This can sometimes be a good idea (but not always!), but if you don’t even know what factors could alter the cost, it’s no wonder you might be a bit reluctant to ask one in the first place.
This article will give you a heads up on what you are getting into so you at least know what things will be going through the composer’s mind when he drops the ‘P’ bomb!
Although some composers will charge a set price per track regardless, any reasonably experienced composer will prefer to charge depending on the specific brief. There’s not one overarching factor that is likely to increase the cost, but all of the following items work together to help the composer come up with his price. Here are what I think the six most important factors are:
What Affects The Price Of A Game Composer?
1. Amount of music required
Obvious really – a one off track will cost substantially less that 10 tracks. However, the reason for including such an obvious point here isn’t that I didn’t think you would realise that, it’s that the more tracks you commission at the same time from the same composer, the less each track is likely to cost.
Occasionally I have worked with game developers who aren’t sure of the scope of their project, (even roughly) so they have prefered to pay for each piece as and when they need it. This is fine from my perspective, but in order to get the most favourable rate, I would suggest scoping out the music of the game with the composer up front so he can then factor that in.
2. Complexity of music
An 8 bit chiptune track with three or four layers of sound will be infinitely easier and cheaper to produce than a Hans Zimmer epic. In some of my huge orchestral hybrid tracks the number of layers can run well over 40 but I know plenty of composers have orchestral templates running into over one hundred channels.
The amount of interactivity in the music also has a huge bearing on cost. For a fully interactive score with stems of audio being triggered by the game play, there could be three or four stems of audio being layered at any one time to create a full track. This is very complex as each stem has to be created separately eg low intensity, mid intensity & high intensity and then layered together to check they all work together. Although well worth it, this is extremely complex and time consuming from a composer’s point of view.
If you need something tomorrow (or quicker), don’t be surprised if you pay through the nose for it. Giving a composer plenty of time so he can fit your job in as and when, will probably result in the most pleasing price for you. Do point out just how flexible you are when you talk to a composer.
4. Rights requested
Exclusive music is always going to be cheaper than non-exclusive. Which you need is really up to you and the standards you want to set for your project. I know for a fact some composers offer two tiers of pricing. I don’t, as I like to work with developers who want to create unique games, so using music everyone else can have access to doesn’t really mesh with that outlook.
If you don’t care about having a unique soundtrack then non exclusive will be fine.
5. How experienced they are.
It goes without saying that an established, successful game composer will be more expensive that a newbie trying to get his first game under their belt. Don’t be intimidated though, if you like someone’s work feel free to ask. You’ll soon see what kind of level you are happy with and you’ll learn a lot by interacting with composers more too. It’s not all about the price – talk to us and we are happy to discuss your game. You never know, we may even help you gain a new perspective.
6. How much they LOVE your game!
I’ve saved the best till last – this is super important and a high leverage point from your point of view! It costs you nothing, but can put you in a very strong position when negotiating prices. Most composers will be much more willing to negotiate rates if they are itching to get your game in their portfolio.
That’s my take on the most common factors that will affect your quote from a composer.
Do you know an indie game dev who is considering asking a composer to quote for their game music? Do them a favour and and share this article with them. The more info they have up front the better.
(Photo: Cost of Music)