Importance of Elite Libraries

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    Hi, i’ve been trying to wrap my head around music libraries and seem to come to an assumption based on info here and other like forums that getting into music libraries associated with PMA is the ultimate goal to secure a long term livable career in this field…Ive read stories from other composers that the turning point in their careers (and income) is when they got into the big boys club, and everything was uphill from there.

    with song quality and quantity, tenacity for the business, and knowing its a marathon and not a sprint aside, would you say its not possible to take this field seriously until you’re making music for the PMA libraries? is a livable, sustainable career possible without being in the “elite” club?, and is there a significant income difference between RF/mid tier NE focused composers and PMA established composers (excluding the big names i.e. quincy jones/snoop) where its still worth all your time and effort hounding and scraping your way to get an in from them, or is the tide changing down ahead? thanks


    Great question. I’d like to hear it too. I’ve been working with the big guys, getting $500+ per track for the last year 1/2. A lot of the royalties haven’t started coming in yet.


    I would not say writing for PMA libraries is the goal. I have many albums with top A level PMA libraries that I was paid great up front buyout money for that are embarrassingly (on their part) unworked. I have no idea why they commissioned me to do them if they didn’t need them or weren’t going to push them, but the cold harsh reality is, this game is a crapshoot, and there are no guarantee’s. I’ve had better success on back end with non-exclusive libraries, and WAY better front end sync’s with non-exclusives. Go figure.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, the industry is in such a state of constant change that perpetuity deals are not something I want to take on now. If you’re basing your business model on “back end royalties” to make things work financially, you’d best have a look at what netflix, et al are doing to the composers who have their series, films, shows, etc. ported over to them.

    Instead of being able to buy a nice used car like you could if they were aired on network primetime, you’ll be taking your family out to McDonalds with your entire quarterly payout for that show. It’s that bad – and it’s happing in alarming rates. HUGE household name companies are getting into bed with Netflix now.

    I held publishing on a handful of songs that was placed on a large studio that had their own cable channel. For 3 quarters, I didn’t get any royalties off them and I was wondering what had happened. They had been a decent steady earner of between $500-800 a quarter for 10+ years. This quarters BMI showed the answer. They have been moved over to Netflix. They paid out less than $10.

    From hundreds to $10. If you’re going for the backend model, I sincerely hope you can work on stuff that won’t be moved over to Netflix. EVER. Or your business model is going down faster than the titanic.


    Good morning to All. I compose for a few PMA associated Libraries, and are a PMA member. I recently got into the RF side, or as I have coined it “Pre-Paid Like a Metro”. I am finding that a combination of a few “better boutique exclusives”, with some RF, and non exclusives has been been working well for me.

    The BIG thing is doing a TON of research on who will be the best fit for you; and where “your contributions won’t go into a HUGE pile of other similar musics”.


    Thanks LAWriter and Beatslinger for your insight. would you say your income (front, sync, back) from the PMA libraries would drastically impact your bottom line if it were to disappear? or do your other income streams carry most of the load?

    I ask because im in the dark, atm i have just under 100 songs and need to take advantage of a 6 month hiatus from my business to focus mainly on composing and expanding my catalog, hence i need to use my time and efforts wisely.

    a quality track from extreme/warner etc. would take me 1 week (or more) to produce especially if everything is organic. a happy ukelele track, rock track or a hiphop orchestral that i hear from the RF sites would be around 1-3 days. and a tension cue/drone or solo guitar/piano piece i usually can do 2-3 a day…

    sorry if this is sounding like a math problem, but with the 6 month caveat, would it be wise to place my bets creating 24 tracks to pitch to the elites? create about 80-100 tracks specifically for mid tier NE & RF libraries? or do a crapload of drones and solo pieces to throw at the wall?

    heres a sample of my work

    tbh, this is a really frightening business to a newcomers eyes… to follow a path that might lead to a dead end, make a composing strategy that ends up as a wrong decision 2 years later, or the whole sync world implodes suddenly taking with it the 1k+ material youve amassed.

    thats why a lot of my composer buddies wont come near this side of the biz or they give up so early. If the long road wont scare you, the darkness will…not to mention all the wolves in sheeps clothing along the way..

    I commend all of you making a living and sticking to this for years/decades, in reality you guys are the exception and not the norm,
    Its a good thing not a lot of folks can bear this. Also thanks for your insight and knowledge you give for free while others take advantage…

    I apologize for the winded commentary, i guess it needed to come out


    seriously OP we all need to be honest with ourselves before we start aiming so high. extreme music has the best composers in the world on their books, if you’re music is good enough they will find you eventually not the other way around. unless you’re doing something that is so drastically new, fresh and interesting then extreme will not be getting back to you. you have good production skills from what i listened too but i would just start with getting your foot on the ladder and seeing how things work out from there. maybe start with a few RF libraries and see if you can catch some sales that way you will know where your strengths are.

    this is just my opinion so just take it with a pinch of salt.


    Thanks Dannyc for chiming in and your insight. In no way did i want to come across or assume that my music is comparable or better than whats on extreme or any class A libraries. Im in the position of ignorance not arrogance…I honestly feel im not even close. but my concern is on what to aim for, meaning I have to have a goal regardless if my music and production is .9% or 99% close to theirs. And if pursuing 24 tracks this next 6 months only to have a .00001% chance of getting in PMA libraries is a waste of time and effort, then ill scratch that option and start focusing my efforts on lower tier RF sites, which leads me back to the same original questions, “is a livable, sustainable career possible without being in the “elite” club?”


    Just a word of caution for all. The PMA is a huge organization with many members and only a handful of those could be considered Elite. Any library can join the PMA just like any composer can. No barriers. The PMA (elite) will bash non exclusive work and RF work and unless you are an A list composer will not offer any upfront. For many of us, this is not realistic and the PMA admin does not realize or accept that. In some ways it is like an exclusive club and if you do happen to meet anyone of importance at their events. The first question is “So, which libraries do you work for ?” If you do not have any A lists in there, it does not go very far. And if you mention Non Ex or RF, it will NOT go down well at all. In some cases, doing the walk and doing the talk supersedes talent and you will find a few A list composers who do just that. If anyone is going to the PMA conference this year, just be prepared. @LAwriter, I think you have this whole thing well figured out. Good luck y’all


    Good morning to All. In response to Boinkee, the way that I was able to get into “a couple of the so-called A List Libraries was I didn’t write specifically to get into them”. My process was compose, and just keep working on my catalog(s) This is a VERY tricky business, and until you know for sure that it will be sustainable; always have your steady hustle/income. Everything always works better when you are NOT depending on it, or that your life will go into shambles if it doesn’t come through!!

    (what I do)
    Compose stuff that I really loved; or that I really wanted to hear from a listeners stand-point. When “those compositions that just feel SOOO RIGHT” came; I would simply tuck them into a special folder and keep moving. If you are writing for specifics, in my opinion it really slows me down; and stifles my creative flow. Just write/compose to write. The HOT ones will come!

    When I had enough material, in what I felt was my “Hot Folder” (I’ve dubbed mine The AAA) I would submit those as my Top Tier Tracks.

    MusicMatters, you are absolutely right. PMA does NOT necessarily mean that you are now in some type of elite group. In fact, I am getting a HUGE amount from The MLR threads! The wonderful Candor that takes place here, and “Reading the reviews of the Libraries has been of GREAT Value!!”

    What ever you do. If it is something that you love. KEEP GOING!!


    When all is said and done success comes from very hard work and dedication. I decided to take the risk on this business 10 years ago and tossed all of my existing music into an NE library simply because there was “nothing to lose”. I really though I’d just earn hobby income or extra spending money. It was just that initially.

    Somewhere along the line I doubled down and decided to roll up my sleeves and write more tracks and bring them to market. Then it became a weekly habit. The revenue was increasing quarter after quarter. Then you say “I am all in on this” and you must march to thousands of tracks produced. Along the way, you keep feeding the hands that feed you (with sync fees and royalties).

    There are no short cuts to this business. It is a grind and a long term grind.

    No one here is going to rattle off a free list of companies that have succeeded for themselves. Why should they? They went through the grind and had to figure it out. You don’t just then give away tips on how to succeed. One tip we can all probably agree on is that this business takes 2 things:
    1. Volume
    2. Quality

    As far as which publishers, stock sites, and libraries to sell and license your music on goes, well…I have to think that we all have a different story. Some may work for one writer and another writer may say I have never earned from that site or publisher.

    When all is said and done the winners will be:
    1. The one’s who control and own their own catalog.
    2. The one’s who have thousands of tracks on the market across several music licensing platforms (I do not think hundreds is enough you have to get to thousands and thousands takes 20 years),
    3. The one’s that write good music that the public wants and needs.

    Writing for the private PMA club, or even trying to get into that club should not be your goal. Had I jumped on that train and gave all my music to 1 PMA exclusive library and stayed 100% loyal to that model, I have to think my annual income would only be 33% of what it actually is today. These are not just random estimates, I do have hard data (Years of statements from many sources) to back up my claims.

    Even if offered a $15,000 work for hire advance to write 15 exclusive tracks for a well known PMA catalog, I really am not sure I’d accept that deal. Often times they don’t share sync fees (because they pay up front) and all you get is the back end. I like shared sync licensing revenue better.

    If 2 or 3 of those tracks go on and generate a few 2K to 5K sync fees, and also pick up steam on micro stock sites…over time one can make that 15K anyway. The idea would be to make more. It can and does happen in the non PMA arena. Strange things happen all the time. Surprises come out of nowhere. I like owning and controlling my own intellectual property. Good luck to all, and again…if you are not committed to 1000 or more high quality tracks, you may want to consider a different biz. This is all my opinion based on my experience over 10 years of doing this.


    I keep hearing a lot about “Protecting your contacts/.connections, and playing closely to the vest”

    Here is something that I give freely, because I really feel it still mostly has to do with “How Hard You Hustle, and How Good Your Material Is!!”

    (Couple of things)
    1) How many people are really utilizing their PRO’s? Do you have a relationship with you rep? Do you even know your rep?
    2) How many people are taking advantage of networking through NARAS/National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences? Going to the mixers, fundraisers, and socials events like MusiCares? (This is how I met A Chair-holder, and The President of my Local chapter)
    3) There is a WHOLE World outside of The United States. How many are looking into foreign Libraries??
    4) Stop trying to going from 0-60 in 1.0 seconds. This is a business of creating relationships, and putting in the hard work to make connections that really fit YOUR personal goals. The REALEST thing IS “The VET’s” are saying it best. There is NO short-cut. You have to earn your stripes working through the smaller Libraries; to get your track record up. While you are there, really work on getting your A Game up and running!

    What about your content:
    * How do your mixes stand up against your competitors?
    * Do you sound complete, even when you are going for minimal parts in your cue?
    * How do YOU differ yourself from the HUGE pack of people that are doing your styles of Tracks?
    * Are you writing stuff that you feel will sell, or do you feel passionate about your work?
    * Are you sitting in a room waiting to be discovered; or are you out there making your face, and presence known to people??

    The list goes on and on…


    Awesome discussion here!
    I’d like to clarify a few things that were brought up, just based on my own experience working with a wide range of libraries:

    The PMA is a huge organization with many members and only a handful of those could be considered Elite. Any library can join the PMA just like any composer can. No barriers.

    This is important to keep in mind, membership in the PMA is not necessarily a position of status, price level etc.

    The PMA (elite) will bash non exclusive work and RF work and unless you are an A list composer will not offer any upfront.

    This is not exactly true. Perhaps you mean they won’t offer upfront + licensing? That is very rare and only for a composer a library needs in their catalog.
    This is what pretty much any major library will offer you – one of these:
    – no money upfront, around 50% of licensing
    – a fee – $500 to $1000+ per track, NO licensing

    The first question is “So, which libraries do you work for ?” If you do not have any A lists in there, it does not go very far. And if you mention Non Ex or RF, it will NOT go down well at all.

    I have personally never been asked that, except in the trailer side of things, where a library wants to know how many of their competitors already have my ‘sound’.

    I’ve written about 2000 – 2500 library tracks. Many old, (now mostly sub-par) tracks went to RF ‘add to cart’ libraries. The sales were good, hit an apex in about 2012 and have plummeted lately. I haven’t been adding quite as many tracks in recent years, but a drop of 95% from five years ago surely can’t be explained by just that.

    On the other hand, the tracks of mine in libraries that are geared towards TV and higher end licensing are doing well – and interestingly some of my best performers are evergreen tracks written 5 – 10 years ago. You’d think they’d be buried under a mountain of newer music by now, especially considering the size of the libraries they’re in (UPPM for one). I think it comes down what many others have said here – a handful of great tracks, recorded live, in timeless picture friendly genres, will always beat 1000 mediocre quickly hashed out tracks.

    The other critical ingredient of course is the library you give those tracks to. An add-to-cart site like P5, AS, AJ etc might make you a small stream of income from five amazing tracks, (if anyone can find you), but in the hands of a library focusing on the higher end of the business, those five amazing tracks could realistically make you at least $50K each in royalties and licensing over 10 years.

    So while it’s a nice idea to have the publishing to your music, I disagree with the comments about needing to own the rights. Pretty much the only way to work with a publisher that will get healthy license fees (four figures and above) and have the best shot at network airtime, is to have them be the exclusive company pitching that music.

    That said, there are a lot of libraries that want the rights (forever) to your music that they won’t pay for, and probably won’t get good fees for (or even decent royalties from, for that matter). Just don’t confuse these guys with the heavy hitters that will require the rights to the music, and more than likely reward you for it.

    TL;DR Always consider the source – someone’s take on the industry is based on their own unique experiences – shaped by the quality of their music and which libraries represented it. Some will say stay away from big libraries that demand the rights to your tracks, while others (like me) will tell you these are the kinds of libraries you want to work with.


    Thanks Mark P, VERY well said!!
    I too am a Composer for UPPM (I was BUG/BMG originally) I am still VERY optimistic about the Production Music Industry, and I feel that it does not take a 1000 tracks to make a good living.

    I have had to “give away” almost a decade of compositions through being in a rush; and getting stuck in some HORRIBLE deals. I Restructured, re-grouped, and now are making a really good income; with a briskly growing catalog of about 200 songs. Once again, the key to this is “Doing a TON of research to see who will be the right fit for you”.

    MLR, is a WEALTH of information. But, as with “Any Jewels” you can’t expect them to be out on the side of the road just waiting for you to pick them up. You have to dig for them. They are there, just takes some work!!


    As always Mark, on point.

    …but in the hands of a library focusing on the higher end of the business, those five amazing tracks could realistically make you at least $50K each in royalties and licensing over 10 years.

    There’s probably a vast spectrum of what composers here might consider “amazing tracks” and perhaps it varies by genre.

    I’d love to know your take on that.


    the responses by the seasoned writers here are so enlightening to us newcomers and I am grateful for everyones input. Its amazing how polar opposite strategies would yield the same outcomes good or bad. Yet the closer I get to understanding the biz the more bewildering and convoluted a logical explanation and strategy is…

    I see now that overanalyzing to make sense of it all is not the answer. stressing out on what to do, figuring out the right path and avoiding pitfalls the vets have made before even stepping into the jungle does not help or guarantee anything.

    Looks like from here on i’ll be writing songs to the best of my ability, doing all the post prod and admin work, spending time researching, pitching/submitting music and try building relationships, see what works and what doesnt, work my way up the ladder, stumble & fall a crapload of times, make changes and adapt to new challenges and scenarios, and in 5-10 years reasses if it was all worth it and continue, or face the reality that i just wasted a good chunk of my life for nothing and move on…

    the irony is ive heard it countless times and deep inside have always known that all along but just cant seem to accept it ,cause the simplest advise is usually the hardest to consider. “no shortcuts and enjoy stumbling through the journey”. thanks for taking the time to school me folks, much appreciated.

    once i have the funds, I’ll definitely get the lifetime membership here…

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