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Mark Petrie

Hi Alice,

 

First place to look is here! Explore the Newbie info, Composer Corner (cue tips, composer interviews).

I haven’t found any books dedicated just to the library music business, but interviews with composers can be a goldmine of advice (they have been for me).

In case no one else has time to chime in, here’s something for you to get started on:

The business consists of different types of libraries:

 

royalty free and needle drop (one off) licensing websites 

– usually non-exclusive, although some are exclusive. Prices range from $8 per track (low ball – bad!) to $100+ per track. You usually get 40%-50% of the sale. Some composers make a living just from these libraries, through sheer volume of sales.

 

boutique licensing companies, which include: 

composer owned/run TV catalogs – These can be non-exclusive or exclusive. If exclusive, they ‘should’ pay a small fee per track ($80-$150 per track) or a reversion clause (you can take your music back if the sales aren’t great). Focus is usually on performance royalties from music airing on TV

trailer music companies (who charge big fees, if you can get into that highly competitive, quality driven end of the business). Most of them don’t pay upfront, but share the license fees (around 50%). Some, however, do buy-outs like the major libraries (pay you well upfront and don’t share licensing).

 

major libraries (often owned by multinational labels like Warner and Universal)

– usually nice upfront fees ($600-$1000 per track) for buy-out deals. The performance royalties can be great too, as these big libraries have the best worldwide distribution networks.

 

If you’re just starting out, the key is to write every day. Write when you don’t have to. Aim to finish at least two tracks (1:00-2:00) a week or more. You’ll get better each time you produce a track, both musically and production wise. Production quality is at least as important as the music. You’ll need at least 100 well produced tracks in the hands of a good library before you start seeing significant income (goes for either fee based sites or royalties based libraries). It depends on a few things (your production quality, the libraries you work with, your genres) but you’ll probably need at least 500 tracks in the hands of successful libraries before you can start considering giving up your day job. At 1000 tracks it’s quite possible, at 1500 you should be making a good living.

From what I’ve seen, the best selling genres are upbeat modern pop rock (think Coldplay, U2, Katy Perry), well produced orchestral tension and epic heroic. Lots of other genres sell well too – light acoustic, atmospheric horror, quirky orchestral, techno, jazz – but overall the ones I mentioned seem to be the most successful. Do your own research – watch some random reality shows, check out the best selling tracks on royalty free sites (they’ll often tell you on the homepage).

A smart composer ‘diversifies’ their library income streams (on top of any custom scoring projects) – maybe you’l start with the royalty free sites, but don’t forget to include performance royalties and even license fees as you progress in your career.

Something to be aware of: the business is in a bit of a flux at the moment. The bigger libraries are pushing for audio recognition to be the way music usage is recorded. This will be a big blow to the non-exclusive (re-titling) business model. The TV networks are also said to be getting wary of re-titled tracks (it can get messy when the same track is submitted by multiple libraries). So, with all that in mind, you might want to be careful about how much of your music goes to non-exclusive libraries.