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How Do Indie Game Composers Get Paid?

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If your working with an Indie Developer, how do you get royalties from the game when it's submitted to marketplaces like xbox live? How does this work?

I know how it works for albums and internet plays, but how for video games? Royalties off each sale

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If your working with an Indie Developer, how do you get royalties from the game when it's submitted to marketplaces like xbox live? How does this work?

I know how it works for albums and internet plays, but how for video games? Royalties off each sale


IF royalties are included in the contract then each time a "chunk" of sales is reported by the vendor (such as iTunes or XBLA, etc), the client cuts the composer a check for his percentage, as it was laid out in the contract. But know that many composers do not work for royalties, but rather a flat rate that is due upon completion of the audio work. This way even if the game completely tanks, the composer gets a set amount.

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What if I'm writing for an Indie Game? I'm doing it for free since it is my first project and I only had to do 5 tracks which are completed already, If the game is submitted to Steam for example, is there a way I can get a percentage of the sales? Or is it strictly up to the Game developer to pay?

I know for paid gigs or bigger games I will ask to get paid up front. This is my first game project I've did music for so I needed the experience and title under my belt, it's just a small indie game though...I'm thinking about doing the next one for free and then after that starting to charge,

nsmadsen, do you ever sign on to aim? I added you as a friend on there. I wanted to ask you some stuff and get some tips.

Also, what contract do I need for freelancing ? I still need to copyright right?

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Also please note that most sucessful indie game devs won't agree to any royalty based contract - they will pay you a flat rate much rather since the royalty cut will likely be taking a larger percentage of their profits rather than just paying up front.

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What if I'm writing for an Indie Game? I'm doing it for free since it is my first project and I only had to do 5 tracks which are completed already, If the game is submitted to Steam for example, is there a way I can get a percentage of the sales? Or is it strictly up to the Game developer to pay?


How was your contract set up? Do you have a contract? If not, what was set up in the discussions before you began work? If you've already begun work - and it sounds like you have - it might not be possible to change the working relationship now. But you never know. Talk to your client and see if they're flexible. A good idea for future projects is to get everything clearly defined and put in writing before you start work.


I know for paid gigs or bigger games I will ask to get paid up front. This is my first game project I've did music for so I needed the experience and title under my belt, it's just a small indie game though...I'm thinking about doing the next one for free and then after that starting to charge


I'd urge you to charge for your services ASAP - even if it's a really low wage. Working for free doesn't really help you out and while it does give you some credits - not all credits are equal. If you're working on Project X and only 12 people see that project... well... hiring managers and audio directors may not give that as much weight and consideration than if you did a casual game that was launched on the iTunes App store and is mildly successful with decent to great ratings, etc. That sort of thing.


nsmadsen, do you ever sign on to aim? I added you as a friend on there. I wanted to ask you some stuff and get some tips. Also, what contract do I need for freelancing ? I still need to copyright right?


Yep, I'm on AIM often - through Gtalk. Feel free to message me! Contracts can vary - from very dense and filled with legalese to very straight forward. The key things you need to define are:

1) What am I going to do for you?

2) When am I supposed to get this done?

3) What amount are you going to pay me for doing this stuff?

4) Who owns the stuff once we're done? (i.e. exclusive vs. non-exclusive rights)

Of course you can go MUCH further than this if need be - like where lawsuits would take place if they happened, etc - but that's up to you. Check out Aaron Marks - The Complete Guide to Game Audio which has several sample contracts as well as a whole chapter dealing with this subject. It also explains quite a bit about the business side of all of this - which could also be helpful to you! Finally do some Google searches of contracts and you'll find plenty.

Thanks,

Nate

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If you told them you'd do the game 'for free', than don't expect to see any money, regardless of if they sell the game on XBLA, Steam, etc. "Free" means "I'll do the work and not expect to get any money for what I give you."

An important issue for people coming into the game industry from "traditional" media is that there are generally very limited (or no) opportunities for the kind of back-end payments that people in TV/Movies/Music are used to getting as a matter of course.
For example, when doing a TV score, commercial, etc., composers often get paid very little (that's another whole email thread!), but can do well on Performance Payments (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) when the show is broadcast. No such performance payment exists in games becuase games aren't broadcast. Even an online game won't generate performance payments. LIkewise, there are no standard songwriter royalties like their are for CD's, etc.

That's why it's so important to have a contract (or at the very least a clear and concise email) laying out what Nate mentioned above.

Note that "for no money upfront" doesn't mean "Free." In the world of indy games/small games it's not uncommon at all for a composer to do a game for no (or very little) up front money in exchange for some percentage of the game sales or profits. But that is not the same as free--that's just taking on more of the risk and getting paid a different way.

Brian Schmidt

Executive Director, GameSoundCon: www.GameSoundCon.com

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