A Question for Composers

Joerao

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First of all, this may well be in the wrong place. Apologies in advance, mods.

As some of you know, I was an active composer in the old rpgmakervx.net community around two years ago. Life forced me to take a bit of a break, but I've come back to the community here and one thing has struck me: why are so few composers doing music for free?

Don't be me wrong - I don't think there's anything wrong with charging for good music on these forums (in fact, I grew my business from my first paid commissions from the RM forums). But I do think that there's something special about this community. Everyone is always willing to help others out. We're all creative people with the same dream. And I think that developers here should have access to quality music, for free, if they want it. They don't need a lot (perhaps one or two character themes and the rest stock/from other games?) and they don't need it quickly, but it should be an option. 

I composed music on the forums for around a year and a half before I started doing paid commissions. And though the polish of my work has definitely increased, and though my pieces sound a lot better than they did, one thing I've noticed is that I've lost some of my creativity. When I've done solely paid work over a long period of time, I'll often follow the same old tried-and-true formula. Even when I try to be original, it's very difficult. The money becomes more important than the music itself (even though, as a hobbyist rather than a professional, I don't really need the money). When I look back at some of the old work I did for free on the forums, I'm amazed at how creative some of the pieces were, and I wish I could recapture some of that creativity and channel it into my current work. 

I started working (for free) on an RM game called Linus back in December 2009. We're still working on the game. Since then, I've worked on many big, high-paying projects, but no game has been as important to me as Linus. I'm not charging a cent for my work, but I get something more valuable than money back: creative fulfillment. 

I'm not trying to point fingers at anyone.You all have the right to charge for your work. I just think that creativity should be valued above money. 
 
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Quigon

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Well for me, writing music and making money off of commissions is one of my main sources of income. I try and balance it out with releasing ReStaff stuff and the odd song here or there, but I'm not in a place where I can take huge amounts of requests. That's not from any selfish desire of mine as I do what I can for free things, but a man has to eat, haha.

And actually, I've found some of my best work has been commissioned. That's not to say I don't put more work into the free stuff, but personally I think some of my best music has come from a commission, so maybe there's some correlation there, idk.
 
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Joerao

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@Gorlami - I'm sorry. If it's a main source of income, I certainly don't mean to dispute the necessity of it. 
 

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What Gorlami is saying is true, it's the same thing a lot of us are thinking and I think you're absolutely right.  Every extra bit of income helps (or maybe it's your only source of income, like me).  We love what we do and I'm sure I speak for every composer when I say "If I could do it for free and still have enough money to live comfortably, I would happily do so."  

That being said, a lot of us have given away tracks and not just in restaff (I've personally given away over 50 tracks and they're all over the place in terms of style and there's a lot of creative ones in there).  There's a huge amount between us all though and most of us have our own threads filled with free music in the general resources section.  

Maybe what we need is a sort of list of every music composers freely available resources, a list that everyone could see (maybe a pinned list?).  That way it's easier for everyone to access and helps people to get a wide variety of free music for their games.  I'm interested to see peoples thoughts on this.     
 

Joerao

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I understand what both of you are saying. It just seems to me that there were a more composers doing work for free a few years ago. And, by the way, if you really do depend on paid commissions for a livelihood, this is probably not the best place to advertise - there aren't a lot of devs here who can afford the rates that one needs to make a living. I'd be happy to help you grow your business to other areas  and whatnot if that's the case.
 

Arin

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I do lots of music for free. It mostly depends on a couple of factors, mainly if I'm getting at least a small dosage of recognition out of it, for one. Plus, I generally like to be a good sport and I understand that some people may not have immediate access to money, in which case I'd gladly pitch something for them.
 

Happy

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I agree with the OP about prioritizing the creative process itself. Considering this is very much a community aimed for hobbyists it's very unlikely that you'll be creating a big buck here or make enough for living.

Most of the composers here are hobbyists too, so in many cases it's unlikely you'd even possess the skillsets to make any big money yet, though if you do, I find it unlikely that you'd be still selling your services here considering people here wouldn't be able to afford for what they're worth.

Though in some cases the rpg maker communities may serve as a good starting ground for composers and artists to get involved in the game development process. Even if hobbyists proceed with their projects in a different way than how the actual companies do - you can still make contacts with people here, get visibility and create networks, and most importantly, get practice in your choice of trade. But you're deluded if you believe rpg maker will be a stable source of income.

I have worked on some commissions myself as well and I agree with Joerao that personal projects of mine have been the most inspiring ones to me. When you're working for other people, you're trying to live up to their wishes. I can't say this is a bad thing either, because usually some strange requests pressure you to learn new things (which is very good) and if you actually do aim to make it to the game development industry, it might be a good idea to get familiar with the idea of working specifically for someone else.

But now, stop to think why you've picked up composing in the first place? Whatever the answer is, I find it unlikely to be "to be able to make money of RPG Maker games." Now if your current priority sounds similar to my citation, but your original reason to begin composing is quite something different, you may want to rethink your priorities. I seriously doubt anyone would heavily prioritize on making money here anyway, but little introspection isn't bad.

On the other hand, I don't think it's a bad thing to ask for something in return when you're creating music for other people, though. (Even if it's a small payment.) It's a nice little extra (or pat in the back), but I would definitely not recommend making music for people here in order to just make some money. Chances are you aren't exactly making much, plus that you end up working on a lot of things that aren't actually very inspiring or fun to make.

If you're passionate about composing music (be it even video game music), I bet that the most driving force behind that is likely to be the idea of creating something, being inspired, and the joy of seeing your imagination and ideas come to life. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Personally I think that people just need to find the good balance and set their priorities right. If you look at the big picture, Rpg maker communities can work well to your favor as a starting ground for composing music to video games. But if you believe you've already reached your goal here, chances are you'll soon grow tired of the process, because at this point the rewards aren't big, especially so if you aren't following your own ideas and inspiration.
 
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Touchfuzzy

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Last I checked, one of the reasons the last restaff release was 140mb was because composers were making awesome free music for the community...

Idk, it seems kind of meh to me to begrudge anyone money for what they produce. If they want to make something for free, that is awesome, but I certainly don't think there should be any pressure for them to do so.
 
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Joerao

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But now, stop to think why you've picked up composing in the first place? Whatever the answer is, I find it unlikely to be "to be able to make money of RPG Maker games." Now if your current priority sounds similar to my citation, but your original reason to begin composing is quite something different, you may want to rethink your priorities. I seriously doubt anyone would heavily prioritize on making money here anyway, but little introspection isn't bad.

 
 

I agree completely with Happy. Touch, I definitely understand what you mean, and I think a better way to phrase my OP would be as a warning to composers rather than a question/accusation. I just feel as though when money becomes your motivation, it starts to suck the creativity right out of you. That's why I do my best to distribute my time between paid projects, free projects, and personal pieces. 

I think that it took me around a year to recover my creativity after just around six months of working only for money. During the most of 2012 and the first few months of 2013, I composed nothing unique, nothing original. It's definitely starting to come back now, but as I said my creativity not at the level it was when I was doing solely personal/free projects. I just don't want others on the forum to repeat my mistake. 
 

Touchfuzzy

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Different people work in different ways. You may do your best work when you are working for free, but that doesn't necessarily mean that is when everyone else will do their best work.

Also, as I said, our restaff releases are FULL of free music. Including stuff by people who have stated in this very thread that they do commissions.

I just say let people work out what is best for them and stop telling them the best way to do their stuff.
 

Joerao

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Different people work in different ways. You may do your best work when you are working for free, but that doesn't necessarily mean that is when everyone else will do their best work.

Also, as I said, our restaff releases are FULL of free music. Including stuff by people who have stated in this very thread that they do commissions.

I just say let people work out what is best for them and stop telling them the best way to do their stuff.
Nick, my intention is most certainly not to tell people what the best way to do their stuff is. I'm not trying to pressure anyone. As I said earlier, I don't have a problem with taking paid commissions, but I do think that it should be balanced with free/personal projects to keep the creative juices flowing. Over the last two years or so, I've worked with around six or seven fairly experienced composers, and invariably they agree that doing only paid work over a long period of time just destroys their creativity. 

ReStaff is great, and it definitely looks like its expanded since the old ReStaff releases of the vx.net days. I'm very happy that it's doing so well (I even contributed to this last one). But, in my opinion, it can't replace custom music. Sometimes, a game absolutely needs custom music - for example, I once created two separate character themes that could be played at the same time as a love theme for the two characters; on another occasion I created music for a dance scene for Celianna's Slimey project. I'm not trying to tell anyone not to charge for their music - after all, two years ago I definitely did exactly what a lot of composers are doing now, and I definitely would have liked if someone had warned me against getting caught up in the money rather than the music.I simply don't want others to make the same mistake that I made.
 
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Touchfuzzy

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In this case, I propose we just stop paying artists altogether. As apparently paying them makes them do worse work universally.

Actually, in all honesty, if someone told me that they do their best work when unpaid, I would never hire them for anything.
 

Joerao

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In this case, I propose we just stop paying artists altogether. As apparently paying them makes them do worse work universally.

Actually, in all honesty, if someone told me that they do their best work when unpaid, I would never hire them for anything.

 
Classic argumentum ad absurdum, IMO. Nowhere in my previous post did I say that paying composers makes them do worse work. I said that when they do solely paid work over a long period of time, it often makes them do worse work. I'm just asking - why not balance out paid commissions with free requests?

Others are free to disagree with me, of course. As I'm said, I'm not trying to make anyone do anything and nor am I trying to take some sort of moral high ground. I'm simply making this post because I would have liked to see it when I was at the stage at which some composers here are. 
 
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Touchfuzzy

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I'm being snarky, because all I see is someone who made a realization about themselves and is applying it to everyone, ignoring the plethora of free works being created to support his hypothesis that people are focusing too much on commissions, while having a huge ironic signature advertising his paid work.
 
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Joerao

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Yes, it is a realization about myself, but it's supported by my discussions with other artists. I'm not trying to force this on anyone else; I'm simply trying to provide an alternate point of view. I'm neither ignoring nor minimizing how much free music is done in this community- I think it's great, and it's one of the reasons that I love the RM community so much. I do think, however, that custom music is also incredibly important to games and that it should be accessible to those who are passionate about their projects. 

Regarding my signature/website. I have a free music section, where I provide 3 tracks (5 to RMers) for any use whatsoever, no questions asked. I also ask devs to contact me if they'd like to use more, and if I'm convinced that they're passionate about their project, I give them the whole library free to use (and since I posted my music thread a few days ago, I've done this for two RM developers). Moreover, I often do custom music for free - over the past two months I've composed over half an hour of free music for various developers who got in touch via my website (more free music than paid, in fact). 
 
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Touchfuzzy

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The call to make sure to work on nonpaid projects is one thing, this idea of equating it to making custom music for individual people isn't connected to your opinion that people should have their own personal projects creatively outside of work.

Making free to use stuff for everyone or just personal music for your own games, or hell, just because you feel like it is just as much a different motivation than money.
 

Now if you think that people should make more custom music for people because its a nice thing to do, well yeah, it is a nice thing to do. But it has no connection to the rest of your revelation.
 

Joerao

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That's a good point, Nick - you're completely right. 
 

vanillacoke

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The way I see it, if you need money to influence your music, you'll never get anywhere. Music should come from inside. Good musicians make it, not for money, but because they put their heart and soul into their compositions. (Although, I'm not saying they don't enjoy making money.)

Since this is an RPG Maker forum we'll use Nobuo Uematsu as an example… Nobuo Uematsu worked in a music store, just because he was passionate about music. He'd play keyboard in the store, pretty much because he loved to and the cusztomers enjoyed it.

The right person came across him and signed him up to do the Final Fantasy soundtrack!

You may get the chance to make some real money and not just pennies someday. But for now I'd say, just enjoy what you do and let others enjoy what you do.

At the end of the day it's the composer's decision whether to sell or not, but I reckon it's best as an unknown composer to get your music heard before trying to make money.
 

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ReStaff is great, and it definitely looks like its expanded since the old ReStaff releases of the vx.net days. I'm very happy that it's doing so well (I even contributed to this last one). But, in my opinion, it can't replace custom music. Sometimes, a game absolutely needs custom music - for example, I once created two separate character themes that could be played at the same time as a love theme for the two characters; on another occasion I created music for a dance scene for Celianna's Slimey project. I'm not trying to tell anyone not to charge for their music - after all, two years ago I definitely did exactly what a lot of composers are doing now, and I definitely would have liked if someone had warned me against getting caught up in the money rather than the music.I simply don't want others to make the same mistake that I made.
In my opinion, that's the difference between paid and unpaid work.  I'm happy to give away some of my existing pieces to help out burgeoning developers on their first projects, but I believe that if a person wants exclusive content for their game (be it art, sprites, music, whatever) that they should be prepared to pay for it.

I create a lot of music purely for the love of it (and to teach or hone specific skills), but with those pieces, I call the shots and if someone approached me to use one of those for their game, I'd be happy to share it in goodwill.

 If somebody approaches me to do, say, a character theme, I have to take a lot of things into consideration. The world the character comes from, their personality and motivations.  If the developer has commissioned music from other composers, I have to make sure my theme fits in with what is already in-game to ensure creative continuity. This is a big ask for a free request.

Despite amazing leaps in technology and really, everyone has access to composition tools these days, not everyone can do it well.  Like an artist, composers have specific skills that they can offer to a person's project.

Although everyone is free to do as they wish with their finished work, I feel composers should not be expected to create exclusive work for free.
 

Quigon

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The way I see it, if you need money to influence your music, you'll never get anywhere. Music should come from inside. Good musicians make it, not for money, but because they put their heart and soul into their compositions.
That's really that age-old musician's argument of 'duuuude, you're sellin' out, since when did we become all about the money bro', and it's entirely subjective. When I was in my band, before we did anything larger-scale, we played small venues getting paid pretty much nothing - we still enjoyed it, yeah, but when we played our EP launch and made a ton of money from it, that was probably the best gig we ever played. I don't really think there's any correlation between making money and being passionate about your art. You can still put the same amount of soul into a track regardless of whether or not you're getting paid, and if you can't, then that's the real problem here.
 

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