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PwnedByRyan

How much $ would you charge?

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Depends. Do you have prior commercial experience? Have you sold other music? What quality are they looking for (full orchestral score vs. midi)?

I made three small (about 2 minutes total) MIDI compositions for a game for a contest for $15 just to give you an example. That's about $7.50 per minute. Of course MIDI is quicker than bigger scores which is why it wasn't so much. I suppose for a full score I would probably be inclined to want about $10-$15 myself. And to some people that's really cheap. But I enjoy competitive pricing and making money off music isn't my living, so I'm alright with not charging as much as others.

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Professional rates start at $500 per minute, but rating that high you should be 100% sure, the developer is serious and, for what's most important - you can do music at highest quality. AAA titles music is paid even more than $1000 per minute sometimes...

Rates also depend on what license do you sell? Exclusive or non-exclusive. The second one is like 2-5 times cheaper.

I don't know about simple midi music, but I wouldn't want to sell my music for %7.50/minute. I learned and studied music for 13 years, I've been composing for more than 5 now (with quality vst's it's 2 years now), this is my greatest passion, I love it! But I would prefer to make music for free on fair conditions, rather than selling it for couple of bucks.

As for me, I would go somewhere between $100-400/min., depending on project, as I'm aware of what I can do, and what quality I can deliver. Still, making music for experience is most valuable deal for me now.

- Piotr

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I've always hated the per-minute rate. I don't think it's a good system creatively. It's not good for the developer because they shouldn't be deciding where to put music just based on minutes. It's not a good system for the composer because a flat, per minute rate doesn't include the difficulty in producing the music, and the project could drag on forever.

I prefer a creative fee with an end date. The contract should also include an estimate of the amount of music needed within that time, but it is not directly tied to the creative fee. The developer/publisher also picks up any expenses (recording, orchestrators, live musicians, music prep., courier, etc.) This means that the developer's investment scales with the scope of the project. Full orchestra will cost more than a few soloists.

With a creative fee I know that for X dollars I will not work past day Y. This allows me to plan my schedule. This enables me to have a rough idea when a project will end and if and how projects may overlap. If the schedule is extended, then I can negotiate a new contract for the additional time. In other words, their inability to meet deadlines won't cut into my pay. That would be unfair.

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"Professional rates start at $500 per minute"

For professional Casual and PC games, usually the rates can start much lower that. The main way to get paid work is to build up experience and you can charge more and more. Never advertise your rates unless you want to get locked in. When a game you woek on becomes successful, you get more bargaining power, especially if said work is a reason the developer was interested in you.

If you are still just "a face in the crowd" it can be very difficult to even get 100 dollars per minute of music. My main goal is to work full time, regardless of how much I make per minute. Still in my first year creating music for games, I have done 17 game scores, 16 for pay (first one was free), and only on a few very simple tracks went below $50/per minute, my usual bottom bid for small, small developers only.

It is all a jungle out there. With students offering free services, and many composers having alternate forms of income who can outbid with crazy low prices, you have to have a good attitude about it and keep going if you can :)

The good news is there are so many games being made, most bad months are still do-able. My main goal now is to keep getting games as big or bigger than Daycare Nightmare (of my contracts, the first game to be released with mass appeal).

Jesse

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Quote:
Original post by Muzo72
I prefer a creative fee with an end date. The contract should also include an estimate of the amount of music needed within that time, but it is not directly tied to the creative fee. The developer/publisher also picks up any expenses (recording, orchestrators, live musicians, music prep., courier, etc.) This means that the developer's investment scales with the scope of the project. Full orchestra will cost more than a few soloists.

Muzo,
Are there many developers who are responsive to this, and how are you paid? Weekly, Bi-Weekly, begin/end? I would love to work that way because things would be more concrete. The per minute thing does take its toll in some ways, because it has nothing to do with how difficult the music is.

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Original post by JesseHopkins
Quote:
Original post by Muzo72
I prefer a creative fee with an end date.

Are there many developers who are responsive to this, and how are you paid?


It's definitely an uphill battle, and I think the majority of jobs are per-minute fees, but the industry is changing in this regard. It really boils down to the knowledge, experience, and sophistication of producers. I have passed on a few AAA jobs over the last couple years because of this. Good producers understand why a creative fee method works. Those producers usually get better quality work because they can attract better composers who then bring a better overall team with them. As we get more experienced producers I think the trend will continue to move away from the rather unsophisticated per-minute fee. Let's just hope producers don't keep abandoning the industry. Otherwise we'll be stuck with this ignorace for decades.

The most common payment structure I've seen is to have a first payment upon signing, a second at some milestone (before recording, after delivery of some music, or at a specific date), and then final payment upon delivery of the final masters.


The move away from "all-in" per-minute fees is also gaining momentum as more composers start stepping up and demanding reasonable compensation. Unfortunately there are some name composers and agents who still accept bad deals. They are holding the industry back by devaluing the craft as a whole with the short-sighted thought that they will get more gigs and a control more of the market. Their day of reckoning is fast approaching as developers behind closed doors are voicing their disappointment with the quality of the music being delivered.

Another factor propelling change is the fact that developers are demanding higher quality music. For example, orchestrators are now often required on game projects and they usually charge a page rate based on the number of lines in the composition. You usually can't ask a decent orchestrator to work per minute or for a flat fee (unless its a very high fee). One of the reasons is this:

60 min of music in 4/4 @ 100 bpm = 1500 measures of music to orchestrate
60 min of music in 4/4 @ 180 bpm = 2700 measures of music to orchestrate

That's quite a difference in terms of work. An orchestrator could really get screwed charging per minute. Thus, most good orchestrators will not agree to work per minute of music. Also, the best orchestrators, copyists, and musicians prefer (or demand) to work under a union contract so they can keep their health and pension benefits. Union contracts pay per page or per hour of time spent working.

As you can see, on a big project that demands high quality, you can't expect to get a completed game score for a simple per-minute fee. It just won't work unless the composer asks for a huge fee, or settles for less than top-quality talent, which risks disappointing the developer.

But, things are changing. The gamers are actually desiring more in terms of music than what many developers are giving. The customers aren't stupid, and if the developers want their market to grow, the have to meet expectations of a very media-savvy public. Also, composers are starting to realize (sometimes from painful experiences) that they can't keep working in the same ways.

[Edited by - Muzo72 on August 22, 2007 3:56:54 PM]

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Per minute in games isn't so bad if you can demand the high per minute rates( in the mid 1000's and up) and get 25-40% of it upfront but that can be a rarity. The nice thing about per minute rates is that you can keep "your rate" even if the music projects change, however as Muzo excellently pointed out, this can be a double edged sword.

I have worked on games where I can write 10 minutes of the soundtrack in 3-4 days, whereas recently I have been working on a game that requires 10 minutes of action music and it takes a considerable longer time.

Also to note, in line with what Muzo stated, in one game I scored, there was about 7 minutes of music in 5 tracks, each of them varied a bit, but had roots in each others, whereas another had 10 minutes of music, a large portion of which were 20 second clips, which isn't too bad, except for all of the styles were different and being able to write action cues for 20 seconds that can sound good is a bit more challenging that writing 7 minuntes of "same" music.

I guess you just have to know when and how you can come out with the upperhand :)

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Original post by Sean R Beeson
Per minute in games isn't so bad if you can demand the high per minute rates( in the mid 1000's and up) and get 25-40% of it upfront but that can be a rarity. The nice thing about per minute rates is that you can keep "your rate" even if the music projects change, however as Muzo excellently pointed out, this can be a double edged sword.


Double-edged, indeed. The all-in, per-minute pricing may work sometimes on small projects with simple music requirements. However, it doesn't scale well to larger projects. Just for the sake of discussion and education, let's look at the math and see how it shakes out if the developer wants a live "Hollywood" orchestra sound. (I'm going to round numbers for simplicity.)

$1500/min X 60 min of music = $90,000 total budget. At first glance this seems like pretty good money.

Let's assume that the average tempo of the music is 100 bpm. That's not too fast and would give us about 1500 measures of 4/4 time.

Let's further assume that you hire a good orchestrator and he has agreed to work for the new American Federation of Musicians or AFM minimum videogame buyout rate. (Note that many orchestrators charge over minimum scale.) Under the current contract, this means the developer will not have to pay any "back-end" royalties, residuals, or re-use fees to the musicians. The developer can own the music and use it however they like. Developers LOVE that idea.

Let's also assume that we need a moderate size orchestra plus choir. Lots of developers love an epic sound so we'll try to give them something close. That would mean the orchestrator will be dealing with about 35 lines or so of orchestration. Given 1500 measures and 35 lines, the orchestration bill would come in around $25k, maybe $30k depending on the situation. So orchestration alone will eat up most if not all of the upfront money.
Let's assume you got a 40-piece orchestra in the USA. The orchestra might be something like this:

1 flute
1 oboe
1 clarinet
1 bassoon

3 tpts
4 horns
3 tbns
(Deveolpers seem to like full brass sections, but we'll forego the tuba. Plus our orchestrator has some ideas for giving the bottom end a bit more punch.)

12 - 16 violins (exact number will depend on the composition)
4 - 6 violas
4 - 6 cellos
2 basses

We'll have to watch the balance of the sections with this lineup, but thankfully we've hired a good orchestrator. We'll also have to lay the percussion down in a sequencer and bring it to the session as pre-lay. If we want the percussion live, we could probably lose a few strings, but we then might want to record the strings separately. (Again, our orchestrator is good so he can advise us on this.) Plus, we'd have to think about cartage costs for the percussion instruments.

Given the above list, the musician costs for one day (two 3-hour sessions, no overtime, no doubling, and not including cartage), would be about $25k. Add this to the orchestration bill and now over 60% of your money is gone. We still have to pay the engineer, music copyists, and the studio rental, and this is only the first day of recording. No orchestra is going to finish 60 minutes of music in a single day at an acceptable level of quality. However, by the end of the second day, it's likely all your money would be gone.

Even if we bump the per minute rate up to $2000, the total is still only $120k. That epic live choir is still looking unlikely if the composer wants to make any money at all.

If the per minute rate jumps to $2500 the total would be $150k. You'd then have a fighting chance at getting it all done (maybe without the choir) without losing money, but you'd never make a living that way.

You can see how all-in per minute composing fees quickly break down on large-budget projects. This is why there is a shift to a creative fee for the composer while the developer picks up the other expenses. That way, if the developer wants a big, Hollywood orchestra, the composer can say, "No problem, it's your money. I can give you what you want!" This is more akin to the Hollywood film scoring model of budgeting.

I've seen more than one composer fall into the per-minute of music trap and think they could deliver a live "Hollywood" score. They always end up having to compromise somewhere. Usually it means hiring a hack orchestrator or the composer orchestrates himself if there is time (often there is not time). They also end up running off to far parts of the world to record with orchestras that have little contemporary recording experience at locations with weak studio infrastructure. It's the only way the composer can do the job and still pay the mortgage, and keep the kids fed and clothed.

I deal with this stuff for a living, and the numbers here feel about right. But please remember that these numbers are hypothetical. Every project is different. I don't want to get an angry, expletive-laden message from someone saying "I got my first big game contract and followed the numbers in your GameDev post. It was a disaster!" That's why you hire experienced professionals. [wink]

[Edited by - Muzo72 on August 22, 2007 2:03:55 PM]

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Original post by Muzo72
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Original post by Sean R Beeson
Per minute in games isn't so bad if you can demand the high per minute rates( in the mid 1000's and up) and get 25-40% of it upfront but that can be a rarity. The nice thing about per minute rates is that you can keep "your rate" even if the music projects change, however as Muzo excellently pointed out, this can be a double edged sword.


Double-edged, indeed. The all-in, per-minute pricing may work sometimes on small projects with simple music requirements. However, it doesn't scale well to larger projects. Just for the sake of discussion and education, let's look at the math and see how it shakes out if the developer wants a live "Hollywood" orchestra sound. (I'm going to round numbers for simplicity.)

$1500/min X 60 min of music = $90,000 total budget. At first glance this seems like pretty good money.

Let's assume that the average tempo of the music is 100 bpm. That's not too fast and would give us about 1500 measures of 4/4 time.

Let's further assume that you hire a good orchestrator and he has agreed to work for the new American Federation of Musicians or AFM minimum videogame buyout rate. (Note that many orchestrators charge over minimum scale.) Under the current contract, this means the developer will not have to pay any "back-end" royalties, residuals, or re-use fees to the musicians. The developer can own the music and use it however they like. Developers LOVE that idea.

Let's also assume that we need a moderate size orchestra plus choir. Lots of developers love an epic sound so we'll try to give them something close. That would mean the orchestrator will be dealing with about 35 lines or so of orchestration. Given 1500 measures and 35 lines, the orchestration bill would come in around $25k, maybe $30k depending on the situation. So orchestration alone will eat up most if not all of the upfront money.
Let's assume you got a 40-piece orchestra in the USA. The orchestra might be something like this:

1 flute
1 oboe
1 clarinet
1 bassoon

3 tpts
4 horns
3 tbns
(Deveolpers seem to like full brass sections, but we'll forego the tuba. Plus our orchestrator has some ideas for giving the bottom end a bit more punch.)

12 - 16 violins (exact number will depend on the composition)
4 - 6 violas
4 - 6 cellos
2 basses

We'll have to watch the balance of the sections with this lineup, but thankfully we've hired a good orchestrator. We'll also have to lay the percussion down in a sequencer and bring it to the session as pre-lay. If we want the percussion live, we could probably lose a few strings, but we then might want to record the strings separately. (Again, our orchestrator is good so he can advise us on this.) Plus, we'd have to think about cartage costs for the percussion instruments.

Given the above list, the musician costs for one day (two 3-hour sessions, no overtime, no doubling, and not including cartage), would be about $25k. Add this to the orchestration bill and now over 60% of your money is gone. We still have to pay the engineer, music copyists, and the studio rental, and this is only the first day of recording. No orchestra is going to finish 60 minutes of music in a single day at an acceptable level of quality. However, by the end of the second day, it's likely all your money would be gone.

Even if we bump the per minute rate up to $2000, the total is still only $120k. That epic live choir is still looking unlikely if the composer wants to make any money at all.

If the per minute rate jumps to $2500 the total would be $150k. You'd then have a fighting chance at getting it all done (maybe without the choir) without losing money, but you'd never make a living that way.

You can see how all-in per minute composing fees quickly break down on large-budget projects. This is why there is a shift to a creative fee for the composer while the developer picks up the other expenses. That way, if the developer wants a big, Hollywood orchestra, the composer can say, "No problem, it's your money. I can give you what you want!" This is more akin to the Hollywood film scoring model of budgeting.

I've seen more than one composer fall into the per-minute of music trap and think they could deliver a live "Hollywood" score. They always end up having to compromise somewhere. Usually it means hiring a hack orchestrator or the composer orchestrates himself if there is time (often there is not time). They also end up running off to far parts of the world to record with orchestras that have little contemporary recording experience at locations with weak studio infrastructure. It's the only way the composer can do the job and still pay the mortgage, and keep the kids fed and clothed.

I deal with this stuff for a living, and the numbers here feel about right. But please remember that these numbers are hypothetical. Every project is different. I don't want to get an angry, expletive-laden message from someone saying "I got my first big game contract and followed the numbers in your GameDev post. It was a disaster!" That's why you hire experienced professionals. [wink]


So as long as the developer cover the costs of the orchestra, orchestrator, mixing, ect., you are good :) hehe But then again, if you can rake down $1500 a minute on a synthesized score, that isn't too shabby :)

Great post Muzo, really provides insight into creative fees and $PM payment schemes.

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That was a hard question!!! Depends how long work hours is going into 1 song!

Example working 40 hours with one song could cost about 500euros (600dollars)
the song can be 2minutes to 15minutes long...

But as an Semi-amateur, I couldnt take more than 200euros (or less) per song!

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[quote]Original post by Muzo72
I've always hated the per-minute rate. I don't think it's a good system creatively. It's not good for the developer because they shouldn't be deciding where to put music just based on minutes. It's not a good system for the composer because a flat, per minute rate doesn't include the difficulty in producing the music, and the project could drag on forever.

I agree with Muzo72 that the per-minute rate idea is bunk. I generally charge a flat rate for said looping theme between 1-2 minutes, which is essentially a fee for my skill at writing and programming. In the event that that the developer wants something with live performers, I will also charge for the performer's time, the engineer's time, and my time as the session director.

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