How Much Do Game Audio Professionals Really Make?
Current state of income levels among video game composers and sound designers revealed in the recent GameSoundCon report
With the assistance of the Game Audio Network Guild (G.A.N.G.), Brian Schmidt, Executive Director of GameSoundCon, the premier conference for video game music and sound design, conducted a comprehensive survey among composers, sound designers, audio directors, and others involved in writing music and/or sound content for video games. The goal of the survey was to establish an updated and realistic picture of the income possibilities and parameters for video game composers and sound designers, including the freelancer segment.
GameSoundCon received over 500 responses to questions related to compensation, work and environment, additional compensation, use of live musicians & middleware, and contract terms within the categories "large budget games", "casual games" (smaller budget but professionally produced and marketed), and "independent games" (self-financed, such as Kickstarter projects, etc).
"The changes in the overall game industry are certainly reflected in the game audio industry," said Schmidt. "Especially in smaller scale games, composers are also creating sound effects and doing integration or other technical work. One thing that surprised us was that compensation had two definite peaks, one at around $55,000 and one around $110,000. We believe this reflects the premium that top composers and sound designers with the right skills can demand, even in a very competitive market."
The results of the GameSoundCon report reveal important findings for working professionals in the game sound industry:
- Game Music and Sound is predominantly a freelance gig (60%)
- Game Music is overwhelmingly "work for hire" (95%) and "per unit" royalties are rare.
- A salaried employee makes $70,532 per year on average, whereas a freelancer in the large-budget game category can make more than that with just one project. More details, such as project fees for indy/casual games can be found in the report at GameSoundCon.com
- Most game composers, particularly for smaller games, also deliver sound effects and/or do integration or other technical work
- Even in large-budget games, most of the music is produced virtually as opposed to predominantly by live musicians(54%).
- Women are underrepresented in the industry, at less than 5%
"It's hard to define our industry", says Brian Schmidt, "It is impossible to draw a sharp line between the categories. Nevertheless, we believe it serves as a useful distinction so that we're not comparing the compensation from a blockbuster like Call of Duty with that of a, 2-person development company making an iPhone game in their basement."
In addition to compensation information, the survey reported on
- Work and Environment
- Additional Compensation (Royalties, Bonuses)
- Use of Live Musicians in video game music
- Use of Middleware in games
- Contract terms, Soundtracks & Performance Rights clauses
The complete report with details, graphs, and remarks on the statistical validity of the GameSoundCon survey can be found in the complete downloadable PDF at GameSoundCon.com.
The 10th GameSoundCon conference will be held in Los Angeles, October 7 - 8. Go to GameSoundCon.com for details.
About SoundCon LLC
SoundCon LLC is dedicated to education on the art, technology and business of composing for video games and video game sound design. With award-winning speakers and panelists from throughout the game and traditional audio industries, GameSoundCon is the leading music and sound conference specifically for the professional audio community. GameSoundCon creator and speaker Brian Schmidt received the Game Audio Network Guild's 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, and is a 27 year veteran in the game audio industry, having composed award-winning game music and created sound effects for over 130 interactive games.