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[SPINOFF) Rate discussion from "Wanted - Music Composer for Nintendoish RPG that teaches Japanese" thread

NoOneKnowsAnything

Active Member
Hi everyone,

I am looking for a music composer for my Indie Game called "Nihongo Quest."

The game is the first in a series of RPGs that will teach the player how to understand Japanese.

STYLE:
I have interested some preliminary screenshots from the game below to give you an idea, but my biggest influences for the game have largely been Nintendo games, so I am hoping to have someone that can compose in that sort of style.

WHAT I NEED:
The game is actually quite an ambitious project, so I will need quite a bit of music to accompany the game. I probably need a 30 second- 1 minute song for each of the following:

1 Main theme
~23 town themes
~23 path/route themes
~4 battle themes
~5 character/villain themes
1 Dungeon Theme
1 Racing Mini Game theme

I might be forgetting a few, but in total I believe it should come out to ~60 songs.

COMPENSATION:
As this is a budget indie game, compensation will be approximately $3000-4000. That means that it will probably come out to somewhere around $50-$100 per minute of music. Additionally, I would also be open to selling the soundtrack as a DLC/extra to the game and figuring out some sort of revenue share to get you additional profit. If you are really interested in the game but would need to negotiate the compensation, please let me know privately.

TIMELINE:
We are aiming for a release of this game during Q1 of next year, so I would be hoping to have all of the work done between now and the end of the year. Ideally, we would have 5-10ish songs done in the next month or so and then 1-2 songs per week until the end of the year so that the songs are developed along with the game.

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Whoever created this game you should tell them that their budget is exploitative. No composer should work for $50 per minute of music. I strongly suggest composers not compose original music for less than $500 per minute as the absolute lowest rate. There are royalty free libraries producers can use to pay for music for much less than $500 per minute, but that also means the music is not exclusive for that project.

When someone gets hired at a minimum wage they should not also be required to be an investor of someone else’s project yet they get no investment return on it. Being a composer you are not only creating original product but more often than not need to spend a lot of money on equipment to be able to deliver a final product. This costs need to be addressed by anyone hiring you including your costs for being alive, maintaining a studio, electricity, etc... $500 per minute of music should be the absolute lowest rate anyone should work for.

Hans Zimmer and John Williams get $3 million for a major film, that does not include the backend royalties they receive or the percentage of adjusted gross box office. That means they are getting at least $40,000 per minute of music or possibly way more than that. No composer should be working for $50 per minute of music, that’s just absurd and if more people refused to work for so little producers would be forced to pay much higher and more reasonable rates. IMHO I don’t think professional composers should work for less than $1,000 per minute of music, so the rate I gave above is half that, think about it.
 
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dcoscina

Senior Member
Whoever created this game you should tell them that their budget is exploitative. No composer should work for $50 per minute of music. I strongly suggest composers not compose original music for less than $500 per minute as the absolute lowest rate. There are royalty free libraries producers can use to pay for music for much less than $500 per minute, but that also means the music is not exclusive for that project.

When someone gets hired at a minimum wage they should not also be required to be an investor of someone else’s project yet they get no investment return on it. Being a composer you are not only creating original product but more often than not need to spend a lot of money on equipment to be able to deliver a final product. This costs need to be addressed by anyone hiring you including your costs for being alive, maintaining a studio, electricity, etc... $500 per minute of music should be the absolute lowest rate anyone should work for.

Hans Zimmer and John Williams get $3 million for a major film, that does not include the backend royalties they receive or the percentage of adjusted gross box office. That means they are getting at least $40,000 per minute of music or possibly way more than that. No composer should be working for $50 per minute of music, that’s just absurd and if more people refused to work for so little producers would be forced to pay much higher and more reasonable rates. IMHO I don’t think professional composers should work for less than $1,000 per minute of music, so the rate I gave above is half that, think about it.
Yeah I’ve done work on ads and RPGs for around $75 per minute and even after I delivered a score that the developer loved, they wouldn’t agree to paying more money for their next project so I didn’t end up scoring it. It’s a race to the bottom these days...

that said, it is important to look at the total budget of any project. You cannot impose the pay structure that the two top Hollywood composers get for scoring blockbuster movies as a yardstick for what composers should earn. It’s up to the individual composer as to what they feel They are worth. And it’s up to clients to to decide whether paying more is worth it for their project.

I scored a few ads for an agency thanks to my friend who worked there as an editor. After Idelivered the score, he told me his co workers were all impressed with the music and he said “that’s because it wasn’t library music edited to match the ad, but it’s music composed FOR picture”. So some people can appreciate the difference. But the question is whether they appreciate it enough with their wallets.
Often, The old adage is “you get what you pay for”.
 
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Rory

Amateur Auteur
$500 per minute of music should be the absolute lowest rate anyone should work for.

IMHO I don’t think professional composers should work for less than $1,000 per minute of music, so the rate I gave above is half that, think about it.

Hi, are these numbers based on industry practice or data or do they just reflect your personal view?

The budget stated in the first post is $3,000 - $4,000. Your preferred number would seem to require an increase to $30,000 - $40,000. Your rock bottom number would bring it to $15,000 - $20,000.
 
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Tice

Active Member
Whoever created this game you should tell them that their budget is exploitative. No composer should work for $50 per minute of music. I strongly suggest composers not compose original music for less than $500 per minute as the absolute lowest rate. There are royalty free libraries producers can use to pay for music for much less than $500 per minute, but that also means the music is not exclusive for that project.

When someone gets hired at a minimum wage they should not also be required to be an investor of someone else’s project yet they get no investment return on it. Being a composer you are not only creating original product but more often than not need to spend a lot of money on equipment to be able to deliver a final product. This costs need to be addressed by anyone hiring you including your costs for being alive, maintaining a studio, electricity, etc... $500 per minute of music should be the absolute lowest rate anyone should work for.

Hans Zimmer and John Williams get $3 million for a major film, that does not include the backend royalties they receive or the percentage of adjusted gross box office. That means they are getting at least $40,000 per minute of music or possibly way more than that. No composer should be working for $50 per minute of music, that’s just absurd and if more people refused to work for so little producers would be forced to pay much higher and more reasonable rates. IMHO I don’t think professional composers should work for less than $1,000 per minute of music, so the rate I gave above is half that, think about it.

While I can find little fault in what you're saying, I also know that there's no getting around the fact that indie devs have limited budgets. And that if they're in need of a certain amount of music for that limited budget, you end up either working for a low rate per hour of work, or you deliver music that'll likely reflect poorly on your skill as a composer. I believe it's upto the designers to design their game such that they can make good use of the budget they have. So if they can only afford to do 5 minutes of music well, don't do 30 minutes of music poorly, but design your game such that it only needs the 5 minutes that are done well. That'd be no different from deciding not to do a massive open world if all you can make for the budget you have is a randomly generated plain with nothing much to do in it.
All that said, composers trying to break into the industry can hardly be blamed for taking whatever opportunity comes knocking, since it could be the only chance you get.
All that to say, from a human perspective, I get why it happens. That doesn't make the outcome any better though.
 

chrisr

Senior Member
I would agree that the developer should probably cut back their expectations to having 1 of each theme - so 7 x themes - not 58. A quick web-search would suggest that this may be the first game project of a 1 man band who has a genuine passion for the Japanese language and not a lot of cash - rather than some Machiavellian figure looking to exploit young composers. I also suspect that the game might not make a profit, if it makes it to market, and that the composer should ask for half the fee upfront and the other half before final delivery.

Many years ago I wrote (and was paid for) a few games that didn't make it to market. Bit depressing all round, especially for the poor developer. :(
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

NoOneKnowsAnything

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While I can find little fault in what you're saying, I also know that there's no getting around the fact that indie devs have limited budgets. And that if they're in need of a certain amount of music for that limited budget, you end up either working for a low rate per hour of work, or you deliver music that'll likely reflect poorly on your skill as a composer. I believe it's upto the designers to design their game such that they can make good use of the budget they have. So if they can only afford to do 5 minutes of music well, don't do 30 minutes of music poorly, but design your game such that it only needs the 5 minutes that are done well. That'd be no different from deciding not to do a massive open world if all you can make for the budget you have is a randomly generated plain with nothing much to do in it.
All that said, composers trying to break into the industry can hardly be blamed for taking whatever opportunity comes knocking, since it could be the only chance you get.
All that to say, from a human perspective, I get why it happens. That doesn't make the outcome any better though.
I say, don’t ever work that cheap. Let them be forced to use non-exclusive royalty free music libraries and if they want tailored custom original music they will be forced to raise more money for their project!!!
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

NoOneKnowsAnything

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Hi, are these numbers based on industry practice or data or do they just reflect your personal view?

The budget stated in the first post is $3,000 - $4,000. Your preferred number would seem to require an increase to $30,000 - $40,000. Your rock bottom number would bring it to $15,000 - $20,000.
Imagine telling a plumber who wants $150 an hour that your budget is only for $15, ya think he’s gonna show up? Never! No composer should allow a producer to oppress and exploit him this horribly!!
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

NoOneKnowsAnything

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Yeah I’ve done work on ads and RPGs for around $75 per minute and even after I delivered a score that the developer loved, they wouldn’t agree to paying more money for their next project so I didn’t end up scoring it. It’s a race to the bottom these days...

that said, it is important to look at the total budget of any project. You cannot impose the pay structure that the two top Hollywood composers get for scoring blockbuster movies as a yardstick for what composers should earn. It’s up to the individual composer as to what they feel They are worth. And it’s up to clients to to decide whether paying more is worth it for their project.

I scored a few ads for an agency thanks to my friend who worked there as an editor. After Idelivered the score, he told me his co workers were all impressed with the music and he said “that’s because it wasn’t library music edited to match the ad, but it’s music composed FOR picture”. So some people can appreciate the difference. But the question is whether they appreciate it enough with their wallets.
Often, The old adage is “you get what you pay for”.
Did I say charge $40,000-$80,000 per minute of music? No. No where near those rates. $500 per minute is 1/80th to 1/160th that amount and is a very low rate to begin with. If they can’t afford a composer force them to buy non-exclusive royalty free music library cues!!! It is astounding that anyone would work for less.
 

Tice

Active Member
Imagine telling a plumber who wants $150 an hour that your budget is only for $15, ya think he’s gonna show up? Never! No composer should allow a producer to oppress and exploit him this horribly!!

I don't disagree with you. But it's also not a distantiated technical system you're describing. There's humans involved. Humans who worry that they might never get another shot at this.
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

NoOneKnowsAnything

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I asked you what your numbers are based on. It's a reasonable question. I can get quite solid info on what the local rates are for plumbers.
From my 30 plus years of being in the biz. You are bringing up a huge issue too since if you reach out to most successful composers they will not ever talk about how much they charge, that’s part of this problem. I’m not talking about the top A-list composers as info slips out on their fees. I’m talking about nuts and bolts composers who are not at the top of the A-list. There are some articles written about this too. I will include a link below. This article mentions some rates that I learned over decades are really lowball rates for composers who really should hold out for more.


There is a better source I have to find again than this article. Typically, composers get 2-5% of the production budget. However, it’s important to gauge how much music they want you to write as well, and one must make sure that the minimum rate per minute does not fall too low especially if the project’s budget is not particularly sizeable enough. Working on student films usually pays nothing. Indie films can pay 💰 some money so I suggest not to ever work for less than $500 per minute. And, none of my rates include the cost of hiring live musicians, orchestrators, copyists, engineers, etc... My suggested minimum rate is purely for creative fees. If they want to pay you a package price and the composer is responsible for the orchestra recording and other live musicians then your package price must be your creative fee plus the entire cost to pay for the orchestra recording including conductor, booker, copyists and orchestrators.
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

NoOneKnowsAnything

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I don't disagree with you. But it's also not a distantiated technical system you're describing. There's humans involved. Humans who worry that they might never get another shot at this.
That’s exactly the problem. And, I’ve been in those shoes so I speak from experience. But realize usually the less you charge the more they don’t respect you and it’s not easy to get them to raise your rates. And, if they do raise your rates it’s like here’s another penny for ya. I have found that there is no end to paying your dues if you simply succumb to a take it or leave it offer. You will spend your whole career making nothing and go broke. What’s even scarier is that major Hollywood studios engage in lowballing composers too and so do tons of A-list producers. These studios are completely prepared to pay composers so much more than they offer them and many composers get scared and succumb to a lowball offer not realizing how much the studio is used to paying and was prepared to pay them.
 
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Rory

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Typically, composers get 2-5% of the production budget. However, it’s important to gauge how much music they want you to write as well, and one must make sure that the minimum rate per minute does not fall too low especially if the project’s budget is not particularly sizeable enough. Working on student films usually pays nothing. Indie films can pay 💰 some money so I suggest not to ever work for less than $500 per minute. And, none of my rates include the cost of hiring live musicians, orchestrators, copyists, engineers, etc... My suggested minimum rate is purely for creative fees. If they want to pay you a package price and the composer is responsible for the orchestra recording and other live musicians then your package price must be your creative fee plus the entire cost to pay for the orchestra recording including conductor, booker, copyists and orchestrators.

I think that you're basically saying that people shouldn't work on low-budget productions. I also think that your last three sentences above just aren't about the low budget world.
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

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Your heart is obviously in the right place, I don't doubt that. May I suggest a more open-ended approach to negotiations:
Tell the composer you're negotiating with what your budget for music is and ask them what they can do for that budget. The composer will often have great ideas for maximizing the amount of music you do have so that you can do more with less.
Rather than having a clear idea of what music you want where in your game, trust their expertise to find out what you can really do with the means you have.
For $4,000 it would not reasonable to ask a composer to write 8 minutes of finished music, so in his scenario that’s 16 30-second original cues tailored exclusively just for his game. That’s reasonable. Of course there are composers willing to work for much less, but they are only hurting themselves in the process by being willing to get lowballed in a career that requires talent and high capital expenditures.
 

Tice

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For $4,000 it would not reasonable to ask a composer to write 8 minutes of finished music, so in his scenario that’s 16 30-second original cues tailored exclusively just for his game. That’s reasonable. Of course there are composers willing to work for much less, but they are only hurting themselves in the process by being willing to get lowballed in a career that requires talent and high capital expenditures.
There's another way to look at it. Rather than musically representing every area uniquely (thus needing lots of short loops), you could go for representing moods. (If the player is doing well, you have one piece of music, if the player is doing less well, you get another piece, and if the player is nearly defeated, you get another) Then you might need a loop for story beats, and a main menu loop. That's 5 pieces that can be a bit longer and fleshed out.
And then there's ambient sounds that can be produced much more cheaply per minute.
 

Brian99

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Imagine telling a plumber who wants $150 an hour that your budget is only for $15, ya think he’s gonna show up? Never! No composer should allow a producer to oppress and exploit him this horribly!!

Here's the difference, according to this thread it appears there are several people willing to do the work at the amount offered. The OP did the right thing by stating up front what he was looking for and what he was willing to pay. If that's not something your willing to do then don't offer you're services, but no need to knock the people who are.
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

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Here's the difference, according to this thread it appears there are several people willing to do the work at the amount offered. The OP did the right thing by stating up front what he was looking for and what he was willing to pay. If that's not something your willing to do then don't offer you're services, but no need to knock the people who are.
I’m trying to educate and protect them since there is no composers union and I’ve been taken advantage of before and it’s impossible to get other composers to communicate about this topic. If people don’t know any better they will get exploited terribly and one day look back and really resent it. This industry has financial consequences and if you want to be a professional and don’t earn a reasonable wage then will be forced to sell your gear and find an entirely new line of work to pursue.
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

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I think that you're basically saying that people shouldn't work on low-budget productions. I also think that your last three sentences above just aren't about the low budget world.
For example, an indie film with a $400,000 production budget can pay a composer, and I know several composers that do just this kind of work routinely, $15,000-$20,000 for 30-40 minutes or original music. It’s definitely a lowball rate but it’s not nothing or close to nothing. It’s on the very bottom of the reasonable scale range.

There’s nothing wrong with a small $4,000 project budget, but it should be for 8 minutes of total music or much less, that’s all.
 

gtrwll

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For $4,000 it would not reasonable to ask a composer to write 8 minutes of finished music, so in his scenario that’s 16 30-second original cues tailored exclusively just for his game. That’s reasonable.

Reasonable for the composer, but an RPG with 8 minutes of music doesn’t sound like a reasonable idea.
 
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NoOneKnowsAnything

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Reasonable for the composer, but an RPG with 8 minutes of music doesn’t sound like a reasonable idea.
Hey, I’m trying to protect people. If someone is willing to work for close to nothing, Bon Appetite!! Maybe students living in dorms or people still living with their parents would be willing to do this kind of low paying work. I’m talking to professionals out there and people who aspire to be professional composers.
 
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