Contracts for Freelance composers

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  • #2391

    I have a question on the business side of the game music business. As freelance composers we all need a default contract we can send to developers when they ask for it. Where should I start when making a contract and also any other information I should probably know would be welcome.

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  • #2398
    Ben Roberts

    I have a template I acquired at GDC that I can send you. I think came from an game audio production book IIRC.

    While I’m here, I’d like to ask a question to anyone who might know the answer:

    This template has a section on indemnification of the company for any losses caused by a breach of contract by the contractor, but it doesnt include any limitation of liability. This means that the contractor can be held accountable for any amount of money caused by a range of potentially unforeseen issues. Anyone here have experience with contracts that limit the liability of the contractor in this context?


    actually we’re planning on getting some sample contracts on the site soon. we’ve talked to the lawyer that we work with about it, so hopefully we’ll have something soon. Regarding that indemnification clause, that’s usually in every contract I’ve dealt with, and there isn’t usually a cap on that. I suppose it wouldn’t be that difficult to ask for a cap, but depending on the dev they may not want to adjust that at all but it’s fairly standard for most contractor agreements I believe.

    Jason Gibson


    Any updates on if there are contracts on the site. I was just coming to start a conversation about contracts. From this, am I to assume that I should be taking care of the contract, or should the game dev ever have a contract for me to sign. I’m also curious about the process of negotiating pay, and working that into a contract. Is it normal when working with indie devs, to receive no pay upfront?

    Any advice would be very helpful.

    Jason Gibson


    I will ask our lawyer about this. I know he was working on it, but lawyers get busy. So I’ll check!

    I have worked it both way – had the dev send an agreement first and vice versa. Negotiating is another art altogether, and wouldn’t be covered by any contract we’d post here. That is up to you.

    Generally you can work on a per/minute rate for music and get paid on milestones as you submit them, or in a couple of chunks, depending on the amount of music needed. Or you can quote it as a project rate. If you are using live musicians, then it gets more complicated, and you have to spell out who is supposed to be paying them, the studio, the contractor etc. If you’re starting out, this probably isn’t a concern.

    If it is an indie game, and you are working on it with friends, then simply make an agreement that you get a fair percentage of the revenue (agree on a number), and maybe that you can sell your soundtrack separately. Everyone does it a bit differently.

    If it is for one of these ‘cheap’ casual game companies that already have several games out and are obviously paying their coders, artists, producers etc, be sure to charge up front and at a decent rate.

    I have clients that I have a standard deal with, which involves 1)my estimate based on the info they gave me, 2)a deposit, usually 50%, and then balance due upon completion of all revisions. Then I have friends who I make indie games with and we come up with create stuff, like rev shares, soundtrack sales etc…even bartering…an artist I make sounds for might end up giving me album cover art later etc…

    I can definitely say that an agreement should be created and signed before any work is done, even if it’s not legalese, at least you have managed your expectations and put in writing what everyone is responsible for. It’s a necessary roadmap to have for the development of the project.

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