Recently UbiSoft has offered its audience an opportunity to co-create the soundtrack for their new game — next iteration of Watchdogs series titled Legion. The idea seemed broad-minded. Through HitRecord’s platform, which allows people to collectively create music, interested musicians and composers could partake in the soundtrack’s production with certain guidelines regarding style and sound. Ten tracks are supposed to be done that way and we will hear them in the in-game radio.
The work rules state that each person that took part in the production of a song will receive a fraction of the ‘2000$ per track’ payment calculated basing on their input to the song. If a track is not used by the company, they will receive no payment, no matter if they created an entire piece or played an instrument part. Is it fair and square?
The company’s policy — in the context of the game, its fanbase and game music world in general — leaves a bad taste and a lot to wish for.
Music-making folks took a short time to negatively comment on the idea, starting a debate on outsourcing and exploitation. The issue is a bit complicated as the system does not ensure that all of the co-creators receive a fair payment, and coming from a company as huge and wealthy as UbiSoft, the idea seems exploitative towards the fanbase or beginning composers who would work hard and get paid a pittance.
Soon after the outcry, UbiSoft responded officially and said that those 10 songs are a mere fraction of 140 that they are working on internally. Refuting the argument about exploitation, they stated that their proposition allows young producers to get out there and get recognized. One would want to think that the idea stems from the Legion’s structure which includes a collective protagonist consisting of London’s society.
I think UbiSoft did not think through this HittRecord offer because the company’s policy — in the context of the game, its fanbase and game music world in general — leaves a bad taste and a lot to wish for. I wouldn’t go as far to blame UbiSoft for being exploitative as the offer is, well, just an offer and the game could be published without those 10 tracks. It all seems like a marketing misstep that had two giants lend a hand to beginning composers — noble, somewhat coherent with the game’s main idea and ultimately delusive. Low chance for being recognized, low pay and hard work are not a good way to make music and launch a career. HitRecord’s policy is controversial even outside the game music world and I think bringing it here will have more negative results than positive. I hope some will get a desired effect from this cooperation but overall, throwing empty promises to gain PR points in a marketing campaign of a triple-A game is a poor choice.