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MAKING IT HUGE IN VIDEO GAMES

Memoirs of Composer Chance Thomas

Chapter 18 - Sneak Peek Excerpt

EA GAMES 

Let’s pause this story and take a quick sidebar about negotiation. In any business deal, you never get what you deserve. You only get what you negotiate. A sense of fairness may be part of the negotiation, but you can’t count on it.

Very early in my career, I discovered a book entitled, You Can Have Anything You Want: But You Have To Do More Than Ask. Studying that negotiating book became a game changer for me, opening my eyes to a transformative way of thinking about transactions. The more I practiced the principles in that book, the more frequently I was able to derive favorable outcomes in my business dealings.

Then I read another book called, Getting To Yes. This was a more substantial academic work on negotiating. It deepened my understanding of the psychological motivations which underpin people’s tendencies, especially when they are forced into difficult corners. Some of those insights have been helpful in allowing me to think around counterparts’ objections, often well before they revealed them.

Finally, I studied a third book, Never Split the Difference, written by a successful FBI negotiator. Its contents gave me new and additional practical tools for my negotiating toolkit. All of them have proven helpful.  

I’ll go out on a limb and say that no other business skill will impact your bottom line as much as the skill of negotiation. I highly recommend investing as much effort as possible into studying about and practicing negotiation in all aspects of your career.

The three books I’ve cited above are excellent resources. There is also a chapter in my textbook, Composing Music For Games, which specifically addresses negotiating video game music contracts – creative fees, copyrights, licenses, package deals, deliverables, schedules, approvals, revisions, expenses, indemnification, payment methods, additional compensation, performing rights, ancillary usages, scripting your negotiation, etc. This is valuable and immediately actionable information. You might consider checking out each of these four books from your local library or adding them to your permanent reference collection.  

Now let’s return to the story of my negotiation with EA’s Vance Cook and see how things played out.  

This was a delicate time, because I was far from the only fish in the sea. Although the interviewing teams had preferred me among the finalists, at this early stage of the game there was minimal investment of time, energy, or emotion into my candidacy. I needed to step very carefully in order to preserve any initial trust and build this budding relationship. But I also needed to lean EA gently towards meeting the objectives which were important to me.  

Here were my two sticking points:  

First, EA Games prohibited employees from working on any games besides their own. I had built up too many valuable clients in the video game industry to simply cast them aside. Besides, Craig Alexander and I were already talking about a new music score for LOTRO’s upcoming expansion, Mines of Moria. Composing that score would be a dream gig for me! Somehow, I needed to obtain an exemption from EA in order to continue scoring video games as a side hustle.