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Those who make money with their music: how?


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I do video game audio freelancing primarily to make money so I'll speak on that, as I don't know that much about licensing music for TV, etc. Usually this involves either me applying to a game I think is cool, or the indie company/game company asks me to work for them through word of mouth. I'll do sound design, music, audio implementation, handle voice acting, or a combination of all four. Especially on smaller games, the developer will likely want you to handle all aspects of audio. Personally I end up doing about 40% Music / 50% Sound Design / 10% Handling VA and editing.

Exclusive rights to the developer: Lower end indie/small company games are usually around 200-800$ per minute of completed music. AAA game rates are usually 1-2k$ per minute.

Sound design is generally done around 40-75$ for smaller titles per professional SFX depending on the company, a lump sum basis, or hourly rate of whatever people want to charge.

If the game company has no money, you should aim for a royalty share of at least 5-10% depending on the amount of work you do. If you are more well known you can possibly ask for more. Other contract stipulations you can include are: How many iterations of something you are allowed to do (you don't want people changing what they want from the music constantly as that just wastes your work time), soundtrack sales/rights, etc.

1.) Always have a contract.

2.) Always finish on time.

3.) Don't allow yourself to be trampled on. Your life and time are just as important as anyone elses.

4.) Try to maintain ownership of the music on smaller game titles if it is possible, though this can be really difficult to negotiate.

5.) If you're working with just a small group of people with no money, you can also exchange your music for one of their skills (website building, portfolio art, cool animated videos you can use for a demo reel, etc)

There are a ton of other things you can include in a contract to help yourself as well.

edit: If you want to get into game audio I would advise on learning FMOD and Wwise then looking into the many commonly used game engines such as: UDK, Unity, CryEngine, etc.

Edited by ShrackAttack
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That depends. Do you want to make money selling your songs/albums, or do you want to make money scoring films/TV/video games/commercials?

For the former, promote yourself like crazy on all social media platforms and try to get gigs at locals venues, whether it's a cafe, local jam, etc. Get a website going. If you get to the point where you're able to tour, consider doing that. Touring and reaching out to fans (and of course, constantly posting your tour shenanigans on Twitter, YouTube, etc.) can do a lot to increase exposure.

If you want to compose for media, try to hit up fellow students in the film/theater department of your local college. It may not be paying work at first, but I've known several people who say they got bigger and better paying gigs from those film school directors in later years. If you've worked with them, and they liked you and the work you did, chances are you'll be the first they'll call years later when (or if) they actually have a career. That brings up another point. Be likeable. No matter how good your music is, if you're a pain to work with, people aren't going to hire you. That doesn't always mean you have to agree (they hired you, so they should value your professional musical opinion), but you should be "agreeable" to work with, so to speak.

Finally, there are always music libraries. It's kind of a grind and usually only pays back-end after years and years, but it can pay off in the long run or at least give you a little passive income in the future.

Hope this helps!

Edited by Neifion
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I was going to write a long post here, but I was halfway done when I discovered I was actually just bragging about my accomplishments than offering anything useful (you might be surprised how often that happens when composers offer advice).

Best advice I can offer is to never do music for free or for exposure. At all. Ever. Always charge a minimum of $300 a minute, otherwise the entire infrastructure of the industry will collapse, your favorite composers will find themselves without jobs, and they will find you and burn down your house. Professional composers recommend you must charge a premium price no matter how good or bad you really are so that industry can stay healthy (and by staying healthy, I mean not making yourself look like a more attractive option to cheap videogame companies wanting to save a few bucks during development so that you're not active competition to them).

And also, if anyone ever does offer to use your music for free, make sure you write an incredibly long, exaggerated, pissed-off response and then Print Screen it and show it off in game music threads so that you'll earn street cred from other composers and a lot of high fives without really having to earn it or anything. If there's anything composers like more than job openings, it's viral picture memes that shame people.

Just do these things like the other professional composers do and you'll be well on your way to success. That's how success works, right?

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Asking from the perspective of a mixer/composer with a background of work with VGM, does anyone have any information on the process of actually making money? (As if it's that simple.)

Get really good at mixing and mastering, then offer those services to other musicians (like I do!) because nobody pays for music anymore, but bands still pay for their music to sound good anyway

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I do most of the following:

* Write, produce & sell albums

* Custom scoring work for video games, film, TV, ads

* Music licensing via libraries / publishers

* Create custom sounds + instruments for use by other musicians & producers

* Teaching / lessons

* Perform & record for other people (i.e. studio session work / remote sessions)

* Mixing, mastering, orchestration & other musician services

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So lets see... First commissioned work I did was for edgebee studios. They posted on OCR recruitment (thats a good place to go to try and find work, sometimes good people post there). Most other work has been through others finding me from my music on the internet. So a few suggestions - Market yourself as many ways as possible. Internet, non-internet, get yourself some flyers with links to your work to give out to people who might be interested in your work. You've got to market yourself as a brand/business to come off as professional. Going down the creating and selling albums route is a good source of self-employed income - but you need a marketing strategy. I have 3 albums on bandcamp - 2 were released without a 3rd party label backing it, and one was. Guess which one was the most successful?

Teaching is another good source of income if you can find enough people since you can get a steady income on a weekly basis there. The problem with music is that its not a set pay profession - many end up going from job to job just trying to keep afloat. You really want a steady second job till you become well known enough to let your music become your main profession, rather than your "career goal"

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Another option is to combine it with another skill and be hired to do both, depending on your interest and ability to do so.

For example, I am a programmer and did that exclusively for a few years. I wanted to get into doing game music, and was originally planning to try and only focus on doing that.

I had an interview with a company and they only needed a part-time music composer because they only needed about 7 tracks. However because I am a programmer as well, I was hired full-time to work on both the development of the game (with other programmers) and to do music.

This is extremely valuable to me as I had no prior experience doing music for games before, and it allowed me to do it without the pressure of looking for other work.

The downside, of course, is that you don't get to work on music full-time, as I'm sure many composers desire to do.

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you don't. :nicework:

I don't mean to imply that I've ever done professional work with music before, I just mean that I got into writing music by way of OCR, and I was remixing video game tracks before I began writing original.

But yeah, I was just wondering how writing music from that perspective has affected people who have VGM influenced material, and what commission work is like, and it's really cool to hear from the people here.

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If you're really really talented you'll get discovered eventually putting your music on youtube or something, like Justin Bieber did. It's a lot harder for everyone else who is working their way up to that level of talent over the span of years... very competitive industry.. over-saturated, etc.

Oh yeah, that's another thing.

You don't understand how powerful YouTube is in the music industry. It's ridiculous. You upload stuff to YouTube and you'll probably have better luck there than somewhere like SoundCloud.

I uploaded the same track on SoundCloud as I did on YouTube and YouTube quickly gained over 2k views (which isn't a lot but it's not downright awful either) while the track on SoundCloud slowly ramped up to about 1.5k.

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You really want a steady second job till you become well known enough to let your music become your main profession, rather than your "career goal"

I think this is some of the most important advice. I hit it in the voiceover world (not music, but still pretty elusive career-wise) but I did it by working 16 hours a day for about half a year as I built up one career and still kept my day job so that I wasn't going to bury my family if I didn't make it in VO. Now I've quit my day job, am supporting myself solely with voiceover work, and can begin to expand my music business as well.

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I'm no pro, but I've done my fair share of gigging, teaching and misc. other music projects since high school. If you're starting from the bottom, be prepared to work for very little. Publicity IS a fair deal (though cash should be involved as well) when you are starting out. I played a restaurant gig once a week for an entire year right out of high school. The pay was pretty shit, BUT we got fed, had basically paid rehearsal time every weekend (because we were just wallpaper), and it led to many, many other WELL paying gigs, and something to throw on the unofficial resume. Once you start progressing, don't step backwards. If someone has paid you 150 bucks for a track, then don't do tracks in the future for less than that unless they've somehow worked some other perks into it.

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