Commercial art pricing?

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Commercial art pricing?

#1 Post by euphorics » Fri Jun 19, 2015 4:30 am

Hey everyone! I hope this thread is in the right place -- I've never posted in this corner of LSF before so forgive me if it isn't!

So I've taken a couple of private commissions before, and there are a lot of tutorials on DeviantArt and here too on pricing in regards to that, but recently I've taken on commissions for a commercial VN. After hours of research, I still haven't been able to find any concrete examples for what to charge when it comes to commercial work. It seems like the common practice in the VN world is to go by a Work for Hire contract, where the commissioner buys all rights to the work and no royalties are involved, but do artists usually charge an extra fee for that? If you have separate pricing for private/personal use vs. commercial use, how big is the disparity between those prices? If it's possible, I'd really like to see some examples of private versus commercial prices, just to get an idea for the range between those -- if there is any, or the process you'd go through to determine what to charge?

Also, I hope this isn't inappropriate for this thread, but let's say that you'd done free work for a free project and it was later changed to a commercial project. If the client asks to buy the rights to that artwork, how would you go about charging them for that? Should it be, say, 70% of what you would have charged them if it were a commercial project? Or something completely different?

I hope this all makes sense, and sorry for the text walls!! ;_; Just really confused and really new to this all. Thank you in advance for any suggestions or advice!!
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#2 Post by Jate » Fri Jun 19, 2015 7:07 am

I personally don't care for commercial premiums, even if I'm looking at commissions for a non-commercial project. When shopping for commissions seeing them is a click-away for me, as it's usually not hard to find someone offering a similar service without them. Once I start doing public commissions I won't have them myself.

If you're going that route I recommend not saying "+$20/5%/etc for Commercial," but reversing it as "$20/5%/etc discount for non-commercial." The latter sounds charitable while the former sounds greedy, imo.

As for them buying non and then switching to commercial, I think it makes sense to charge them whatever the price gap is? Maybe with a bit extra for the inconvenience.

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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#3 Post by Noyemi K » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:50 am

I don't have different prices for commercial and non-commercial artwork. If you're fairly confident in your skill with it and you're accepted as someone pretty competent, they'll pay the price.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#4 Post by SundownKid » Fri Jun 19, 2015 9:47 am

From what I've seen, or at least what I use, it mainly just goes down in a fixed price, set in advance work for hire kind of way. The artist surrenders all rights to it, and I pay them the rate. That's also what I do when I do graphical commissions. I have seen artists who retain rights to the art, but it feels over the top for a low budget, niche game of this magnitude, and the amount of stress that comes from deciding where I can use something and where I can't, I would like to avoid.

I think free projects should be priced exactly the same as commercial ones, though. It's not like the art is any different, just because the game is free they shouldn't get a discount. It's their choice not to sell the game, not yours.

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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#5 Post by Tempus » Fri Jun 19, 2015 12:52 pm

SundownKid wrote:I think free projects should be priced exactly the same as commercial ones, though. It's not like the art is any different, just because the game is free they shouldn't get a discount. It's their choice not to sell the game, not yours.
That kind of ignores that the art contributes to the sales of a commercial work though. It costs more to offset the fact that an artist's contribution to a commercial work could make the developer back many, many times more than the artist is paid. In essence it's about getting paid fairly, not about the quantity of work.

Of course, it's not necessarily known ahead of time whether a project will be commercially successful (and if so by how much) and therefore a flat fee + royalties that scale with the money made would probably be ideal if not for the additional overhead that would create for the client.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#6 Post by trooper6 » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:40 pm

Tempus wrote:
SundownKid wrote:I think free projects should be priced exactly the same as commercial ones, though. It's not like the art is any different, just because the game is free they shouldn't get a discount. It's their choice not to sell the game, not yours.
That kind of ignores that the art contributes to the sales of a commercial work though. It costs more to offset the fact that an artist's contribution to a commercial work could make the developer back many, many times more than the artist is paid. In essence it's about getting paid fairly, not about the quantity of work.

Of course, it's not necessarily known ahead of time whether a project will be commercially successful (and if so by how much) and therefore a flat fee + royalties that scale with the money made would probably be ideal if not for the additional overhead that would create for the client.
I think SundownKid's point is not that work for commercial games should be as cheap as for free games, but that work for free games should be as expensive as for commercial games. I think SK is wanting to raise the assumed baseline.

I'd think rather than saying: How much more should I charge for commercial art? Perhaps it should be:
This is how much my art is worth. If you want it, you must pay $x.
I am willing to give you a discount if your game is free.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#7 Post by Jate » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:42 pm

Tempus wrote:That kind of ignores that the art contributes to the sales of a commercial work though. It costs more to offset the fact that an artist's contribution to a commercial work could make the developer back many, many times more than the artist is paid. In essence it's about getting paid fairly, not about the quantity of work.

Of course, it's not necessarily known ahead of time whether a project will be commercially successful (and if so by how much) and therefore a flat fee + royalties that scale with the money made would probably be ideal if not for the additional overhead that would create for the client.
To me, fair pay comes down to your work. Whether someone makes money from what they buy from you doesn't change the product you're providing, and so I don't think the price should go up. A flat fee is something I can deal with if necessary. However, if I commission assets from a freelancer I expect that to come with the rights to those assets, and thus I would not be willing to pay royalties. I would not buy art from someone if I do not then own that art. If I'm working with a team or group, on the other hand, I would be open to revenue sharing as the project is theirs as well.

But to each their own. Producers should by all mean charge what feels right to them, just as consumers will pay what feels right to them.

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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#8 Post by Tempus » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:31 pm

I understood the point being made. However, whether it's phrased as a discount to non-commercial projects or an extra cost to commercial projects it's the same thing. It's wordplay, like choosing whether a glass is half-full or half-empty. The relative amounts remain the same.

I accept the reality of how things go, but it is absurdly skewed against the artist the more successful the project is. It's possible for an artist to permit someone all usage rights to their work while being paid a royalty. Just because they're getting royalties doesn't mean the developer needs to consult them for all usage. Further, royalties don't need to last for the lifetime of the artist; the first six months or even the first month would be an option, for example.

Oh and in case it's not clear: I don't begrudge developers. Despite what I say in the previous paragraph, in the majority of cases it's still a prohibitive headache to manage paying everyone a slice of the pie at regular intervals, assuming there's even enough pie to begin with. Not to mention that it takes time away from development, requires a more clearly written contract, and probably requires an accountant. It's just how circumstances are. I voluntarily enter into such arrangements because I know asking for royalties is a death sentence, though it's debatable how voluntary it is when your options are no royalties or no work.

My original point was that a relatively higher fee for commercial projects is a way to compensate for a lack of royalties that doesn't introduce a load of overhead to the developer, excepting for an additional one-time cost.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#9 Post by trooper6 » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:45 pm

Tempus wrote:I understood the point being made. However, whether it's phrased as a discount to non-commercial projects or an extra cost to commercial projects it's the same thing. It's wordplay, like choosing whether a glass is half-full or half-empty. The relative amounts remain the same.

I accept the reality of how things go, but it is absurdly skewed against the artist the more successful the project is. It's possible for an artist to permit someone all usage rights to their work while being paid a royalty. Just because they're getting royalties doesn't mean the developer needs to consult them for all usage. Further, royalties don't need to last for the lifetime of the artist; the first six months or even the first month would be an option, for example.

Oh and in case it's not clear: I don't begrudge developers. Despite what I say in the previous paragraph, in the majority of cases it's still a prohibitive headache to manage paying everyone a slice of the pie at regular intervals, assuming there's even enough pie to begin with. Not to mention that it takes time away from development, requires a more clearly written contract, and probably requires an accountant. It's just how circumstances are. I voluntarily enter into such arrangements because I know asking for royalties is a death sentence, though it's debatable how voluntary it is when your options are no royalties or no work.

My original point was that a relatively higher fee for commercial projects is a way to compensate for a lack of royalties that doesn't introduce a load of overhead to the developer, excepting for an additional one-time cost.
I have a couple of responses. Even though I said a person *can* offer a discount for non-commercial works, but I think that should just be if they feel like being generous. I would have no problem if artists just all upped their prices in general and didn't offer a discount for free games at all.

As for royalties, if royalties are important to you, then I think you should insist on them. People may not take you up on the offer, though if you are really good, I imagine some people will. If people who are part of teams can work our royalties, I imagine it must be doable in non-partnership situations.

Now, I could imagine if you were concerned that people wouldn't take you up on the royalty offer you could offer two rates: Rate 1) $150 per sprite, but no royalties, or $75 per sprite but 50% of all income for the life of the game...or whatever royalty rate you think is fair.

On the other hand, you know who is really cheap? You know whose work this community doesn't actually value much? Writers and programmers! As an artist you could just commission a writer and programmer and pay them peanuts, then you could have all the money and not worry about being taken advantage of.

Personally, I would offer royalties to the artist if we entered into a partnership on the project. This would mean that I don't pay commission, I profit share instead. Also, I would expect the artist to bring a bunch of non-directed creativity to the process. For example, they would be making suggestions and doing research and going above and beyond, not just making the five sprites I had in mind based on references that I gathered myself. They would be part owner of the project. They would be pitching ideas and taking leadership in art direction. They'd also pitch in money to pay for half the music commission costs...unless fairness demands that the composer also gets a share of the royalties. We could easily say there are four elements (art, music, writing, programming) each element gets an equal share in the royalties ...since all elements are what will make the game successful. Then we all equally pay for marketing fees and whatever other costs crop up. And we all equally take responsibility in marketing the game and trying to get word of mouth, etc. and if we get sued by someone, or critiqued by someone, then we all take that heat together, no one gets to say, "I wasn't in charge, I was just the artist and doing what I was hired to do." I'd also expect each person to give feedback and creativity and time and effort on all the other elements.

Note: I am going to give some context here. Back in the 90s I went in to meet some EDM producers who were thinking about using me as a vocalist for some of their songs. They were going to pay me a flat rate with no royalties. I was fine with this...because I was planning on singing the notes and words put before me and then leaving. But when I got there it turned out they wanted me to improvise lyrics and melody for their song. They didn't have a complete score, they wanted me to write the rest of it. I told them...if you want me *create* rather than just follow your instructions, I want partial composer credit. They weren't going to do that...so I walked away. So, I'm okay with walking away if I think people are taking advantage.

ETA: Also I wanted to say this. Tempus, your backgrounds are gorgeous, you have every right to insist on whatever payment you think your work is worth. Though we do live in a capitalist system so other artists might drive the prices down. But you can try to work to drive the prices back up again.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#10 Post by euphorics » Fri Jun 19, 2015 9:16 pm

Oh wow, thank you so much for all of the detailed, well thought-out replies! They've been really helpful in trying to decide what to do, and it's interesting to see all the different viewpoints.

There's not much I can add to the discussion, since I'm so inexperienced, but I'd like to echo that the best way to go seems to be to charge a higher flat fee for commercial projects, since as an artist you'd be giving up all rights, along with any possible royalties? It seems the fairest way to go, and the client wouldn't have to deal with calculating royalties for the length of the contract. If you go with just one price and a discount for free games instead, I think that's still essentially the same end result? Just a different approach -- you'd still end up with a lower price for non-commercial. This is purely my point of view, but I know that when I decide to buy a game, the artwork and overall look of it plays a large part in my decision. So whether the developer chooses to sell the game or not should affect how much the artist charges, since the artwork can contribute (possibly largely) to the sales of that game? For a free game, however, the developer is paying only for the artist's time, effort, experience, etc. Again, this is just my own experience, and is likely because I tend to focus on the visual look of things in general though!

On the other hand, I'm not sure how/whether writers and programmers account for this when they charge for their services -- there's still much more to a game than just the artwork, after all, and writing, programming, music all contribute to a game's sales. It really does seem like a problem with no real universal solution. I did have a question, though -- so to clarify, should artists, musicians, writers etc all contribute to the marketing of a game, including paying for ads and so on, if they are to be paid royalties? If instead of being paid royalties they asked for a higher flat rate from the start, should they be responsible for helping to market the game as well?

Sorry if any of my questions/opinions are completely off the mark, and I'd like to add that I highly respect all of your opinions/practices! All of these seem like viable solutions. Thank you again for your time! ;_;
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#11 Post by Jate » Fri Jun 19, 2015 9:44 pm

The emphasis, for me at least, isn't on whether you provide financial support. It's whether you're a part of the game's development beyond filling an order. I would give royalties to someone who provided input, took initiative, and acted as a partner rather than employee, over someone footing a bill.

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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#12 Post by trooper6 » Fri Jun 19, 2015 9:59 pm

Jate wrote:The emphasis, for me at least, isn't on whether you provide financial support. It's whether you're a part of the game's development beyond filling an order. I would give royalties to someone who provided input, took initiative, and acted as a partner rather than employee, over someone footing a bill.
This is exactly how I feel.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#13 Post by euphorics » Fri Jun 19, 2015 10:16 pm

Jate wrote:The emphasis, for me at least, isn't on whether you provide financial support. It's whether you're a part of the game's development beyond filling an order. I would give royalties to someone who provided input, took initiative, and acted as a partner rather than employee, over someone footing a bill.
That definitely sounds reasonable! I can agree with this.
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Re: Commercial art pricing?

#14 Post by truefaiterman » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:42 pm

I... can't really tell you about concrete rates, because that depends on your experience, your skills, your confidence and even the economy on the country you're living in (for example, getting 10$ in the US is not the same as getting them in China. It may be the same, coin, but the value is different).

With that said, I personally took a look at recommended rates from Spanish publications (Considering the kind of art, and the time it takes me to make it), and used them as a base: while I have some base prices, something I ALWAYS insist is that my prices can be negociated (in a reasonable way, of course).

About some more defined stuff I've seeing here:

-I personally haven't charged anything for my art in free games. Of course, with that said, I offered my services ON MY OWN terms, and because I felt like it. I doubt I'd accept someone asking me for free art without even trying to REALLY getting me interested in the project. Of course, if the game suddenly becomes commercial, then I charge full price.

-I prefer to work on commision, mostly because this way my work doesn't get lost in time. I can always reconsider it if I'm engaged in the game, but... seriously, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm REALLY TIRED of being in projects (not only VNs) where I make a F**KING HUGE amount of work for nothing, because suddenly third parties stopped working decently. If someone is actually paying, I trust him way more (specially being indie creators, it's an effort, sometimes an actual sacrifice, and a way to show this is serious bussiness). Of course, if we're dealing with a REALLY long-term project...

-... I offer different services. You can always have different rates and methods of payment: for example, I'm the main artist in a certain project, and I participate in everything art-related. With that said, part of the work is being paid on commision, and part will be shared from benefits or from a crowdfunding campaign (depends on the result of that one, once we start it).

-About being "a part on the project", I personally like to get involved in the game, and of course I'd expect my opinion to be considered if I'm gonna work in a long game that requires a big amount of time and effort.

I hope I could be of some help.
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