for. It works if you're Sony Music, or EA (since you've got iconic tunes already in your portfolio), but if what you're basically offering is amature-quality tunes at amature-prices (100-500 USD/song), you'll struggle to sell me on the idea.

You might be better offering yourself up as Work For Hire initially, until you build the kind of reputation that would allow you to command a premium, or licence your tracks while retaining IP.

Allan

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