Tag Archives: finding game music
I’ve been a game composer for many years, and it’s always been a platform I’ve really enjoyed working on.
However, a few months back I came across something unexpected:
I was listening to a track on Soundcloud with an embedded audio watermark from a stock music site – and it didn’t suck.
This is in no way meant to be disrespectful of stock music composers, I just hadn’t been paying attention to how much the quality of royalty-free music had gone up. I was expecting stock music to still be the cheesy, plasticky stuff I’d heard many years ago. This was not the case here, so I was puzzled.
If such great-sounding music is available to game developers at rock-bottom prices ($14-$70 per track, depending on the license), what does it mean to me as a game composer, and to game developers and the way they are finding and using music? And ultimately, is it a threat to my business as a composer?
In my view, the answer is a resounding NO, and in this two-part guide I’ll show you how royalty-free music can benefit both game developers and composers alike.
First off is a bunch of tips for game developers:
MAKING THE MOST OF ROYALTY-FREE MUSIC AS A GAME DEVELOPER
Let me start out by stressing that if you have the budget, I think you should go for having music custom-composed for your project. You’ll get high-quality, unique material that can be shaped and fitted to exactly match your project requirements. But if your budget is limited, or you’re in a real hurry, royalty-free music can be a great option.
A quick primer on what royalty-free music is:
Royalty-free music is music you buy on a non-exclusive basis, meaning that it can be used in your project – and since it’s non-exclusive, everyone else is free to license the music for their projects as well. So you won’t be getting unique, exclusive content for your game, but you’re getting music that’s extremely affordable and flexible.
You pay a one-time fee (often extremely low compared to having custom music composed for your game), and that’s it! There are no royalty-fees to be paid to the composer down the line, and no bonuses to be paid if your game is selling like hotcakes.
So it’s simple way to find, use and buy music for your game – and here’s how you can make the most of it:
* Quick, easy access to great game music
Royalty-free music sites offer you a way to get great, hugely affordable music for your game, fully-licensed and ready-to use. Some sites offer more than 50,000 tracks that are available in pretty much every style imaginable, so there’s loads to choose from.
There’s no waiting around for a composer to finish the music for your game – you can simply download the tracks instantly and start using them straight away.
It’s not all stellar material, of course – far from it, actually – but most sites employ reviewers to maintain a fair level of quality.
* What you hear is what you get
Having a composer do the music for your project has its pros and cons: You’re getting unique music content, and – if you’ve picked the right composer – high quality material as well. But you can’t be absolutely certain what you’re going to end up with.
With royalty-free music, you can preview the tracks in advance, so you know exactly what you’re getting. Don’t like a track? Don’t buy it.
* Finding the best game tracks
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to royalty-free music is finding the good stuff. As mentioned some sites have thousands and thousands of tracks of varying quality, and game music is not a top priority – at least not on the sites I’ve seen.
For instance, on Audiojungle, which is my current favorite for royalty-music, the biggest-selling category is motivational and uplifting corporate music – so that’s what a lot of composers are going for. Hardly the best music for a game.
But there’s lots of relevant music for game projects as well, and that’s why I’ve launched Great Game Music, where I feature tracks that specifically work well in a gaming context.
At the very top of this page, you’ll find an audio player where you can preview my selected tracks. Click the yellow buttons to change categories, and click the black BUY button on the player to go the purchasing page for the currently-playing track.
Navigate to the top of this page and have a look. You can use this page to find useful tracks for your game project, or as a starting point for further exploration.
A WORD OF ADVICE:
* Always check the license terms
Many sites offer tracks at incredible prices. Again using Audiojungle as an example, you can license a 3-minute track for $14 dollars. And believe me, that’s CHEAP for a three-minute track.
But beware: A Regular License only allows you use the music in a FREE game – so if you planning on selling your game (as I’m guessing most devs are), you’ll effectively be in violation of the license if you include that 14$ track in your paid game. An Extended License will cost you around $70 depending on the track length, and this allows you to freely use the track in the game you’re planning on selling. Other sites have similar terms, so be sure to check that you’re getting a license that fits with how you plan on distributing/selling your game. Otherwise it could end you in hot water down the road.
* Make royalty-free music a shortcut for unique music for your game
One of the tricky things with royalty-free music is getting a consistent sound for your game, as you’ll likely end up with tracks from many different composers in your final music package. And since each composer has his or her own sound, this might be noticeable in your soundtrack.
If that’s the case, I’d suggest a different approach.
Go exploring on stock music sites, and when you come across a composer who’s doing music with a style and sound that would be a great match for your game project, stop searching and get in touch with the composer. License the royalty-free tracks you want to use from the composer on the site, and ask him or her to compose some custom tracks to sort out your remaining music needs.
It’ll cost you more than just using royalty-free music, but a) you’re getting custom music for much of your game, b) you ensure that your game gets a consistent sound, and c) you’re still saving money compared to having everything custom-composed.
You also reap the benefits that custom music have to offer, such as tweaking if needed, unique content, and music that fits with the durations, timing and moods you want. And if it’s not important for you to have the music exclusively (which you won’t get with royalty-free music anyway), you may be able to negotiate a deal with the composer, where he or she creates custom tracks for you, but is allowed to sell the tracks as royalty-free music afterwards as well.
That way, you’ve effectively turned royalty-free music sites into massive music showcases that allow you to find the very best composer for your game – and save money doing it.
* Don’t use royalty-free music as an excuse to postpone your game audio
In general, I think one of the biggest mistakes when finding music for your game is doing it too late in the process. If you’re a week away from your deadline and you still haven’t found the right music, it’s going to be hectic. And that’s whether you work with a composer or use royalty-free music.
Getting a composer to create the right music for your game takes time and planning, and it ALSO takes time on stock music sites. Why? There’s simply so much content to choose from that finding stuff that fits with your project is not a one-day process. You’ll want to listen to a lot of tracks to find your direction, you’ll want to find a collection of tracks that go well together – and you want to try the music in your game to see if it really works in the context of your game.
So don’t make music for your game a last-minute decision, just because you’ve chosen to use royalty-free music. Bring it in early to make your game sound its very best.
I hope this has given you some ideas on how you can integrate royalty-free music in your game development process – and helped you decide whether it’s a direction you want to go in at all. I think that, if done right, it can be a valuable tool for finding the right music for your game.
In part two, I’ll show how royalty-free music can be a way for game composers to land new projects and keep their game developer clients happy at the same time. Read the guide for game composers right here.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear how you’re using royalty-free music in your projects. Do share your comments and thoughts below.
Posted by Asbjoern on July 2, 2012 - Contact
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So.. you’ve been developing your game for a while, and now the time has come to add some music to it. But how exactly do you go about finding the right music for your game? Well, there are essentially two ways of going about it:
1. Hire a composer:
If your budget allows it, having a composer on board for your project is in my view the best way of getting consistent, high-quality music in your production. When you find someone who has a style that matches your vision for your game, you’ll be able to work with the composer to sculpt the music exactly the way you want it. If you find an experienced composer, be sure to use whatever input the composer has, as he or she is a specialist in music, and may have ideas you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.
In my experience, the best way of getting the right sound for your game is by using music references. Music is such an abstract concept, and your definition of a “fun, cheerful menu track, with lots of cowbell – but not too much! Oh, and with a jazzy edge as well” may mean something entirely different to you that it does to your composer.
So don’t waste time (and money) having him or her compose loads of drafts without properly setting the direction first.
You can do this by picking existing tracks from other games, film or commercial artists – the source doesn’t matter, as long as the references fit with how you want the music to sound – and present them to the composer. That way, you’ll know he or she understands the direction you want to go in.
Game composing is a time-consuming task, so be sure to bring in the composer as early as possible, and make sure you set delivery deadlines that allow for additional tweaking of the music.
When it comes to the music budget, write a detailed description of your requirements (this guide might help) and ask your chosen composer for a quote. You’ll probably find that he or she charges a per-track production fee, or – as is more common – a production fee per minute of completed music.
He or she will probably also ask for a usage fee, depending on where/how the music will be used and where your game will be released. Some composers offer full buy-out on their music. This means that you pay a one-time fee, and you are then free to use the music where and how you want to.
Another model is to negotiate a profit-sharing model, where the composer is only paid a small inital fee for the music, and then gets a percentage of the profits from each copy sold. The advantage of this is that it allows you to make a smaller initial investment in the music, and that the composer will have a vested interest in the game doing as well as possible.
* Custom work: Allows you to get a custom score for your game that is tailor-made to your vision for the game.
* Expert advice: You get an expert on board who can take the game music to a level you wouldn’t have thought of yourself.
* Music that fits: Get tracks that fit exactly with your menus, ingame and cutscenes when it comes to lengths and style.
* Expensive: Unsurprisingly, composing game music takes time + composers need to get paid for their work and be able to run a studio and pay the bills = it all adds up.
* Time-consuming: Turn-around varies from composer to composer, but most composers can do 1-3 minutes of completed music per day, depending on the complexity. Then factor in revisions, the composer’s schedule and additional tweaking and you’re looking at weeks, if not months to get the music done – especially if your game needs a lot of music. This may not be a problem, as long as you remember to bring in the composer early on in the development process.
2. Use royalty-free music:
If your budget doesn’t allow having a composer on your team, or if you simply need something FAST that works, royalty-free music is a great option. There’s 100s of thousands of tracks available, and chances are you’ll be able to find something that fits in your game if you spend the time looking.
Well, actually you don’t have to spend that much time looking – have a look at the music collections on this site and see if anything fits. I’ve spent many (many) hours plowing through a myriad to tracks to find what I find to be some of the best royalty-free music tracks that work well in game projects.
Maybe you won’t find exactly what you need here, but if you spot a composer who does quality stuff from the collections above, you can use that as a starting point for further exploration. Or you could simply get in touch and I can lend you a hand finding what you need.
* Affordable: Royalty-free music is a cheap way of finding music for your game. Prices usually range from around $10 to $70 dollars per track, depending on what sort of license you need.
* What you hear is what you get: When you have a composer on board, you’re never completely sure what the end result is going to be. Perhaps that track you love from him/her was simply a lucky punch, and he’ll fail miserably trying to get you the sound you’re after. If you’ve done your research, this is quite unlikely to happen, of course. But the thing about royalty-free music is you know EXACTLY what you’re getting. What you hear in the preview, is what you’ll get – no nasty surprises there.
* Lack of consistency: Putting together a consistent soundscape from royalty-free music can be tricky. If you need several tracks, you’ll likely source them from many different composers – and each has his or her own sound, meaning that your soundtrack as a whole may not sound as coherent as you’d like. Actually, there’s a way to overcome this, and I’ll tell you how in a future blog post.
* Finding the good stuff takes time: With so many tracks around, be prepared to spend a lot of time putting together the perfect soundtrack for your game from royalty-free music. However, I really hope this site can be of help in doing so – at least that was kind of the whole idea why I started it in the first place
I hope this has helped you get a feel for your options when it comes to finding music for your game – and if you have any questions or feedback, do comment below or contact me directly.
Best of luck with your game project!
Posted by Aurie on June 22, 2012 - Contact
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