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Hi boys and girls,

I've got a meeting with the owner of an indie SFX label next week. The idea is that I'll do some recording for him while I'm travelling around. In the email he mentioned a "contract/flat rate/buyout" agreement.

I understand how that works for say, lawyers and graphic designers, but I was wondering how it would apply to SFX recording specifically.

  • Is he going to offer a rate for a set number of sounds?
  • Will he give me a list of things he wants and only pay when I've delivered in full?
  • Will he leave me to my own devices and approve/disapprove when I deliver?
  • Will I be able to retain the rights to at least use the samples when I've handed them over? or will i have to wait a specified period before I can?
  • What kind of rate should I expect/ask for?
  • How up front should I be about my n00b status as far as this part of the industry goes?
  • What kind of margin is he likely to get if he manages to sell them? i.e. Am I likely to end up with a major label record deal where I make pennies and he walks away with the dollars?
  • Have I told you guys that you're awesome?

Sorry for all the questions, but I like to know as much as possible before I go into situations like this. Nothing worse than coming up wrongfooted when there's money involved. I remember watching a Dan Ariely talk (probably at TED) where he talked about how bad people are at critical thinking when put on the spot. I'd like to get the best deal I can out of this.

XoxoX
GaH
XoxoX

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I personally would never sell sounds under a buy out scenario, and have turned down deals where that was the only option offered. Unless you have an urgent need for cash there is little to be gained from a buy-out. Demand a percentage forever more, simply because good useable well recorded high resolution sounds will retain their value indefinitely. The person offering the buy out knows this & is hoping you do not.

  • Gotta second this. Back when I was first starting out I did a whole lot of work that paid a meh one-time-fee and to this day those people are still repackaging and making money off my sounds and compositions. Anything I sell from other designers in my shop is completely non-exclusive and retains all of their own branding etc. There's a lot to be said for quality distribution, but that needn't be at the expense of losing your own name. – theodorejordan Jun 12 '11 at 2:18
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Flat rate is the standard, usually by the minute. I'm not sure who you are talking with but in my experience the buyout rate is probably going to be very low. Unless you can get access to free sounds for life, or make a deal like that for a set amount of free sounds from their library in trade as a bonus, it might not be worth it. -Frank

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    Welcome to SSD, Frank! Wonderful to see you as part of this community. – NoiseJockey Jun 9 '11 at 4:27
  • Welcome Frank! Awesome to have you on board :-) – Andrew Spitz Jun 9 '11 at 7:30
  • Indeed, welcome Mr. Bry. Interesting, what I'm wondering about is the ratio of Monetary Return to Time Put In. I'm going to be a busy little bee, and will not have full-time kinda hours to put into making recordings for $0.05/minute. – g.a.harry Jun 9 '11 at 11:19
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I suppose it could really be anything. I've gotten everything from being paid per-sound, to per-megabyte, to per-minute, to a % cut of the final product.

I run a shop distributing indie libraries of a specific format and I pay them 70/30 split of the gross, App Store style, which is the highest I've heard of so far. Makes the designers happy. These are full libraries though, not per-sound situations.

Personally, I would request at least getting a credit for your work somehow in the final product. Depending on what the pay is and what the final product turns out like, that credit could be the most valuable part of the deal.

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And just to add to what @timeprebble said. I would never do anything for a buy out unless it would buy me a house which is never going to happen. Get a percentage of the sales and make sure you are licensing the sounds to them. It is very important that you retain ownership of your work. You are licensing to them to sell, not buy. You should also try and make it non-exlusive so if you so choose you can sell it elsewhere. That might be a sticking point for the licensor, but you can negotiate. If the licensor wants exclusive rights for a set amount of time (say 3 years) then ask for a higher percentage. You'll be in the best position to negotiate if you are willing to walk away.

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    Sounds like I'm gonna have to put my badass pants on. – g.a.harry Jun 14 '11 at 15:41

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