Where to begin with collaboration?

I'm new to game dev and am working away on my first intended-to-be-sold game for the Playdate (using Pulp). My music and sound design skills are somewhat lacking which makes me think I should find someone to collaborate with - but I'm lost at the very first step of knowing how it would work! I've tried searching online but perhaps I don't know where to look or what I'm looking for.


As I intend to sell my game, what are the standard approaches when collaborating? Is it a revenue share model, where collaborators agree to split the revenue from each sale by some percentage? If so, what is an expected revenue split for the musician/sound designer? (I imagine that's too simple a question, but even just a rough idea would be helpful!) How is a revenue share agreed and enforced? Practically how does it work - do storefronts such as itch.io allow for splitting revenue between collaborators or does it need to be processed manually, and what are the legal implications of handling that - do I suddenly become an employer (I would guess not!) or what - I'm just handling someone else's money to pass it on? Do I have to worry about what country my collaborator is in and whether they are paying the right taxes?


My assumption is that I would retain the rights to all parts of the game and IP excepting the music and sound. How is that agreed?

I'd expect the composer to be free to do whatever they like with the music and sound (like sell it as an album), other than me retaining indefinitely the right to use it in the game (and any future ports of the game?). Again, is this something made explicit by some standard indie dev collaboration contract? (Wishful thinking, I'm sure, but I don't like worrying about these things.)

I'm intending to sell my game (and any future projects) through a (UK) limited company - not because I expect to make much if any money, but because the limited liability is a great reassurance to me against any number of unlikely outcomes such as finding my game to be the target of patent trolls or other infringement. If I have to process distributing the revenue share, does that become a cost for the company?

What happens if someone claims the music infringes their copyright? Do I (or my company) become liable? Again not a likely scenario, but these possibilities make me anxious.

What happens if mid-development either of us are unwilling to continue? Can I safely call the whole thing off if I find out a collaborator is say a neo fascist? What if they simply get busy - can I find someone else to work with instead?

Thinking about this with my risk-averse developer brain that looks for edge cases, it seems to be an absolute minefield of things to worry about. Am I overthinking it? Am I underthinking it? Can anyone offer any kind of reassurance that it is indeed achievable? Is there a very useful blog post somewhere on the internet that can answer all of my questions?

I just want to make a game, find someone to add some music because it's not my strong point, make sure they are fairly compensated for that, and maybe make some beer money. I don't really want to worry about anything else, so where do I begin?

Thank you for reading, any and all advice is greatly appreciated!


I think you answered your own question with this last part. :grimacing:

Only joking, Scott. In my opinion, instead of Money and Ownership, start by focusing on finding the right person for the collaboration. If you have an idea of what type of music/textures you're looking for, find good examples of it to have on hand. Maybe post those on this forum as a starter, or go looking on Twitter for indie musicians that specialize in the vibe you're looking for. If you don't quite know the vibe you're looking for, then that's even easier. Just start talking to people who make music (I do, for example! and so many of us on this forum do), set up some video calls, and get a feel for somebody that's looking for what you're looking for.

I've been in freelance design for 10 years, all the best collaborations I've had start at the personal connection, and then move outward to the project details. If the partnership is solid and trustworthy, and expectations are clear, everything else falls into place as it needs to. Whether that person ends up being a "neo fascist" or not is a complete roll of the dice if you're talking about working with strangers. Generally though, meet someone on video and you'll likely know if you are a good fit for each other.

As for the rest... if you're not expecting to make boat loads of cash and you're not staking your livelihood on this, in my opinion your energy is better used on making the game great than on worrying too much about patent trolls, rights, IP, and copyright. If you can't sleep at night without addressing those things, draft up a dead-simple contract (google "Freelance Contract" to get started), and use that to protect yourself. Every project I've ever done has had a contract associated with it eventually, but coming out the gate with a list of legal contract requirements when you're first meeting potential collaborators may turn some people off. If you do go that route, it's less of a mutual collaboration and more just hiring a contractor (which is also a totally viable path to get some music done for your game).

Good luck Scott! DM if you'd like more thoughts; my career is built on freelancing so I deal with a lot of this stuff often and I'm happy to share, though I'm not sure how similar the UK is to the US in terms of some of the minute details of taxes, LLCs, ownership, and the like.


Thank you for the detailed reply, it's much appreciated!

I wish I was the kind of person who could just jump into things and let the details sort themselves out later, but unfortunately that's not how my brain works. It's not so much needing to have everything sorted upfront (and I appreciate that could be off-putting), but I need to know upfront what and how there will be to sort. It's the unknowing my brain can't cope with!

Like if you were to map out collaborating on a game as a flowchart, from initial meeting at the start through development and into contractual agreements and whatever at the end, I'm happy to work through that in order as I go - but I need to see the overall flowchart upfront so I'm not anxious about the unknown unknowns. The same way I might not need to book everything I plan to do on holiday in advance - but I do need to know there is a plan!

I hope that makes it clear I'm asking from a place of avoiding anxiety and wanting not to worry about these things, rather than being awkward or because these worries are actually what I care about - I really wish I didn't have to think about them at all!

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Hey thanks for these informative posts. I’m sort of in the same boat where I’m an experienced software dev with ideas for games but don’t really have the audio/graphic design skills to create a really polished product. Will keep this stuff in mind going forward

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