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Cattle Calls

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Hey everyone,

Here are a few helpful (hopefully!!) tips regarding cattle calls, but first let's make sure everyone understands what a cattle call is: It's when a project offers up an open ended invitation to have everyone compose for their project and then they pick the selection(s) they like. There are more cons than pros, in my opinion and I'll briefly outline them all below:

The pros:

- you can get your music placed in the game, although it could be a long shot.

- you can potentially get heard by new clients and create a new working relationship.

The cons:

- it puts all of the work/effort on the composer/sound designer.

- it strips out the negoitation process, instead you have to sign on to their terms regardless if they're reasonable or not.

- the odds are you'll be creating work that will not be used. This is especially true if it's a higher tier project as music libraries literally have thousands of cues they can submit. It's very easy to get lost in the shuffle.

- it perpetuates the notion that a composer/sound designer's time isn't worth anything, only the content.

- it removes any collaboration between the client and the audio provider. Instead the client just browses through the files and picks what they want. Personally, I love game development because of the team effort across all disciplines.

Some tips:

- if you have some pre-existing music that is available for non-exclusive licensing, then it might not be a bad thing. After all many of us submit cues to placement libraries.

- ALWAYS read the terms very closely. I remember a cattle call by the WB not too long ago where the terms listed that ALL submissions would be owned by WB regardless if they were picked or not. That's really not cool. In that case, cues not selected would basically be free music for WB. In some cases "cash prizes" for selected cues may only be paid out after (or if) the project reaches a certain revenue goal. In other words there's a chance a winning cue might not even get paid if the project sells poorly.

- consider the situation. If you're up for a shot at composing the next Star Wars thing, then it could be an awesome chance! But if this is a small company that you're never heard of, then it could just be a lazy developer. Remember to always look at the terms offered and decide if the property, client and rates are worth it enough. Remember that for all of your work, time and passion, you could walk away with nothing.

The ideal situation:

In a perfect world a client would seek out several composers/sound designers who's work inspires them. This client would then chat with each potential audio dude and see if the timing, content and budget works for both sides. They'd then pick who they want to work with, draw up a contract and work begins. During production the client and audio folk(s) would work closely together to keep everything on budget, schedule as well as on the mark.

Cattle calls are not this kind of situation for all of the reasons listed above. It takes all of the work/effort and places it on the composer while putting all of the power (regarding time frame, rates paid, usage) and puts it in the hands of the client. Instead of a negoitation and a mutual understanding, the audio folks are forced into these terms if they want to take part. My advice would be to practice extreme caution when you see one of these things.

Hope that helps,

Nate Edited by nsmadsen

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