Video Game rewrites and more rewrites :-(
Edward
Thread Starter
#1
21st October 2007
Old 21st October 2007
  #1
Gear maniac
 

Thread Starter
Video Game rewrites and more rewrites :-(

I've been making and releasing music as an "artist" for a long time... lately a couple of people have contacted me to do music for arcade games.
I don't have any experience of writing music to satisfy anyone other than myself so it's a new thing for me.

What is blowing my mind (and probably really familiar to everyone else here) is the fact that the clients are incapable of giving me much direction or saying what they want.
They say things like "make mexican music with trumpets, flamenco feel," so I do it and then they say "we don't like the trumpets, get rid of them."
So I am doing a LOT of rewrites because they don't know what they want and keep changing their minds. Is this a normal situation?

How many times do you re-do a job before you quit or ask for some money?

I agreed to do the music for a set fee upon completion but it's pure guesswork as to what they are gonna accept and what they are gonna reject, and now they are saying that even after they have aceepted it, then they have to check with their parent company etc etc. moving the goalposts the whole time.

What is a normal arrangement?
Should I be asking for 50% deposit upfront?
I want to do the job for them but I can't spend the rest of the year rewriting their music in the hopes of one day getting a set fee.

I was thinking of asking for 50% of the fee now (having delivered 50% of the music to their satisfaction, although still awaiting the approval of their parent company).
In return I agree to work and work on it until they are happy or until a fixed amount of time (say 2 months) has elapsed.
Is that reasonable?

Would love to hear about others' experiences.

Thanks
#2
22nd October 2007
Old 22nd October 2007
  #2
Lives for gear
 
starcrash13's Avatar
I almost never do a flat fee anymore for this exact reason. A flat day rate maybe, but never a flat fee upon completion ever since I had a job once that started out as a four day gig and ended up stretching out to nearly eight months of phonecalls, emails, FTP'ing back and forth for approval - to make things worse it was a poorly made and depressing documentary.

Quote:
So I am doing a LOT of rewrites because they don't know what they want and keep changing their minds. Is this a normal situation?
This is pretty much standard and it's no different even on big-budget feature films. The only difference is the hourly rate. My motto is "if they're paying, I'm staying." Twelve hour days, weekends, 500 changes per reel? No worries!

Quote:
How many times do you re-do a job before you quit or ask for some money?
This is a bit delicate. If you try and reneg now, you are at risk of not being a man of your word. You made the crummy deal. If there's an opportunity to ask for more money and you can do it in a professionaly way, then give it a go. Otherwise, think of it as a learning experience for the next project.

Quote:
What is a normal arrangement?
Should I be asking for 50% deposit upfront?
I want to do the job for them but I can't spend the rest of the year rewriting their music in the hopes of one day getting a set fee.

I was thinking of asking for 50% of the fee now (having delivered 50% of the music to their satisfaction, although still awaiting the approval of their parent company).
In return I agree to work and work on it until they are happy or until a fixed amount of time (say 2 months) has elapsed.
Is that reasonable?
These are all obviously better scenarios than the one you are in, but an hourly or day rate is still better.

You said that it's an arcade game? I don't know much about the VG business, but aren't you entitled to royalties? Did you sign a big contract? Did you speak with an entertainment lawyer or at least someone who is experienced in composing for arcade games?
Edward
Thread Starter
#3
22nd October 2007
Old 22nd October 2007
  #3
Gear maniac
 

Thread Starter
No I didn't sign anything. A friend arranged the thing for me and we naively thought it would be a couple of weeks' work. Basically I looked on it s something new and a bit of fun that might lead to some more work.

I verbally agreed to sign over the rights to them in exchange for the fee.

As far as being a man of my word goes, I am but they are not, so all bets are off. Nothing was signed. They've changed the deal from me writing 6 pieces of music that they approve for their game into me writing the music, them approving it, then them taking it to another company and having them approve it too.

BTW I don't think royalties would be involved anyway because it's not a home video game that people can buy, it's an actual arcade console. But if others know differently, I'd love to hear about it.

If they refuse to fork over anything at this stage (50% of the job done) then I'll just quit and it was just a week wasted and water under the bridge.

Now I have an offer for another game so I want to be a bit smarter this time around!

Thanks for your thoughts.
#4
22nd October 2007
Old 22nd October 2007
  #4
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spiderman's Avatar
You should be asking for mechanical/syncronization royaltees for every arcade machine produced. Something around $20 per machine (my guess). It's $0.091 cent per DVD so.... figure the price difference between an arcade machine and a DVD.

I would also ask for a contract. You should never do this stuff without the deal in writing. It's important for your financial situation, piece of mind, and personal protection.
#5
24th October 2007
Old 24th October 2007
  #5
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Rob King's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joenovice View Post
I would also ask for a contract. You should never do this stuff without the deal in writing. It's important for your financial situation, piece of mind, and personal protection.
Yes! ALWAYS get a contract and make sure you stipulate how many revisions are available for the client in this contract. This is why you do this, to not be in the situation you are in. Believe me I learned the hard way as well and I am now at the point I rarely do any revisions at all based on creative freedom in a contract! I have worked on over 100 games in 14 years. Always get a contract even if it is for free. You will never get a mechanical royalty on a game unless you are a partner or owner in the company.

Depending on the amount of work you could do either a 50/50 front and back deal or a defined "milestone" payment. If the project is a year long with 180 min of cues we usually work in MIlestone payments. For a few ques it is usually a 50/50 front and back deal.
#6
24th October 2007
Old 24th October 2007
  #6
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santacore's Avatar
 

I've never worked on a game that hasn't had rewrites. It's become part of the process so you have to bid accordingly. As Rob said, always get some form of contract in writing or you will get screwed. Sorry to hear about your troubles.
#7
25th October 2007
Old 25th October 2007
  #7
Gear addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joenovice View Post
You should be asking for mechanical/syncronization royaltees for every arcade machine produced. Something around $20 per machine (my guess). It's $0.091 cent per DVD so.... figure the price difference between an arcade machine and a DVD.

I would also ask for a contract. You should never do this stuff without the deal in writing. It's important for your financial situation, piece of mind, and personal protection.
Best of luck doing video games and getting royalties. I just did a BIG one, though there is something in there, it's not fantastic. And I have a good agent. Back end is horrible on them relative to say films etc.
(that said the music should still be BMI/ASCAP registered and certain outlets and channels will shunt something through to you eg. if music is used in something like TV spots, etc.)
#8
25th October 2007
Old 25th October 2007
  #8
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spiderman's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by londontown View Post
Best of luck doing video games and getting royalties. I just did a BIG one, though there is something in there, it's not fantastic. And I have a good agent. Back end is horrible on them relative to say films etc.
(that said the music should still be BMI/ASCAP registered and certain outlets and channels will shunt something through to you eg. if music is used in something like TV spots, etc.)
But you did get SOMETHING! (I hope) Even if its $0.01 per copy, I'd be glad to have that. Just think....

Halo 3 = 1.75 million copies the first two days of release

1.75 million * .01 = $17,500

Plus the production fee, that's a good gig.
#9
25th October 2007
Old 25th October 2007
  #9
Gear addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joenovice View Post
But you did get SOMETHING! (I hope) Even if its $0.01 per copy, I'd be glad to have that. Just think....

Halo 3 = 1.75 million copies the first two days of release

1.75 million * .01 = $17,500

Plus the production fee, that's a good gig.
e. Not Halo but not a million miles off.
I think it was simply a 'given' bonus, that is, if it pulls xyz amount of revenue, you get a single fixed bonus of an unrelated number. So sort of backend but since the xyz number was pretty much a given, and the bonus was pathetic, it's hard to see it that way. It's not commensurate with the amounts the publisher will probably pull in, which at least royalties are.

Alas the production fee was package, not creative, as most of these damn things are as well, which REALLY annoys me. It's almost like having to bet against your own work.
soulstudios
#10
1st November 2007
Old 1st November 2007
  #10
soulstudios
Guest
 

To date most comp game music is non-royalty - ie. the company owns the rights and copyrights to your work once you sign off. This may change as time goes on and bigger names (recently, Nitin Sawney) get involved. Until then, don't expect royalties. Also, most VG companies find it difficult to comprehend hourly rates for music, so best to figure out how long it took you this time, and factor it into your next project payment estimation. Of the professional's I know, most charge $20 per sound effect - not because each sound effect takes 1 hour to record, but because it's easier for the studio to understand, and covers the cost of the sound effects which the studio asks to be re-done.
Hope this helps-
M@
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