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Rates: A Habit of Underpricing

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I have known for a while now that I have been... underpricing my music. After talking to another composer friend of mine, I was given (and found through research), certain rates of different composers. Compared to the other composers, I might as well be selling my soul for a doughnut. So, right now, I am trying to figure out a reasonable price for my music. I am basing my pricing on the quality of my music, along with my compositional skill, but I honestly have no idea how to adequately price myself. I am working on creating a profile right now (to show examples of my music), but until I edit the thread for potential feedback, how should a composer go about pricing themselves? How do you avoid underpricing and overpricing? What qualities in a composer (and their music), can lead to an acceptable rate of music as high as $600/ per minute, and what aspects of a composer and their ability would lead you to persuade a composer to possibly lower their prices? Or is it all based on personal preference and what developer is willing to negotiate and work with you?

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Hey,

There recently was some discussion on this topic over at the TIGForums - might be worth a read!

Aaron Marks' book "The Complete Guide to Game Audio" has an excellent section on determining rates.

Cheers,
Moritz

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What qualities in a composer (and their music), can lead to an acceptable rate of music as high as $600/ per minute, and what aspects of a composer and their ability would lead you to persuade a composer to possibly lower their prices? Or is it all based on personal preference and what developer is willing to negotiate and work with you?


I wanted to address this point specifically.

Charles Deenen, the audio director for EA Blackbox for a good long while, once said that he'd gladly pay tens of thousands of dollars more to have a guy he knows and trusts do the job over someone he doesn't. Consider the client's task list, especially the large ones, and you'll quickly realize most of these folks want to hire someone they know will deliver on time, on budget and on the mark. If one of these top tier guys has to spend time going back and forth with a composer, it takes time away from other tasks. It might even make them miss their own deadlines if they have to invest too much time and attention on someone not getting the job done.

Of course, this is for top tier projects and more "indie" projects don't have the same level of expectation and stress (usually!!!tongue.png). Remember so much more goes into being a successful, sought after audio dude than just making good audio. A short list would be:

- understand current tech tricks/limitations (really helpful when talking with other depts)
- be an excellent communicator (especially for interacting with those who know little to nothing about music but have to sign off on content)
- be able to hit deadlines without fail
- be a pleasure to work with
- be a solid networker

If you're freelancing then you can also add:

- finding work
- read/write and negoitate contracts
- accounting (creating invoices, collecting monies owed, budgeting for your personal and business needs, etc)
- develop sound business/marketing plans to grow your business

Too often some just focus on if the music is good enough and forget all of the rest. Best of luck to you!

Nate Edited by nsmadsen

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25$? That seems crazy. That's just above 2 hours of minimum wage. Even completely ignorant of your work, and the out of pocket costs, I'd expect to negotiate close to 1000$ at least, and even that may be low?

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Yep. Unfortunately some folks don't do much research before jumping in and trying to hire freelancers. Perhaps this guy felt he was offering 25X what iTunes charges for a song and is confusing the whole licensing for use vs. licensing for listening element. Edited by nsmadsen

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I didn't even start to think about the licensing when I wrote that. It was just along the lines of not paying someone 25$ for 4 days of work!

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What qualities in a composer (and their music), can lead to an acceptable rate of music as high as $600/ per minute, and what aspects of a composer and their ability would lead you to persuade a composer to possibly lower their prices?[/quote]

We had a great panel discussion that his this at GameSoundCon this week.

Someone had a great comment. She said when you're hired to compose for a game, there are two things your client is paying for. First of course is the music itself-- it's quality and content. But they are also in a sense buying an insurance policy. An insurance policy that the music will be done on time, on budget and with integrity and enthusiasm. That's I think what Charles is talking about in Nathan's post above. A lot of payment isn't necessarily about the music itself, but about confidence that the person paying the money can just say "go do the music" and they no longer have to worry about it.

That's one of the big reasons people ask for people with experience doing games. It means at a minimum, they know what to expect and what it's like to deliver music for a software project (i.e. game). And also why networking and word of mouth is so valuable.

So the "qualities in a composer and their music" that let people charge a lot (per minute rates sometimes as high as 2,500), have as much to do about professionalism and reputation as the music itself.

Brian

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Very interesting! I will admit, I deftly overlooked the entire professionalism aspect of composition. Funny enough, I am working with a potential client who has had a fair share of difficulties with composers in the past because of the sheer lack of professionalism.


25$? That seems crazy. That's just above 2 hours of minimum wage. Even completely ignorant of your work, and the out of pocket costs, I'd expect to negotiate close to 1000$ at least, and even that may be low?


That's me, sadly. The reason I am doing this is so that I can stop selling myself short, as far as composition is concerned. I would love to compose for media as a living. I'm not trying to figure out rates for sustainability, but I am looking to price myself as something reasonable, and respectable. I want to thank you guys for the feedback, especially on professionalism. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I overlooked professionalism as a premise for hiring. Oddly enough, it's like any place else - Show up on time, or you're fired. Or, if you're consistently late, you're unreliable. The link to TIG forums was also very helpful (thanks a lot Moritz). Another useful forum to become a part of! (As well as a book to read).

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I enjoyed reading this thread.


Aaron Marks' book "The Complete Guide to Game Audio" has an excellent section on determining rates.


I just finished reading this book a couple weeks ago and the section on pay is phenomenal. It would do you, and every composer ever, to read the book, and of course the section hes referring to. I was scratching my head at some points wondering if people actually charged based off what he said, but it's legit and worth reading.


So the "qualities in a composer and their music" that let people charge a lot (per minute rates sometimes as high as 2,500), have as much to do about professionalism and reputation as the music itself.


Amazing point. Aiming to be professional is so important. I just cancelled working with this singer a couple hours ago because he's been late 5 rehearsals in a row. Professionalism is something I highly admire in all my colleagues and friends around me.

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Hello everyone,

It seems that you would want to factor in how much money it is going to cost you to make the music and who is paying for it.

For instance, are you making this on your home studio, by yourself, or are you paying people to play instruments in a somewhat “decent studio”.


Also, is this going to be exclusive or non-exclusive because selling one 10 min. song for $6,000 compared to selling a song a bunch of times for $25.00…Seems if they want exclusive music rights then you apply the appropriate zeros. (As Brian noted you will not be getting royalties, so go ahead and add an extra zero...) Thanks Brian!

No one is going to make Micros**ts next tune for $25.00…

I suppose you would want to figure in how long it takes you to make a minute a music as well 2,3,10 hours?? Days? Weeks?
Anyway, just found your site a couple of days ago, glad to be here, feels like a good place to meet game designers and discuss gaming music from top to bottom.

Sincerely,


liftedCREATION

p.s. Listened to your music Nathan and Sam, nice work!! Edited by liftedCREATION

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(Plus you'll get the royalties)[/quote]

With the exception of small, indy projects, royalties are virtually unheard of in videogames. Years ago (in the 90's) occasionally we'd get "back end" but that changed over a decade ago.

And you are correct-- if the client is expecting "live orchestra" production quality, you certainly need to factor in those costs as well.

Brian
Executive Director GameSoundCon
President, Game Audio Network Guild
Brian Schmidt Studios

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Afternoon Brian,


Thank you for correcting me on the royalties. With that being said, is $600/min the avg. for indie game producers to pay for “non-live orchestrated” exclusive music?

Also could someone point me to the person in charge of the Marketplace here??

Thank you,

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First off, thanks for the kind words on my work! Appreciate it!

There is no set, standard rate across the entire industry but there are norms or trends. I've heard the "common" rate for exclusive rights can be as high as $1,000 - $1,250 per minute of music composed. I've even heard as high as $2,500. But for "normal" indie budgets this can quickly exceed what's realistic. So you have to focus on the average price point of the end product. A typical iPhone app isn't going to have the same price point as a PS3 title. This is why it gets tricky when discussing standard rates... plus, to my knowledge there's no mass email or publication going out to (non-union) composers saying "okay, now X is the new set rate." At least not yet.

It's hard to say what the average indie game producer(s) can pay these days because that label encompasses a much larger range of folks and projects. Before the app store and such, most indie game producers were smaller, non-major companies that still had a decent amount of dough. These days an indie game producer could be a programmer in a basement who pays the $100 dev fee to Apple and uploads his game.

in short - I've charged more than $600/min and I've charged a whole lot less. Many of the factors already discussed in this thread would explain why. smile.png

Here's the contact page if you still need to speak to someone directly on staff about the Marketplace: http://www.gamedev.n...ut/contact.html Edited by nsmadsen

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