GAME : Understanding Music Licensing for Video Games: How Does it Work?

Have you ever had trouble posting a video or song to a social media platform only to get a message that you’ve infringed music copyright? When it comes to using music and content that other people have created, you have to be very cautious about how you do it. This includes video games. Almost all video games have music, and they have to follow the rules for their music use.

In this guide, we will share just how music licensing for video games works. Behind the scenes, game developers go through very specific processes to use licensed music. Many games also create and develop unique musical scores as well. Keep reading to learn more about this!

Understanding Music Copyrights

There is more than one type of music licensing for video game development. Some creators choose to go through royalty-free websites that have already received the necessary licensing for you to use the videos. You pay for the subscription, and they share certain music with you. Others will purchase the rights one piece at a time or find an alternative resource.

In terms of copyrights, there are two categories. This includes the musical composition, which covers the lyrics, musical arrangement, and melody of the music. This is generally owned by the composer. Then, you have the master sound recording, which is the actual studio recording. These rights are owned by the contracted music label.

For video games, developers generally need both a Master Use License and a Synchronization License, also known as Sync. The Sync license is what allows game developers to use a specific musical composition in their games. TV shows, advertisements, movies, and other media would also use this license. While this seems like it should cover it, it only gives the rights to the composition and not the entire masterpiece. This is assuming the music has a recording label contract.

The Cost of Music Licensing

How much you will pay for music licensing will vary. It simply depends on the music you are wanting to access. If you choose to use a subscription service, you simply pay the subscription fee that covers your needs. Here’s a good example. Artlist has a variety of monthly subscription choices. The varying levels give you different licensing allowances and access to use the music they provide. They take care of the licensing protocols, and you pay them for the service.

If you choose to purchase licenses to music on your own, the numbers might be based on game distribution or even the popularity of the music you use. On average, those rights may cost anywhere from $500 to $1500 for a single license.

What About Royalties

Video game developers generally just pay the licensing or subscription fee, and they are done paying. Where many sources require royalty payouts, that is not the case for video games. Since video games are typically played at home and not used for public performance or sharing, no royalties are required.

However, if they do use the song for trailers, commercials, and other promotional materials, they may be required to pay a royalty for that type of use. In the game, their licensing fees are a one-time payment. Many video games create game-based soundtracks or music for promotional purposes to avoid royalty requirements, and it works well.

Make the Most of Music Licensing in the Gaming Industry

It’s a good idea to be familiar with your music options in the gaming industry. You will likely need to budget and plan for licensing needs or a subscription service that provides a variety of music. Many game developers have started composing unique scores and music for the majority of their games but also still partner with artists to bring popular music into their games.

There are benefits to creating music and audio for a video game, but there are also benefits to using licensed music. Both bring new intrigue and focus to your game, giving it some unique notoriety. It’s simply important to know your options and go through the right processes for music use.

If you have music that you want to get into a video game, be proactive about creating instrumental versions of the song, networking through conventions and meetings, and getting involved in game development forums and communities to start getting your name out there.

The concept of music licensing is simple, but it’s a term that game developers and creators need to be familiar with. Before you add music to a game, promotion, or even a quick video, make sure you’re following the right steps to do so!

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