XPRTNovice

The Music and Business Thread

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Hey, I was wondering if anyone that has done OSTs for video games before has a sort of sample contract that they use with the developer? I'm trying to do some of my own research, and I understand contracts from an author/publisher perspective as a writer, but I've never even seen a music one. Not sure which rights to sell, any specific verbage, etc. The guy I'm working with is really small time and a contract probably isn't really necessary, but it's something I'd like to get in the habit of doing.

I'm partially commenting so I remember to keep an eye on this thread, and partially because this comment reminded me that I found a good resource for music contracts. I could benefit from a more direct template as well though, if anyone has any suggestions on that front, though I'm just starting to get my foot in the door so there's no immediate rush, heh

Edited by Phonetic Hero

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I'm partially commenting so I remember to keep an eye on this thread, and partially because this comment reminded me that I found a good resource for music contracts. I could benefit from a more direct template as well though, if anyone has any suggestions on that front, though I'm just starting to get my foot in the door so there's no immediate rush, heh

Tommy Tallarico commented on this at a panel at MAG - he runs a site where, if you join, you can get contract templates for nearly every audio project. I can't access it from the computer I am on right now but let me know if it's helpful.

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My two cents:

I've been a gigging musician, private instructor, freelance composer, and most recently a music educator. I've also had the opportunity to work in other industries such as photography for many years as well. While I think that everyone needs to go through the phase of working for chum change to get their name out there, I think the problem is that too many people remain in this phase.

I've found that this problem tends to occur more in photography than in music, but nevertheless both fields still experience it. When there are two many amateurs or unprofessionals out in the field advertising to do work (and usually not very good work) for next to nothing, it grossly oversaturates the market and makes it really hard for professionals to ask for fair pay when the client can go elsewhere and get an "adequate" product for a 1/4 the price. In terms of photography, I mainly keep it as a hobby now, because I know I'm competing with a thousand "photographers" with canon rebels and pirated copies of Photoshop who will shoot entire weddings for $200, original negatives included...

Music has tended to be a bit better, but it does create a bit of a dancing game when you're negotiating a wage and you have to hear things like "oh well we had a student group play the gala last year for $200 and they did a fine job". Well that is fine, but if you're expecting a group of 4 Proffesional musicians to come out to your gig, set up, play for 3 hours, and take down for 50 bucks a head, you have to be absolutely insane. In situations like that I usually just tell them I will play solo piano with 15 minute breaks between sets.

Where I come from we have a sort of unofficial musicians union which dictates pay, working conditions, etc. The problem is that a lot of bands do not follow it, and are happy playing for free beer. Again, this makes it very hard for real working musicians to justify asking for a fair wage.

That's my rant... Moral of the story is that everyone needs to start somewhere, but if you have a product, you better damn well sell it for what it's worth, for yourself and the sake of your industry.

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Oh, sorry. I pay a yearly membership fee on the site. That gives me a ranking in their search engine and the ability to audition for jobs that clients post. I audition for those jobs by submitting a sample of their script and a cover letter as well as my price (based on their budget range). The client then chooses me for the job and pays upfront into an escrow system (SurePay). We work on the job. When they're happy, they "release" the payment. The site takes a 10% cut of every job.

I started to work on doing VA stuff in college but it kind of went by the way side as time went on. I'm working on trying to gear myself up to do it again, though, and have started working on demos. i have the time and I have the equipment. I just need to get myself back into the practice of it. Are there any good sites you recommend to get scripts from for this purpose?

I've found that this problem tends to occur more in photography than in music, but nevertheless both fields still experience it. When there are two many amateurs or unprofessionals out in the field advertising to do work (and usually not very good work) for next to nothing, it grossly oversaturates the market and makes it really hard for professionals to ask for fair pay when the client can go elsewhere and get an "adequate" product for a 1/4 the price. In terms of photography, I mainly keep it as a hobby now, because I know I'm competing with a thousand "photographers" with canon rebels and pirated copies of Photoshop who will shoot entire weddings for $200, original negatives included...

As much as I love photography, I am myself trying to keep it as mostly a hobby. I may do some occasional work if asked but I could never see it being my main gig. I don't have nearly the amount of equipment to be a full on photographer for one but I am getting better at getting some decent shots.

Edited by theshaggyfreak

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I started to work on doing VA stuff in college but it kind of went by the way side as time went on. I'm working on trying to gear myself up to do it again, though, and have started working on demos. i have the time and I have the equipment. I just need to get myself back into the practice of it. Are there any good sites you recommend to get scripts from for this purpose?

Why waste your time practicing on scripts? Go to Elance or one voices.com or voice123.com and submit auditions. Practice that way - at least you might make some money. If you're looking for scripts for demo reels though, just google demo scripts.

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Why waste your time practicing on scripts? Go to Elance or one voices.com or voice123.com and submit auditions. Practice that way - at least you might make some money. If you're looking for scripts for demo reels though, just google demo scripts.

True that! I am going to put together some demos, though, so I have something for my profile. I suppose the best way to do it is to just do it. :)

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That's my rant... Moral of the story is that everyone needs to start somewhere, but if you have a product, you better damn well sell it for what it's worth, for yourself and the sake of your industry.

Not that I have a lot of popular opinions anyway, but in my 5+ experience as a freelance composer for things, I've found this oft-repeated philosophy to be meaningless air in actual practice.

This was something I learned back in Summer of 2012 when I lost a $2,000 composing gig to Virt. I was a frontrunner for that gig until he showed up, seemingly out of the blue, and I quite simply could not compete.

I wasn't too disappointed about losing the gig, I knew from the get-go I was lucky I got as far as I did, but I was extremely confused. For years, I had heard every Ocremix musician who went on to actually work in games say this same thing "never charge what you're not worth" "never charge less than $300-$500 a minute for music". They fucking meant it too, and if anyone can actually justify charging $500 a minute for music, it's most definitely Virt. He's still peerless in terms of quality. So why then did I lose this gig to him? There was only a budget for $2,000 and it required more than an hour's worth of music. That's not even $35 a minute.

Then a chilling thought occurred to me, and it suddenly made a lot of sense why the veteran composers were always telling the amateurs to charge these high prices for their music - this isn't something they actually practice rigorously, this is something they tell amateurs to remove them as low-cost competition.

And the more I dove into this subject, the worse it got. I could sum up what posts by Jeremy Soule I read as "wow, the rich really do want to keep getting richer" while other, less known composers working for A and AAA titles make less than what I made 12 years ago working fast food at a water park, at 1.5x the hours too. The divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" in this line of work could be called "Grand Canyon II" (I was going to make an Occupy joke here, but I couldn't think of a good one).

So I see what you're saying and I think, "The sake of the industry? Why would I want to keep an industry like this going?" It is well known that the music industries are cut-throat, but what that actually means isn't often detailed, possibly for good reason. The same composers who you look up to and give you advice are, more often than you want to believe, consider you something to be eliminated so you don't take high $ business from them. They might bad mouth you in private (I've seen that happen) to sully your reputation, they will enter competitions and auditions they are painfully overqualified for (I've seen that happen multiple times), they'll even steal other peoples' music (a common practice in film composing!) and SEO stuff ranging from keywords to whole domain names to capitalize on their brand (Kage, anyone?).

Why? Fame and fortune. Same shit as always. If you really could buy a used car for something you composed in less than an hour on the piano and have sections of the whole world love you and think you're a God for it - you'd be hard pressed to give up any grasp you have on that opportunity too. You'd pull some shit to make sure you still had your lottery ticket and you wouldn't even know you were doing it, much less care. We all, to some degree, would. That's why more and more and more people keep wanting to become professional musicians and actors and models and turn it into this human ideal where art is the only thing that matters, and business and hard work are Satan's penis made flesh. All to be a star.

What defends this? Simple - "it's business". And they're right, it is.

But it's also business for someone like me to want to undercut $500-a-minute musicians for $500-a-soundtrack. If the industry operates on the law of the jungle, then I'll hunt where it hurts the most - the checkbook. That's the only real sin here, isn't it? Well, Hell isn't scary to someone who's already been burned a lot of times. Damn right I'll do $500 voicework for $10.50 and a sandwich (provided that sandwich came from Quiznos and not the client), I don't need to drain a client of money and call it "business". Maybe I don't like the philosophy of greed, maybe I want the client to use the money they didn't spend on a high-priced musician to provide a really good birthday party for their young child, maybe there's more to life than art and getting rich and famous doing it.

It's my business after all - who has the right to tell me what to do with it?

(Apart from federal mandates that is).

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Not that I have a lot of popular opinions anyway, but in my 5+ experience as a freelance composer for things, I've found this oft-repeated philosophy to be meaningless air in actual practice.

This was something I learned back in Summer of 2012 when I lost a $2,000 composing gig to Virt. I was a frontrunner for that gig until he showed up, seemingly out of the blue, and I quite simply could not compete.

I wasn't too disappointed about losing the gig, I knew from the get-go I was lucky I got as far as I did, but I was extremely confused. For years, I had heard every Ocremix musician who went on to actually work in games say this same thing "never charge what you're not worth" "never charge less than $300-$500 a minute for music". They fucking meant it too, and if anyone can actually justify charging $500 a minute for music, it's most definitely Virt. He's still peerless in terms of quality. So why then did I lose this gig to him? There was only a budget for $2,000 and it required more than an hour's worth of music. That's not even $35 a minute.

Then a chilling thought occurred to me, and it suddenly made a lot of sense why the veteran composers were always telling the amateurs to charge these high prices for their music - this isn't something they actually practice rigorously, this is something they tell amateurs to remove them as low-cost competition.

And the more I dove into this subject, the worse it got. I could sum up what posts by Jeremy Soule I read as "wow, the rich really do want to keep getting richer" while other, less known composers working for A and AAA titles make less than what I made 12 years ago working fast food at a water park, at 1.5x the hours too. The divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" in this line of work could be called "Grand Canyon II" (I was going to make an Occupy joke here, but I couldn't think of a good one).

So I see what you're saying and I think, "The sake of the industry? Why would I want to keep an industry like this going?" It is well known that the music industries are cut-throat, but what that actually means isn't often detailed, possibly for good reason. The same composers who you look up to and give you advice are, more often than you want to believe, consider you something to be eliminated so you don't take high $ business from them. They might bad mouth you in private (I've seen that happen) to sully your reputation, they will enter competitions and auditions they are painfully overqualified for (I've seen that happen multiple times), they'll even steal other peoples' music (a common practice in film composing!) and SEO stuff ranging from keywords to whole domain names to capitalize on their brand (Kage, anyone?).

Why? Fame and fortune. Same shit as always. If you really could buy a used car for something you composed in less than an hour on the piano and have sections of the whole world love you and think you're a God for it - you'd be hard pressed to give up any grasp you have on that opportunity too. You'd pull some shit to make sure you still had your lottery ticket and you wouldn't even know you were doing it, much less care. We all, to some degree, would. That's why more and more and more people keep wanting to become professional musicians and actors and models and turn it into this human ideal where art is the only thing that matters, and business and hard work are Satan's penis made flesh. All to be a star.

What defends this? Simple - "it's business". And they're right, it is.

But it's also business for someone like me to want to undercut $500-a-minute musicians for $500-a-soundtrack. If the industry operates on the law of the jungle, then I'll hunt where it hurts the most - the checkbook. That's the only real sin here, isn't it? Well, Hell isn't scary to someone who's already been burned a lot of times. Damn right I'll do $500 voicework for $10.50 and a sandwich (provided that sandwich came from Quiznos and not the client), I don't need to drain a client of money and call it "business". Maybe I don't like the philosophy of greed, maybe I want the client to use the money they didn't spend on a high-priced musician to provide a really good birthday party for their young child, maybe there's more to life than art and getting rich and famous doing it.

It's my business after all - who has the right to tell me what to do with it?

(Apart from federal mandates that is).

What you say is very depressing, but I do believe there is much truth in it. It's why the idea of video game scoring has increasingly soured for me over the years, to the point where I don't want to do it.

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If your goal is to make money with your music, then you need to look way beyond just video games. That's all I'm going to say about that...

I for one have dipped beyond video games and even music. Since I run my own show, I can stretch my arms out into whatever I can if I have the skills to fit the job. Sometimes you work on getting a particular gig and you end up being hired for something totally different than originally planned. Everyone has these sort of stories.

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If your goal is to make money with your music, then you need to look way beyond just video games. That's all I'm going to say about that...

Agreed again. Diversify your opportunities. Putting all of your eggs in one proverbial basket decreases your chances for success in any walk of life.

- Like only chasing women/men from one city. Or one body type.

- Being on a job hunt and applying for one job at a time.

- Going to buy a car and only visiting one dealership.

Also as a side note if everyone is passionate about games and being involved in the creation of games why only stick to music? Learn programming and or art. Market yourself as multiple roles. Hell make your own game! Form a small team of people.

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sounds fun. i might enjoy working on this.

not to sell myself cheap, but if i get enthusiastic about your project, i can do it for free.

I do not understand at all why you would make this post publicly after all of the discussions we've had about how musicians offering to do work for free hurts the industry for everyone involved.

EDIT: Further discussions about working for free should not be in this thread. If you want to undercut musicians, do it privately.

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I do not understand at all why you would make this post publicly after all of the discussions we've had about how musicians offering to do work for free hurts the industry for everyone involved.

scuse me, i'm here for the music...i wasn't aware of any commercial guild-like structure on this amateur site.

if you didn't notice, i want payment in the form of enthusiasm. money ain't my currency.

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scuse me, i'm here for the music...i wasn't aware of any commercial guild-like structure on this amateur site.

if you didn't notice, i want payment in the form of enthusiasm. money ain't my currency.

This probably should be taken somewhere else on a new forum thread, but I have to agree with Joe here, it generally does harm to the industry.

However, I appreciate your very generous attitude. I think anyone would and should appreciate that. :)

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I dropped the 3 "work for free" posts into this forum, where it is more appropriate to discuss. I was out of line, I think, in starting it in his thread.

Now that we are here, though,

scuse me, i'm here for the music...i wasn't aware of any commercial guild-like structure on this amateur site.

if you didn't notice, i want payment in the form of enthusiasm. money ain't my currency.

Composers have a hard time paying for things in enthusiasm. The guy was offering money on a game concept that was deeper into development than most games we see posted on OCR.

I don't know what you do for a living, but I'm not sure you would be saying money ain't your currency if someone who does your job as a hobby offered to do one of your projects for free. OCR isn't exactly a fount of employment, but the jobs that do come through here are still jobs. Maybe I'm in the clouds, but I expected OCR to be a sort of "safe zone" for musicians, where we support each other's art and getting what we deserve for that art when people want to use our art - not saying "I'll do it for free" after several musicians say that they're interested in being hired.

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In my experience in the professional [nonmusic] world, if you do professional work for free you usually just get taken advantage of.

I know too many students eager to get work saying "I can do it for free!" and people are like "Great! Fine by me!" When people approached me with contracts I was always upfront that I should get paid for my work. At the beginning I horrifically undercharged myself, but that's what experience gives you. It doesn't always guarantee work but it also keeps you out of wasting your time with projects that don't go anywhere.

Speaking from the perspective of having done at least one paid soundtrack and one unpaid soundtrack, there are places to do free projects for experience and for fun, but not when people are offering money. It just undercuts everyone trying to make something out of the hobby.

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In my experience in the professional [nonmusic] world, if you do professional work for free you usually just get taken advantage of.

I know too many students eager to get work saying "I can do it for free!" and people are like "Great! Fine by me!" When people approached me with contracts I was always upfront that I should get paid for my work. At the beginning I horrifically undercharged myself, but that's what experience gives you. It doesn't always guarantee work but it also keeps you out of wasting your time with projects that don't go anywhere.

Speaking from the perspective of having done at least one paid soundtrack and one unpaid soundtrack, there are places to do free projects for experience and for fun, but not when people are offering money. It just undercuts everyone trying to make something out of the hobby.

Can't agree enough, especially with the portions I emphasized. Being taken advantage of is an issue already. It only gets worse when the person takes advantage of the person going far too cheap or even for free and therefore very well could put other potential musicians out of work because this one guy over here is doing it all for free or is undercharging. Then it becomes a problem for both sides and that's at least part of problem and the harm that can be done to the industry. Also, I'll just quote what Joe said:

I expected OCR to be a sort of "safe zone" for musicians, where we support each other's art and getting what we deserve for that art when people want to use our art - not saying "I'll do it for free" after several musicians say that they're interested in being hired.

Edited by Garrett Williamson

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I'm with Nase. What a person wants to charge or not charge for their services is their business, not the business of an industry that is already painfully punishing to everyone in the first place. Everytime someone says something about "hurting the industry", what they're really saying is, "stop charging less than I do so you have a better chance of getting the job than I do!"

The little known secret is that composers DO undercharge from time to time and "hustle" it when they know it looks more attractive to land jobs. I've seen Virt do it and I've seen former Squaresoft composers do it. This talk of "hurting the industry" is straight up nonsense, only designed to be a quasi-sophisticated smoke screen for composers to protect themselves individually pretending to protect themselves as a brotherhood.

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Everytime someone says something about "hurting the industry", what they're really saying is, "stop charging less than I do so you have a better chance of getting the job than I do!"

Uhhhhh

Wow, ok.

It's not like any of us need work or anything.

It genuinely does harm to those who need work and therefore can harm the industry.

Not sure how I'm supposed to explain what I feel is clear as day.

It has nothing to do with getting a "better chance". The other guy will be taken advantage of, put other potential musicians out of work in the meantime, and the guy getting the work won't even be getting paid what he should be getting paid, which is practically demeaning the value of musicians and music. I'd say that clearly harms the industry.

Also Meteo and Nase, there was an actual thread we moved this to.

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Everytime someone says something about "hurting the industry", what they're really saying is, "stop charging less than I do so you have a better chance of getting the job than I do!".

I quoted that guy a large amount of money that will be easily undercut by anyone bidding competitively. So, no. Not even close.

There's a big difference between doing something for nothing or next to nothing and bidding competitively.

EDIT: Nase, somehow in my moderator fatfingering I've deleted your follow up post and can't seem to recover it. Sorry about that :( I do want to apologize for coming off hot-tempered, and I appreciate your second post saying you understood where I was coming from.

Edited by XPRTNovice

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The only time I will do something on spec is if it's a project I REALLY like and the person in charge doesn't have the funds to pay for the music right off the bad. I rarely do this and it usually doesn't work out in the end. I find that devs that go into things with this mindset often don't follow through and my time is wasted. It's my choice to do that in those cases and I have no one to blame but myself.

In a situation where someone is serious and understands that artists need to get paid something up front, I tend to give them a flat per song rate where I keep the right to sell the soundtrack. I have found this tends to work with small indy devs. I wouldn't say my fees are a "low ball" but I think they're competitive without being too high priced. I'm sure someone who is more well known can command a high rate but I'm obviously not at that point.

I've done some small projects and I'm currently involved in a somewhat high profile project but I haven't exactly created a name for myself yet. I think that it's pretty easy to become aware of when that situation changes. It's all a grey area that each person has to decide for themselves.

If anyone out there wants to get into doing things for "free", there are TONS of projects out there that are looking for you. Some of them grow into bigger and better things. If you're starting out, that may or may not be a waste of time but that's a decision you have to make. If you believe in yourself AND that your art is worth something in a monetary sense, start traveling down the other road and look for paid jobs.

I have found hanging out and reading game dev forums has helped me quite a bit in scoping out the indy scene. I highly recommend doing that sort of thing.

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I understand the disagreement on whether or not free work undercuts professionals who are trying to make or supplement a living wage doing this, but I would argue that to some degree, this self-regulates.

People who want quality music and can pay for it often will; those who can't, won't. It's kind of a trite comparison, but it's like the old saying that friends who won't back you up when you're in need aren't friends at all-- employers or teams who would be willing to take someone who's offering their work for free or drastically undervalued may not be employers or teams you want to be working with anyway. I understand being frustrated when you bidded $300 a minute or whatever and someone undercuts you by $50 a minute, so the developer goes with them, but that's part of doing business. Bidding $300 a minute and having a developer go with someone who's asking $20 for the whole project? I'd say that project may not be the best fit for you anyway. Other work will come along.

The caveat here is that I've never been a working composer, just a sound designer, so the stakes and availability of work may be considerably different.

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