KP – Composer Interview

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    Art Munson

    1.) Your name??


    2.) Any credits you care to mention?

    I was a staff composer for an east coast music house for 8 years before starting my own business. The theme for TLC Trading Spaces is probably the most recognizable credit but I’ve done hundreds of commercials/promos for Arby’s, Utz, NASA, Nat Geo, WalMart, Prudentail, Ford, etc.

    3.) How long have you been writing music?

    I started writing music about 35 years ago. I was an accompanist for the dance dept at a local university and began composing for choreographers. Great training for writing for tv!

    4.) How did you get started?

    I was Composer In Residence at a college back east and one of my colleagues had been recording albums at a studio that also did commercial work. He got started doing the commercial end and after about a year, he got me in the front door. As so often is true, It’s who you know.

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

    I started writing library music the past few years as scoring/commercial work has diminished so much. I starting out taking all my unused demos and sprucing them up.

    6.) Are you making a living wage writing library/production music?

    No. I get “trickle in” income from about 5 libraries. I also produce, still get some commercial work, perform and do about anything else I can find musically.

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

    I’m probably making only $5000 or so annually from library tracks.

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

    I am mainly self taught other than accordion lessons when I was 5 or 6. That taught me to read music and I taught myself piano and guitar when I was about 16 and later learned mandolin and hand percussion. It was a great asset, being able to play several instruments, accompanying Dance classes.

    9.) Do you work through music libraries?

    I have music (80-100 tracks) in about ten libraries. Half of those libraries do nothing. They are all non-exclusive. I have a good buddy who’s been doing library/placement stuff a lot longer than me, very successfully, and he still does a fair amount of stuff for exclusive libraries. The problem is that, they used to pay him for writing. Now they don’t, it’s all spec. So he still writes (unpaid) for the libraries he knows will get him placements, but is reluctant to place material with an exclusive library that he has no track record with as his tracks may just sit there, unusable by him or anyone else.

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

    All non-exclusive

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

    I have but without a lot of success. It’s not something I enjoy doing if there’s something more interesting to do, like clean the garbage disposal, etc. I do think it’s a good idea, but as a creative person, I find it hard to engage that part of my brain that wants to market and sell myself.

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

    With fear and loathing.

    11.) How do you deal with rejection?

    I learned as a staff composer, to let go of any emotional attachments you have to your music. We would often joke that our demos were too good, that we needed a piece of crap so that the client would have something to pick. That said, I definitely prefer acceptance. Actually there’s a music library, that my aforementioned friend has had a lot of success with, and they just don’t like my stuff at all. I tried three or four times with them and finally just figured I wasn’t right for them. Or maybe they’re idiots. One or the other.

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

    I have mixed views most likely stemming from the fact that I don’t understand the whole thing completely. A lot of libraries will just attach a prefix to their version of your piece. That seems pretty reasonable. When the names of the tracks completely change, it starts getting confusing and worrisome. And trying to straighten anything involving a retitling issue with ASCAP is insane! From my experience they won’t even acknowledge that retitling exists. If it’s the same piece it can’t have another name. Okay…..

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

    I have seen very little back end from my library stuff but then again, I’ve only had it out there a year and a half or so. So I get most of my library income from royalty free sites

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

    It’s tiresome and tedious but you can get on a roll with it, it seems, once you get going. I save all my descriptions and tags in a Word Doc that I can go back to if I’m putting my stuff in a new library. Saves a lot of time.

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

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

    Write every day and amass a ton of tracks. It seems to be quantity (I’m sure as well as quality) that really helps.

    And finally!

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

    Well I love to eat and I’m pretty good at it so I’d probably be a chef.

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