Licensing Sound & Music for Your Game
Legal stuff? What a headache, right? Don't worry, we break it down in a way everyone can understand.
This is licensing made easy!
Disclaimer: the following information details how we currently work. It is not necessarily a representation of the industry as a whole nor is it a legal compass to be followed without doing your own due diligence first.
Licensing Made Easy - SFX
When paying for sound effects, you are paying for a license to use the sound, not for ownership of the file outright.
This is because most sound designers work at least partially with sound libraries and even if they use those library sounds in new and interesting ways for your project, they can't legally sell you ownership of assets they created with library content.
What they can sell you is a sync license* for you to use the sound they created in your project.
*A sync license is an agreement between the license/copyright holder (us) and a licensee (you) to use our sound effects or music in your visual work; in this case, your video game.
To keep things simple and avoid legal headaches, we generally deal with (and would recommend) the following two types of sync licenses:
Exclusive & Non-Exclusive
Exclusive Sync License
An exclusive license means the sound effects or music created will belong to you (the client) and only you in terms of usage rights for the current project and any supporting media*.
*Supporting media is any video or audio content associated with the creation, marketing, and distribution of the game
As you can see, the audio assets belong uniquely to your project in almost every sense of the word.
The only exceptions are resale and reuse. As mentioned above, you have the license to use the sound or music in your game but it is restricted to the current project only and you can not resell it as you do not own the rights to do so.
Imagine this cupcake is an audio asset
If the audio assets were cupcakes that means you can eat them, but you can't sell them to anyone else to eat.
Non-Exclusive Sync License
As you might have guessed, a non-exclusive license simply means you are not the sole owner of the license to use our work.
We retain the right to reuse the sound effects we create in other projects or even resell them online in the case that that is possible.
Generally, our non-exclusive agreement defines a grace period where the audio assets are nonetheless exclusive to your game (i.e. we won't use them elsewhere for three to six months after release or until funding is secured if you're working on a prototype/vertical slice).
Sweet deal, right?
What Does This Mean for Your Game?
Offering different licensing options means we can be more flexible with your budget.
If you want exclusive rights to your game's sound and have the budget to pay for it, that's awesome and we're happy to do that!
With a non-exclusive license, we have the possibility to produce further income with the audio assets created for your game and can therefore offer you a better deal. Win-Win!
You can also mix and match*, upgrading iconic sounds that define your game to exclusive licenses and leaving less important sounds as non-exclusive.
*We suggest doing this at the end of development, as it is hard to say at the beginning of a project how many sounds will be "iconic" or not. Since there is a grace period for non-exclusive licenses, there is no rush on that decision.
Practically speaking, it is extremely rare that we can reuse a large portion of your game's assets in other projects without redesigning or rethinking them even a little bit.
This means your game will remain sonically unique, even if you choose the non-exclusive license option, so don't worry one way or the other!
Licensing Made Easy - Music
Music is dealt with differently because in the eyes of the law composers own the rights to the music they created outright, no matter which tools they used, unlike sound effects, where the use of any third-party content prohibits ownership.
As with sound effects, we work with sync licenses for our compositions.
Same Same but Different
All parameters of the licensing are the same as our sound effects except for one thing.
A game's soundtrack can be (and in common practice is) actively sold and placed on streaming platforms where it has the potential to generate future income.
Since the soundtrack would not exist without the game and both profit from the other's success, the fairest thing to do is to split the revenue.
The specifics of the revenue split and which parties will be allowed to post the music on what platforms is something that must be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
Piece of Cake!
That wasn't so bad, right?
We hope this short overview has helped you understand exactly what you are paying for when acquiring sound and music for your game, at least when you work with us at Double Shot Audio.
If you have any further questions or would like to discuss your game and its budget and/or licensing specifics with us, schedule a call with us.
We know how tricky the legal aspect of game creation can be and we'd be happy to help.
At Double Shot Audio we know you want to make unique and memorable games.
In order to do that, you need to partner with an audio team that understands your vision and can translate it into great sound.
That's where we come in.
We will work with you; turning your vision into a finished, polished game that you feel proud of and that you and your fans can enjoy for the rest of your lives.
Want to learn more? Schedule a Call. We're happy to answer any and all of your questions.