WiFiSunset

Freelance Composer Contact/Agreement Question

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Hey all, 

I was starting to do more freelance composing projects. And I was wondering if I need to to a contract or some type of agreement form that details what works being done and for what price.

Is there a certain format that's best? And what needs to be included in it? 

 

Thanks, 

Cosmic Prism 

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YES. There are a ton out there that you can buy, or download for free. Some composers tend to make them available. I don't have a template at present, but it's something I need to do.

Basically the agreement needs to be legal "sounding" and have certain clauses to protect you. Things like this:

1. The amount (whether specific or a %) Sometimes it's best to do both. And most often in big AAA projects that is the case.

2. YOU holding the GRAND rights to the music. The only time this is ok is if it's a big AAA and they pay you a ton. Some companies will force this, or not hire you. You have to determine if you're ok with no having the right to post, sell, or ever reference the music you wrote for the money they give. Most composers say never do this, but some have, but only for big companies like film and AAA video game companies.

You are essentially giving them the right to use the music in their products and promotions for those projects. And only for that INSTALLMENT. So they can't use the music for the sequel, or spinoffs, or the movie/TV show, etc. Make sure that is specific as well. Licenses cover all platforms like PC, Console, iOS, etc.

3. The deadline.

4. Whether there are any penalties for the deadline.

5. Re-write clauses. (sorry I've never had these so not sure how to word them

6. Make sure the license is specific about where the law is governed. And make sure you know that law in terms of copyright and such.

7. Names, addresses, and signatures of both parties. No digital signing.

 

If you happen to be licensing music you already created, make sure to include whether it's exclusive or not.

 

That's all I got for now.

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Payment. If you're going by minute, specify the rate. If you're going by track, specify the price per track. If you're going flat fee, specify the fee.

Also, the contract should be clear about when you need to be paid. All upfront, half upfront/half upon final delivery, installments, etc.

In truth though, and this is from experience, what you want is to have leverage. What I mean by this is:

Say the contract states that, upon final delivery, you should receive your payment in full. You finish the music and deliver it, and now you expect payment. But then your client just up and leaves. He never pays you. You try to contact him, but no reply.

Now, you have a legal contract. But in order to use it to get your money, you're going to have to find him and take him to court. That takes time. That takes money. And unless it's a high paying project, you'll most likely end up spending more money on a lawyer plus other legal/court fees than the money you'll be getting back. Not to mention all the time wasted and headaches induced when you could have just been paid and have moved on to your next project.

So what I do is I make sure I have leverage. I often ask for half up front, half before final delivery. That means I don't even open up my DAW until I receive the first half, and I don't deliver the music at all until after I receive the second half. When sending works-in-progress, I send the very lowest quality I can that just allows him to hear the music: non-downloadable, set to video, mono (unless it's absolutely crucial he hear it in stereo), very low bit rate and sample rate, mixed in with dialog and sound.

The added benefit of this is that it encourages the client to not only pay, but to pay on time. If you deliver the music before they pay you, they can take their sweet ass time (or worse, never pay at all). But if you hold out until after they pay, that forces them to pay you quickly because they won't get the music until after they pay.

As long as you're honest and upfront about it from the beginning, your client should understand that you're just protecting your butt. And if not, those aren't the types of people I would want to work with.

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1 hour ago, Neifion said:

Payment. If you're going by minute, specify the rate. If you're going by track, specify the price per track. If you're going flat fee, specify the fee.

Also, the contract should be clear about when you need to be paid. All upfront, half upfront/half upon final delivery, installments, etc.

In truth though, and this is from experience, what you want is to have leverage. What I mean by this is:

Say the contract states that, upon final delivery, you should receive your payment in full. You finish the music and deliver it, and now you expect payment. But then your client just up and leaves. He never pays you. You try to contact him, but no reply.

Now, you have a legal contract. But in order to use it to get your money, you're going to have to find him and take him to court. That takes time. That takes money. And unless it's a high paying project, you'll most likely end up spending more money on a lawyer plus other legal/court fees than the money you'll be getting back. Not to mention all the time wasted and headaches induced when you could have just been paid and have moved on to your next project.

So what I do is I make sure I have leverage. I often ask for half up front, half before final delivery. That means I don't even open up my DAW until I receive the first half, and I don't deliver the music at all until I receive the second half. When sending works-in-progress, I send the very lowest quality I can that just allows him to hear the music: non-downloadable, set to video, mono (unless it's absolutely crucial he hear it in stereo), very low bit rate and sample rate, mixed in with dialog and sound.

The added benefit of this is that it encourages the client to not only pay, but to pay on time. If you deliver the music before they pay you, they can take their sweet ass time (or worse, never pay at all). But if you hold out until they pay, that forces them to pay you quickly because they won't get the music until after they pay.

As long as you're honest and upfront about it from the beginning, your client should understand that you're just protecting your butt. And if not, those aren't the types of people I would want to work with.

Good points. I knew I missed a few.

 

Also some developers will try to get you to sign THEIR contracts. Read these carefully. Often the person that makes the contract has the power. They often will put a clause that the contract is broken if a certain thing happens.

I had one I edited myself after they gave me one to have me keep the rights. They initially wanted all the rights. This was a simply early access project.

Later on I had a family member (my own mother) do a voice for the game, which they were fine with but in the end they didn't like the voice. But I didn't give them the contract to sign before reading/recording the script. They looked at this as a breach and decided to re-write the contract to have them keep the rights of the music. I understand NDA breaches, but family, even if recruited, was a bit of a stretch to burn the contract imo.

So make sure that part is very specific. Generally your wife, brothers, sisters, whatever are going to hear and see stuff.

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Thanks so much for the feedback on this :) !!!!! I've already put it to use, and it Really helps with making sure that you also don't waste your time either. Thanks so much for helping with this :D !!!

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