I've made a game and now I need to add real sounds and music to it. For the first time I've decided to hire a musician to make music for my games. Before I used to buy sound packs and licenses for tracks.

The negotiations didn't go well as the price was too high for me and the artist didn't like the idea of selling me the music and wanted to only license it to me.

I'd like to know if I've made a mistake or if I've been unreasonable.

Just to be specific, we're talking about 6 tracks, 90 seconds long each. The music is chip-tune done by one musician (that's important since I understand that hiring an orchestra would cost more than hiring just one person).

What I wanted was to get the tracks with all the rights, other than the authors rights - putting their name in the credits.

I've been told that nobody does this and the musician always keeps the rights to later sell OST etc. And if I want all the rights, one track would cost me $500. And even just getting a one-title license would cost me $200.

I have no idea if that's a standard market price, it seems high for me.

  1. Is the price reasonable?
  2. Is it unreasonable for me to ask for music with all the rights?
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Might be wrong, but sounds like they just want to do the work once, then potentially sell the tracks to several others. Maybe you aren't even the first to receive those tracks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mario
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 7:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure there are good artists out there offering better conditions. Maybe you can even find one agreeing on sharing revenues (e.g. big share on OST, small on game). \$\endgroup\$
    – Mario
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 7:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ The price depends a lot on where you are, or rather where the musician lives, and of course how strong their reputation or "brand" is. If you want to acquire exclusive rights or not is usually up to you, but of course they cost something. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 13:33
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the musicians price was unfair, or even expensive, provided he/she's a professional. I once paid 4000 Eur for a slightly larger work, and did not even acquire the ownership, only a right to use. The artist will practically always retain the artistic rights to the work and it is tricky to change that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stormwind
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Stormwind It's not at all tricky to change that. Every company I've ever worked at has made me sign away my right to anything I create while employed by them. Generally when you hire someone to do work, the work becomes entirely the property of the company paying for it (per a signed contract). The more difficult thing is finding someone willing to sign that contract for a few hundred dollars (as opposed to a few thousand). \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


When you are asking for "all the rights", then you need to ask youself if you really need "all the rights". I don't know your long-term business plan, so I don't know which of these rights you actually need:

  • Use the music for your current game (ok, that's obvious)
  • Use the music for any future games
  • Be the only one who is allowed to use the music for a game
  • Be the only one who is allowed to use the music for any form of media
  • Be allowed to resell the rights to the music to 3rd parties, in case you chang your mind about the previous two points
  • Be allowed to make derivative works of the music (remix or reinterpret it)
  • Be allowed to monetize the music by itself, for example in form of an OST album
  • Have these rights for all eternity (and not just a few years)

All these points mean that the original musician loses a potential way of monetizing their work in the future. The creator seems to believe that the amount they lose out on seems to be around $500, so that's the reimbursement they demand from you in order to give up on those business opportunities. What you need to ask yourself is if these rights are also worth that much to your business interests.

So the reasonable thing to do would be to figure out together with the musician what business needs you have, what business needs the musician has, and where you can find common ground regarding what rights exactly you buy and what rights the musician retains.

Keep in mind that none of these points need to be binary. Deals like "you can do that, but only under condition" or "only when you pay $x each time you do it" are not uncommon.

You can also agree on some form of revenue splitting agreement in cases where you both benefit from cross-promotion. For example, the sales of the OST album will depend just as much on the quality of the music as on the popularity of your game, so a revenue sharing deal could make sense here.

By the way, the more complex your agreement will get, the more useful can it be to get professional legal advise on board to draft the exact wording of the contract to make sure it really says what you want it to say.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ In addition to these sensible reasons, there may be a lot of feelings involved. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stormwind
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "[figure out] which of these rights you actually need" - This is the kind of negotiation that really needs something specific in writing, and should be in as much detail as your answer if not far more. Problems arise when someone wants to do something later with the music that wasn't explicit in the agreement... \$\endgroup\$
    – user45266
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 23:19

"All the rights" is rather vague. Many intellectual property rights are applicable and even though this subject is covered by widely adopted international treaties, laws vary around the world. Some rights are transfered automatically, some by contract. Some can only be transfered by notarial deed and some rights are not legally transferable at all. Even if they are, they may be of little value to anyone but the author. Examples include being credited and the ability to object to mutilation of a work.

Therefore, a licence is often used instead. The terms are of course subject to negotiation. You can expect a musician to push back on a clause that prevents him from selling the OST or using the tracks for promotional purposes, though exclusivity in the sense that the author cannot grant (or have granted) distribution rights to anyone else, is a fairly common condition.

Whether or not the price is reasonable, is harder to answer. There are musicians out there of all skill levels and the quality of their work is not a constant: you spend more to get more. You can hire a composer to play your game for a few hours, discuss some ideas with you in a musical brainstorm session, create several draft tracks, submit them for review and after the third revision, rent a studio, hire a sound engineer and some musicians to record and produce the track, but it might cost a lot more than $200. Then again, perhaps the same artist recorded a chip-tune at home the other week, unrelated to your game, just for fun, on consumer-grade equipment, and is willing to sell it to you for a few bucks.

Bottom line, $200 is not necessarily above or below the market price. Obviously, it seemed high to you, and that's what's relevant. You can definitely get the work done on a lower budget and end up with a high quality soundtrack for your game, but you may need to compromise. A professional should be able to explain to your satisfaction what you can expect from him at a certain price point.


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