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Orchestral music, weird instruments, and sample libraries just about sums it up.

Sam Gossner @samulis

24, Male

Sample Library Devel

Berklee College of Music

New England

Joined on 1/3/10

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On Working for "Free"

Posted by samulis - October 10th, 2014

Dear Artist/Developer/Person seeking composer,

Hey. Hi. Hello. Thank you for letting the world know you are looking for one of us. Now uh, there's one small problem and all with everything you have to say, and it's not the fact that you want to make a GTA clone, or the fact that the main character is named Bob instead of Steve. It's that you want us to work for free.

Now, you're probably expecting me to go into some big rant about how composers need to earn a living too and yada yada yawn... but I'm not. Let's face it, no composer could earn a living from doing music for people who would otherwise pay them nothing (that's like delivering newspapers to pay off a massive amount of college debt).

What I am going to say instead is this... working for free is a privilage and a honor that the musician bestows upon the individual they are doing that work for. It is an act showing great respect towards a creative or intellectual individual who has such an influence, cause, or show of talent that they deserve that honor. Your financial status is irrelevant.

Here's the proof. Let's say you want to go buy some clothes. A custom designer suit is the clothing equivalent value of a custom piece of music. Digging through the bargain bin at Goodwill is the clothing equivalent value of "free" music. If you had to get some clothing and all you could afford was "free", would you try to go buy a designer suit? How many people would simply laugh you out of their shop?

However, if a charity organizer who ran a charity that gave clothing to children living in complete poverty walked into the shop, the shop owner might consider donating some items to help the charity because the charity is considered a just cause.

Now, there are some people who might do music for a commercial project for free. Most of them are novices who will not make much of quality. The rest are in a position where they can work for free and not worry (living at home, in teens, etc.) or have major trouble understanding how money works.

People charge money either because:

  1. Paying them is recognization that there will be profits from the project and that their element was a contribution to those profits.
  2. They need to live.

Here are the cases in which a composer MIGHT make music for free:

  • A charity cause they feel very strongly about.
  • An incredibly (and I mean INCREDIBLY) gifted or dedicated artist who is not making a cent from the project and really does art for art's sake.
  • A project that is completely non-commercial (often times legally bound to be such, like in the case of a mod or fan project) that the composer feels very strongly about.
  • A collaboration or competition of only composers for fun.
  • An equal exchange of services with a frequent collaborator who they are certain will "pay it back", or creating music in return for the provision of a different service (art, web design, samples, etc.).

The operative on all of the above is that they do not require much music (perhaps no more than ten minutes at most!)

However, you have a lot of options for finding free music you can use:

  • The ENTIRE AUDIO PORTAL is fair game for use in non-commercial projects (you'll need to clear commerical projects with the creators). That's over half a MILLION tracks in every sort of genre and style imaginable.
  • Music that is in the Public Domain can be used in any project. Just be careful- recordings of music are only in the public domain if they are A. put there or B. from before 1930ish.
  • Kevin MacLeod has a giant pile of music that's in the public domain and under other similar licences. There are also a number of other composers who follow this trend. And FYI, he charges more than most Newgrounds composers per minute for original music so don't even think about it.

So there you have it. Now stop pesting us on the forum asking for scores for your youtube animations for free!!!

Comments (4)

i think sonic hates newgrounds

I think you should elaborate on public domain tracks that are put there, such as CC0 tracks. :P

What needs to be elaborated on that subject matter, o' EruditeFalcon?

Need I put a "let me google this for you" in the post? :P

Hey, samulis, can you make some free custom music for me? I want something to listen to while I drink my tea. Thanks!

Sure thing, I just made this if you look at it from the context of a few months ago.


Yesss now my tea tastes 33% better.

The two times I made music for free for somebody, the person disappeared off the internet and their project disappeared into the depths of oblivion.

That generally happens. People who ask for free work are often those who are just starting out and don't know if they can complete what they aim to. That is why I always insist on asking if a person has completed work before. :)