Despite disappointment from Stijn van Wakeren, the composer holds no ill will towards the music label.
Composer Stijn van Wakeren has voiced their dissatisfaction at how music label Materia Collective has handled the soundtrack to side-scrolling role-playing game Underhero and its lack of a wider release.
In a multi-tweet thread, van Wakeren (composer of role-playing game Heartbound, miniature golf game Wonder Wickets, and multiplayer party game Hammer Dongers) claimed Materia Collective had effectively prevented the physical release of the Underhero soundtrack as well as “prohibiting” its digital release on Steam.
A CD variant of the soundtrack would have been part of the game’s physical bundle but since Materia Collective owns the rights to the music, clearance would have to be given first.
“Long story short, we’ve been pleading to them for months now, included a drafted agreement which is ridiculously generous, and we still haven’t gotten anywhere,” van Wakeren said.
Any response the development team at Paper Castle Games received were along the lines of “We’ll look at it next week”, as the composer put it. “Followed by months of radio silence. That brings us to where we are now.”
Two years after the release of Underhero on Steam and the game’s soundtrack is still not available to purchase from the digital distribution platform. Furthermore, the lack of communication on Materia Collective’s part means plans to produce the physical Underhero bundle, including the soundtrack on CDs, are going nowhere.
Van Wakeren made it clear that this isn’t a bad faith argument or personal attack on the Materia Collective staff members, noting “the people at Materia have always seemed like kind people”. However, since this is something that’s apparently been happening for a number of years – the soundtrack to Wonder Wickets is another example that’s missing a Steam listing – the composer feels somewhat lost regarding the current situation.
“Materia has made it impossible to release any soundtracks to Steam,” they said. “Which I’d like to mention is the most important place for game soundtracks. Especially during launch.”
Speaking to Gaming Audio News, van Wakeren added: “I am very disappointed that we’ve been having big issues like this for the last few years.
“Not having the soundtracks released on Steam near release is a huge miss in revenue for both me and Materia Collective. Not to mention that the soundtracks are still not available.”
(Editor’s note: the Underhero digital soundtrack was released in 2018 and available from platforms including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Bandcamp, Deezer, iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube Music.)
According to Steam’s own statistics, the platform currently has over 24,000,000 concurrent users, at the time of writing. With a userbase of that size, one could certainly see the viability of having a Steam listing for the soundtrack.
“However, the [S]team issue is one I have made peace with personally,” van Wakeren added.
Having never had their music released on a physical format before, the composer noted that they were looking forward to this Underhero physical bundle, however, this is currently looking like a missed opportunity.
“My main reason for making a statement now is that I would be really sad to see the physical release of the soundtrack canceled,” they said.
Although clearly disappointed, van Wakeren has made it clear that they have “no ill will” towards Materia Collective.
Developer Paper Castle Games also posted a multi-tweet thread, in which it felt it could no longer stay silent on the matter. Because of the lack of responses from Materia Collective, the developer felt it was a reflection of how unimportantly the music label viewed the development team.
“Not only is it frustrating, but also a very disrespectful way to treat any artist/dev you’re working with,” the tweet read.
“Materia was contacted once again in October of last year in hopes of reaching an understanding to get the soundtrack to fans.”
Materia Collective’s practices came under scrutiny recently as it was revealed that the music label had not paid royalties to its artists, dating back as far as 2019. Artists affected by the lack of payment included composer and vocalist Laura Intravia who claimed she missed 13 months’ worth of royalties, and composer 2 Mello who also spoke with a least three other artists who had not been paid, while he himself was missing royalties for his remix track on Celeste B-Sides.
(Editor’s note: Materia Collective has clarified that “some royalties remained unpaid or misrouted due to a data entry error, which affected a minimal number of artists, while other artists’ account balances were under the payment threshold.)
Other musicians who claimed similar instances of no communication nor royalty payments included Danilo Ciaffi who said the label provided no information on his album for two years, and Alex Parrish who thought the lack of payment was because her ZED soundtrack just didn’t sell well.
Following mounting pressure from artists and the video game music community, Materia Collective issued a statement in January regarding the payout issues, citing “we grew too fast for our team to keep up” as a partial explanation. In a follow-up post, the music label elaborated that the delays were the result of data entry and accounting issues, and not because of any financial instability.
Materia Collective CEO Sebastian Wolff posted a statement to the music label’s Twitter account, promising artists would receive their payments by mid-February and that this would never happen again.
Composer Christa Lee and percussionist Doug Perry both noted that it wasn’t just a financial issue because Materia Collective seemingly withheld sales figures which could have helped musicians manage their career strategies better by providing more insight.
“[I] want to add my voice to the chorus saying that the absence of this money has directly affected the trajectory of my career,” Lee said. “So many projects and albums put on pause so I could keep us housed. SOOO many collaborations fell through because financial insecurity made them unfeasible.”
Perry also added: “If I had been seeing reports of the sales of that piece and the income it was generating, I’d have approached the last few years of my career differently.”
Regarding this current Underhero situation, Paper Castle Games is giving Materia Collective the benefit of the doubt, but urges a resolution that that involves better communication.
“We believe Materia is trying to improve,” the developer said. “Recent events have shown honest intentions to correct their mistakes. But continuing to ignore smaller artists and developers is not the way to go.”
Paper Castle Games added: “All we want is to finally get the soundtrack to the fans, both on Steam and physically. Please work with us, talk to us. Help us make it happen.”
The closing tweet in van Wakeren’s thread reads: “I hope that this can be resolved painlessly. If Materia Collective really doesn’t have time for me, I would love to get the rights to my music back. Or to have this be resolved in any way.”
Gaming Audio News has reached out to Materia Collective for a response to the current situation and was told: “Materia Collective is currently working with Stijn van Wakeren and Paper Castle to resolve this issue as soon as possible.”
This article was updated at 14:36 GMT on 18th March, 2021 to note the soundtrack’s release on various digital platforms.
This article was updated at 17:22 GMT on 18th March, 2021 to clarify that only some royalties were unpaid or misrouted due to a data entry error while some account balances were under the payment threshold.