Composer Interview

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    Art Munson

    1.) Your name??

    TG – Anonymous

    2.) Any credits you care to mention?

    I’ve been a composer for various film, TV, commercial, and other media shows for more than a decade now. Most of my TV and commercial placements have been through the library music industry, while the films I tend to get directly, through connections with directors, producers, and editors.

    3.) How long have you been writing music?

    My entire life! I grew up as a keyboard player and morphed into the MIDI world and then into the digital audio workstation world.

    4.) How did you get started?

    My family was musical and there were musical instruments around the house so I picked up a lot by ear and playing with friends, then I went on to study music at university.

    5.) How long have you been writing library/production music?

    For about the last 6-8 years.

    6.) Are you making a living wage?

    In music, yes. In library/production music alone, no.

    7.) Do you care to give any general figures of earnings (low/mid/high 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 figures)?


    8.) Are you self-taught or have you studied formally?

    Both. Growing up and learning to play by ear and through local lessons was a great starter. Later, studying it formally really helped me progress to the next level.

    9.) Do you work through music libraries?


    9a.) If so are they exclusive and/or non-exclusive libraries?

    Both. It’s a tricky thing, because there are huge pros and cons to each. The non-exclusive libraries tend to be bargain basement, Wal-Mart type entities where they have a ton of everything, but the quality varies a lot, and budgets are lower. Then the exclusive libraries are more boutique, have higher budgets, but less opportunities. And of course you tie up your cues and put all your faith into that company. It’s a tricky thing.

    I’ve also been stuck in the awkward position where an exclusive company wants a cue that I’ve put into a non-exclusive company, and while all non-exclusive companies let you pull cues out, often you can’t do that for the first year or two of the contract, which creates headaches all around. Sometimes I end up having to rewrite a new cue, using the same mix/instrumental template as the original, in order to get around this problem.

    10.) Do you contact music supervisors, music editors or TV production companies directly?

    Occasionally, but most really prefer to go through channels they know. You can’t waste supervisors’ time, and they really need to know, before they give you the time of day or invest any time into seeing if you have any material that fits their needs, that the master and sync is clear and available. That’s why they like going to music libraries first, because it’s quick to navigate around and there’s plenty of choice that a single solitary composer can’t possibly rival.

    10a.) If so how do you approach them?

    Usually through personal contacts. Without a personal contact, most supers are too busy to deal with an unknown.

    11.) How do you deal with rejection?

    I realize that a cue is just a few minutes of music and I try not to hold it too close to my heart. Turn on your TV and you’ll see that there are hundreds if not thousands of music opportunities airing at that very second. You won’t land every one, so you just do the best work you can, and trust that good work gets rewarded and that people will find you. There’s nothing you can really do to make your music find the opportunity, besides place it inside a library. The opportunity has to find your music. Supervisors know when they need something happy, sad, quirky, whatever. The best thing you can do is cover the bases.

    12.) How do you feel about re-titling?

    Mixed feelings. I think it’s not really resolved in the legal system yet. JinglePunks and AudioSocket do semi-retitling (cue name plus JP or AS) and I’ve seen those showing up in my PRO statements, but I’ve only ever seen one up-front fee for a cue from either, and it wasn’t for much.

    I’ve experimented with allowing retitling for lower-value cues (e.g. simple instrumentals) but I’m hesitant to commit major pieces of music to it.

    13.) What do you have the most success with, royalty free sites or back end PRO royalties?


    14.) Any tips about writing descriptions, keywords and/or metadata?

    I don’t really have anything to say besides the obvious: tag thoroughly, add as many relevant tags, sounds-likes, styles, and genres as you can. The more tagging, the better chance you have of being found. Always mention alternate versions, stingers, and so on (whatever is available for a given cue).

    15.) Any trends you would like to comment on (YouTube Content ID, Internet Royalties)?

    The most interesting trend recently is the shift away from non-exclusive music libraries especially with JinglePunks recently opening up an exclusive branch. This tells me they’re realizing the old non-exclusive library is getting filled up with lower-quality stuff and they need to up their game.

    YouTube Content ID might make things more complicated in the future for cues that are available through multiple libraries/channels. I think there’s going to be plenty of legal trouble ahead, especially if it’s a case like a cue used to be in a non-exclusive library, got pulled from that, got licensed exclusively through someone else, and YouTube Content ID tells the new exclusive licensee that the same music is available elsewhere on YouTube and then the fight starts. This will get messy.

    16.) What sort of advice would you give to someone just entering the library/production music world?

    Write, produce, repeat. As much as you can. Visit music supervisor blogs, see what they’re listening to, what they like – I think that’s the best “radio” of today. Write things in those styles. When I visit those sites, I can clearly hear the trends and styles that they’re latching on to right now.

    When you produce and mix, output your stuff in full-res audio (AIFF or WAV) and make as many isolated elements as you can. Drums Only mix, No Drums mix, No Lead mix, No This mix, No That mix. When possible, design a long (fermata note) and a short ending (staccato button) and build it into the cue. Mention this in your description. That way editors know that when they choose your cue, there’s a ton of flexibility for them (you know they’ll be cutting it up to suit their needs anyway). The chances of them tracking you down later to request tweaks or stems is minimal, especially if they just licensed you through a cheap non-exclusive library.

    Overall, writing for library/production music requires a ton of patience. There isn’t a lot (often any) money up front. The benefits are realized later when a few pieces get licensed and then several months they show up on your ASCAP/BMI statements. This isn’t a get-rich-quick industry at all. But if you are a music-maker and are smart about getting musical ideas, recording them, mixing and producing them well, then taking the time to upload and tag them, there are opportunities out there.

    And finally!

    17.) If you were not writing music what would you be doing?

    You lost me at “not writing music.”

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