Types Of Production Music Libraries

Know What You're Buying And Who You Are Buying From.

There are lots of production music companies out there, and they all work in different ways. Below, we've attempted to categorise companies into different groups, so that you have an idea of the type of company you are purchasing music from. This is important, as it has an impact on how you can use the music in your production. We've suggested a few companies in each category. There are obviously many more but we know the ones we've mentioned to be good examples in their respective areas.

We have split the various production music companies into categories based on they way they license music to you, the customer, and also by the way they receive music from composers. The aim of this exercise isn't to distinguish between "good" and "bad" libraries, but rather to give you a better understanding of the type of music you are purchasing and the type of company you are purchasing it from. 

Exclusive and Non-Exclusive Production Music Libraries

Before we talk about categories, one of the most important concepts that differentiates music library companies is whether they are "non-exclusive" or "exclusive". This term refers to the deal the music library has with the composers who write for them. Traditionally, most music companies were exclusive, i.e. when a composer write a music track for a music library the composer could not give the same track to another music library. Today, many non-exclusive music libraries have sprung up. With non-exclusive music libraries a composer gives the same piece of music to numerous music libraries, in effect "spreading their bet". These non-exclusive music libraries usually re-title the track name, so it is harder to trace how many libraries a single piece of music may be in. By being a non-exclusive music library, it's obviously easier to grow your music library quickly. In fact, with some libraries, the process is now automated which means anyone can upload music tracks to the library. 

Cinephonix is an exclusive music library. We work closely with our composers and only accept tracks which we think meets the quality and variety that our customers are looking for. It's a harder route to take. We could quickly boast about having millions of tracks in our library if we decided to go down the non-exclusive route. But we think it's the quality of music that counts, not the quantity.

In each category below, we'll point out whether companies within each group are typically "exclusive" or "non-exclusive". 

1. Traditional Music Libraries

Traditional production music libraries can be defined as companies who exclusively own their own music and license this music through collection societies around the world. (See more on collection societies here). You may have heard of collection societies such as ASCAP in the US and MCPS in the UK. Licensing music through a collection society means that music libraries sign up to a standardised code of pricing for their music in that particular territory. Typically music is licensed at different prices based on a combination of factors including territory, intended use, length of music used and a few other points. To use this type of music library, you need to have a license in place with the particular collection society in the country where you are using the music. Companies that operate on this business model include De Wolfe and KPM music.

2. Second Generation Music Libraries (exclusive)

These music libraries operate outside of the licensing and pricing structure of organisations such as the MCPS. As such, they are free to set their own pricing and license music under their own set of terms and conditions. This often means that the music company provides a simple worldwide license and a one off set price for the music. You need to make sure you check the terms and conditions though, because each company is slightly different. These companies by and large own their music exclusively.

Whilst these companies operate outside of the rates set by organisations such as the MCPS, they do collect royalties from the performance of their music. However, this performance royalty is not usually paid for by the company purchasing the license to use the music, it is instead paid for by the company that is 'broadcasting' the music. For example, a TV production company does not pay the performance royalty when the programme they make is broadcast on Fox. The performance royalty is paid by Fox. In the same way, when radio ad is played on Spotify, the producer of the radio ad doesn't pay a royalty, Spotify pays the royalty. We go into more detail about performance royalties here. This is an important point to understand, because this structure is often blurred with the term know as "Royalty Free Music". This music isn't technically royalty free, but since the purchaser of the music license does not usually pay a royalty to use the music, these types of music libraries are sometimes confused with royalty free music libraries.

Cinephonix operates in this area. Cinephonix provides a simple worldwide license for one set upfront fee. Rights are cleared for multi platform use in perpetuity. Audio Network is another example of a company in this area. 

3. Second Generation Music Libraries (non-exclusive)

Companies in this sector often market themselves as being royalty free music libraries, however broadcasters still pay them royalties in the same way as companies in category two above. The main difference between the second and third category of company is exclusivity of music track. Companies in this third category allow composers to submit music on a non-exclusive basis. So a composer could list the same piece of music with numerous non-exclusive companies. The companies often then re-title the track names so that they appear to be original works. Since the music they publish is non exclusive, often the companies are less selective about the sort of music that they list on their sites. 

4. Royalty Free Music Libraries

True royalty free music companies are actually quite rare. Why? Because of two things: First, they loose a revenue stream by not listing their music with collection societies, and second, the composers that write music for them can not themselves be members of collection societies. Since the majority of professional composers are members of collection societies (because it is also in their financial interests to be a member) finding composers who are serious musicians and are non members of a society are few and far between. These companies generally offer very cheap music, however make sure you listen to it and that you're happy with the quality of the music before you buy it! 

So, that's a broad breakdown of the different companies within the production music business. As you can see in the case of Royalty Free Music, not all the terms and phrases in the industry mean that a company does what it appear they might. Click on the link below to check out the industry jargon, and our guide to what it really means.

Production Music: The Jargon ExplainedProduction Music From CinephonixSearch Our Music Library Now

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