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Royalty-free game music composers: Avoid going exclusive!

 

 

Getting into royalty-free music can be a good approach if you’re a game composer looking to earn more, and potentially land new clients as well.

 

But there’s one thing you should carefully consider before embarking on your royalty-free music adventure: Do you want to sell your royalty-free music exclusively or non-exclusively?

 

When signing up as a new author, many stock music sites ask you if you want to be an exclusive or non-exclusive author on the site. For any royalty-free music site, having unique content is a valuable asset, and that’s why they really want you to go exclusive.

 

Being a non-exclusive author means that you put your music up for sale on the royalty-free music site, but you can freely sell the music elsewhere as well. Being exclusive means that only the given royalty-free music site can sell the tracks you submit to the site (note: You can still do whatever you want with tracks you haven’t submitted for exclusive sale on a site).

 

The commission is of course higher if you’re an exclusive author rather than a non-exclusive one (50%+ commission vs 33% commission per sale), so it could be tempting.

 

But don’t go exclusive, unless you know exactly what you’re doing and have a clear plan in mind!

If you do, you could be severely limiting your options for making money off the music in other contexts.

 

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t go exclusive:

 

 

1. You can’t try out different sites

There are hundreds of royalty-free music sites around, and picking the right one for you is almost a science in itself.

 

Some sites offer great commissions on tracks, but may not have a huge number of potential buyers, others sell tracks at a higher price and have bigger-budget buyers who purchase fewer tracks but are willing to pay more, while others still may attract a certain crowd of buyers who are going for very specific genres.

 

It can be hard to tell from the get-go what works best for your music, so you want to test the waters before uploading all your music and locking yourself in with just one site.

 

Upload a good selection of tracks to each site and see where your music sells. When you find a site that generates good sales numbers, focus on building your catalogue on that site.

 

If you go exclusive from the beginning, you lose this important way of determining what site is right for you.

 

2. You can’t sell direct to your clients

As a game composer, there’s a clear advantage in maintaining a catalogue of tracks you can sell on a non-exclusive basis. Perhaps you’ve been brought in as a custom composer on a game project and the client wants more music than initially planned. Only problem is that the client has almost used up their entire music budget. Being able to offer a few tracks on a non-exclusive basis ensures that they get the music they need, and you make a sale in a situation where you wouldn’t have otherwise if you had to compose all-new music for them.

 

Just make sure your client is aware that they’re getting those tracks on a non-exclusive basis to avoid misunderstandings down the line.

 

And the best part is that you can sell that music again and again, so while the initial price may be low, you can still turn a healthy profit on it from repeat sales – and keep your clients happy at the same time.

 

 

3. You can’t sell your music on your own site

Royalty-free music sites take a large chunk out of your profits in commission (40%-70%, depending on the site). And what do you get from the money you’re essentially paying them for selling your tracks? They do the legwork of bringing in buyers for your tracks, allow you to have a nice-looking profile on their site and sometimes even feature your work to allow you sell more.

 

But what if you’re pretty good at marketing yourself?

 

If you’ve got the skills and the right eyeballs on your website – ie. game developers -, maybe you’d be better off selling your music on your own site.

 

That way, you can set your own price, cut out the middleman eating half or more of your profits – and get more direct contact with your clients too.

 

Build a catalogue of your tracks, sort them and label with fitting descriptions, tags and other relevant info, define your licensing terms and allow your visitors to buy the tracks via Paypal or similar services. You can even do this while still having music up on stock music sites.

 

If you’re an exclusive author on a stock music site, you just can’t do this with material you’re selling exclusively on that site. So you’d be missing out on yet another way of reaching potential buyers.

 

 

If you find that a royalty-free music site is really good at selling your stuff, you can always change your mind down the road and go exclusive. You just have to stop selling your selected tracks via all other channels. Alternatively, you can set up a separate account on your favorite music site where you upload tracks that are only sold through that site.

 

 

I hope this has given you an idea on why going non-exclusive is probably the best approach for you. How are you going about selling your music as a games composer? Share your tips and ideas in the comments below.

 

Good luck with your music!

 

- Asbjoern


Posted by Asbjoern on October 8, 2012 - Contact



Category Game composers,Music For Games Tags , , , , ,

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Game composers, stay sharp and land new projects with royalty-free game music

 
Making use of royalty-free music as a game composer

 

This is part two of my guide to making the most of royalty-free game music. It started with the following question: ‘Is royalty-free music a threat to game composers’, and in the first part, I examined how game developers can get great results with royalty-free game music.

 

In this second part, I’ll show how it can be a very useful tool for game composers to land new projects, keep your composing skills sharp and sell more music.

 

 

If you’re a game composer, the knee-jerk reaction when faced with the thousands of high-quality, dirt-cheap, game-friendly royalty-free tracks available is probably along the lines of: How the heck am I supposed to compete with that!

Running a studio, buying the gear and paying the bills is costly, and composing the music, doing the revisions and mixing and mastering it all takes time. Time you’ll want to be paid for.

 

And how’s that humanly possible if you’re up against some site offering a track for $14 dollars?

 

Well, I think you have to look at it differently. It can actually be a way of getting you MORE work. Here’s why:

 

Royalty-free music targets a different market niche – and you want to be there too

 

You probably won’t find many big-budget game projects resorting to using royalty-free music, unless the developer needs music in a hurry and/or simply can’t find the right music elsewhere. What you will find, though, is smaller indie game projects choosing royalty-free music as an option for getting great music in their game at affordable rates.

 

Developers like these likely won’t have the budget to hire you to do a fully-fledged score for their game, so you’re not really losing a customer in this regard anyway. But.. you may use royalty-free music to gain one.

 

Here’s how:

 

* Use royalty-free music to market yourself

Stock music sites such as Audiojungle have thousands and thousands of visitors each month – and they’re all looking for music. By putting your music up there, you’re making yourself visible to an audience you probably wouldn’t have reached before: Clients with limited budgets, looking for quick-and-easy music for their projects. Why not reach that audience too?

 

Of course, you need some music to put up there, and here’s how you can do it:

 

* Make use of your back catalogue

If you’ve been composing for a while, you probably have a catalogue of tracks that ended up not being used in the projects you worked on. Maybe they didn’t exactly fit what the client was after, maybe you came up with a better idea for that theme song for the game, or maybe the project never got off the ground.

 

The reasons can be many, but the fact is that many of us have unused tracks lying around. Well, it’s time to dust off those tracks and put them to work.

 

First off, sort through your unreleased work and weed out the duds.

 

And let’s face it. We’ve all done tracks that, well, just plain suck. Maybe we had a great idea that just didn’t come out right, or maybe we just screwed up somewhere in the process. Whatever the reason, it’s part of the creative process, and hopefully it’s been something we’ve learned from to make our stuff better down the road.

 

In any case, you shouldn’t pick tracks you wouldn’t feel comfortable about selling, so leave out the ones that don’t work for you.

 

Pick the tracks that you like, check the levels and mixes – and tweak if necessary so they’re production-ready. Write down fitting descriptions and tags for the tracks, and you’re ready to unleash your work to an unsuspecting stock music audience.

 

Tip: When signing up at a royalty-free music site and you’re being asked if you want to be an exclusive or non-exclusive author, I’d strongly advise you to choose non-exclusive. This allows you to sell your royalty-free music tracks on other sites, and sell them yourself directly to clients too. In a future blog post, I’ll dig more into the exclusive vs non-exclusive author situation as a game composer.

 

* Use it to keeping yourself sharp while building your portfolio in the process.

Another way of building your portfolio is by doing music specifically for sale as royalty-free music.

 

If you’re like most composers, there are times when business is slow. Maybe you’re in-between projects, or it’s just a slow time of year. If that’s the case, don’t run off to the beach, or, at the other end of the spectrum, spend sleepless nights wondering if it’s all going down the drain.

 

Composing music is a skill that need to be worked on continuously to stay sharp, so use the available time to your advantage instead: Compose specifically for royalty-free music sale when your time permits it.

 

That way, you’ll keep improving your composing skills and build your catalogue of music at the same time.

 

If you’ve started out with unused tracks from your back catalogue, you may already have an idea of what’s selling on the site you’re targeting. You’ll also want to browse the Popular Music category to hear what kind of music is in demand at the moment. Then, whenever time permits, compose away and upload the results to your stock music portfolio.

 

It’s always tempting to listen to the top-sellers, and simply do stuff in that vein. However, that’s what many new authors are doing when joining the world of stock music, so competition is fierce within those popular genres.

 

When you’re a game composer, I think you’ll be much better off carving your own niche. Consistently upload great-sounding game music and market it as such, and you could have a successful business going within that field.

 

Since music can be used in so many different contexts, chances are you’ll be selling to non-game developers as well.

 

An important point to note is that, essentially, you can put up any kind of music for sale as royalty-free music, as long as the quality is good. So if you’ve been composing game music your entire career, royalty-free music can your playground where you take a break from the games stuff and try out other genres – and make money in the process. Not a bad scenario, if you ask me.

 

* Keep non-exclusive music handy for custom game music projects

Another advantage of having a catalogue of non-exclusive music – which is what royalty-free music is – is that you have yet another item on the shelf as a composer. When you’re working on custom music projects, your client may need an extra track or two before wrapping up – but can’t find the money for you to compose custom tracks. That’s an opportunity for you to sell some of your non-exclusive tracks and keep your client happy doing it.

 

You’ve probably also had game developers ask you for a quote, only to turn it down as they simply couldn’t afford custom music for their project at all.

Now, with non-exclusive music in your audio toolbox, you won’t have to lose a client like that again, or have to resort to selling your custom work too cheaply.

 

If the client’s budget is too limited for custom music, offer them some tracks from your non-exclusive collection. Since the whole business case for this kind of music is that you can sell your music at a very low initial price, but then make money on repeat sales, make them a good offer on your non-exclusive music.

 

That way, you retain a customer you would’ve otherwise lost to someone else – and if they like what they’re getting, they’ll probably be interested in working with you again in the future. And who knows, perhaps they can afford a custom soundtrack the next time around.

 

 

 

Market your work

 

If you want to really make use of royalty-free music, you can’t just upload your music and be done with it. You have to market it as well, and turn it into a tool that will land you new clients.

 

To do this, you’ll want to

 

1) Encourage feedback, collaboration and in-game attribution

From a composer’s perspective, one of the biggest drawbacks on royalty-free music sites is the anonymity of the buyers. You won’t really know who’s buying and where your music is being used. That’s just part of the setup, but there are ways you can work on forming a closer bond between you and the buyers:

 

When you set up your profile on a royalty-free music site, be sure to encourage buyers to give feedback on your work. Also let them know you’re open to doing custom music, and encourage them to credit you in their productions and let you know where your music is being used.

 

Mention this in your individual track descriptions too, as buyers may never end up seeing your profile in the first place.

 

Also let your buyers know if you’re willing to do track modifications for free, such as length adjustments.

 

It all works to make the client think about getting in contact with you. And it’s in both your and the buyer’s interest to start talking together, as this may open up interesting collaborations and land you custom projects later on, if they like what you’re doing.

 

2) Promote your material where your clients are

Another way of gaining sales is by marketing your content where your clients hang out. Upload previews to Youtube, Vimeo, link to your portfolio in your forum posts, email signatures and so forth.

There are many ways of doing it, and I’ll leave this for a future blog post.

 

Always remember to do your promtion wisely, and DON’T spam your prospective buyers.

 

If you’ve released a track that you feel would be awesome for a game project, be sure to let me know about it as well. If I like it, I might feature it in the collections of great game music on this site. I can’t guarantee that I’ll include it, though, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

 

 

 

Be realistic

 

Finally, let me make one thing very clear: You WON’T see massive sales from the get-go (if at all), and VERY few composers can make a living solely from royalty-free music. Competition is fierce, and it takes a lot of time and effort if you want to make it in royalty-free music. Someone wisely said about royalty-free music:

 

Royalty-free music is a MARATHON, not a SPRINT.

 

Think about it: You’ll have to sell a LOT of music at $14 per track – of which you give half or more to the stock music sites – to make a decent income.

 

But if you set realistic expectations and think of royalty-free music as another tool in your music arsenal, you can use it to market yourself, land new clients and stay sharp as a composer – and have fun doing it.

 

Best of luck with it, and do I’d love to hear how you’re using royalty-free music in your career, so leave a comment below.

 

All the best,

- Asbjoern


Posted by Asbjoern on July 3, 2012 - Contact



Category Game composers,Royalty-free game music Tags , , , , , ,

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Is royalty-free game music a threat to game composers?

Just a heads up that I’ll be posting a two-part, in-depth guide next week for both game developers and game composers, showing how royalty-free music can be made a brilliant resource for getting and making awesome game music.

 

I’m a game composer myself, and at first, I was a bit concerned that royalty-free music would be a threat to my custom game music projects. After all, royalty-free music is incredibly affordable, and if you look in the right places, you can find some really great stuff. But that has far from been the case.

 

I’ll tell you all about it in the guide I’ll be publishing next week, so stay tuned and will be looking forward to your feedback on it!

 

All the best,
- Asbjoern


Posted by Aurie on July 1, 2012 - Contact



Category Music For Games Tags , , , , ,

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