Fixed price: how much?

Hello there! 

I'm relatively new to the business of composing for medias, like TV, Radio, Films and Videogames, but I've done some work before (most of them for free, sadly). But now I decided to go for real! I'm building a website for my material, and there is a part of the site where I talk a little about pricing. Searching the internet for sites of other composers, I thought that it was a good idea to put a chart with some basic prices, just to begin and give an example to the customer of how much I charge. 

Now first: Is that a really good idea?

And second: Are these prices ok or are they too much for someone who's "beginning" in the business ?


As an extra question, I would like to ask: how is the best way to start spreading the word about my list? Should I search the internet for various business email, i.e. some videogame companies, and send them an email? 

Hope someone can help me and I really appreciate for you reading me.


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  • In order to determine the price of anything, we have to determine its value first.

    (I don’t think the notion of a “fixed” price is at all applicable, because even the value of something can fluctuate in relation to other commodities, but prices are even more variable, and over shorter periods of time.)

    Let us go to the founder of modern economics himself, Adam Smith, who says this about “value.”

    “The value of any commodity, ... to the person who possesses it, and who means not to use or consume it himself, but to exchange it for other commodities [or money, we might add], is equal to the quantity of labour which it enables him to purchase or command … [or the amount of money which represents that labour]. Labour, therefore, is the real measure of the exchangeable value of all commodities.”

    So, in a sense, the value of the music you wish to sell (from a purely economic standpoint) is equal to the amount of labor you have put into it.

    I don’t think you can measure the price by how long the piece of music is, for instance. Sometimes it might take you twice as long to produce a piece of music that is half the length.

    There is (on average) a direct relationship between the amount of labor you put into a piece of music and the quality of the piece, and therefore, the value of the piece. Price must ultimately (in the long run) reflect value.

    So, consider the production of a number of pieces of music as part of a sequence of actions:

    “….if the product resulting from the labor process is homogeneous (all similar in quality and traits, for example, all cups of coffee) then the value of the period’s product can be divided by the total number of items (or use-values represented as ‘V sub-u’), produced to derive the unit value of each item.

    W (sub-i) = W over Sigma (V sub-u)*,

    where ‘Sigma V sub-u’ is the total items produced.”

    I think only under that assumption can you charge the same amount for pieces of music of the same length.

    Then there is the question of whether or not potential buyers should have a change to “sample” the product (or listen to a small portion of it, in order to discern its quality).

    Will that be allowable?


    * [“W is the value of the product of the period (W comes from the German word for value: wert, related to the English word ‘worth’ ).”]

  • I am simply amazed about the load of garbage on this forum.

    Gustavo, if you are just starting out, $100 per minute of music and once your music sounds as professional as the guys of Cinesamples then you can charge $500 per minute like they do. If you want to advertise, you need to get on the movie and game designer forums and become friends with those guys and participate on those forums.
  • Hey Ondib, thanks for the answer! 

    It is quite difficult to set up a price for subjective material like music, but yeah, I kind of agree with you when it comes down to saying that a one track minute might be easiest to do than a 30 seconds, for example. I mean, I think it would be better to have some base price to stipulate, it might be easier for the buyer if he can have an idea about prices without having to contact me, but still... it seems particularly difficult for me to think of something that can gauge the price -  like time per track. 


    I hope you're not talking about me when you say about the "garbage" on this forum. I'm new to this 

    And well, $100 per minute sounds good to me. Yeah, there are some good game dev forums out there, thanks for the suggestion! But most of people there look for musicians to work for free and now I come to another question for you guys: is it worth to work for free in the beginning, to build up portfolio and make contacts? Or is it a trap?

    I always had the idea that you should never give your work for free, but I was searching through the internet and found people saying the opposite, that if you don't make it free at the beginning,  you won't have space in the market. It's hard to define a thought about it.

  • No, I am talking about Ondib...
  • When you do gigs for free you take away income from other composers and sound designers. The only people you would do something for free would be for close friends. My dad owns his own carpet cleaning business. He would clean my carpet for free but charge you and other clients. If he did not, he would not be in business very long. It's time you start thinking like a business owner if you are going to do this for real. For real world composing such as writing for schools I would get paid $1000 for 10 minutes. Now if I get that I would consider it an insult since I am use to double or more.
  • ...

    "No, I am talking about Ondib..."

    Don't responsible parents teach their children not to talk ABOUT people?

    Gustavo Coutinho thanked me for the post, and agreed with part of it. If someone wants to talk ABOUT what was said, and refer to specific points, so that a conversation can be had, that's fine. Perhaps some people want to protect others from a certain kind of economic analysis, and if that is the case, then their motives may be good (though perhaps slightly misguided). Maybe they simply don’t understand what was said. There is no way of knowing. In any case, it may be better to say what you think (in a rational, polite and professional manner), rather than casting out one- or two-word slurs.


    Gustavo said,

    " I think it would be better to have some base price to stipulate, it might be easier for the buyer if he can have an idea about prices without having to contact me, but still... it seems particularly difficult for me to think of something that can gauge the price - "

    I appreciate what you are saying.

    I was thinking of something like a "price range" or a negotiable price suggestion instead. And I was also thinking of "quality" (as opposed to length) as the determining factor, to decide value, and therefore price.

    For example, when you go into an Art Gallery, you see paintings priced, usually not according to the size or the total amount of paint put on the canvas. The artist or the gallery owner has made a judgment about the value of the work.

    You probably know the value of each individual work you produce, or you have a fairly clear idea of the value of one work, as compared with another. (And even if you are unsure, you probably know people you can trust who can help you make that judgment).

    That’s basically what I had in mind.

    Works of art do not all possess the same value or the same price, as if they were mass-produced, factory-manufactured tea cups.

    Perhaps this is to say:

    Markets do not determine value or price. PEOPLE do.

  • Rodney,

    couldn't agree more. That was ever my thought. Living in Brazil gave me some sort of bad experiences when it comes to free gigs. When I was in a band, it was really hard to find some gigs that would pay for us to play. People DO wanted us to play, but only for no money, at most "free water" as we play. Sometimes they even charged us to play, and I'm talking about small places here, really small. It was ridiculous, but they kept doing it because they knew that if our band didn't accepted (and we almost never did), they could quickly find lots of other bands that would willingly play for free. I don't know if this is only on Brazil, but that's frustrating. 



    Yeah, "quality" seems a little more fair determining factor. Actually, I think the ideal would be to consider both length and quality. I understand that works of art do not all possess the same value, but It's kind of frightening the quantity of music out there being sold by really low amounts, even more for a beginner at the business like me. I know that there's a HUGE difference between making custom music for an specific client  and putting a song on a stock music library to be sold many times, but even so. 

    I don't know, I just wanna start with the right foot on this and thought that you guys could help, and already helped so far, so thanks!

  • …….

    Oh, so you were in Brazil for a long time. I visited Brazil a couple of times, during the two years I lived in Colombia (and one of my closest friends lives there now, in Sao Paulo). I only saw two Amazonian towns in Brazil: Benjamin Constant and Tabatinga. I understand how difficult it must have been to get people to actually pay to listen to music. In Colombia, as you probably know, the people have traditionally been very poor; but they also have a great love for music and performance, and almost all the music you hear in public is free, without charge, and often excellent. They even have huge nationwide singing duels, called “Trova,” where singers “debate” one another, in rhyming couplets, on virtually any topic: social, political, familial, personal—you name it. Brass bands are extremely popular, and you can hear sixty and seventy year old men playing quite enthusiastically in these groups, men thin and gaunt, not too far from death, but “muy allegre” all the same, when they are playing together.

    When a country is as poor and war torn as Colombia, as you may well know, two situations prevail with regard to music: 1) for large numbers, performing music (and listening to music) are a matter of survival, for the sake psychological stability, if not simply to maintain sanity in the midst of an all encompassing civil conflict; and, 2) musical performance runs rampant, without charge, everywhere and anywhere, especially in the popular barrios, in a manner that is spontaneous, or planned on the special holidays, “en las plazas y las calles,” so that charging for music becomes superfluous. Professional Music is on radio and television, for the most part, and only members of the very small “wealthy class” will attend a concert of some sort, where payment is made. A few percent of the people are “rich,” and only about 10-15% are what people in the US are middle class.

    But your name looks Brazilian (or Portuguese), so maybe you know this already, through your own direct experience. The very skewed distribution of wealth in Brazil has been practically legendary for many, many decades, though maybe that is slowly changing. I did notice that Brazilians did seem, in general, to have a much higher standard of living than the people of Colombia. ( Are you from Portugal or somewhere else? )

  • When I have performed publicly, I have charged $100 per hour

  • Michael, I agree 110 %. I too would love to know more about the structure of the music market

    and the tried and true methods of marketing musical works. Who do you have to know?

    Where do you start? Nowadays do you really have to know anyone? How did you 'sell'

    your 1st piece, and what is fair value? What can an 'established ' artist can get as opposed

    to someone trying to debut, or make their talents known.

    Personally, I have zero experience at this at present, but down the road I might like to

    try to put together something and maybe make a buck or two. Knowing these things would help.

    The idea of staying on topic has been brought up before,  soooo, how ya(we) gonna police that and

    keep an open forum? (I know, make the perp listen to 2 hrs. of Tiny Tim)      RS

    michael diemer said:

    It's not about censorship, it's about respecting the original poster's question or topic. The gentleman who posted this question deserves to have his question answered in a thoughtful and helpful way. Particularly as it is a specific question that relates very closely to the purpose of this forum in the first place. If we don't give him that help, he will go somewhere that will. So if you care about this forum, and want to see it continue to grow, give other members - especially new ones - the respect they deserve, and save the jousting for other threads. We have plenty of places to play.

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