game audio pricing Asbjoern Andersen


How do you set the right price for your game audio work? It can be a real challenge sometimes, and you may be tempted to set your price much lower than you're comfortable with - just to land the gig.

But in this new Sound Opinions feature, Ryan Ike shares his thoughts on why you may be shooting both yourself and others in the foot by doing so.

Ryan is a game audio composer, but really, these thoughts can apply to anyone working in sound:


Written by Ryan Ike, and republished with his kind permission
Please share:
 
I meet so many of you who charge 50, 20, 10 percent of what you should be, and either don’t know it, or do it because you think you have to. Want to know a secret?

You’ll get better clients/more high-profile gigs if you charge MORE, not less. I’ll explain:

First off, I’m going to talk about a few negative experiences I’ve had, but I’m not naming any names. I’m not here to shame anyone specific or target anybody, just to share my side of things.

When I was starting out, like most game audio folks, I was charging a fraction of what I should’ve been, even as a beginner. I thought I needed to “pay my dues” and “work my way up.” And to an extent that’s true; you increase your rate as your work gets better and better. When I did get a fair wage or percentage share, it was really only when devs who were already fair people offered it. I probably would’ve worked for dirt on Gunpoint because I didn’t know any better. Luckily, Gunpoint game designer Tom Francis was way too nice to let me do that to myself.

But between projects like that where the dev offered fair compensation, there were plenty of jobs where I super lowballed myself. I’m not saying the devs who accepted those low proposals are bad people, btw. Most were also broke, and needed a good deal where they could get it. When I look back at the projects in my career that were the most stressful, where clients were least respectful of my time or had unreasonable demands, there’s one throughline: on every one of those projects, I majorly undersold myself because I wanted to get the gig.

When I look back at the projects in my career that were the most stressful, where clients were least respectful of my time or had unreasonable demands, there’s one through-line: on every one of those projects, I majorly undersold myself because I wanted to get the gig.

I’m talking clients calling me on weekends or late night, when I don’t work unless it’s crunch. Demanding I get music to them on holidays, on vacations. Asking for absurd amounts of music on no deadline.

“Can you score this 4 minute trailer in 2 days?”
“Um…sorry no, that’s a couple weeks worth of work at least, and that’s with no revisions.”
“Ok well, we really need it by then. We can push it back I guess, but that’ll really hurt our schedule…”

And always, ALWAYS, these clients wanted tons and tons of revisions, way outside the normal amount. Often, they’d ask for something without really thinking about it, or deciding if it was what they wanted at all. I would end up scrapping weeks worth of work on a whim.
 

 
If this sounds familiar to you, let’s talk about why this happens. When you charge super low, you’re saying you’re not worth being treated like a pro. You don’t charge like one, so why should they treat you that way?

You immediately give the impression that you’re an amateur or a young kid looking for their break, even if you’re not. Even if you’ve never had a gig, if you can do the work, you should charge what’s fair. If not, clients see it as them doing you a favor, not a partnership. Again, not everyone is a predator or out to scam you, and a lot of this can be subconscious, but it is there. When you charge low, you’re going to end up doing a hell of a lot more work for way less money. A lot of our industry’s burnout is linked to exactly this thing.

Even if you’ve never had a gig, if you can do the work, you should charge what’s fair. If not, clients see it as them doing you a favor, not a partnership.

I know it doesn’t sound like it makes sense, but if you charge more, that’s when you start getting clients who respect your time and talent. Why? Because they’re paying for it. You don’t hire Hans Zimmer and then micromanage him, you let him do his thing.

Similarly to when you lowball yourself, charging a fair professional rate sends the message that you’re confident, that you can do the job, and that this is a business partnership, not an internship.

My pal Akash Thakkar has publicly stated numerous times that he got hired for Hyper Light Drifter – HYPER LIGHT F*****G DRIFTER – because he asked for the most money. The devs literally told him that was the reason. AAA sound people were begging to do it for free, they picked him.

For me, I’ve been super lucky to work with amazing people who totally respect my time. These include, though they’re far from the only ones, Johnnemann, Asymmetric and Nerial to name a few. The link is they all were willing to pay a fair wage, or at least negotiate to what’s doable.

More on setting (and getting) the right price for your work:

 

Want to know more audio pricing? Check out Kate Finan’s in-depth guide on how to set – and get – the right price for your audio work here.

You’re still going to have edits and rewrites and all that stuff, sure, but the difference is they’re all under an umbrella of respecting the stuff they hired you to do. Devs who pay well actually take time to think about how their demands will affect you.

So I’m begging you, if you won’t charge what’s fair simply because your work is worth it and you should, do it because you’ll just have a much healthier, happier time at work. We make video games, for Christ’s sake.

Oh, and someone just reminded me, this doesn’t just help you, it helps EVERYONE. You get paid and respected more, your clients get better work because you’re not submitting to neurological science experiments to pay rent, and it sets the standard that audio is worth paying for.
 

A big thanks to Ryan Ike for his thoughts on game audio pricing, and for letting us republish his original tweets about this here on the blog!

 

Please share this:


 


 
 
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:
 
 
  • Ice Frozen Play Track 809 sounds included $45 $23

    Frozen is a collection of ice impacts, scrapes, debris, slides and more taken during a miserably cold winter in the arctic tundra of Massachusetts. These recordings were meticulously recorded, edited, named, renamed, edited again, re recorded, then re-renamed (you get the point) to give you the best quality ice library you can get.

    The library roughly is broken into two sections, raw and processed. Raw is designed for sound designers to go wild with: stretch, distort, compress, and more to your hearts content. The processed section is for designers and content creators on the go. If you’re on a tight deadline, pulling some sounds that are already going to get you close to where you need to be is imperative. These processed versions play very nicely even when not designing ice.

    49 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580511599
    Add to cart
  • Get the sounds of exotic birds – a huge collection of seagull recordings – with the Birds Extension SFX library:

    The Birds Extension Pack

    This collection of sounds contains a nice variety of birds: 18 different species spread across 41 audio tracks – including Chachalaca, Great Kiskadee, Crow, Goose, Great-tailed Grackle, Hen, Macaw Parrot, Magpie, Motmot Turquoise Sourcils, Nestor Kea Parrot, Peacock, Rooster, Snow Owl, Yucatan Woodpecker and more. The sounds have been recorded in Mexico, Finland and France. Seagulls available in a separate pack.

    The sounds have been recorded in 24bit / 96 kHz Stereo or Mono, the Mono tracks have been recorded with a wide-frequency response microphone (30 Hz to 50 KHz).


    Library specs: 41 tracks mono or stereo (mostly stereo) • 949 MB • 29 minutes total
     


    Chachalaca Group Scream (1:13)
    Crow 1 (1:12)
    Crow 2 (0:23)
    Crow 3 (0:06)
    Crow 4 (0:02)
    Crow 5 (0:03)
    Crow 6 (0:02)
    Crow 7 (0:01)
    Goose Finland (0:12)
    Great Curassow (0:09)
    Great Kiskadee 1 (0:14)
    Great Kiskadee 2 (1:18)
    Great Kiskadee 3 (2:41)
    Great Tailed Grackle, misc Yucatan exotic birds in background 1 (1:06)
    Great Tailed Grackle, misc Yucatan exotic birds in background 2 (0:14)
    Great Tailed Grackle, misc Yucatan exotic birds in background 3 (1:18)
    Great Tailed Grackle, misc Yucatan exotic birds in background 4 (0:10)
    Great Tailed Grackle, misc Yucatan exotic birds in background 5 (2:04)
    Great Tailed Grackle, misc Yucatan exotic birds in background 6 (3:17)
    Hen 1 (0:40)
    Hen 2 (1:05)
    Hen 3 (0:36)
    Hen 4 (0:38)
    Macaw Parrot (1:41)
    Magpie (1:03)
    Misc Finland (0:19)
    Misc Yucatan birds 1 (0:22)
    Misc Yucatan birds 2 (1:03)
    Motmot Turquoise Sourcils (0:30)
    Nestor Kea Parrot (0:28)
    Parakeets (1:00)
    Peacock Female 1 (1:13)
    Peacock Female 2 (0:36)
    Rooster 1 (0:47)
    Rooster 2 (0:06)
    Rooster 3 (0:13)
    Rooster 4 (0:09)
    Snow Owl France 1 (0:05)
    Snow Owl France 2 (0:15)
    Woodpecker (0:22)
    Yucatan Woodpecker Grackle in background (0:18)

    The Birds Extension Seagulls pack

    This collection of sounds contains 20 seagull tracks, and a nice Tern close-up recording. You will find a nice variety of seagulls vocalizations such as calls, scream, screeches. Some single close-up recordings and some large group recordings. All the sounds have been recorded in Finland and France.

    The sounds have been recorded in 24bit / 96 kHz Stereo or Mono, the Mono tracks have been recorded with a wide-frequency response microphone (30 Hz to 50 KHz).


    Library Specs: 20 tracks mono or stereo (mostly mono) • 371 MB • 14 minutes total
     


    Seagulls and Tern Close Tern (1:03)
    Seagulls Close Agitated Group 1 (0:29)
    Seagulls Close Agitated Group 2 (0:36)
    Seagulls Close Agitated Group 3 (0:16)
    Seagulls Close Agitated Group 4 (0:12)
    Seagulls Close Agitated Group 5 (0:22)
    Seagulls Close Single 1 (0:43)
    Seagulls Close Single 2 (0:39)
    Seagulls Close Single 3 (0:30)
    Seagulls Close Short Screechs (0:08)
    Seagulls Close Long Screechs 1 (0:42)
    Seagulls Close Long Screechs 2 (0:21)
    Seagulls Close Screechs 1 (0:36)
    Seagulls Close Screechs 2 (0:40)
    Seagulls Close Screechs 3 (0:43)
    Seagulls Close Screechs 4 (1:07)
    Seagulls Close Screechs 5 (0:30)
    Seagulls Large Group fight for food (2:34)
    Seagulls Call (0:48)
    Seagulls and Fledging (1:47)

    Birds Extension Bundle

    Contains both packs above, at a special price!


    Bundle Specs: 61 tracks mono or stereo • 1.32 GB • 44 minutes total

  • The Exotic Birds sound effects library is a unique collection of 24 different species of exotic birds. It features birds like flamingos, parrots, parakeets, crane, crow, ibis, peacock, and many others.

    EXOTIC BIRD SPECIES INCLUDED:

    Bali mynah • Black headed ibis • Canada goose • Chilean Lapwings • Collared parakeet • Crows • Grey parrots • Grey winged trumpeter • Guira Cuckoo • Indian peacock • Kookaburra • Little bustard • Macaw parrot • Moorhen • Palm nut vulture • Paradise crane • Parakeet mouse • Red breasted goose • Red flamingos • Senegal parrots • Southern screamer • Superb starling • White naped crane

    Add to cart
 
Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • From 24/96 Sound Effects. Immersive Crowds in Motion features 58 HD 24 Bit / 96 kHz Surround Sound Effects with a large selection of Interior and Exterior moving crowds. Train stations, conventions, sporting events and more. Recorded with a Voyage Audio 2nd Order Spatial Microphone. Recording locations were centrally located within the crowd for better immersion. Intelligible words have been reduced or removed when possible.

    Mastered with ProTools Ultimate in 3 configurations: Ambisonic (Ambix 2nd Order (Wyzxrstuv), Atmos™ 7.1.2 Surround Sound (LRCLfeLssRssLrsRrsLtsRts) and Stereo (L-R). Most tracks are 2-3 minutes in length with embedded metadata. All-new, original recordings.

    Want a taste of what’s included? Download the O2A and 7.1.2 Surround Demo files here: https://tinyurl.com/ImmersiveCrowdDemo and try it out on your own system!

    10 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580943599
  • SCI-FI GUNNERY is a collection of high-quality futuristic gunshot sound effects.

    It features 330 sounds of anything from big artillery hydraulic guns to small ray blaster and handguns.

    Collection consists of 105 different weapons.
    Every weapon comes with 5-6 variations that have slightly different pitch (+/-0.4 semitones) and time alignment
    (+/- 15ms) for maximum realism.
    All SFX have baked-in Soundminer’s meta data.

    Download includes:
    96-192KHZ 24BIT version
    44.1KHZ 16BIT MONO version for Unreal Engine
    44.1KHZ 16BIT STEREO version for Unreal Engine

    RECORDED WITH: Sound Devices MixPre 6 + Sennheiser MKH8060 + ATE208 + DPA4060, PCM D100

    EDITED AND MASTERED WITH: RX, Pro Tools, Brufri, DMGAudio, Reaktor, Massive, Serum, Monark, Alto, Soundtoys, Live.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580857199
  • Several waterfalls and rivers recorded in the Vosges Mountains in France.
    It tooks place in three different location: Cascade Charlemagne, Pont des Fées, Saut des Cuves.
    For almost every place, several microphones placements were used at close, medium and far distance.
    In addition to the 2 stereo microphone pairs, a hydrophone track is also available to allow you to modulate the low end and to add more movement.

    Gear used:
    Sound Devices 788T
    MKH8020 stereo pair
    MKH8040 stereo pair
    JRF hydrophone
  • Cars Porsche Macan S 3.0 V6 Play Track 200+ sounds included, 354 mins total $150 $130

    The Porsche Macan S 3.0 V6 sound library features 198 high-quality files recorded with a multi-mic setup. The Engine was recorded in sync with interior cabin ambient, and you can expect different styles of driving. From casual city driving, through accelerations on a highway up to rpm ramps and constant rpm loops for game audio.

    In addition to engine recordings, this sound effects library features exterior passes, whooshes and other road-related sounds recorded in mono and stereo on dry asphalt.

    Last but not least, different foley were recorded to cover exterior and interior activities. In addition to designed onboard recordings, there are also premixed stems for the engine, intake and exhaust and RAW files, of each microphone without any post-processing.

    13 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580597999
  • Electromagnetic fields (EMF) are all around us, they are everywhere and each electronic device produces them. Imagine a whole new world hidden from us. It is time to lift the veil of secrecy and look into it.

    This library contains raw electronic sounds – a perfect source for sci-fi movies, trailers, games, computer interfaces, experimental music or whatever you can think of. The frequency range of these sounds is impressive, it reaches 48 kHz allowing you to effectively manipulate their pitch and spectrum.

    All sounds are sorted into categories, such as: Glitch, Hum, Click, Movement, Distortion, Beep and many others, which makes it easy to navigate and choose not only by the recorded object but by the type of sound it generates. And last, but not least: this library was recorded with high-quality 96KHz/24bit.

    Equipment used:

    • LOM Audio Elektrosluch Mini City
    • Sound Devices MixPre 6

    Main features:

    • 134 raw electronic sounds with variations
    • Perfect source for all kinds of harsh noises, glitches, drones, movements, whooshes, beeps, hum, clicks, buzz, nasty distortions etc
    • Astonishing frequency range up to 48KHz
    • Created for further manipulation with spectrum and pitch
    • Recorded with high quality 96Khz/24bit
    • Categorized by types: Glitch, Hum, Click, Movement, Distortion, Beep and so on
    • Contains metadata for search engines

     

    52 %
    OFF
    Ends 1583017199
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER:
 
The A Sound Effect newsletter gets you a wealth of exclusive stories and insights
+ free sounds with every issue:
 
Subscribe here for free SFX with every issue

2 thoughts on “Sound Opinions: How to get game audio pricing right:

  1. This is a really good article that gives a lot of insight into the experiences of Ryan. But I think the title of this post should contain a “why” and not a “how”. When I read “how” I expected something completely different. But it still is a very good and helpful article – especially for starting game audio people :)

  2. Hi Nico, thanks for the input! I see what you mean in the sense that it isn’t a how-to guide as such – the ‘how’ is more in terms of thinking about game audio pricing overall. But thanks to your feedback, I’ve added a link to Kate Finan’s ‘How to get (and set) the right price for your audio work’ guide in there as well, as this provides some more hands-on pricing and negotiation tips and insights. Hope this helps! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.