Music Libraries 101
For some reason, I get a lot of emails from artists and other composers who are looking for advice on working with or getting signed with music libraries and music placement organizations. While I could probably write a book or several books on this topic, I will try to address some of the more common questions, arrangements, ways a composer works with a music library and the ups and downs.
MUSIC LIBRARIES or more properly "Production Music Libraries"
First and foremost there are thousands of music libraries around the world all in need of music. Generally a "music library" is an organization that aggregates and makes available various styles of music from composers and artists to pitch and make available to their clients i.e. Films, TV, Games, Commercials, etc.
Libraries typically fall into the following catagories:
Premier Libraries - very exclusive, only accepts world class content and only takes music it needs that meet its clients needs, targets and genres. Typically these libraries will want content on an exclusive basis.
Boutique Libraries - Very selective and only takes certain kind of music i.e. classical, orchestral, hip hop, etc. They are very specific on what they are looking for an only pitch that kind of music. These libraries tend to want music on an exclusive basis.
General Music Libraries - This is a broad group of music libraries that will take music in various style of broad quality from good to great. Sometimes not so good. These type of libraries look for broad styles of music. These libraries will explore non-exclusive and exclusive arrangements.
Extortion Libraries - These are crappy libraries that ask the composer or artist to pay to be a part of. Enough said. STAY AWAY. You should never pay to have your music considered or played into a library. This is not how reputable libraries operate. STAY AWAY
Note, there are probably many more library types, but for this discussion these are the high level types.
EXCLUSIVE VS. NON-EXCLUSIVE
This is rather simple. Many libraries today want to use your music exclusively. Why? Well, there are a variety of legitimate reasons. Some of these reasons include: 1: the fact that there are so many libraries now and in order for libraries to differentiate they don't want to have the same music tracks. 2: Music supervisors do not want to get the same track from multiple libraries. They frown upon that. 3: Libraries can be selective and exclusive. So if they music from a certain composer exclusively, it helps them drive value for their brand, library and clients.4: Many other reasons. But these are some of the top 3. Last point here, if you are entering an Exclusive arrangement, you typically will get more money if your music is placed. So its in your interest to find libraries that want to work exclusively. Note: When I say exclusive that means the track you place with the library is exclusive with them. It DOES NOT mean that you as an artist or composer are exclusive with them. Just the tracks.
HOW DO YOU FIND LIBRARIES?
Simple. Look for them. Google is your friend. There are a ton of them. There are directories and websites that list them. A simple Google search should provide a good starting point. The challenge is finding a library that is aligned with your musical style or objectives. Reach out to these libraries to explore if they are looking for new music, would be open to listening to you work, etc.
WHAT SHOULD I SEND A LIBRARY WHEN I CONTACT THEM?
I would recommend the following: Links to your website, links to your demos and why you think you would be a good fit.
WHAT DO LIBRARIES WANT IN THE TRACK?
I assume this means versions, technical specs, etc. Every library is different. Some simply want the full track in MP3 and thats it. Some want multiple versions, multiple lengths, different mixes and arrangements in 24 bit 48K Stereo normalized to 0db, etc. In short, you need to ask what they need. In most cases, they are looking for the most high quality versions you have.
Good libraries will either create their own meta data for your track or ask you to do it. Meta Data is the digital information associated with your digital audio file. Things like Name, File Format, Keywords, BPM, Key, Instrumentation, Copyright, etc. I will be writing a post on Meta Data soon. This is an art form and a pain in the caboose. Regardless, you will be required to provide meta data. In the end, good Meta Data is your friend and can get your music at the top of the search.
HOW IS CONTENT DELIVERED TO THE LIBRARY?
There are several ways in which to deliver your content. FTP, Drop Box, Custom Web Upload, etc. I am a fan of WeTransfer. Its a free service that allows you to send a ton of high res audio files for free. Plus, its easy for the recipient to download them. But check with the library. They may have specific ways in which they will want the files delivered.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR MUSIC GOT PLACED?
In most cases you don't. Yup. It sucks. It can feel like you sent your music in, signed the contracts and it goes into a black whole. The only way you truly know is when you get your royalty statement from your PRO. Most libraries are so busy or the A&R doesn't talk with the editors or sales folks so no one knows until the cue sheets are delivered. Some libraries that you build a relationship with will sometimes tell you "hey keep sending music like X. We are really successful with your music like that." Its unfortunate, but thats the way it is. It never hurts to ask, but like I said your A&R contact may never speak with sales or editing so they truly don't know.
DO I NEED TO BELONG TO A PRO?
Only if you want to get paid and get music placed. Libraries wont work with you unless you are a member of a Performing Rights Organization like BMI, ASCAP, etc. I am a member of BMI and felt they were better for film composers. Just my personal taste and preference. ASCAP is equally good. Go with whom you think best represents your style of music.
DO YOU EVER GET MONEY UP FRONT?
Most libraries have moved away from paying for music upfront. However, there are times where you may get your music placed and the client i.e. film, tv, game, etc. has sync fee money to purchase usage of the track. In that case you will get a portion of that upfront sync fee. Typically its 50%. The other 50% goes to the library. You will of course get royalties through your PRO. These up front sync fees can range from $2000 to $20,000. Be sure to negotiated those in your agreement with the library.
That's it for now. More to come on this topic in future blog posts as it is broad and deep subject. Generally working with libraries is a great thing. Especially if you work with good ones.