Music Licensing in Video Games


Music licensing in video games

Music brings creations to life. According to the Guardian, music sets the mood to whatever scenes we see play out in front of our very own eyes.

Take the case of video games. Can you imagine Call of Duty without a score that was filled with suspense every time the main character gets hit in single player story mode? What if there wasn’t heart-pumping music during a cop chase in Grand Theft Auto? Even popular online gaming site Spin Genie has slot games like Tomb Raider that features a cacophony of celebratory and dramatic sounds whenever the player hits free spins or wins. Point is; music is important as it enhances the game play experience. 

Today, there are plenty of upstart gaming companies that are looking for independent or fledgling musicians that can help create music for their games. Most new game companies aren’t looking to tie down artists to exclusive contracts, which means indie musicians will have the opportunity to work freely with what companies they wish. Popular music from notable acts from the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Ice Cube in Grand Theft Auto, for instance, are the tracks that will have signed exclusivity deals to only support that particular game. New artists tend to be picked up by the smaller, independent gaming companies, meaning it’s a great way for them to get recognized and work freely among a long list of developers.

Perhaps the most popular game maker that is outspoken about this non-exclusivity rule is Rob Sienkiewicz, creator of the ultra popular game for the PC, Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe (SCGMD). SCGMD is a free, web-based game that relies mostly on music licensing, but does not believe in exclusivity contracts for new and independent musicians.

“I believe the norm for TV shows etc. is to license the composition and usually under exclusive terms so the song can’t be used in other places for a certain period,” said Rob Sienkiewicz. “We weren’t really interested in that kind of deal, our main concern was that people give us permission and that they declare that they own the song.”  

For big gaming companies, licensing is everything and often requires their musicians to sign exclusivity deals as aforementioned. The result is that even if the musician wants to earn more, they can't until their contract with a big gaming company expires.

Music will always be an important component for games and if you're a new musician in the business, perhaps you can try your hand at composing for the industry. People like their games, and, as earlier mentioned, there are a lot of upstart video game companies right now so there will always be plenty of work for musicians – they just have to look in the right place.

Here's a free Gamer influenced tune released by us. 

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