How can game developers be expected to negotiate a contract with a game composer when they don’t know what their options are?
Here I explain how some typical composer deals might be structured.
How To Structure A Deal With A Game Composer
There are essentially five ways to structure a music composition deal:
1. price per minute of music produced
2. price per amount of man hours spent creating the music
3. price for the whole project
5. some a combination of all four
1. Price per minute of music produced
Seems fair right? Although not really. You could be paying way more for a simple minute of ambient background music than you need to because the composer has based his rate on writing much more complicated music.
It works the same the other way round of course, you could be paying much less for a very complex piece, but either way there is no real way of knowing how this rate is devised.
2. Price per amount of man hours spent creating the music
Lots of composers use this method. They work out how long the music will take them to create (allowing for the style and complexity) and then give you a price based on their hourly rate.
This is easy to calculate for a few tracks, but if the project gets bigger, it gets harder to do.
3. Price for the whole project.
Very sensible method as the composer will be taking all the different factors into account. Most big projects where there is a music budget use this method.
This method can be preferred by small developers working on a shoestring budget. However this method can also be used for huge projects where paying an hourly rate upfront would just be far too expensive due to the amount of music needed.
From the developers point of view this is a very good option because you only pay based on what you sell. But, are you really set up to regularly pay monthly royalties to a composer for a year, or longer – life of the game?
There is a lot to be said for covering the origination costs of your game like artwork, audio etc up front, then you know where you stand and can reap the benefits of your game’s income going forward.
Also, the composer may not want to go for this method as he has to put all the work in up front with no guarantee of any income at the end of it. ‘It’s the same for me’ I hear you developers cry – but this is different, it’s YOUR game. If you are hiring in outside help (of any type), there has to be something tangible in it for them.
5. A combination of all four
This is my preferred method. I tend to work out how many man hours the music will take me to write, allow for amendments, scope of the project and any other aspects and then come up with a total price for the project.
If you haven’t already, I would recommend reading my article exactly how much you could expect to pay for a game composer, and do let me know below if you have come across any other ways of working with composers. I’m sure I can learn from you guys just as much as I can hopefully inform you.