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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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