Composing for indie projects – How much to charge?

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  • #27557 Reply

    Yeah, I sort of gave up on “indie horror”….

    A decade ago (and about 25 movies ago) the movies actually had “crews”, now everything is done in a slipshod way with no real story or “polish” to them.

    It seems that just like with music, people are able to put together a finished “release” (ever look at the flood of cheap indie horror on amazon prime?) without the benefit of years of private mistakes!

    I’m sort of glad I’m old! Back when I started music, there was no way to get signed unless you convinced others that you were good enough.

    I wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t get signed!… Thankfully!

    There’s a lot of music of mine on cassette that will NEVER see the light of day! (Thank God!!!!)

    I sometimes wish there was a built in “cooling off period” for newbie composers AND filmmakers!

    Now everyone has an outlet….. there is a lot of good about that.

    This is the bad part!

    #28888 Reply

    Hey guys,i would love to have some tips for a,kind of,WFH project.
    A fellow composer had an offer from a new company and wants to know how much he should charge the company for the use of his music.
    They picked one of his tracks as the main theme of a new cartoon series.
    I know this is quite subjective but any rough estimations would help a lot!

    Here are the facts;

    1) They want to buyout the track and use it exclusively in perpetuity as the main theme of the series.
    2) They aim to shop it in some american tv network (big or small,no idea yet).
    3) They have 6 episodes ready so far and when/if it is greenlighted they’ll do more.

    As i said,this is a new company and this is going to be their first project.Still,since they want to use the track as the main theme of the series and want to buyout the copyright,he shouldn’t do it for a few hundreds of dollars i guess…

    Any suggestions,rough estimations etc are very welcome.

    #28889 Reply
    Michael Nickolas

    I will throw out a rough estimate of $3,000 if it’s a national cable theme song, and $10,000 if it’s a national network theme song. Composer keeps writer’s share of broadcast royalties.

    #28894 Reply

    Thank you Michael,i appreciate your help!

    #31384 Reply

    Perhaps the UK indie games scene is different, but we’ve always had a sound director/composer on the team who covers music/sound and gets a cut of total profits the same as the main developer/s, artist/s, animator/s, etc (regardless of whether they are working on other projects at the same time). They are a core part of the team from the very start and have part ownership of the completed game. We rarely contract additional composers for extra bits and pieces, so have never had to negotiate rates. I’m sure established AAA games have much bigger teams and budgets to match and have more contracted work, but I doubt the average indie game would have a big enough starting budget to afford to hire anyone (composer, developer, artists, animators, etc) at a reasonable fixed rate. As a developer and 3D artist, I face a similar issue. I look at the team, look at whether the project interests me, whether I think it will be successful financially, whether it will be a good addition to my portfolio, then agree to a profit share of the game before joining the team. If I’d turned down work because the team couldn’t afford me up front, I would have missed out on a lot of money over the years.

    #31708 Reply

    SO I put together my own indie type biography documentary out for free on the web. It’s was Uber low budget and super time consuming, but it helped in defining my results of studying over that last 10 years. So i’ve had it up for a few months and remember I crossed paths with a few film scores back in the end of Autumn 2018. Reflecting back I an considering saving up to get it done, but just needed a ball park of how it wok for prices on free films. I added some music, but didnt’ really know where to go with it so i just used a whole CD that I had. My current budget from the looks of it is not early enough, lol ($500). I just want the experience of my film to be taken in better. I live in NYC so i’m busy all the time with clients or doing promotions and really want to bring this film out for international viewing (just about to hand over the script for Subtitles….)
    It’s not traditionally put together, it was a film created to be taken in emotionally and to move you to think. Thus why it’s free, of course.

    ANY input would be greatly appreciated
    You can contact me by email at
    and to view the film

    Thanks in advance

    #31715 Reply
    Michael Nickolas

    I added some music, but didnt’ really know where to go with it so i just used a whole CD that I had

    Well, you shouldn’t be using a whole CD that you had without obtaining the proper licenses. So it’s good you are looking into replacing the music. I watched a few minutes and feel you don’t need a custom score. Purchasing licenses for stock music I think will make you legal and do a fine job. The $500 you have could purchase around ten licenses I estimate. I have a few in that style:

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