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:

 

Latest releases:  
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $75

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $30 $15

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569707999
    Add to cart
  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $120 $99

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

    18 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569016799
    Add to cart
  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $30 $15

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
    Add to cart
  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $149.99 $99.99

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1568757599
    Add to cart

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

• 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 Sound Editing, Sound for Advertising, and Production Sound

 
Breaking into audio – guides and resources:

• The ‘Quit Aspiring’ book – by Adam Croft

• 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

• 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:
 
 
  • In a remote research lab in the north-east of England, scientists have been secretly carrying out experiments on a number of human test subjects. There is no record of what these experiments entailed or who authorized them, but one thing we do know is that something went horrendously wrong and transformed these once-innocent, everyday people into something else entirely… Something inherently evil.

    Herein lies an audio documentation of these wretched beasts as they run amok with only one thing on their minds… To feed and to destroy.

    Zombie contains 205 vocal sounds in the following categories:
    Subject A: 67 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Subject B: 89 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Subject C: Zombie Brat: 18 raw unprocessed vocal sounds
    Processed: 27 vocal sounds with pitch down and reverb fx
    Layered: 4 layered, looping sequences of Subject A & B
    Add to cart
  • Drones & Moods Atmosfear Play Track 50 sounds included, 31 mins total $10

    Featuring sounds taken from lo-fi instrumental recordings, harsh noise experiments and granular synthesis explorations, Atmosfear is a gritty soundscape collection geared towards the horror genre. With a distinctly unpolished production style to bring a rough edge to your scenario, these sounds can be used to invoke feelings of suspense, dread, tension, fear and doom into your characters and environments.

    What does an industrial scale torture chamber in an abandoned asylum sound like? What about a high-voltage electrical possession? Find the answer to these questions and more with Atmosfear. Enter if you dare.

    Add to cart
  • Human Swordfighter Play Track 479 sounds included $25 $20

    Swordfighter is a robust package with sharp sounding swords, heaps of variations and all the extras you need to make a fight come alive. Build unique sword swings with various hits, swooshes, schings, different fighter vocals and impacts on various surfaces. All up there are 137 sword sounds, 93 surface impact sounds, 15 knife throwing sounds, 48 swooshes and 180 fighter vocals.

    This version includes two sub-folders: one optimised for a film & TV workflow and the other optimised for video games workflow. Plus a few bonus sounds of a charging army.

    20 %
    OFF
    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Destruction & Impact Debris – Ambisonic Play Track 110+ sounds included, 17 mins total $75

    Get all sorts of ambisonic debris recordings in this release from Spheric Collection – perfect for earthquakes, landslides, explosions and beyond. Debris is the material you will need for a house and gallery collapsing. From very small stone and dust to large rocks, this collection is a good set of mineral sounds – covering everything from impacts, continuous falling debris, rocks poured from various heights, light and heavy falling debris sounds, a number of falling rock sounds, to rocky explosions and blasts, glass sounds and more. Always immersive all sounds are ambisonic recordings.

    About Ambisonics:
    This is an Ambisonics sound effects library - and by using the free SoundField SurroundZone 2 plugin you can convert the B-format files into your preferred format (stereo, 5.0, 5.1, 6.0, 6.1, 7.0 or 7.1 surround). Note: The library also contains ready-made stereo mixdowns for your convenience.
  • Drones & Moods Affright Play Track 208 sounds included, 45 mins total $30 $15

    Affright” is a collection of 208 sounds (Wav, 24 Bit / 48 kHz) aimed to induce tension, fear and urgency in horror productions.

    You will find looped percussive elements (clocks, metals, hits, alarms, musical elements and more at 75 bpm), designed rhythmic elements (75 bpm) and fx (atmospheric elements, reverses, noises, risers, drops).

    If you are a musician who wants to define the building blocks of an intense horror track or maybe you are a sound designer who needs to create a musical moment in a scene from a sound design perspective, this library can help you to achieve those things.

    Metals, vinyl noises, voices, ukuleles, flutes, guitars and clocks were used to create this intense pack of 164 loops and 44 Fx.

    Check the main demo!! It was created very quickly using only the sounds of the pack with NO ADDED EFFECTS, only mixing the levels of the sounds and shows you the intensity of what you can create with this library!!

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569707999
  • Hum, Buzz & Glitches Vintage Film Tech Effects Play Track 206 sounds included, 5 mins total $120 $99

    Vintage Film Tech Effects features Slate claps, Beeps, Bloops, Film leader tone, Static, 2 Pops, digital dropouts, record player noise and much more. We’ve collected these vintage sounds from old Hollywood dailies reels, and film stock. 206 tracks that recreate the sound of the lost art of classic Film, TV and radio production.

    18 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569016799
  • City Life Transit: Japan Play Track 40 sounds included, 2.75 hrs mins total $30 $15

    Looking for authentic ambient sounds of Japanese transportation? Look no further! Field recordist and composer Ryan Ayers travelled to Japan in April of 2019 and captured this wonderful collection. His journey took him from Osaka to Tokyo to Fukuoka and all points in-between. Travel aboard the trains of the JR, the famous Shinkansen, the Hanyu Ferry and more! Explore the train platforms and station terminals of Osaka. Get lost in the Kansai International Airport. There is a subway noodle shop as well as specialty food markets. Authentic walla and natural activity give this collection the ear candy necessary to be an integral part of great soundscapes.

    This is a purely recorded sound pack. Nothing is synthetic or layered here. What you hear is exactly what was captured on location. We edited and mastered the files to bring out the best parts of the recordings. Most of the recordings have been ready-made into loops for ease of use. As always, we have embedded the files with detailed metadata for easy database searches.

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1569967199
  • Foley Wooden Ship Ambiences Play Track 50 sounds included, 85 mins total $149.99 $99.99

    Ahoy Mateys! Step aboard the finest sailing ship sound effects library in the land.

    Whether you’re working on an exciting Pirates of the Caribbean style video game or a relaxing sea-faring romance, the hours of exceptional background loops and additional cutting edge ship sounds contained within this sound pack will set your project on a course to excellence!

    EXPLORE AN ENTIRE SHIP

    Whether your adventure takes place in the MAIN DECK, CABIN, BELOW DECK, atop the CROWS NEST, in a MEDIEVAL PORT, or on a DISTANT SHIP in the HIGH SEAS we’ve got you covered! Each ambience contains MULTIPLE VARIATIONS, ALL WEATHER CONDITIONS, and MULTIPLE INTENSITIES to cover each and every part of the ship, on the rough and calm seas, this sound effects library is perfect for every situation you need.

    A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER

    Our expert team of sound designers have meticulously crafted each ambience into CONTINUOUS, NON-REPETITIVE, DRAG AND DROP-READY LOOPS that will serve as perfect background audio for your game, film, animation, live event, or even as relaxing background audio! We have even included FULL and SIMPLIFIED MIXES, ISOLATED WEATHER, OCEAN and WOOD CRACKING versions, SHORT and LONG non-repetitive variants, and numerous other options for your convenience!

    TREASURE APLENTY

    With FREE UPDATES, FOREVER! and FREE BONUS AMBIENCES: MEDIEVAL PORT and isolated, SEA, SAILS and FLAG FLAPPING, Ship’s BELL RINGING, WEATHER and WOOD CRACKING SOUNDS, all supplied in industry standard Hi-Rez WAV and Hi-Quality MP3 formats, there’s no better time to set sail on the high seas with this ONE OF A KIND sound pack!

    So what are you waiting for? Take command of this UNIQUE library and begin your journey on the high seas today!

    KEY FEATURES:

    • Huge variety of Old Wooden Ship Interior and Exterior Ambiences, All Weather Conditions and Additional Useful BONUS Sound Effects for every scene or situation.
    • Multiple variants and intensities for your convenience and additional edit options (lengths, looping versions, stingers, etc.).
    • Ready to use – requires no editing, labelling or splicing. Categorized, organized and individually labeled files for maximum use efficiency
    • All files are included in Hi-Rez WAV, High-Quality WAV and High-Quality MP3 formats
    • FREE Updates to higher versions, FOREVER!

     

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1568757599
 
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