Sound choices Asbjoern Andersen


When working in sound, chances are you'll come across projects where you're asked to work for free - and, depending on the project and your situation, you might be tempted to give it a go.

But before you do, stop and think for a second: There are alternative approaches to outright working for free that you might want to consider.

In this guide by Ryan Ike, he shares 7 other tactics you could use if you want to the gig, but don't want to work for nothing. He's coming at it from a game audio composer's perspective, but many of his ideas will apply to other fields of audio work too.

Oh, and as a bonus, we spiced things up a little by adding 40+ more resources for succeeding in sound:


Written by Ryan Ike
Please share:

I  spend a lot of time yelling about how game audio freelancers need to charge what you’re worth (and for many I’ve talked to, this is as high as 10x what you charge now). But if you really want the gig and the client doesn’t have the $$$, there are ways to compensate!

All of what follows falls under the idea that “it’s ok to work for free, but don’t work for nothing.” Money is ideal, but no matter what, you should be making sure you get some kind of fair value for your time and skill. Here are some options.
 

1. Revenue share: This should probably never be your first choice, but if they can’t pay, or can’t pay much, asking for a few percentage points off of the net revenue the game takes in is always a good idea. Keep in mind, this is likely to amount in Not Very Much Money. I got absurdly lucky with Gunpoint, my first major game. I got rev share on that in lieu of pay (the dev is wonderful, just didn’t have the budget). That game went #1 on steam for a good while, and I ended up making something like 200-250k off of it all told. But this is RARE.

If they can’t pay, or can’t pay much, asking for a few percentage points off of the net revenue the game takes in is always a good idea.

A game has to sell mega well for your rev share cut to be great or even good. Even games that are successful enough to pay the main team a decent wage and recoup costs won’t pay you much, only something selling like crazy will net you more than your outright rate.
That said, if you want to try it, a rough standard for an audio person is 10% (if taking only rev share). I often do 5% + a reduced rate if the client can pay some, but not all of what I’m asking.
 

2. Bonuses: Rather than a %, these are chunks of money paid out depending how well the game does. If a client can’t pay your rate, you can ask for them to pay the remainder in full if the game sells X copies or makes a certain profit threshold. Because this is risky as well, it’s good to ask for tiered bonuses to compensate you for that risk. If the game hits Y sales, you get an extra 30k. But if it hits Yx2 sales, you get another 30k. Yx3? Another thirty. That’s only one way to structure it, as an example. Remember, any payment method that revolves around you receiving some kind of compensation based on how well the game sells is risky af. This is video games; even objectively great games sell poorly all the time. You’re always taking a chance when you do this, but it’s worth a try.

 
3. Album rights: for compopsers at least, you can ask for the rights to the soundtrack album. This allows you to sell it and retain all the profits. Unless you’re Celeste, it rarely amounts to more than a few k if you’re lucky, but can be good if they can’t quite meet your rate. (you should kind of ask for this anyway, every time, even if they meet your rate, though. A lot of devs are fine with letting you hold onto it, especially because you do the work of spreading the OST around, which makes more folks aware of the game itself).
 

4. Access: this is a weird one, but if your potential client knows people at another dev studio or has a contact it’d be valuable to meet, you can ask for an introduction and for them to talk you up.

I’ve had multiple games that couldn’t pay very well, but which led me to games that could through the clients’ connections

I’ve had multiple games that couldn’t pay very well, but which led me to games that could through the clients’ connections.
Like all networking, you’re trying to make friends, so don’t be too aggressive with the third party. If you’re lucky, this can be a big career boost.
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

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    • 765 sound effects (2GB)
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    Featuring 35 high-quality urban ambiences (over 3 hours total), Chicago Ambisonics includes SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products that allows you to point “virtual microphones” any direction with a wide range of polar patterns. Unparalleled flexibility lets users match backgrounds with the specific setting of any scene.

    With more productions filming in Chicago than ever before, a Chicago sound effects library is an asset for any sound editor. Chicago Ambisonics features 24-bit/96 kHz city atmospheres captured all over Chicago including recordings from from Magnificent Mile, Chinatown, the L Train, West Loop, Kennedy Expressway, O’Hare International Airport, Lake View, & Wrigley Field.

    This library is also perfect for use in 3D Audio applications including VR experiences and 360º video – prepare your sound effects library for the future of immersive media! Pre-rendered stereo versions of all of the recordings are included as well.

    Key Features:

    • 35 pristine recordings in B-Format (FuMa) & Stereo (14GB)
    • Over 3 hours of immersive Chicago ambiences
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    • Diverse Chicago atmospheres: Including streets, parks, & subways
    • 24-bit/96kHz broadcast .wav files
    • SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products: Gives you full control over “virtual microphone” position and polar patterns
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Notes:

    • Your DAW must support Quad (4-channel) tracks in order to use SurroundZone2 plug-in.
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    There are 124 files of slamming doors, doors opening and closing, creaking doors, doors handles and locks.

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Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

5. Reduced scope: Aside from getting something other than money from a client who can’t pay your rate, the other way to protect your worth is to just, uhh, do less. Can sound crappy at first glance. But if you can’t pay a painter their rate, they might offer one coat instead of 2. A wedding planner may offer to lose a few of the bells and whistles if her first ask is too much. Other contractors do it all the time, so should creatives.

This seems obvious, but a lot of audio people (me included) will accept a lower rate on a project we really like, but then do the same amount of work we would’ve done if we got our full rate.

The most successful freelancers in any field have one thing in common, and it’s that they value their time

That’s not great, even if you just really want to do the full score. If they want ~1 hour soundtrack, but they can only afford half your rate, offer a 30 minute score and target the most important parts of the game. Or offer less edits and revisions on SFX and music. Offer less complicated tracks, easier instrumentation, etc. It can feel (if you’re me) like you’re being a lazy hack who doesn’t want to work, but really you’re just valuing yourself and your skill and time, and that’s ok. The most successful freelancers in any field have one thing in common, and it’s that they value their time.
 

Related, but 6. Reduced Priority: Let the client know you’ll work for less $, but this means that you’ll often have to prioritize other clients (or potential clients) who can pay closer to your rate. If you’re a soft hearted midwestern doofus like me, this feels callous at first, but its’ about your own survival. If you’re spending $60k worth of your time on a game that only pays $20k, you’re scraping by and missing out on other opportunities that might pay you what you need. It’s ok to politely tell a client “hey, I can do it for this much, but I may often need to take on more clients total to keep the lights on. I’ll do good work for you, but can’t always put you first, is that cool?” I’ve had clients actually appreciate knowing this in advance!
 

7. Skill Trade: Finally, if your client has a skillset that you need, you can ask them to use it for you in return for working for less $. If they’re good at design, maybe they can make you a new website. Maybe you need album art. Or voiceover. If you can use what they do, trade!

I can’t stress enough that being paid in money and at your rate is almost always the ideal situation. But if you’re starting out and haven’t found games with the budget yet, or you just REALLY want to work on this game, there are options for you to still be valued in your work.
 
 

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About Ryan Ike:

Ryan Ike is a composer and sound designer based in Seattle, WA, with work spanning games like Gunpoint, West of Loathing, and Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Outside of making audio, he spends his time trying to help newcomers find their place in the game industry, and is passionate about making sure that game audio pros (and creatives in general) are getting the pay and respect they deserve. You can listen to his work here

 


Succeed in sound:

• How to Set (and Get) the Right Price for Your Audio Work

• 10 Essential Tips for Game Audio Freelancers

• How to be a successful sound designer – with Scott Gershin

• 5 Useful Tips for Upcoming Sound Designers and Sound Editors

• Sound Opinions: How to get game audio pricing right

• Building a successful audio post studio – with Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman

• Rebuilding your studio: Goals, tips and lessons learned

• Creating audio for games – with Martin Stig Andersen

• A life in sound: How to foster creativity and protect yourself from burning out – with Chance Thomas

• Tips and thoughts on running your own audio post production house – with William McGuigan

• 30+ year audio veteran Andy Greenberg, on building client relationships in the advertising industry

• 7 Sound Alternatives to Working For Free

• Audio Outsourcing Success: Essential Tips, Thoughts and Working Practices from Adele Cutting

 
 
The sound success series:

• How to succeed in UI/UX Sound Design, ADR Recording, & Audio Programming

• How to succeed in sound design for Film, Documentaries, and Trailers

• How to succeed in sound design for Games, Animation, and Television

How to succeed in Field Recording, Foley, and Teaching Sound

• How to succeed in Audio Branding, Music Editing, and sound for VR

• How to succeed in Theater Sound Design, Podcast Sound Design, and Podcast Production

• How to succeed in Sound Editing, Sound for Advertising, and Production Sound

 
Breaking into audio – guides and resources:

• The ‘Quit Aspiring’ book – by Adam Croft

• How to get hired in game audio – thoughts and insights from your potential employer’s perspective

• 4 Effective Ways to Break into Game Audio

• Tips for Creating a Perfect Resume for Audio Industry Jobs

• Yet Another Game Audio Hiring Article – by Ariel Gross

• 5 Tips for Getting a Job in the Audio Industry

• Applying for a job in game audio – by Matthew Florianz

• Freelance Game Audio: Getting Started and finding work – by Ashton Morris

• How to get started (and make it) in game audio – 10+ fundamental questions answered by Akash Thakkar

• Courses: How to network and get paid for your work in the game industry – by Akash Thakkar

• How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter for Audio Industry Jobs
 
 
Finding those audio jobs:

• Get the weekly Audio Jobs newsletter

• Join the Audio Jobs Facebook group
 
 
Showcasing your work:
 
• Get a free profile on Soundlister

• Upload your demos to Soundcloud

• Upload your demos to ReelCrafter
 
 
Networking:
 
• Find game audio community groups around the world

• Find interesting audio events around the world

• Find other audio pros around the world
 
 
Coping with a layoff - and how to bounce back:

• How to prepare for – and power through – a layoff in the game audio industry, with Brian Schmidt:

• How to Survive a Game Audio Layoff – insights from Damian Kastbauer

• What it’s like to be laid off from your video game studio

• What To Do Before and After Being Laid Off

• Facebook Group: Survival Skills for Creatives
 
 
Education and knowledge:
 
• Get an audio mentor at the Audio Mentoring Project

• How To Learn Game Audio Online – A talk with Game Audio Educator Leonard Paul

• Read the 100s of sound stories and guides on the A Sound Effect blog (search for stories here)

• Browse Industry Data: Game Music and Sound Design Salary Survey Results

• Browse 100+ Sound Design Guides

• Essential books about sound – for film, games and audio post production

• Get tips and ideas for making your own sound effects

• Discover 1000s of sound libraries from the independent sound community

• Take online courses in Wwise, FMOD Studio, Unity, Pure Data & Unreal at the School of Video Game Audio
 
 
Getting into independent sound effects:
 
• DIY SFX libraries - Your guide to your first sound effects library

• Sound effects survey results: Here are 90+ ideas for new SFX libraries

• How to create an indie sound bundle

• The quick-start guide to adding sound FX library metadata

 
 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
 
  • Drones & Moods Sonic Warfare Play Track 40+ sounds included, 40 mins total $20 $2.50

    Sonic Warfare by Badlands Sound features 40 audio files organized in four different categories, including Deep Distortion, Glitch, Noise, and Scream – 10 audio files for each category. This is the best pack if you need all of the above noises!

    I believe these sounds will greatly benefit sound editors and sound designers allowing them to skip through the process of either creating dark drones or painful high-pitch glitches. These sounds would also work perfectly in different styles of music including noise and dark industrial. All files are 96k / 24 bit, lasting one minute each.

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  • Badlands Sound went to the future to recorded 42 room tones of various spaces like computer rooms, engine rooms, bathrooms, and much more all in 24bit / 96k. We also recorded electrical buzzes and distorted sci-fi winds. More than 2 hours of futuristic room tones and ambiences included in total.

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  • Materials & Texture Glacier Ice Play Track 300+ sounds included $40 $30

    Glacier Ice is a library containing over 300 high quality sounds of ice cracking, breaking, shattering in various sizes of blocks – recorded entirely in the Italian Alps over the course of two winters.

    The library contains sounds of all dimensions, from ice cubes being dropped in a drink to a designed iceberg collapsing.

    The majority of the material was recorded at 192 KHz with a Sanken CO100K and a stereo pair of Sennheiser MKH8040, making this library greatly flexible for pitch shifting and all sorts of heavy processing.

    A small section recorded at 96KHz features sounds recorded exclusively with contact microphones placed directly on the surface of a frozen water stream.

    Bonus: Two extra libraries included for free:
    This library also includes two additional releases from Mattia Cellotto - for free: Crunch Mode delivers 230 crunchy sounds made with a variety of vegetables, fresh bread, pizza crust and a selection of frozen goods. The Borax Experiment gets you 158 squishy, gory, slimy and gooey sounds.
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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • House 01 – A virtual grab bag of normal. A complete house as a document. Doors, windows, more doors. Lots of perspectives and various strengths and positions of just about everything.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1598047199
  • The All Metal sound effects library features 765 sounds of metal clashing, clanging and resonating as metal pieces are rummaged through, dropped, and tossed. Create with the various distinct sonic properties of metal objects — from squeaky gates, rattley wires, ringing wrenches, warbling sheet metal, clattering swords and more.

    Each sound was pristinely recorded at 192kHz with lots of variations for more creative freedom. Uncover the sonic treasures that await as you pitch and process the squeals, squeaks and moans of the metallic debris for limitless sound design opportunities. Strengthen your projects with the distinct buzzing, scraping and reverberation of metal impacts for both literal use and creative implementation as layers for intense sound design.

    Each sound file is embedded with diligent metadata to help you find the exact sound effect you need with fast, pinpoint search. Advanced metadata fields ensure compatibility across any database search platform such as Search by PSE, Soundminer, BaseHead, Netmix, Workspace (Pro Tools), Find Tool (Media Composer), Media Bay (Nuendo), Reaper, Adobe Premiere, and beyond.

    Key Features:

    • 765 sound effects (2GB)
    • 24 bit/96k, 24 bit/192k broadcast .wav files
    • Descriptive embedded metadata
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Credits:

    • Saro Sahihi
  • Chicago Ambisonics is a library of B-format city ambiences with “virtual microphone” software.

    Included software allows users to tweak perspective in real time for greater control and creativity. The Ambisonics format offers versatile use of the library, as the recordings can be decoded to mono, stereo, 5.1, 7.1 and beyond. The creative possibilities are endless!

    Featuring 35 high-quality urban ambiences (over 3 hours total), Chicago Ambisonics includes SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products that allows you to point “virtual microphones” any direction with a wide range of polar patterns. Unparalleled flexibility lets users match backgrounds with the specific setting of any scene.

    With more productions filming in Chicago than ever before, a Chicago sound effects library is an asset for any sound editor. Chicago Ambisonics features 24-bit/96 kHz city atmospheres captured all over Chicago including recordings from from Magnificent Mile, Chinatown, the L Train, West Loop, Kennedy Expressway, O’Hare International Airport, Lake View, & Wrigley Field.

    This library is also perfect for use in 3D Audio applications including VR experiences and 360º video – prepare your sound effects library for the future of immersive media! Pre-rendered stereo versions of all of the recordings are included as well.

    Key Features:

    • 35 pristine recordings in B-Format (FuMa) & Stereo (14GB)
    • Over 3 hours of immersive Chicago ambiences
    • Average recording length of 6 minutes
    • Diverse Chicago atmospheres: Including streets, parks, & subways
    • 24-bit/96kHz broadcast .wav files
    • SurroundZone2 software by TSL Products: Gives you full control over “virtual microphone” position and polar patterns
    • 100% Royalty-Free

    Notes:

    • Your DAW must support Quad (4-channel) tracks in order to use SurroundZone2 plug-in.
  • RAW CELLO FX features manipulated and mangled cello sound effects designed to provide the full character of the instrument and harmonic richness in order to create a completely unique set of organic samples between music and noise, intimate and vivid bold sounds expanding new possibilities out of this instrument.

    Different techniques and less-than-conventional microphone placement have been used to create gorgeous harmonics and a wide array of interesting sounds. We “played” with fingers and hands, different bows against the strings, objects and kitchen utensils, bowing, scraping or hitting single and multiple strings or parts of the wood body. 

    The collection features designed hits, bow, crescendo, screech, woosh, swell, bonus fx folder and is ready for trailer and soundtrack projects.

     

     

  • This is a collection of old and modern doors.

    The collection includes wood doors , glass doors and metal doors recorded in an old theater , a cottage and an appartment.
    There are 124 files of slamming doors, doors opening and closing, creaking doors, doors handles and locks.

 
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