Gone are the days when production music was seen as ‘music of last resort’ if you either hadn’t the budget or couldn’t negotiate the rights to a certain track. Today you can access top quality production music produced and composed by some of the most famous names in the world of music and recording. In fact production music these days is often seen by record labels and artists as a way of complementing their marketing and promotional activities, as opposed to something that is provided to music libraries covertly, with whispered contracts and pseudonyms to protect the artist’s identity. Production music was used in the ad break of the 2010 Superbowl – the world’s most expensive TV commercial slot – and is regularly used in Hollywood blockbusters and high end TV production.
So, you know you want to use good quality production music, but where do you start?
Say that you’re in an edit and need to meet a deadline. The main drivers influencing your decision will probably be quality of the music and availability of choice, time, money and simplicity.
Quality and Choice
In terms of quality, we suggest you look at music libraries that own their music exclusively. Libraries that own their music exclusively generally tend to be more selective about the music they accept, which means you get a better standard of music. There are also some potential legal issues in using non-exclusive music, which is addressed in the legal section below.
In terms of choice, obviously you need to have a good selection of tracks to listen to within one music library. However, similar to the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, don’t be too swayed by claims of how many hundreds and thousands of tracks a library contains. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have thousands of tracks in the genre you need. And do you really want to scroll through thousands of tracks anyway? What we think you need is a good choice of premium quality tracks with submixes, cut downs and stings to provide additional flexibility. From our point of view, we’re proud of the fact that we’re not the biggest music library in the world in terms of track numbers. Our aim is quality not quantity. So, get to know different music libraries, big and small.
To start with, aim for a music library that lists all their tracks online. You should be able to search and preview tracks quickly, and importantly pay for and download the tracks instantly. You don’t want to find a track that works perfectly for your film, only to click through the registration pages and find you need to apply for a license, get further permissions to use the music or go through some sort of approval process before you can download. Look for instant access.
Better still, look for a music library that allows you to try out and download music for free before committing to purchase. Quality music libraries that deal with professional tv and film producers, advertising agencies and premium corporate video makers should allow you to access and download their music for free. You need to be able to try the tracks synched to your production in order to truly assess whether a piece of music compliments the scene.
Production music shouldn’t cost the earth, but the phrase “you get what you pay for” definitely applies to music libraries. Yes, you will be able to find royalty free music libraries that giveaway free music tracks as an incentive. By all means give this a try. We think however that a for you to do a professional job you need professionally produced music composed by professional composers. There’s a lot of inferior music out there, and if you want quality library music, you’ll need to pay for it, because professional composers don’t work for free! That said, you can get some great deals on library music. Costs for a single use music track can start from around $15 (£10) and rise to around $150 (£90) for a track used in commercials or TV advertising. You can also save money in the long run by taking out a Music Library Blanket License. Typically, Blanket Licenses give you full access to all music in a music library catalogue for a single one off fee. Make sure you check the small print though. Some Blanket Licenses restrict you to an upper limit on the number of productions you can use with a Blanket License. So check how many productions you can use the music in before making payment.
When talking about simplicity, we mean how easy it is to license production music. There are lots of music libraries around the world and all of them have slightly different terms and conditions when it comes to licensing their music. The traditional way to license production music was via a music collection society such as the MCPS. With this type of production music, lots of music library companies sign up to one standard set of music rates and pricing and the license for the music is granted by the collection society. This means that you can access lots of different music libraries and you know that the cost of the music is the same for all the companies. The licensing contracts will be the same too. Examples of these types of production music companies include Boosey and Hawks, and KPM. There are a few more listed on this Wikipedia page.
These days, you can often source good production music from companies that operate outside of the collection societies blanket license deals. These music libraries grant you a license directly and often the license is a lot more simple and covers you for broader uses such as a worldwide license or ability to broadcast on both TV and the internet for one simple price. Cinephonix is an example of this type of music library. You might also try AudioNetwork who operate in a similar way to Cinephonix and have a large catalogue to choose from. Again, with these types of music libraries you should still make sure they own their music exclusively, like AudioNetwork and Cinephonix do. Why do we recommend that? See below:
We mentioned earlier about music libraries that offer non exclusive music. What we mean by that is companies that allow a composer to submit music for inclusion in the companies music catalogue, but they don’t take on the exclusive right to publish that music. So the composer can also license those same music tracks to another music publisher. In our view this presents some potential problems. Say you use some of this music in a TV programme and you confirm to the TV broadcaster that the music is cleared. It might be cleared from the point of view of the music publisher who licensed you the piece of music, but since their might be other publishers publishing the same music track they might claim it as their own. You then get embroiled in having to sort it all out. Click here for more information on types of production music libraries. To avoid all of this, we recommend using an exclusive music library.
That’s about it. It really is simple to use production music for your project. All you need to watch out for are the few points above and you’ll find using music libraries, easy, quick and cost effective.
Terminology and the Jargon
Finally, familiarise yourself with the terminology that is used in the industry. To get the music you want, you should know, for example, what royalty free music is, and also whether it really is royalty free. Know the difference between Stock Music and Buy Out Music. Not all music libraries do, from a contractual point of view, what it appears they do from the headlines. Read our music library jargon buster to get to know the terms.
Check-list For Using Production Music
- Familiarise yourself with a few quality production libraries.
- Make sure your chosen music library allows you to download and pay for tracks instantly.
- Find a music library that lets you try out music for free.
- Production music isn’t expensive, but paying just a little more will get you a lot more in terms of quality.
- Read the small print and check for simplicity of licensing. Not all licenses are as simple as the headline grabbing terms.
- Check to see whether the music library owns their music exclusively or non-exclusively.
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