Custom Music vs. Royalty-free Music: Which should you go for?
Hello game developer! Do you find yourself contemplating between getting custom or royalty-free music? The first question would be to understand what exactly is royalty-free music. Royalty-free, in essence, means that you pay a one-time fee to use appropriate music for one game, video or any other media! Gilles Arbour from Premium Beat explained it well here.
What are the pros and cons of custom and royalty-free music? Here are some of our views regarding this topic.
Royalty-free Music for Games
- Very affordable (Price could range from as low as $1 – $90 per music)
- Download and use it instantly!
- Good for placeholders and game prototyping.
- Music licenses stated, so it’s unlikely that you will get into any copyright issues.
- Good for game developers with tight budget and timeline.
- Might be time-consuming to browse through the vast collection of music.
- Does not usually come with stinger or jingle of the same musical palette which could be necessary for games.
- May not have a similar musical identity if you are choosing music from different composers.
- It will not be unique to your game.
- If your game needs something unique, it’s unlikely to find anything suitable.
- Not many royalty-free music tracks provide stems or variations which may be useful for games.
Custom Music for Games
It is essential to read up on music contracts or get a lawyer to draft an agreement for you. For basic contract details, take a look at this link. It is essential to make sure that the contract is explicit and protects both the game developer and composer. There was a recent case where a game company removed their game from sale over a music license issue. You can read about the case here.
- Uniquely composed to your liking, anything is possible!
- The composer can customize stingers and jingle to suit your game.
- Able to make changes according to your requests and feedbacks.
- The composer can provide you with music references and music ideas to best suit your game.
- The composer can provide you music stems and variations if needed.
- If you want your game to have a music theme that repeats throughout the game, you will need a composer to re-arrange the music theme. (We briefly mentioned this in our Casual Game Music 3 blog post)
- A lot more costly, usually it starts at least from $100 up to $1000 per minute (experienced music composer may cost even more).
- Composition takes time to develop and conceptualize, don’t expect your composer to get right music overnight even if your composer is talented! Give your composers at least 3 – 5 days to work on them!
- Miscommunication – When you are running through the direction of the music you want in your game, it is good to have a music reference that supports it. For example, if you want the scene to have a feeling of ‘Despair’ and you only communicate that in words, the music may not come out the way you want it. ‘Despair’ may trigger different emotions and feelings to each. The music composer may compose a piece of music that gives a feeling of ‘Despair’ to him but not to you as feelings can be subjective at times. Therefore it is imperative to find common ground with music references!
Royalty-free Game Music Asset Stores to Check Out!
They have quality music and sound effects at a low price, some even for free!
- Unity Asset Store (Requires the game engine to export purchased assets)
- Unreal Engine Marketplace (Requires the game engine to export bought assets)
- GameDev Market
- Gamesounds (A collection of royalty-free or public domain music and sounds suitable for games)
If you have a budget of $0~$100, consider getting both royalty-free music and free assets:
- Download free assets from the links mentioned above!
- Only buy royalty sounds and music assets when necessary.
- Having basic knowledge of sound and music editing would come in handy.
- Check out this free audio software audacity that you can use to do basic editing here.
- It may take time to look through the free assets and edit them takes even more time, but it will save you a lot of money!
If your budget is between $500~$1000, consider getting both Royalty-free music and Custom music:
- Save cost when you purchase royalty-free music and only hire a composer to compose unique soundtracks needed in the game. (Especially if the music is used just for a small part of the game, royalty-free music will be a lot more cost effective)
- You can try reaching out to students who study music composition/sound design to collaborate with them!
- Using royalty-free music for your game, you can use your budget to hire a professional sound designer instead! Personally, we feel that editing SFX to sync to your game takes more skill and time. If you are on a budget, we would suggest hiring a sound designer instead of a music composer, and usually, a game needs more SFX than music!
If you can set aside a larger budget of $2000~$5000:
- You should be able to hire both a sound designer and a music composer for your game! 🙂
- If not, you can mix and match tips from the above points to suit your budget and time frame!
We do have some larger game companies purchasing our royalty-free music/SFX for their games which was quite surprising to us as we thought bigger game companies would get custom music and SFX. So actually royalty-free assets are useful in both small and large scale games!
Also feel free to check out our game music library here! Our music pack are composed of themes and comes with music stingers, music jingles and SFX that is all ready-to-use! This way you save some time from looking through a massive library of music and SFX.
That’s all we have regarding this topic, and we hope it has been somewhat useful to you!
P.S – Download our Free Starter Pack if you are looking for some free music and SFX for your project! 🙂