View Full Version : contract help

12-14-2004, 11:32 PM
Sorry this is so long.....thanks for any that read and respond. :)

Up to this point i have only composed music for television and video media (past 2 years). I really want to move my career and enter (like most do) the video game industry. However i realize how hard it is.

Over the past 6months I have developed a relationship with a mobile phone game developer .......and this week the ceo confirmed that they want to use me on their next project. This project is being developed for a well known studio and is based on a movie that is coming out (by same studio) in feb. Up to this point they have done audio in house however desire to goto the next level and outsource it. They are a great group of people and I am excited they want me. Even though i wish to do "bigger platform" games i feel this would be a great start and a chance to meet others in the industry.

The project includes the following:
-Scoring and doing the sound design for the 1:30 animated full resolution trailer
-Developing the main theme for the game (1:00 ish)(which will latered be midi'fied for the mobile phone platform)(im just composing the music not the techy stuff)
-composing one other scene in the game (simple dance music theme) (30seconds)

question i have:

i have in front of me copies of the contract examples from Aaron Marks book Game Audio. Is this a good start?
up to this point i just license my work to tv networks (i never sell the copyright) and have very simple if any contracts with them. (i know i know)

today i agreed upon a total price for the project (over the phone) and said i would be sending a contract and would work out the details tomorrow. My price was well below what i would like to charge but i really want this gig. its about the pay i would get for a good commercial. but its not enough (I feel) for a complete buy out.

how should i handle this? i really want to do this but i also dont want to set a bad precedence. how did you handle your first game project?

they need to send a testing build on monday. so i need to start asap.

concerns i have:

this is the first time this company has outsourced the music. the ceo stated they want to have me work on the other mobile phone projects they have coming down the pipe, but this first project they have not budgeted for outsourcing the audio....but want to work with me on something and have agreed on a OK licensing type price....but they want a buyout (work for hire).

i dont want to scare them off with a huge price tag. I probably would do it for free.....because of the future work the company is doing....and theyre desire to have me work on future projects (or so they say :) ) and the connections this could lead to.

Is it ok for me to sell the copyright to them for much less than I would like to in hopes to get more stuff in the future?
Or should I sell them a special license? (saying I wont sell the music to any other game developer).


Scott Cairns
12-15-2004, 12:03 AM
Hi, Im pretty flat out so can only give very brief answers;

buy-outs are the norm in phone/midi/gba ringtones etc plus all computer games.

Pop in your contract that the buy-out is for the mobile phone only. If the music is to be used on another platform or on tv, its a new negotiation.

You may also be able to negotiate SKU's i.e; if the game got ported to another language etc, this is covered in Aarons book. This may not apply for a mobile phone games, I havent done any myself.

Are you a member of G.A.N.G? They have some great sample contracts. Aarons book is agreat place to start though.

Be wary of charging too little or they'll expect you to work for that rate all the time. If you've already set the price, perhaps tell them its an introductory offer.

Sorry, I cant think of anything else right now.

12-15-2004, 02:02 AM
Pop in your contract that the buy-out is for the mobile phone only. If the music is to be used on another platform or on tv, its a new negotiation.

Just to add to what Scott said. The best thing you can do with a buy-out is clearly state in the contract that they can't use this music for anything other than within this moblie phone game including sequels.

Example: Lets say you didn't include this in the contract. They make a sequel (version 2) of this game. They do it the cheap way and use the same music, without paying you a cent. Now if you clearly stated in the contract that they cant do this without a re-negotiation. You can get paid twice! Maybe not as much as the first time, but you can still get some more money out of it... Maybe they wont even notice this statement in the contract as there are currently no plans to make a sequel or port it anywhere else. That's fine... but developers can change there mind! And you are the winner.

My other advise is continue to develop your relationship with them. If you have a good reationship and there is trust. Then you can just let them know that composing music takes alot of time and you had to invest in alot of expensive equipment, and you will need more money in the future...etc... etc... If you dont have a good relationship with them they can simply say something like "i dont care, we want it finished yesterday and for cheap". Something a friend would never say ;).

Good luck :)

12-15-2004, 10:41 AM
As far as I know Canadian laws differ from the laws in the states (which is where the book was printed I assume). It might be a safe bet to talk to a lawyer.


12-15-2004, 01:15 PM
Pop in your contract that the buy-out is for the mobile phone only. If the music is to be used on another platform or on tv, its a new negotiation.

If I may interject here, but both you guys that mentioned conditionals on the buy-out might not really understand what buy-out means.

Buy-out means they own it, it means the copyright is actually registered to them, it means to all intents and purposes they are the composer.

There are no conditionals on buy-outs, either you own it or you don't, you don't half own it.

I want to be very clear on this because if you should get in a position later when you are challenging your clients, you will likely lose in a court of law.

Scott, what you are proposing is not a buy-out but an exclusive license. As I said, buy-out implies that they can do with it whatever they want in whichever market they choose, they own composer's share and publisher's share.....it's a buy-out!

Scott Cairns
01-04-2005, 04:46 PM
I only just saw this... Yes your right. Thanks for the pickup Midphase, I knew I typed that too fast and without enough thought. :)

01-05-2005, 02:38 AM
The only game audio work I have done thus far has been for independent companies that were outsourcing their audio for the first time (like your situation), and so far everyone has insisted on buyouts. I have suggested licensing possibilities, but thus far nobody has been willing.

Unfortunately, I think it comes down to a matter of how badly you want the gig. On the flip-side, it is a bad precedent to set (having really low prices). I don't know the answer to this dilemma, as I have been struggling with it myself. I am currently scoring a game for which I know I set the price too low for a buyout situation, but I really wanted the gig. This is a business in which having game industry experience seems to be the highest first consideration of any company during their hiring process, so amassing credits seems to be all important when you're new.

Perhaps if every game audio employment ad said "seeking brilliant demos" instead of "must have game industry experience", then new people wouldn't have to undercut the going rate by such a large amount.

01-05-2005, 07:37 AM
For you who have got paid for a job (a song). How much did you charge per minute?
What do you think is too much? and what's not? Let's stick to american dollars ;)

Please share experiences (getting paid)....whole projects, single tune etc.