When "Hobby Projects" Are Not So & Establishing Value

Discussion in 'Working in the Industry' started by Chr!s, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. Chr!s

    Chr!s Senior Member

    May 27, 2018
    Story time:

    I recently was faced with a scenario that, while I've been in before, this I think was the first time I really thought at length about the deeper implications of such things.

    I found out about this indie-game that some people were working on, and they were looking for someone who'd be interested in composing for it. I really liked the project, it was a genre I've always liked but never done, it looked great, so I asked if I could show them some music and see if they'd consider me.

    They liked it, said they did more so than other demos they'd heard, wanted me to do the gig, and wanted to talk further.

    As I'd expect from small-team indie games, they weren't able to pay much. In fact, they were using the typical communist "revenue sharing model". This is where it begins to go south.

    They were, as I said, unable to pay anything close to what I made even the last project, similar in scope that I did, but were offering a percent. Now, let's be real: This game is unlikely to sell very well. I just wanted to work on it because I really liked it. BUT, the percent they were willing to offer me, was the absolute lowest of the group. So I guess it's more rigid-class system than communist sharing, but I digress.

    I said that I would not agree to that deal, because at that rate, even if the game were to sell boatloads of units, I wouldn't make anything near even half of my initial asking price. I instead offered the idea of maybe like, checkpoint types of payment of a larger denomination. This way, if the game were a surprise success, especially over time, it would be profitable for them, and I would get a larger cut without being much of a drain on their total revenue than had I accepted their percentage.

    They said "No." and the answers they gave I found enlightening.

    The first, was that they felt doing so would be to put me above the rest of the team and that this is a "hobby project". I pointed out that, they are putting certain people above others already (mostly based on time investment) and that I don't see how what they're doing is a "hobby project" when it will be sold for profit: That's not a "hobby", that's a business endeavor.

    and what I noticed here is that they are telling me, without realizing they're doing it, that while it's not about the money and putting profits before quality, it is to say that even if they do wind up in a position to pay me a better deal, they still wouldn't. No matter how much they like my work, no matter how good the soundtrack could ever be, they believe that what I do is worth basically nothing and they will keep me at the bottom of the pile no matter what.

    So I think that if I could go back in time and tell past me a piece of advice for when faced with these "revenue share" indie games: Put the client's mind in the scenario of their product is going to sell well and find out what they'd be willing to give you in such a scenario, and that will expose what they really think about the value of music in their game.

  2. Quasar

    Quasar Senior Member

    Jun 26, 2012
    Speaking as both a hobbyist and a commie-type, I think (bearing in mind I can only read your side of the story) they're being jerks and you're right to walk away.

    Sounds like just another case of good old-fashioned capital exploitation cloaked in a rhetoric of "team spirit" or whatever new-age-ish noble-sounding conceptual bullshit. There's a lot of that going around...
    whiskers likes this.
  3. Desire Inspires

    Desire Inspires Senior Member

    Jul 30, 2016
    Miami Beach
    Do it anyway.

    You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.
  4. gregh

    gregh Senior Member

    Feb 1, 2015
    I only work for nothing if no-one on the project gets paid. Once one person gets paid everyone should be paid. There can be exceptions - eg if the project has some sort of "charitable benefit" aspect.
    How much each person gets paid needs to take in to account each person's efforts.
    This game sounds like a collaborative venture so I guess you have to consider if you are being paid for your time at the same rates as the others. If not then that is not fair. Even if so, you have to consider if it is worth it in terms of other work and leisure foregone as well as intrinsic worth of the project and so on.
    Chr!s likes this.
  5. AlexRuger

    AlexRuger Senior Member

    Hate to be pessimistic, but if it's like 99% of the "hobby" indie games I've worked on, it won't even get finished, let alone make any revenue worth sharing. "Revenue share" is code for "we have no idea how to profit from this, and haven't even really thought about it." Just bail.
    MartinH., Brendon Williams and Chr!s like this.
  6. OP

    Chr!s Senior Member

    May 27, 2018
    Oh that's definitely likely.
    MartinH. likes this.
  7. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

    Apr 2, 2010
    Pottstown, PA
    Sadly it sounds like they do not value your contribution at all, or they are completely clueless... or both.

    Like Greg I still work for free, in very limited circumstances, and all-volunteer is a requirement (there are others). Everyone gets paid or no one gets paid - but the deals where I'm the only one not getting paid don't work for me<G>!
    -JM- likes this.
  8. Daryl

    Daryl Senior Member

    Mar 25, 2006
    If you are doing something for nothing, you need to wear a different hat. You need to know exactly how much money, and time all the other participants are putting in, what their normal fees would be, what all the theoretical costs for the project should be, and then you can work out what percentage of the "gig" you should own. You have to be an Executive Producer. If they are unwilling to open the books, walk away.
    Chr!s likes this.
  9. MartinH.

    MartinH. Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2018

    Most indie gamedev projects don't even get close to breaking even, if you count the time investments of the devs. Revenue share is rarely a good idea in gamdev. Even if the thing sells well, you'll often end up having to chase people to get your money. Just don't do it, except maybe if it's for someone as reputable as Vlambeer, for those guys even I would make an exception. Or negotiate an advance on the share, though most won't be willing to go that route.

    I would go at it from this way: ask them about how big their marketing budget is and how they plan to spend that money. If it contains anything like 10k$ on banner ads, talk them out of it and tell them to spend that money instead on artists and composers. It's so much more likely for them to see ROI on that investment than on banner ads, there should be data out there to support it if they wanna do some research. Paid marketing is mostly a waste of money nowadays, and if they don't even have a plan and/or budget for marketing, just walk away because they clearly haven't thought enough about how to make a profit from their work and that means they don't have money to pay you either.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018 at 2:59 AM
    Chr!s likes this.

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