Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Strategy?

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    Many responses have talked about using tracks that people have spent a long time on for NE, and those that take a day or so for EX.

    @ Brian

    My response in this debate was referring to the lower end exclusives that doesnt pay upfront fees. When I say lower end, that means compared to the library mentioned above. I am not with them but I believe they do pay up front fees. And one should be pretty good to produce music good enough for this library in one day. At least that`s a bit above my skills…

    Art Munson

    @More advice: Please don’t discuss libraries, by name, on an open forum.
    Why? Please read Home page.

    Brian P.

    Thank you both for your responses!

    More advice,

    You actually reminded me of how narrow I was looking at it. I’m primarily an orchestral/ensemble writer, so it comes down to either having that 60-piece orchestra or just the big black box. Maybe I just need more coffee!

    Thanks again!


    Michael Nickolas

    A thought on the non-exclusive v. exclusive debate. As far as libraries that focus on getting broadcast placements that pay backend, it’s getting harder and harder to actually find companies using the NE model.

    Over the years, most of the companies that placed my music non-exclusively on TV shows have either gone exclusive only or are not really active. I guess I can’t name names here, but here is an example using MLR’s search capabilities.

    I set the search parameters to:

    Accepting Submissions = Yes
    Royalty Free = No (concentrating on broadcast specific libraries)
    Requires Cue Sheets = Yes
    Active Library = Yes
    Content ID = No (Content ID requires exclusive)

    There were three results out of 864. I’m just not sure where to put my new NE cues anymore, outside of RF. It seems writers cannot avoid providing exclusive cues if they are looking for broadcast/backend placements.

    Art Munson

    There were three results out of 864.

    There could be more as not every library is fully configured. Still, I agree, it’s much harder!


    i think if this is going to be the model going forward for most/all the libraries that focus on getting air-time back-end money only then those libraries need to do more to ensure that the composer is not wasting their time and energy submitting tracks that will just sit gathering dust. of course there are never any guarantee’s but libraries should be very specific to what they require by sending out detailed brief’s and references to what their clients actually want. then it’s up to the composer to respond to those brief’s. but if a composer complains about giving away a selection of their material exclusively blindly well then they have only themselves to blame imo. nobody is putting a gun to your head and telling you to submit these tracks to such libraries. instead stay non-exclusive/RF or find exclusive libraries to work with that offer both sync and back-end. i really dont see what the issue is. and i can see it from the libraries point of view. we composers might be competing against each other but they are also competing against other similar libraries to themselves. what’s going to be more attractive to the clients than to know that the tracks they are getting from a particular library are unique to that library and are not going to found in another 50 libraries under different names and prices.


    Art and Michael, I do believe that everything is negotiable. If you have a proven track record of earning money for a company and your new music is solid and something a publisher knows they will sell, place into tv, or license into ad campaigns, they will take it in non-exclusively. I have accomplished this and I know other writers who have too even from companies posturing as “No More NE!”. You have to present the music first, then explain why you can not let go of the assets in perpetuity. It’s my creation, and therefore eternally my intellectual property. It can not just now become your property (or under your control) for $0. You can take this in non-exclusively, but I have to be able to sell it myself, and in other non-competing markets. These folks do understand this. At the same time, Danny C, I understand the “issues’ with TV cue feeding libraries. It was presented once to me this way: A post house is feverishly editing 10 new episodes of a show. Perhaps 3 video editors are cutting the shows together episode by episode. They and their assistants are are digging around for cues in several “go to” libraries. In edit suite 1 they find “Reality underscore 1” cue, love it and use it under a scene. Down the hall, the other edit team finds and uses “Comedy Pizz underscore”…1 hour later as someone is walking around the post house someone realizes the same exact music is being used, it has 2 different titles, and is in 2 different libraries. Assistant editor then thinks…hmmmmm…who do I credit as publisher on cue sheet. They become “confused” and have a “minor problem” to resolve. Personally, I think the problem is very minimal, you simply credit the publisher where you actually found the cue! It’s that simple. These are 3rd party, hopefully objective honest people, filling in these cue sheets. They have no vested interest in favoring 1 publisher over another. Their job is to be truthful about where the cue was sourced from. Guys, There are millions of cues out there! If edit suite 1 found it in Library A…Credit A. If edit suite 2 finds the same cue in library B, credit B. This should be the “minor issue resolution” to this “lots of Free music problem”.

    Now, on the other hand Libs may argue, well we like to sell blankets to the shows we service and if we’re all selling the same music under different titles, the client won’t buy our blankets. Well guess what? Us composers don’t see action on the blankets most of the time. So we’re supposed to give our music to these folks so they can sell Scripps blankets at $1000 an episode and we see no performance royalties? Only THEY make money? Who is winning in this deal? Only the library cashes in on $1000 per episode, or $500 per episode “blanket license fee” (Whatever they may get these days) The deal typically is: use our music just cue sheet it so we get paid. So yes, I can not feel sorry for post houses and networks swimming in millions of “free” music options, even if they discover duplicate, exact same, free options with a different title.

    What can be done about this to be fair to all writers? It’s real simple, make the contracts “semi-exclusive” by writing “if we represent this track in our (TV show focused) library, you may not send it to libraries blank, blank and blank…send the blacklist of competitors who work with the same networks and shows. BUT, we need to be able to sell on RF because RF does not compete at all against TV cue feeding libraries. RF serves mainly corporate and youtube and cheap low budget advertising jobs.

    Let me address the argument of “On RF we waste a lot of time keywording and uploading and then the music does not sell.” Well, I agree that this can seem this way at times, but for the persistent and patient writer, just you wait and see what can happen when suddenly someone buys that “weird” 10 to 20 year old cue overseas or in the USA (you NEVER thought would sell on RF) 20 times out of the blue and you suddenly make $3000 on it. Or another example would be a small RF broadcast license getting sold for use in a TV spot and YOU get to file the advertising and promo claim at your PRO as writer and Publisher and collect $3000 more in back end performance royalties! Wow! A $250 RF license sure did morph into $3250 out of nowhere. or…an e-mail comes one day for that silly little light, cute pizz cue (you’d never thought would do anything on RF) “We licensed this for $1200 to a client please invoice your split next month”

    Have all of these examples happened to me? You bet!

    We need to talk with the publishers and ask who are your main clients? And we as writers need to do our part to limit “confusion” and “issues” for the assistant editors who may have found our cues in 2 places, by not supplying those same TV cue feeding libraries). Anyway, I still argue that it really is not that problematic and I have seen my name on cue sheets before with 2 different pubs, but also 2 different cues (not the same music with a different title). Yes, free NE creates some “issues” but free is still free and free does not pay our bills. We need to squeeze out every dollar we can from every asset we create.

    Let me address litigation: No one will litigate over $500 issues. Personally I don’t think people will litigate over $5000 issues.
    Litigation comes into play when BIG MONEY is at stake.

    To All younger writers. Owning and controlling your catalog is where it’s at. The only asset we have is the music we create. Why give it to someone else to control for free in perpetuity? It literally makes no sense from my perspective. Sorry about the long post Art….just have to shed some light on things. I am not looking to argue…just sharing my 25 year experience and philosophy. I will write a lot of exclusive cues if you buy them from me for a respectable fee and I keep my writers share and collect performance royalties. No advance fee, no exclusivity.
    I will come to the table to discuss semi exclusivity so we can all win and avoid “issues” when it comes to prepping the cue sheets.


    That all makes sense to me! I get this anxiety every time I finish a new batch of tracks of whether I’m going to spread them out amongst the 5 or 6 non competing non exclusive and royalty free libraries that I’m signed with. Or go with one of these exclusives who have offered me no money up front, music stays in perpetuity or at least 3 years reversion in some cases. I still can’t get myself to do it. They claim that they can get higher prices, more focus on the artist which I suppose may be true. But I have found some non exclusives that really go for quality and do not just let in everything that is sent.

    Another note, I have recently found some companies who claim to be EX agree to do a NE agreement with me if they really like the music I send. That sort of tells me its not a major deal breaker with clients whether its EX or NE. Though I could be wrong here?? And if I am then I might be tossing away my 115 or so tracks since they are all pretty much in non exclusives so I obviously can’t do EX with any of those. And I’m still not happy with my income level so maybe EX is the way to go?? I don’t know. But I know for sure I will not sign songs exclusively with companies like JP getting back end only and not sharing blanket fees. That is robbery!! And so many desperate writers are signing on for that!!

    Another library who is similar to JP, letter starts with “M” recently switched from NE to EX, and I had already done all the meta data work on about 40 tracks with them. Then I get the email, “we are no longer going to honor our NE agreement, anything you send now must be EX, and we still aren’t going to get you sync fees” I responded that I feel that is really unfair to the artist. And when a large library like them does something like this it can really trickle down and hurt everyone in the end. So I wasted quite a bit of time uploading and tagging those tracks with them.


    I admit I wasn’t too happy when JP and MI went exclusive with no upfront money, but I already had a lot a material with these libs and they were providing a lot of back-end royalties for me. I decided to give their exclusive deal a try and see how it went. As it turns out, JP is placing just as much of my exclusive tracks as the did with the non-exclusive stuff. (MI is still too new to the exclusive game to tell if it’s worth it).

    At the same time I also saw some of the exclusive libraries I was working with start to offer NO upfront money for perpetuity. Those provided very little back-end so I stopped submitting music to them altogether.

    As of my last BMI statement about 90% of my royalties are coming from a 50/50 mix of old non-exclusive and exclusives from JP. The rest is still coming in from MI and a few non-exclusives that are barely in business today.


    for me the worst thing about MI was that I had a large batch of tracks in their cue waiting to get reviewed for like 8 months. Some I had already spoken to them about and they liked them, so they just kept telling me month after month that they still needed to get them in the system. And then after that wasted effort of meta data, uploading and waiting they sent me the message that they will only take it if its EX. And again, IMO, EX for no up front money is an unfair practice probably only good for people who are just doing it for fun and want to get a few TV placements. I hope people aren’t sending their best work to these types of places!

    I have signed music with around 15 NE libraries over the years but their are only about 5 or 6 or so that I keep sending stuff to because either they have gotten me placements or at least I”m in communication and can tell they are doing their part. So far I feel like this is a decent strategy because I’m getting the occasional sync fee, plus some royalty free sales, and a bit of back end money. Still I think I need to keep growing my catalog, staying creative, continuing to improve as a composer/producer, finding what the libraries I’m with are having most success with etc. to get to my desired income. As well as sending music to libraries that compete in different markets. And for me I also continue to gig, and teach private lessons to earn a living. Though I would love licensing eventually to add up to a larger percentage of my income, I don’t need 200K per year. 30K to 40K would be a big success for me 🙂

    All that being said, I’m hearing more and more on here that EX libraries may not be the way to go. Just too much competition and different avenues to take to keep your hard work wrapped up in one place and they don’t seem to be way out performing the NEs from the artists perspective. Though that could change in the future, I’d rather keep my options open at this point.

    The best libraries for the artist IMO are NE, get sync fees always, also get back end PRO money, have a strict vetting process to only let in quality, actively pitch their tracks, actually know what is in their library, and are willing to maintain some kind of a communication with their artists. And I would only even consider signing something with an EX if they meet all the above requirements. But even then, I’m not currently going that route. Maybe in the future if it really seems to be paying off for people, but so far it seems like EX now a-days in most cases is just another way for the artist to get screwed and the clients to get more for less.

    Michael Nickolas

    My last ASCAP statement (domestic) showed my music placed by ten different libraries. Six of the ten were formally non-exclusive, but now have gone to an exclusive model. One was always exclusive, one went the performance royalty free model with a 35/65 split and one is in the graveyard. Only one remains non-exclusive, but is not active enough.

    So in analyzing that, I don’t see a non-exclusive library that I can put my music into (not talking RF here). If I don’t feed the exclusive libraries tracks, eventually my back-end will dry up. Unless someone wants to tell me privately the names of these great non-exclusive libraries filling their statements with placements. 🙂


    Unless someone wants to tell me privately the names of these great non-exclusive libraries filling their statements with placements.

    I’d love to see this as well. I have only 2 Non-Exclusive libraries that are providing back-end, and it’s from stuff placed about 3 years ago, Nothing new.


    If you have great tracks present the music and just ask if they want to take it in non-exclusively so you can also sell it in non-competing RF platforms. What do have to lose? Nothing. Let the music speak for itself. I really believe that if they hear something good and feel as though they will move it, they will take it in. Can someone even pinpoint a story where a non-exclusive background TV cue has caused a music library great harm? I have never heard of any “major problems”. The only argument is “Networks don’t want to buy blankets companies offering the same music”. OK simple solution, allow us to have the music repped by 1 company, black list the competitors, but allow RF. It’s really not that complicated and Everyone wins. Library wins because they can accept in a offer fresh music, composer wins because they can sell on RF and RF does not compete against the typical TV cue supplying libraries.


    Front End = the new Back End.


    I agree with Music1234 and LA writer!

    From just a basic business perspective, listen to what they are offering and what you are taking… This is what I’m seeing at least from my perspective. Of course if you are making a killing from their back end alone then it may be a good deal for you!

    “I’m not going to offer you and more money than your currently getting on your non exclusive placements. I’m not going to even start attempting to get sync fees for your placements. But we want to have your songs exclusively now so that you can’t earn money on them anywhere else, and we can sell more blanket licenses that we won’t be sharing with you” If enough composers say F off to that, then their quality and quantity will diminish and eventually they will swing back and start taking stuff non exclusively if they really think they can place it.

    MI originally did exactly what Music said above! They rejected the first 65 cues I uploaded and tagged and all that because those were also in JP. I said fair enough, and sent a batch of songs that weren’t with JP or any company like them, and still after doing more uploading and meta data and only getting bout 15 cues in they then came back and said its EX no only. Waste of my time, and just not fair to their composers. I sent Phil a letter giving my thoughts on this by the way, and he seemed to understand. He’s a really nice guy.

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