Dear PCAM Member,
This is the latest in a series of Newsletters that we publish five times a year, following meetings of the PCAM Committee.
Each Newsletter contains a brief report from the recent Committee meeting, plus other current news and views and an edited version of a recent query to the PCAM Helpdesk.
This Newsletter also contains a Beginners Guide for composers getting into the computer games industry, written by PCAM Committee member Chris Green from Blurred Edge.
We would like to receive more contributions to the Newsletter from PCAM members. If you want to write something for inclusion or send us a link to something interesting you have read or seen, please contact PCAM Administrator Bob Fromer on: email@example.com.
The PCAM Committee
— Message from the PCAM Chair
— Beginners Guide to Music for Computer Games
— PCAM Podcasts
— New PCAM Assistant
— Update on professional Indemnity Insurance for PCAM members
— PRS Respite Breaks Scheme
— Notes from the PCAM Committee Meeting: 18 April 2023
— Remaining Committee Meeting Dates in 2023
— Case Study from the PCAM Helpdesk
— PCAM Q&As Volume 3 now available
MESSAGE FROM THE PCAM CHAIR
Rather than a general round-up of the state of the industry, in this Newsletter I want to concentrate on a particular issue that is becoming more and more commonplace.
At our last Committee meeting, a very concerning issue was flagged, something that every member needs to be aware of. A PCAM member had been commissioned by a non-UK sonic branding company (based in the EU) to pitch on a sonic brand. The composer was fairly new to the advertising/branding industry and the temptation of a few thousand pounds for a ‘win’ when invited to pitch was too tempting to turn down, so they signed a deal memo and got cracking.
At this moment, the composer made two errors. Firstly, the ‘win’ fee was far from appropriate for the size of the exposure that their music would receive, the brand being an international household name. So the composer’s work was being seriously undervalued.
The second error was that the composer signed a deal memo that meant that, if they won the project, they would have to sign over all rights, including the publisher and writer share of publishing. Assigning the publisher right (in the UK this tends to be 50% of the publishing share) is fairly normal practice if a music agency/production company/broadcaster/brand has a publishing division, meaning that the work will be actively published. But assigning the writer’s share is a major problem, as the composer in question is a member of PRS for Music.
Upon signing up to PRS, you’ll see in the agreement that your writer’s share is automatically assigned to PRS to enable them to collect royalties on your behalf and distribute them to you. This is a contractual agreement between the composer and PRS for Music. In this case, the composer won the project but should not have signed over their rights to the writer’s share of the publishing as they had already assigned them to PRS. The composition wasn’t born out of collaboration with another composer at the sonic branding company — it was entirely their own work.
This created a very tricky situation and was a shoddy deal from the sonic branding company.
PCAM has taken action by contacting its equivalent Society in the country concerned to ask them to contact the sonic branding company directly and raise the issue of demanding rights that they should not be requesting. The matter of the very low ‘win’ fee has also been flagged. We will be monitoring the situation closely.
We also have some advice for anyone who finds themselves in this tricky situation — and remember that the PRS is also there to help.
If a composer who has signed up to PRS accidentally assigns their writer publishing share to a third party, they can contact PRS and request that the assignment to the third party be reversed.
In order to reverse an accidental assignment, the composer will need to provide PRS with evidence that the assignment was made in error.
This evidence may include the original agreement that was signed, correspondence between the composer and the third party, or other documentation that supports the composer’s claim.
Once PRS has received the evidence, they will review it and, if they find that the assignment was indeed made in error, they will take steps to reverse it.
This may involve contacting the third party and requesting that they return the writer publishing share to the composer. If the third party refuses to return the writer publishing share, PRS may take legal action to force them to do so.
It is important to note that PRS cannot reverse an assignment if the composer has already received any payments from the third party. In this case, the composer will need to seek legal advice to determine their next steps.
Here are some additional tips for composers who want to avoid accidentally assigning their writer publishing share:
- Read all agreements carefully before signing them.
- Make sure that you understand the terms of any agreement before signing it.
- If you are unsure about anything, ask for clarification.
- Keep a copy of all agreements for your records.
- If you do accidentally assign your writer publishing share, contact PRS as soon as possible to request that the assignment be reversed.
Please make sure you check all commissioning agreements and deal memos so you know exactly what is being requested of you. If you are unsure, please do get in touch with the PCAM Helpdesk.
Lastly, some good news from the PRS Member’s Fund. If you or someone you know is struggling financially and in need of space to create or find respite, there is now new funding for a respite breaks scheme and applications are now open. More details on this scheme are below.
GUIDE FOR COMPOSERS IN THE COMPUTER GAMES INDUSTRY
Over the last few years, the computer games industry has entered its golden age and overtaken movies and TV as the largest entertainment sector, with a global value of $365.6bn in 2023 and with an expected 3.04bn users by 2027.
But, as a composer, how do you break into this industry, get your foot in the door and land that first elusive gaming project and credit? In Part One of a two-part Beginners Guide, PCAM Committee member Chris Green, Director of Music & Audio at Crytek (one of the world’s largest independent video game developers), provides some insider tips, tricks and tactics to help you get started.
How can I get into the games industry?
For me, the games industry is all about the community. Even though the market has exploded in the last few years, the inner working of the industry is still very niche and built around relationships forged from the mod’ding (hacking and creating modifications to existing games) and indie dev community. The single most important piece of advice I could give would be to become part of this community:
- Join GameJams (http://gamejams.co.uk/) and Hack’a’tons (short day-long events where people hack and jam together around game ideas). This will allow you to learn all the steps that go into game development in a quick, condensed way over a few days, while also picking up the different skills and technologies needed for interactive music composition.
- Download Discord and join the indie and bedroom development community groups. These are the best places on the net to ask questions, meet other people starting off in the game world and connect with professionals working in the industry (https://magnaludumcreatives.com/5-discord-servers-indie-game-developers-should-join/).
- Attend video game conferences, especially the smaller indie-based ones — great places to network and keep in touch with the latest cutting-edge technology used:
Once you have developed these contacts, put some time and care into maintaining the relationships. Games development takes a long time and AAA titles can easily have three-to-four-year development cycles or longer. This means that the chance of just making a contact and the next week getting work from them is very rare. This is a long game, in which building up your network might only bear fruit after a year or more.
There are so many times I have been contacted by talented composers I would love to work with, but after I tell them that we are at the wrong time in the process I never hear from them again. If an audio or creative director says, “We aren’t really thinking about the music and composers now, contact me again later in the year,” it’s probably true and not a knock-off. Just set a reminder in the calendar and politely chase them up every six months or so, or give them a quick message when attending events to meet up. Persistence pays dividends here!
Creating and integrating interactive audio and music into a video game takes a few areas of additional knowledge that you wouldn’t need for linear media. The main ones below are the standard tools you will use to get your DAW-created assets into the game build.
- Engine knowledge (Unreal, Unity, CryEngine)
- Midware knowledge (Wwise, FMod)
- Game knowledge (play games!)
A game engine is a specialised piece of software that allows a studio to combine all of their work into a finished product. Each level that you play, when enjoying one of your favourite titles, was created in a game engine. These programmes power the entire game world presented to you.
When you use a game engine, you can modify anything and everything about the game world. This includes the placement of objects, type of terrain, unique physics, lighting, sound, and everything else required to create modern games.
The main ones you hear about are Unreal, Unity and CryEngine, and the great news is you can download and try them out for free, while taking advantage of all the amazing tutorials on YouTube.
Audio middleware is a third party tool set that sits between the game engine and the audio hardware. It provides common functionality that is needed on each project, such as randomising pitch or volume, fading sounds in or out, and randomly picking a sound from a set of sounds.
I’ve always found the best way to think of this is as a high complex Sampler that is triggered by the game, rather than MIDI.
Again, there are only a few of these that are widely used, both being free to download and with large knowledge resources available online:
People who work in the industry have a great passion for games — both creating and playing them. One of my standard questions when talking to new composers and sound designers is to ask them about their favourite games. So a good knowledge of gaming is important, and I would recommend taking some time to play the less mainstream games. Steam is an incredible resource here, with thousands of amazing games from smaller indie studios. Sometimes, the top games on Steam can be created by a small team of less than 10 people, so try reaching out to the indie studios that create games you connect with. As I said before, the gaming industry has an amazing sense of community, and I constantly just get in touch with people to chat about how cool their Steam game was in person.
Studio Contact Points and NDAs
The last area I would like to talk about is the best people to contact when going to the larger AAA studios, as beyond the smaller indie game studios things can get more difficult when studios have hundreds or even thousands of people working in them.
The best people to try to reach out to would mostly be the Audio/Music Director, Outsourcing Manager, or sometimes the Creative Director. These will be the people who have some control over the composer and music for the game. In the main studios (EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Riot) there can also be whole teams of people dealing with music, and the competition is fierce, so the best way is to try to reach out to these people through shared contacts or at events, as they probably receive a sea of emails from composers asking for work.
Finally, before talking about any aspect of their games or projects, nearly all game studios will ask you to sign an NDA. An example can be found on this page on the PCAM website: https://www.pcam.co.uk/agreements-2/.
This is a standard legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes but wish to restrict access to. It should only cover information shared between the company and you, and not any music ownership or licensing.
These should be agreed later in a Service of Work or Demo contract.
Part 2 of this Beginners Guide for Composers in the Computer Games industry, in the next PCAM Newsletter, will look at the realities of work in the industry, including what rights you can reasonably expect to retain and/or assign.
We are hoping to set a date, time and place soon to record/re-record the PCAM podcasts (https://www.youtube.com/@pcammusic9274). While they don’t have much public viewership, many of our members – particularly newer members – find them useful.
The topics for the original podcasts were:
- What is PCAM?
- Demo Fees for Composers
- Responding to a Music Brief
- Royalties and Publishing
- Chasing Late Payments
- What constitutes a Soundalike?
- Music Gear and Technology
- How to Get Into the Music Industry
- Music Contracts: The PCAM Pink Form
Some of these may still be mostly or fully relevant but others may need significant updating. It’s possible that some subjects could be combined and new subjects added.
Most importantly, are there other areas and topics that should be the basis for new podcasts? If you have any ideas for new podcast topics, please send them to PCAM Administrator Bob Fromer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
NEW PCAM ASSISTANT
PCAM has taken on some additional administrative help by engaging Michelle Murchan, a “Virtual Assistant for Music”, to help the Society to become more effective in carrying out its various activities and campaigns.
Over the next few months, Michelle will be helping to organise seminars, in conjunction with the PRS, on Mental Health in the Music Industry Post-Pandemic and on how to navigate Soundmouse forms to best effect plus other registration and royalty issues.
Michelle will also be organising a recording session where PCAM Committee members will be adding to our existing catalogue of PCAM podcasts (see above).
Finally, Michelle will head a new PCAM subcommittee designed to increase the visibility of PCAM within the industry and create additional income streams, and she will lead efforts to achieve more diversity on the PCAM Committee.
DEDICATED PCAM PAGE FOR PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY AND OTHER INSURANCE
Performance Insurance, who can supply professional indemnity and other kinds of insurance to PCAM members at reasonable rates, has now established a landing page on its website specifically for PCAM members.
The page can be found here — https://www.performance-insurance.com/the-perfect-accompaniment-for-pcam-members/ — and is worth visiting to see the full scope of what’s on offer.
PRS RESPITE BREAKS SCHEME
The PRS Respite Breaks Scheme, kindly funded by the Francis W Reckitt Arts Trust, is aimed at PRS members who may be struggling financially and who are in need of space to create or find respite.
A new round of funding has now been received to pass on to PRS members, with applications now re-opened for 2023.
The PRS gratefully acknowledges the financial support received from the Francis W Reckitt Arts Trust to enable it to offer opportunities to eligible PRS members (those who would not otherwise be able to afford to do so) to enjoy time away from home in order to rest, recuperate, research, work on their music and songs (alone or in collaboration), rehearse, or simply have a short break.
Should this be suitable for you, there are a number of options that could be applicable.
Whether it’s a local retreat for yourself to write, a holiday space with your band or others to try new songs, or even a trip to somewhere more peaceful than your own home in order to work on your writing – whatever it may be, do get in touch to learn more.
- Creative PRS professionals – such as songwriters, composers and musicians who produce new artistic work in a professional context and are in some degree of need — are eligible for assistance from the Fund.
- Please note that grants are given to support residencies which could otherwise not be afforded.
- Please note that a grant can only be used to cover board and lodging; it cannot go towards travel, studio hire or equipment purchase.
- Costs per night for board/accommodation can be covered only up to £85-£100.
- The Fund is unable to give grants to artists who are not resident in the United Kingdom for tax purposes.
- The Fund will not give grants to artists for stays at medical, nursing or dedicated convalescent homes, and artists requiring daily attention from health professionals will not be eligible. However, convalescent stays are otherwise acceptable.
- The grant may not be used to cover any fees for an educational course, a seminar or conference. However, it may be used for artists or members of a group who wish to attend such an event, or to work, consult or study together, provided that the grant is only applied to the fees for accommodation and meals.
You will be asked to fill out an application form and provide details of your potential trip. For more information, please call 020 3741 4067, email email@example.com or follow this link for more information:
Quotes from last year’s recipients:
“This has been an invaluable opportunity and experience for me! To be able to prioritise my well-being for a few days, and to give undivided attention to putting pen to paper for the first time in several years has been so energising and has definitely restored some self-esteem and confidence in my project. Thank you so much!”
“I was finally able to relax and unwind after a very stressful time in my life, and I found it really helped me to write songs and express things that I needed to. I am writing regularly again now – with others and also on my own — and it really did help me to do so. I also made some great new music contacts, who will be lifelong friends, colleagues and collaborators.”
“I have been really grateful to the PRS Respite Break Fund for stepping up and providing support at a time of personal and professional crisis and for filling in the gap, especially when it helps you not only continue what you love to do but literally can be lifesaving and hope-giving. Thank you!”
NOTES FROM THE PCAM COMMITTEE MEETING: 18 APRIL 2023
The PCAM Committee held its most recent meeting as an in-person gathering at the offices of Massive Music in London.
The following Committee members attended the meeting — Paul Reynolds, Chris Smith, Tony Satchell, Simon Elms, George Hyde, James Bargent, Bob Fromer and Michelle Murchan – while apologies were received from Imogen Pring, Bankey Ojo, Chris Green, Jonathan Watt and Freddie Webb. Guests were composer Maz Iannone and Greg Owens from Gas Music.
Here is a rundown of some of the main topics discussed:
New PCAM Assistant. PCAM’s new Assistant, Michelle Murchan, was at the Committee meeting and was able to meet those Committee members in attendance. The projects Michelle will be working on this year are detailed earlier in this Newsletter.
Meanwhile, PCAM Committee member Chris Smith has introduced Michelle to Chris Nikolaides at SCOREcast, and an immediate outcome is that PCAM news will now be published on the SCOREcast Facebook page.
It was also agreed at the meeting that PCAM needs more visibility within the industry, and Michelle will work with others on the Committee on a strategy to promote PCAM more actively.
PCAM website. There was a discussion about whether too much of the information on the PCAM website is currently behind the membership paywall, and whether having more information available to public view might serve to recruit more members.
Although PCAM Contracts and Guidelines should obviously remain behind the paywall, Bob Fromer and Tony Satchell from the PCAM Committee will look through the rest of the website and make recommendations about sections and pages that might be transferred to public view – provided this is technically possible without too much cost.
Fair Remuneration Campaign. Tony Satchell, James Bargent and Simon Elms from the PCAM Committee have been working on a statement that can form the basis for a PCAM campaign – to be taken to the IPA, ISBA and the APA for support – on fair remuneration for composers and ethical practice by clients and Agencies.
However, there was some doubt as to whether this is the right time to launch such a campaign given tightened purse strings in the industry. On the other hand, what’s happening on the ground is that more and more commissions at unfair rates of pay are being offered to young composers who don’t know any better.
The decision was to continue to create and refine the materials for the campaign, perhaps in collaboration with the APA, but to wait a bit longer before taking it to the IPA.
ICE Services. ICE Services is a relatively new organisation, a joint venture between PRS, STIM and GEMA, designed to make it easier for enabling societies and publishers to accurately compensate rightsholders when their work is used internationally. They are about to launch an initiative to fill in the gaps in non-attributable reporting, and PCAM might look at setting up a PCAM/PRS event around this initiative, or expand it into a larger event around registration to which PCAM and SCOREcast members and others could be invited.
PCAM Committee meeting dates in 2023
Remaining PCAM Committee meetings in 2023 will be held on the following dates from 4.00-6.00 pm and are currently planned to be held in person.
- Tuesday 13 June
- Tuesday 12 September
- Tuesday 14 November
Any PCAM member interested in attending any of these meetings should contact PCAM Administrator Bob Fromer (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PCAM HELPDESK Q&A
Tony Satchell writes:
Before this Newsletter’s Q&A example, I would like to point out something which is becoming more and more prevalent: people keep asking detailed questions about a job they are doing or going to do, basically asking for help from scratch.
While I’m extremely happy to explain things to the best of my ability and answer a specific question if I can, please remember that I really can’t run your business for you. Among many reasons (other than I don’t get paid for my pearls [or not] of wisdom), I can never truly know all the circumstances surrounding a job, which is absolutely integral to being able to quote and budget correctly.
Below is a recent question and answer exchange from the PCAM Helpdesk (the question is in black type and the Helpdesk answer is in italics):
Q: I just want to check One Year Internet worldwide? I think it is 600%. They also want paid media, which includes pre rolls/vod etc. Is that included in the 600% or should we be charging a worldwide TV rate on top, i.e., another £2500 on top?
One more question: what’s your guideline price for 3 x Internet socials? They are paid media for social media US, online only. They are three different scripts and come with a different script TV campaign. Interested to know how you would charge these.
The Agency seems keen to get them included free with the TV campaign, but they are all different scripts, same music. Any guideline suggestions you could make would be greatly appreciated.
A: Yup, worldwide internet is typically 600%.
Paid media, including pre rolls/vod etc should be extra and I would charge between 100%-200% of my Composition Fee.
On your second question, I suppose there could be an argument to include them for free, but I would charge 100% of my Composition Fee.
Q: Yes, UK agencies are getting so cheeky these days! PCAM quotes that have been acceptable to everyone for years are now under attack, they’re trying to negotiate them down to library prices. I’m holding my ground! Thanks for your feedback.
PCAM Q&As VOLUME 3 NOW AVAILABLE
In 2021 and 2022, an edited selection of questions sent to the PCAM Helpdesk in the previous year, and the answers provided by PCAM Committee member Tony Satchell, have been published on the PCAM website.
Now, a new selection of Helpline Q&As from 2022 has been published here: https://www.pcam.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Heldesk-Volume-3.pdf.
Because many people often ask similar kinds of questions, perusing these questions and answers may be helpful, especially for new members.