Pricing your work is very individual, but critical for any producer. Across the industry you will see people charging everything from $50 all the way up to $2500 per minute of music. But how much should YOU charge to compose original music?
If you are new in the game with little experience you are obviously probably going to have to settle with a lower rate. But never work for free!
Never compose original music for free
Let’s say this again, loud – Never work for free! It might stab you in the back for a long time. Of course it’s perfectly fine to exchange services with a client. But just don’t work for free… Just don’t!
A client who receives a service for free, will expect that service to be free in the futureu too.
Original music composed for student films
Educational practise does not equal work!
If you are an aspiring composer and currently studying music production. If one of your friends ask you to score their student film for an exam or whatever. This is your educational period, and while you are studying I wouldn’t really count the production as work. It’s practise, before you actually start to work in the industry. This is the time you are building up your portfolio. And the opportunity to educate yourself by working on a film project is excellent.
Film scores in your portfolio – grow your personal brand
Make sure you agree with the student film producer on your righs to use the final product, the film, for promotional purpose of your musical services. You want to be able to use the film on your portfolio website, youtube and for social media marketing.
You want to grow your personal brand as soon as possible to get a foot in the game- / film- industry.
How to price your original composing services?
I get this question a lot and it’s hard to give a solid answer since everyone’s experience and background is different.
Indie game music composers with experience and a credit list, will have prices within the range of $250-$1000 per minute of music. The more experienced and in demand a composer is, the higher they are likely to charge for their music and time.
Price will obviously rise with experience
The more experienced, “famed” and in demand you become as a composer, the higher you are likely to be able to charge for your music and time.
Some will charge per track, whilst other will charge per minute of music produced.
If it’s a big score. Like 20 music themes and sound design for a complete game. You might want to quote for the project as a whole. A full AAA game is quite the project and can often span over several years.
Charging by the hour of original music produced
In most cases, I’ve decided to charge for my time like any other contractor / freelancer (per hour of work).
…Rather than charging per minute of music.
The downside of charging per minute of music
The downside of charging per minute of produced music is that if the client requests several revisions. Which means more production time without any additional payment. You will probably go minus on such project.
Tech has changed drastically how films & games are made in the last 15 years. Everyone can make film (almost) these days. And everyone is making quality video. Insta, TikTok, Snap, YouTube etc. There are more game companies than you can count pumping out the next Candy Crush or Minecraft clone. ;D
Tons of opportunity.
Every kid with a laptop is making music
But everyone is also doing music…. Every kid with a laptop (Like deadmau5 said in a promo video…lol)
But if you can stick out in the noise, you can dig in to the sweet work. As mentioned, there are plenty of opportunity.
Orginal sound can help you rise above the competition
A good example of sticking out in the noise is swedish Ludwig Göransson (yes, you know him from the score to the famouse Mandalorian series). He has a very original sound poking out of the noise. Ludvig is recording many live instruments in his studio to get a very personal sound.
Personally my background is writing music in bands and releasing albums. Then I studied music theory /composition / arranging, and decided to start to produce music and sound for media (read games & film, commercials etc) with my company Morningdew Media https://www.morningdewmedia.com
In the beginning I did all kinds of wicked projects to build my brand. I was doing radio commercials, recording bands, jingles, writing for flash games / branding sites etc. All to build my brand and name and get to know the companies. I got to work on some really cool projects for E.ON, Scania, Statoil, IKEA, Apoliva, Fisherman’s Friend, Forsman & Bodenfors… and game music for Peak Games (Turkey) & Come2Play (Israel) etc. Fun times! …Building a brand and your name is probably the most important aspect and should be taken very seriously….
For me it was a long and winding path. And it’s still on-going. 2 years back I decided to stop scoring so many projects and build more on my brand, my own music, and do educational projects instead…like building this YouTube channel which is turning out to be a successful and fun journey. But back to the pricing.
What is the film budget for music production and score?
Talk with the directors and ask what kind of budget they are working with. Calculate the time it will take you to write the music. Does it take 4-6 weeks to finish the score? Set your hourly rate and calculate. Be sure to include clauses for maximum revisions etc. Or if the client wants to do changes they need to pay for the extra production time, or else you will probably go minus on your first few projects.
Working for hire – the client owns the music you produce
Sometimes you can do work as (work for hire) which means your client will own the rights to the content you produce for them. This means you can only sell the produced content to one client, and not use the music outside of that agreement. It’s all up to you and what you want to allow, it’s your music. Your rights! 😉
Selling your original songs to a music licensing company
These days many film companies (series) work with music licensing companies. And thus they buy music from a large library. You can always start working for a licensing library to begin your career. But the sad part of licensing companies is that your personal brand will not grow that much since they use the licensing companies name (Epidxxxx ) in the film / game credits.
Licensing the same songs to several clients
The license companies sometimes let you sell the music outside of the agreement to other parties, but it can also be an exclusive deal. Make sure you read up on that agreement before you sign anything!
You probably want YOUR name to be in the credits if you want to grow your brandname.
The games industry is bigger than the film industry
I also suggest you don’t focus solely on film scoring. Broaden your vision and look for game projects. The game industry is 1000 times bigger than the film industry anyways these days. That means more opportunity for work. In my experience the film industry is also more “closed” and harder to break into. Games are being built everywhere. From the small closet-studio (read: indie studio) to the big AAA studios.
I hope this article is helpful to someone starting a career in film music / game audio!
You can learn more about making music for games in this article.
Conclusion – How much should You Charge To Compose Original Music
I would definitely recommend charging per hour of work for your music. That is the same payment scheme as any other freelance content creator, or design Bureau is going with.
The hourly cost is calculated like any other freelance business creator. You calculate your expenses like travel, hotels, material, insurance, studio rent etc. There are plenty of calculators out on google, but I suggest you look at your own personal costs as they might differ from other creators / countries / regions etc.
As mentioned earlier, charging per minute of produced music can ultimately make you working for free. And in the long run this isn’t viable for a healthy business.