Tag Archives: game audio

How to get game audio right: Make an audio design doc

Getting Game Audio Right

Getting the audio done for your game can seem a daunting task, but Microsoft Audio Director Zack Quarles(X-men: Legends, FEAR 360, Quake 4, Wolfenstein & more) has written a great guide that can make this a lot easier for you.

I often get asked how I “start” a project.  This is a big question.  Multiple things happen all at the same time, but one of the “filters” that I generally use to collect all of these items into a centralized place is the Audio Design Document (also called an audio style guide, sonic bible, etc…).  This becomes a road-map for myself, the audio team, and the project team as a whole on how I guide the audio component of any project that I’m on.

Read Zack’s full guide to creating an audio design document for your project here!

Posted by Asbjoern on January 16, 2013 - Contact

Category Game music tips Tags , , , , , , ,

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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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How to find music for your game

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!


- Asbjoern

Posted by Aurie on June 22, 2012 - Contact

Category Music For Games Tags , , , , , , , , , ,

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