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What to do when offered a music related job.


Esperado
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Ok so i was just offered to help score what looks to be an educational game that may be used in schools, but i have pretty much no clue how to go about this opportunity. So im curious what advice people who have worked on soundtracks might have.since Its for an educational game, im not sure what kind of compensation there might be. I havent responded to the person yet so id like to sort out what things i should be asking.

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Well, you really need to write them back first before talking to us, and I would think some of the questions should be obvious, but here is a starting place:

1. How many tracks do you need?

2. Can you send me some Youtube examples of what you're looking for?

3. When is the deadline for this project?

4. How do you need the files delivered to you? Do you need .WAVs or .AIFFs?

5. How much creative control are you willing to afford me?

6. What sort of gig is this? Are you compensating me with a percentage of sales or a lump sum payment?

7. Will you be taking care of any mastering expenses I may need to finish your soundtrack properly?

That's usually my starting place. Sorry if you saw the previous confused post, I missed a vital part of the question. :P

Edited by Meteo Xavier
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I've never done anything of this sort before, so i figured it couldnt hurt to quick ask for some pointers. I figure its always best to double check before you just jump into an obligation. The only two questions i had thought of prior to asking were, what he is looking for soundwise and what kind of compensation there was. so im glad i asked! :)

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As sad as it is to say, asking for a reasonable pay is usually what makes them go with someone else, who would offer the same work for cheaper. I always try to keep that in mind when I am offered any opportunity, but if I'm working for friends, I always scoop it even lower, like absurdly low. In the end, if you get a really good opportunity, and the "product" blows up, the exposure could be more valuable than getting a few hundred bucks.

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Make sure both you and the person you're negotiating with are clear on who will own the rights to the music. If possible, and especially if they're not paying you a lot, you want to retain complete ownership of the music so you can use it for other things/sell it yourself/whatever.

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the guy was very upfront that they didnt have ALOT to pay me upfront, but i will make a percentage of sales after the game is released. Im just waiting on him consulting his development team before making the final decision to hire someone for the soundtrack.

I do understand the need to not sell yourself short, but given that ive never scored anything before, i dont even feel it would be fair to charge all kinds of money. Its also an educational game that theyre hoping to have used in schools. so without even taking pay into account, the fact that kids all over the place might be playing a game with my music in it sounds really rewarding in itself. If i inspired even one kid with my music, thats way cool.

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Get into a contract with them ASAP to lock in terms for compensation, deadlines, etc. to make the whole process more organized and definitive, ESPECIALLY if it's a fairly large project with multiple, full-length tracks involved. Plus, you'll look and sound professional as fuck.

Meteo's tips are solid, especially the Youtube one. I've asked everyone who has ever worked with me for reference material because a dev trying to describe the desired music to you with words is begging for the essence of what they want to be lost in translation. There's nothing more frustrating than spending hours writing something only to get feedback that the style isn't what the dev wanted.

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the guy was very upfront that they didnt have ALOT to pay me upfront, but i will make a percentage of sales after the game is released. Im just waiting on him consulting his development team before making the final decision to hire someone for the soundtrack.

I do understand the need to not sell yourself short, but given that ive never scored anything before, i dont even feel it would be fair to charge all kinds of money. Its also an educational game that theyre hoping to have used in schools. so without even taking pay into account, the fact that kids all over the place might be playing a game with my music in it sounds really rewarding in itself. If i inspired even one kid with my music, thats way cool.

I've been down the "we'll pay you a percentage" route before and I personally will never do it again. This is always a tactic that people use to say "if the project fails, I'm not out any more money than I've already spent and you'll get precisely jack and shit out of the deal. Then, I will run away and you'll never hear of me again." and the terms of what exactly you're getting are often vague at best. "A percentage of sales"...yeah, but does that mean just flat-out "sales" or actual "profit" as the two are completely different.

If you get a percentage of anything, I'd recommend getting a percentage of a budget if there was one. Actually, I'd always recommend trying to get 5 - 10% of the project's budget regardless. It's a more than fair asking price to create music that is essential to film or games.

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Get into a contract with them ASAP to lock in terms for compensation, deadlines, etc. to make the whole process more organized and definitive, ESPECIALLY if it's a fairly large project with multiple, full-length tracks involved. Plus, you'll look and sound professional as fuck.

Meteo's tips are solid, especially the Youtube one. I've asked everyone who has ever worked with me for reference material because a dev trying to describe the desired music to you with words is begging for the essence of what they want to be lost in translation. There's nothing more frustrating than spending hours writing something only to get feedback that the style isn't what the dev wanted.

my roommate was telling me to get on a contract too. Ill ask him about that next time i speak with him. Aside from sounding professional, Im far more likely to really crack into something if its written in stone and i have a timeline. This isnt to say that i wouldnt devote to it if i wasnt under contract, but its just all the more incentive to do excellently.

As for the youtube stuff, he didnt give me any youtube links when i asked, just some composers/remixers that were in a similar style to what he wanted, but told me i have a pretty wide margin of creative control to go with. Im just gonna write up a sketch for him and see what he thinks of it and go from there before i get in too deep on the style aspect of it.

thanks for all the help so far by the way. This really is a great community!

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I want to chime in that, yes, it's very important to get your terms locked in with a contract, but I want to advise against getting caught up with how MUCH money you're going to get and trying to force a more lucrative deal out of them just because other artists on here suggest you should. This is your first gig, you haven't really earned the kinds of things other artists who get to command what they want out of a deal have earned. It also makes you look more like a greedy opportunist and could help put the kibosh on the deal so you get nothing at all.

The contract itself is definitely more important and should be in any fixture of art hirin'. Even if you work for free, they have a responsibility to honor your agreed-upon terms and conditions. It is unreasonable for them not to do that under just about any circumstance.

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Good advice all around, in this topic. Realistically, if this is your first gig of this scale and you are an unproven entity, then I think you'll be better positioned to stick the landing on this job by not pushing too hard on the contract negotiation. You are making an investment in yourself, building a professional portfolio, while they (the company producing the game) are taking a risk on you and probably expect to pay you accordingly.

That said, here are some general guidelines for making sure you don't get screwed:

1. If the pay is very low, you should keep ownership of the music. The contract should still grant the company (them) rights to use your work in connection with the game in all forms, its promotion, etc, forever and everywhere at no additional charge. You may even allow them to use your music in sequels, spin-offs, prequels, and so on... although that's a little bit sketchy, in my opinion, yet not unheard of. Along with ownership, you ought to have exclusive rights to produce a soundtrack album or release singles (music only) if you want.

2. Be clear on what your fee covers. The trend is for these offers to come as a "package deal," meaning that the composer is responsible for paying for all or most of the costs of music production up to the point of delivery, directly out of his or her own package payment. In all honesty, it's not uncommon for starting composers to spend the entirety of the package on the music as they try to establish themselves, but your creative and financial needs will help determine how you spend your budget. Alternatively-- but not likely-- they may cover all music production costs and pay you a creative fee, which is either pure profit for you, or split between you and a mixing engineer. Again though, a package deal is far more probable for a low-budget project. Point is, you need to know this going in.

As an aside to this, also be clear on how many minutes of music they're expecting, approximately. Pay should reflect this.

3. Be clear on when you get paid, especially if any kind of live recording is involved. If you're going to be paying musicians or engineers for intermediate expenses, then you need to have a cash flow plan in place. You might propose a payment schedule such as the following: 1/3rd upon the latter of the signing of the contract or the first "creative meeting" to determine what it is they want out of the score, 1/3rd due upon commencement of recording, and the final 1/3rd due on delivery of the final masters (just for example).

4. Don't plan on seeing any income from any kind of "percentage share" scheme. It's a great clause to have so that if the project explodes, everyone gets a share of it, but don't count on it or plan your future around it, because it's rare for these kinds of projects to take off. Also, it should not be your only source of payment on a project unless you're doing this for a close friend and are spending nothing but your time.

There's a lot of other legal language that can go into these deals as they grow larger and deal with more money, but the above four points are good things to nail down no matter the what the size of the project is, imo. Please do keep in mind, however, that this is just my opinion and I am not a lawyer. =)

Good luck out there!

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I want to chime in that, yes, it's very important to get your terms locked in with a contract, but I want to advise against getting caught up with how MUCH money you're going to get and trying to force a more lucrative deal out of them just because other artists on here suggest you should. This is your first gig, you haven't really earned the kinds of things other artists who get to command what they want out of a deal have earned. It also makes you look more like a greedy opportunist and could help put the kibosh on the deal so you get nothing at all.

The contract itself is definitely more important and should be in any fixture of art hirin'. Even if you work for free, they have a responsibility to honor your agreed-upon terms and conditions. It is unreasonable for them not to do that under just about any circumstance.

Just for some clarification, what sort of "contract" are we talking about? I have no real experience in the legal matters of music and would like to know what I'm talking about when the occasion arrises. Is this a physical contract filled with legal what-have-you which the employer will provide, or is this just an agreed upon set of arrangements that you and your employer discuss regarding your rights? How does someone request such a contract if one isn't discussed?

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Contracts are a lot more arbitrary than people think. All you really need is a set of terms and two signatures, between you and the other party, and it becomes a legally binding document.

In my few experiences, I've had one instance where a contract was given to me by the company. It was their standard procedure for hiring "independent contractors" so they gave me the contract and the statement of work. That was the most formalized.

In another instance, I wrote up the contract and won't be making any music for the guy until he signs it. It clarifies terms of compensation, when he's supposed to report on royalties to me and deliver my cut, and how I'm allowed to treat the soundtrack as my property in perpetuity but will give him a cut of album sales since it uses his game's IP.

They can be as complicated or as not-complicated as you want them to be, but it's ALWAYS a good idea to make sure you are protecting your IP and you're getting paid. In an instance where I operated without being under contract, I simply didn't release the soundtrack until I have money in hand. I do the same thing with my voiceover work.

If it's a repeat client, I'm much more flexible as there's a trusting relationship there, but first-time clients always pay upfront if they won't do a contract that I can hold them to later.

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Contracts are a lot more arbitrary than people think. All you really need is a set of terms and two signatures, between you and the other party, and it becomes a legally binding document.

Yep. Here's a list of all you need for a legally binding contract. If I remember one thing from some business law class I took (and I really do only remember one thing...) it's this. And it's important because it can save both you AND the dev in legal fees. One of the devs I'm working with now spent $$$ on a formal work-for-hire contract, aaaand that wasn't exactly necessary. The advantage of having a more formal, lawyer-reviewed contract, though, is that there's almost 0 chance of a misunderstanding or a lawsuit arising about contract validity or terms. Like Joe said, it's all a matter of trust, really. If you're working with good people, maybe you don't need to shell out $$$$$$$$$$$ for a lawyer to draft a contract.

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this is a ridiculously helpful thread! Im sure plenty of other people around here were curious on this topic. Im still waiting to hear back from him currently. He told me he needed to get the OK from his game dev team before setting anything up official. Either way, sounds like solid advice here guys!

i might be back later to discuss dreaded taxes... D:. Ive heard you have to record them if you make a certain amount from this sort of thing, which sounds like a pain in the ass.

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Yeah contracts are crucial, and easy as hell to manage. As stated above, just write out the terms, fax it to get signed, sign it yourself, fax back a copy to verify that you both signed the correct contract, and you're set.

Another thing that I found very important when I was starting out was to make sure my presentation was professional. The easiest thing you can do to immediately raise your cred and chances of rehire is to get a nice looking invoice! Google docs is your best friend here! A clear, concise and attractive invoice is gonna tell your clients that you give a shit, and that you're running a business and aren't just some dude with a laptop.

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