What is the Charge!?
So something that's been on my mind for a while, ever since I started noticing improvements in my ability as a composer, sound designer and producer I've been wondering about commissions. Simply put, how do I put value on my work. I've read a huge amount of material on this since asking that first question and I'm beginning to understand how other people work out what to charge.
I came across the figure of $100 a lot on The VGMA forums in reference to charging per minute of music and per sound effect but I've realized how oversimplifying this can be a bad idea.
Think about it this way, say I've agreed to compose a 1 minute loop for a game and I'm being paid $100 dollars a minute, that's an A section, a B section, a piano and a drum loop. Can whip that up in about 4 hours from composition to mastering, but wait, they don't want a piano and drums, they want 1 minute from a full orchestra... Even if I'm not actually hiring an orchestra, the composition and the production itself has become much more complex and will take me more time. That's going to be the buzz word for today. The Official Australian music council places a 58% increase in price from a single instrument composition per minute to one with 24 instruments and a New York commissions board will charge 77% extra for a similar increase in arrangement. Also mentioned in these articles are percentage increases for production such as mixing and mastering. All of these percent increases are to compensate the composer for any extra time they will spend on the project.
Let's say you've worked out a fair hourly rate but the developers just can't afford that much, but you're in love with the project or the game has a lot of hype behind it and you really think a lot of people are going to see your work. Well I say do it, personally I think there's value that you can place on these things that sits on a higher plain than money. I mean if you need money then I guess you're screwed but if you can afford the pay cut in exchange for working on a passion project or saturating the masses with your sound then I say go ahead. But definitely think about always!
There is an excellent list of things to consider when working out a fee found in this book by Aaron Marks, he covers every little from big projects to small projects but one thing he echoes is our magic word; time.
Lastly, always remember your innate value as a thinking, feeling human being with a brain. If they think the price is high, what they're paying for is the flexibility and the "organic" nature that comes with having the composer right there with them. Sure they can go onto Audio Jungle and buy a 1 minute loop for $5 but what they're not getting is the brain behind the music. If they want to alter that piece in any meaningful way or create slight variations for menus or altered game states it becomes extremely difficult to do without an actual composer, someone that can understand what they want.
Hopefully this helps myself and others to remember our value and make meaningful fair negotiations in the future.
Always remember friends, time is money!