How much to charge?

Hello, I'm a college student majoring in music.  What I'd really like to do is work as a film/video game score composer.

Well a group of guys approached me who are creating a video game and they asked me to compose the music for it.  They also asked me what to charge and since this is my first project ever, and I never expected an opportunity so soon, I didn't think of what to charge.  

I tried looking up on the internet but didn't know how to search the issue.  Could someone help me out?  What do people normally charge for a service like this?  I don't want to rip them off and I don't want to . . . . well, rip myself off either. 

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  • Hoping you find your answer Hannah.

    I asked a similar question but pertaining to web design. It seems the answer is always "charge what you think is fair based on experience and personal talent/self-worth".... but if you have no idea on what "fair" is... then....
  • Its a bit late but something that I've found thats useful, at least to as a basic starting point, is here . Its in euros but it gives you a basic idea.
  • I hadn't noticed this discussion before but I would like to mention that while I agree with Chris's thoughts on not giving away your rights or royalties, total buyouts are very common in the videogame industry and are pretty much expected.

    Of course for total buyouts you should be expecting good money, at least in excess of $500 per minute of music.
  • Hi Chris,

    I absolutely agree mate but the video game industry is all based around buyouts. I would be amazed if you could find a videogame scoring gig with any other deal.

    Now I wouldn't consider anything less than $1000 per minute of music created but I know of some phenomenal composers who have taken far less to get their music on videogames.

    Perhaps Hannah could give us some ideas of the setup here. If these guys are pros then you should be looking at around $1000.

    Incidentally Chris, this is one reason I wanted to work in film and not videogames.
  • There's not a stock answer for what you should charge. The answer hinges on:

    (A) How much you need or want the particular opportunity,

    balanced with

    (B) How much they can afford to pay you.

    (B) means that you need to research who they are. How big is their business? Are they just starting out? Or are they more established, a bigger company--have they had a number of charting games?

    It may be a struggle for some companies to pay you much at all, if anything. If they could only afford to pay you very little or nothing, then you need to decide how much just the experience and any publicity that might result could benefit you. Especially if they can't afford to pay you much, make sure instead that (1) your name is featured prominently on the game materials, including on box/package/in the booklet, etc., (2) you retain the copyrights to your own work, and (3) if they should make a lot of money in the future with the game, you'll get a percentage of their profits. Those three things can benefit you a lot. Just because a company can't afford to pay you much, that doesn't suggest that it's not worth taking the job.

    Also, companies at that stage often prefer to do things fairly informally, which is understandable. But do NOT agree to the job without a written contract in any event. The written contract for a situation like this should specify (1), (2) and (3) above in DETAIL--just where your name will appear, just what your percentage of future profits would be, etc., and you need to have a lawyer look it over. No matter what work you do, ALWAYS have a contract for it, and always have a lawyer at least look it over.

    If it's a larger company--like RockStar or ActiVision or someone like that, then they can afford to pay you very well, BUT, there's a good chance they simply wouldn't do business with you unless THEY become the owners of the copyrights, and your name might not be so easy to find in connection with the game, etc.--you might not be on the box art, you might only be buried in the onscreen end-game credits, which almost no one bothers looking at. But the reward there is the money you're making, as well as the industry contacts you're making.

    Many jobs will be in-between the two extremes. But it should be clear why there is no stock answer to how much you should charge. You need to do more work than just having one price that applies to anyone who would want to hire you.
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