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Gaming still untapped market for composers

As the opportunities for songwriters and composers grow in the expanding videogame market, we learn about the rules of engagement for music creators...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 13 Jul 2016
  • min read
Videogame soundtracks have come a long way since their humble two-bit beginnings back in the late seventies.

They now attract some of the biggest-name composers and are recited by orchestras around the world. They’ve even had a hand in changing the face of global pop.

With their growing stature comes greater opportunity for composers and songwriters - not least as demand for games mushrooms and the platforms on which they’re accessed expand.

But what are the rules of engagement for composers and songwriters? And what can they hope to get out of working in this genre?

We chat to PRS for Music’s strategy manager Daniel Fowler - who’s behind an upcoming session that’s assembled a crack team of experts - to learn more…

Why is gaming so important to songwriters and composers in 2016?
The computer games industry is significant, and is growing. The British gaming trade body UKIE recently predicted global industry revenue will rise from $91.8bn in 2015 to $118.6 billion by 2019.

By comparison, the global music industry in 2014 was sized by international recorded music trade body IFPI at $15bn.

Yet, despite this, many composers and songwriters continue to view gaming as low priority, especially compared to film or TV. Gaming is still a relatively untapped market for composers.

What’s the current licensing situation?
Historically, composers license the use of their work in games via a one-off buy-out fee.

It’s an easy solution for both composers and games developers and games publishers.

But, both the music and games industries have changed considerably in recent years, and as they evolve into truly digital and global market places, it’s important that the licensing model remains in sync.

How are these changes affecting music in games?
The traditional length of time that a game would be played, from purchase to potential re-sale, was between two and three months. This trend has changed in recent times, though. Now games can run almost ad infinitum as the gameplay has moved online.

To use a couple of examples, the hugely popular titles World of Warcraft and League of Legends have been running for almost 12 and seven years respectively. In this time there have been updates and patches, but they are still fundamentally the same games.

So my question is: does an upfront buy-out licensing model still work when the music is supporting a game that is generating revenue almost indefinitely?

How has streaming altered the relationship between music and games?
There’s been an explosion in live streaming, both in the gaming and music worlds. While watching other people play computer games may seem like a foreign concept to many, there are over half a million concurrent viewers on the most common platform Twitch TV, watching live streams from the 1.7 million registered individual broadcasters. This has become seriously big business, something that Amazon predicted in 2014 when it acquired Twitch for $970m.

The potential opportunity here is obviously exciting for music composers.

So would a royalty deal be financially better for composers?
Well, with all things considered, the question is - should we be looking to change the licensing contracts in games away from a buy-out model, to a royalty based one?

Would the benefits, royalties linked to primary and secondary usage, outweigh the advantage of getting an upfront fee?

These are the issues we’ll be covering at the next PRS for Music Explores: Games and Music, which is a free event taking place on 20 July at the society's Kings Cross offices, London.

To apply for your free ticket, please visit