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Raffael

price factor: game music

16 posts in this topic

Every game developer is aware of how important music is in video games. As game developer you don’t just give up a lot of sleep, you also invest a lot of your time and even money into your project. Part of the expenses for your project is fitting music. Music does not only accompany images or video sequences, it also reinforces desired emotions.
As a game developer you should ask yourself these questions:

• „How much money can I spend?”
• „How long does the music have to be?“
• „Where do I get music?“
• „Which standard does my game have?“
• „Does the music has to be unique?“
• „How important is the quality of the music for my game?“

After answering all these questions, the developer may realize that he possibly has to compromise.
Unique music, the length and the quality influence the price of the track greatly so you start looking for alternatives

1. One solution would be to compose the music for you. These reduce the costs, but in my experience it also leads to bad results – usually because of a lack of experience.
2. Free loops of the internet are usually of poor quality or can’t be used to copyright issues.
3. Reducing the length of the music and repeating them to ensure a high quality. These tracks are called „loops“.

In my experience, number 3 is the best alternative if you face a small budget.
A loop repeats itself after 30 to 90 seconds. With a very good loop, you won’t hear the repetition. The alternation is nearly the same to a 3 minute soundtracks. The costs for an exclusive loop are usually between 500$ and 1.000$ .
Loops have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s have a look at those:

Disadvantages
• Repetition
• Usually no intro / outro
• Not useable as soundtrack
Advantages:
• Cheaper than a soundtrack
• Less data due to decreased length
• Less costs for producer
• Suitable for mini games and background music

Loops have some distinct advantages, but 1.000$ can still exceed the budget of a hobby game developer. But even for this problem there is a solution: „The loop may not be exclusive!“
This means, the composer can sell the loop several times and therefore offer it at a much lower price. Since it would take quite a while to find a lot of composers who offer non-exclusive tracks, you should take a ‚loop cd‘ into consideration.
A loop cd contains various royalty free compositions. You find some examples here at the gamedev.net marketplace.

Even though you lose the exclusivity, you save a lot of money with these bargains. The exclusivity usually is the only thing you lose, since the quality of the tracks is very high. The risk that a player hears the same loop over and over again is very low. Every game developer should have one of these cds in his shelf.
These cds offers game developers a good opportunity to save money. Currently there are not many cds available like the one mentioned above, but by searching „loop cd“ or „game music pack“ you can already find some on the internet
Every game developer should be aware what kind of music he needs and how important quality and exclusivity are for him.

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yes jonny,
I dont speak about 90seconds for 50$ but for 20 to 30seconds ;)

...sry it doesn't stand in the text.
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[quote]
[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif][size=3][left]I dont speak about 90seconds for 50$ but for 20 to 30seconds[/left][/size][/font][/color]
[/quote]

Mirco - even with that change it still equates to roughly $100 or so per minute of music and that is no where near the industry rate or norm for an exclusive loop of music. Industry standard for exclusive rights is floating around $1,000 to $1,250 per minute of music. Now granted this is for AAA ranked titles usually. Indie audio is (and can be) something completely different but I'd wager even just $100 per minute of music for exclusive rights is awfully low. Consider what Aaron Marks advices in his book The Complete Guide to Game Audio: (note I'm paraphrasing here) - For exclusive rights charge 10 times your non-exclusive rights rate as it will be the only time you're allowed to profit from this music. Of course if a OST is sold you might get some other earnings from that as well.

I'm glad to see you charging something though - too many start off with the naive idea you must work for free (myself included). Working for free simply hurts the industry all around.
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I'm working mainly for indie developers and their haven't so much money like konami. :)

I'll change the price in the post.

...I had worked for free at my "pop and hip hop phase" ^^ ....this time is over. ^^
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[quote name='Raffael' timestamp='1326501250' post='4902514']
I'm working mainly for indie developers and their haven't so much money like konami.
[/quote]

[size=4]Agreed - hence my statements [i]"[/i][/size][i]Now granted this is for AAA ranked titles usually. Indie audio is (and can be) something completely different but I'd wager even just $100 per minute of music for exclusive rights is awfully low."[/i]

[left][size=4][color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]If charging $100 per minute of exclusive rights fits your current business model and needs then go for it. I was simply pointing out that it is not the industry norm for exclusive rights to music - even when dealing with indie projects. [/font][/color][/size][/left]
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yes I understand it :)

But I think the norm-price is more interesting than the indie-price.
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Please don't ask low budgets, or we can all quit. If devs will be accustomed to low prices or free works the music art will be considered a minor art and it is not true. It's a real important artistic expression and creativity must be paid.
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Of course, free music can be the beginning of price dumping. I have had some requests for 10 soundtracks for example and the devs wanted it for free. ^^
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This is an interesting thread. I was throwing around the idea of offering "budget" game tracks for indie developers. I wouldn't use my higher quality tools and they'd be simple loops of sufficient quality for a indie game. I'd make them a little preview of what an 'upgrade' to normal priced tune would sound like using better tools.

Curious to hear what others think of this. I figure some money is better than no money.
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I'm not saying an Indie game doesn't deserve full quality. But some simply can't afford it. Plus, I dont plan to provide anything thats half-worked or weak, just shorter loops or less complicated tracks. It takes a lot less work to make a synth-driven techno-ish or ambient track than a fully orchestrated theme song. I have just noticed there is a different amount of work that goes into composing certain types of music. Maybe this just speaks to my approach or lack of experience, I dont consider myself an expert at this point.
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[quote name='Azul' timestamp='1330533702' post='4917811']
I'm not saying an Indie game doesn't deserve full quality. But some simply can't afford it.
[/quote]

The mistake you're making is assuming that quality of music costs more - when I don't believe it does. I can create high quality music for a client only wanting non-exclusive rights and is paying the lowest rate I can accept because I know I'll be able to re-use that music cue and it can still (and often does) reflect my company and work positively. It's the [b]usage[/b] and [b]ownership[/b] that can cost more. Simply lowering the quality of your music based on a client's budget is a bad idea and could risk giving you a bad rep over time. Instead strive to do your best each and every time - regardless if the client is paying $100 or $100,000.

[quote name='Azul' timestamp='1330533702' post='4917811']
Plus, I dont plan to provide anything thats half-worked or weak, just shorter loops or less complicated tracks. It takes a lot less work to make a synth-driven techno-ish or ambient track than a fully orchestrated theme song.
[/quote]

Your previous statement....

[quote]
I wouldn't use my higher quality tools and they'd be simple loops of sufficient quality for a indie game.
[/quote]

...certainly paints a different situation. I urge you to reconsider your wording and how you approach these matters publicly as you might be giving off the wrong impression to potential clients. After all - how many clients start their audio search off by saying "we want mediocre!!!!" Not very many. [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img] No, most clients want the best they can afford.

Maybe it's not half worked as you put it - but if you're not using the higher quality tools just because of the budget it does leave a potential client to question "how [u]good[/u] is this going to sound in the end?" On top of this is the fact that you're publicly saying you're not going to use the full power of your studio to make your work sound as good as possible. So as a client - what incentive do I have to hire you over another guy? Perhaps another guy who might even cost more but is telling me "I'm going to make this audio kick arse!! I'm so pumped! I have tons of great gear and ideas to throw your way!!"

Frankly your method - even if the music isn't half worked comes of as "hey, if you don't pay me what I think it fair, I'm not going to work very hard. I'm not going to use every tool I have to make your game's audio the best it can be."

Also you're making the mistake thinking that indie games do not need high quality orchestral music as well. Check out Sean Beeson - one of the best orchestral composers around. He's a great guy and very friendly. Much of his work is appearing on the iPhone and mobile devices. By most definitions that would classify as an indie project - certainly not at the level of a current-gen console project.

And besides making high quality synth-driven techno can and often does require just as much effort and attention to detail as a finely crafted orchestral piece. It just requires a different set of tools and approaches.

[quote name='Azul' timestamp='1330533702' post='4917811']
I have just noticed there is a different amount of work that goes into composing certain types of music. Maybe this just speaks to my approach or lack of experience, I dont consider myself an expert at this point.
[/quote]

I think everyone has their own individual strengths as a composer. I wouldn't say this is due to your lack of experience - simply just the individuality of each composer.
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Thanks Nathan,
Those are some very good things to think about. I definitely feel I shouldn't be charging an arm and a leg since I'm just getting the proper tools to make anything really good. But maybe I'm selling myself short and the "budget" approach would just hurt me in the long run. I know years ago when I was making a game, the prices for music were prohibitive, which got me into making it myself. I clearly need to give the business side of it a little more thought [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/blink.png[/img]
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I always write music with the intention that it could be worth of an award since you never know who is playing the games. I also always write music in hopes I can resell it down the road, to other games, films, trailers, tv, ect.

Also, if I am not paid what I feel is a fair price, I simply won't take the work or will bargain with them until a compromise can be reached :-D That way I an ensure they are getting the highest quality music possible and that I am getting compensated fairly!

I say always do your best, and the best things will always come from it.
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