I see this question a lot online – game developers are looking for quality music for games, but at a reasonable cost.
Now, as a composer, you might be expecting me to say ‘you get what you pay for’ or ‘you should only ever use a composer’, but this isn’t necessarily true.
Context Is King When Deciding On Your Game Background Music
Rather than finding the source of the music you like and then working backwards to see if you can afford that music, I would suggest you approach things from the other way round. Start with the end goal in mind (to quote Stephen Covey).
Let me explain:
Scenario 1 – Let’s say you are making a game with an extremely limited budget (that’s everyone, right?)
Now, if that game is a small game which you just want to bang out there in a couple of months and be done with it, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to ask someone such as myself to create a custom music soundtrack for it.
Scenario 2 – Now lets say you are working on a large adventure game with a limited budget – you have been working on this game for three years and feel it is really THE game you want to be known for. You’ve put your heart and soul into this game and want (or need) it to be a success.
In the second case, slapping generic stock music on at the last minute is certainly not the way to go!
So you can see that ‘limited budget’ is common to both games, but the intention you have for the game is very different for each. This is what I mean by the context being important and I would argue that bearing this intention in mind at the start will pay dividends later.
Once you get into this contextual way of looking at things, price becomes a moving target too. What would be ‘reasonable’ for scenario 1 wouldn’t be appropriate for scenario 2 – or vice versa. Exactly what you can and can’t afford is a tricky once, but don’t let price immediately override your intention for the music in your game. There are always solutions and different options available to you.
So You’ve Decided You Still Want To Use A Stock Audio Site?
If you have decided a composer isn’t for you and you want stock music, just doing a Google search will bring up dozens of sites. The problem is that the quality, ease of use, cost and rights involved do vary drastically. So bearing that in mind, here are 3 sites I’ve looked into which pass all of the above criteria that I would consider using if I was on a shoestring budget.
audiojungle.net (Now Envato).
Big selection of music tracks & fx. The Music Packs seem good value. I found a handful of related tracks in a Music Pack for $28 (£17). For convenience and price that’s pretty hard to beat. No search filters as such though, so you have to know what you are after.
I actually licensed some music of mine many years ago to Sounddogs (It never made me very much money!) The site isn’t the greatest design out there, although you do get the chance to apply filters as you search for music. I found tracks for about $30 (£18).
Prices start from around $30 depending on exactly which type of licence you need. (See section on rights below for more on this.) You only have simple filter categories but if you have an approximate idea of what you are after it’s fine.
Why Wouldn’t I Use Library Music All The Time?
I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as I plan to cover this topic in another article, but in brief here are the main reasons stock music might not always be right:
So you can see that depending on your aims and specific requirements, stock music is a perfectly valid option, some of the time. As long as you are informed about the pros & cons and go in with your eyes (ears!) open it’s perfectly possible to find decent off the shelf music without it costing a fortune.