PMA And The State Of The Production Music Business

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  • #26031 Reply

    Hi guys

    I’m not at all familiar with the PMA libraries, but regarding the RF libraries, I just read the latest comments on this blog post, and the RF business seems to not look that great either.

    #26038 Reply

    Do not believe everything you read online. The RF business is currently growing at at much more attractive rate than the old school PMA libraries from what I can see. What the future holds is beyond my pay grade so take it with a grain of salt. That blog is such a tiny narrow slice of reality that it’s hard to draw any realistic conclusions from it at all.

    All I can say is having 1000 hugely diversified tracks rather than 100 in a couple of genre’s will net you a much smoother and longer lasting ride – one that is not prone to current fads. In this game, more IS better and diversity breeds longevity.

    Anyone who can make a living on 100 tracks is exceptionally lucky, or has hit the tip of what people want today. Also, those numbers aren’t “making a living” unless you’re living in one of your parents bedrooms and they are feeding you. Can you live on $14-20k a year in LA? Haha! I don’t think so. Quadruple those numbers and you might be able to pull that off.

    Hard work, diverse and large quantities of tracks, longevity, diversity of placements, consistently high quality productions and a little luck will get you to a “realistic” living. Maybe.


    #26040 Reply

    Thank you for your input, LAwriter!

    That blog might be just a tiny narrow slice of reality, indeed, but recently I’ve read a lot of comments (regarding the RF business) on other blogs/sites as well, and the vibe I picked up seems pretty much the same. The vast majority of commentators see the future of this field rather bleak, with the chances of making a living out of RF sales, extremely low.

    I’m happy to see that you have a much optimistic view on this, but I would say that the “1.000 tracks” solution doesn’t sound plausible to my ears, at all. I mean, even if you quit your day job and concentrate solely on making RF music, I really don’t think you could make more than 3 quality tracks per week (especially if you make different edits/version, loops, stems, stingers, for each track, as well as all the tagging, uploading to different libraries, etc, etc). That means around 150 tracks per year (I’d say 100 is a much realistic number). And that means it will take you about 7 years until you have 1.000 tracks (actually, I’d say more like 10 years, because even if you manage to churn out 150 tracks/year (highly improbable IMO) some of the tracks won’t be accepted by the libraries).

    So, the obvious question is: how will you manage to survive until you’ve made all those 1.000 tracks?

    I suppose the answer would be: get a day job, and make music in your spare time! But in that case, you probably won’t be able to make more than 30-50 tracks a year (probably less than that). So that means you’ll need 20-30 years until you will be able to make a living out of RF music. That’s why I said this 1.000 tracks solution doesn’t sound plausible to me.


    #26043 Reply

    I’m going to chime in here because this is a topic I’m very interested in and would love to find some clarity on.

    I’ve noticed that on some of the RF sites, there are songs that consist of a person playing an acoustic guitar. Quarter-note or half-note chords. There are also a lot (a lot a lot) of quantized piano pieces that consist of 1,6,4,5 arpeggios, with or without the obligatory quarter-note kick drum.

    These come up in searches on, for example, Pond5 – which means they’ve had some traffic and sales, because those searches are weighted. Winners continue to win, new tracks have a serious up-hill battle to rank in the search engine.

    This is not true at sites that charge 3-figures per license, but is true across the board at the RF sites that are charging $15-$40 per.

    I spent a couple of hours on vimeo today, auditioning popular commercials – and, mixed in with the gorgeous orchestral stuff were lots of simple guitar strumming and piano noodling backgrounds- and these were licensed by major corporations.

    If what’s selling (on the RF sites) is 15, 30, and 60 second simple background tracks- I believe I can do ten of those a day on a good day. Could it be that I’m making this harder than it needs to be by producing complex orchestrated tracks?

    I’m still new at this and would sincerely appreciate it if the more experienced composers here would help me think this through.


    #26044 Reply

    Do we want to hear reality or think happy thoughts?

    Starting off in any career worth a dam takes time and hard work. How long does it take to be a doctor? How long does it take to build up your practice AFTER your education is done? Yeah, a lot of time and a lot of money invested. You’re not making $200k a year when you decide to start out. You’re looking at a decade to two decades. 4 years of college, then medical school, then interning, THEN gradually starting your biz.

    Music is no different. You’ve got to pay your dues. I do not consider 100 tracks anything more than dipping your toes in to see if the water temperature is to your liking. To be successful and make a living you have to go all in, and it takes extreme dedication, greater than “above-average” talent (something that many of us are a little optimistic about), and huge money and time investments. (Studio’s and sample libraries are expensive, although time is the most expensive of all.)

    Side note for those thinking of a simple short cut to jump them to the top with library investments : Karma is a cruel beast, and for those who torrent and steal libraries, it will come back to haunt you at some point in your career. (NOT SAYING ANYONE HERE IS DOING THAT….) So those who try to bypass the front loaded financial strain – beware of what you seek to do – i.e make licenses on creative efforts. That is no different than the sample library developers….. (end rant)

    So….1000 UNIQUE titles with multiple alt mixes and broadcast edits of the above, at a top level of production quality in a myriad is unique styles (you can’t do 1000 hip hop beats) will get you into a zone where you can ALMOST start making a decent living.

    Yeah, that’s a wazoo load of writing, mixing, editing, mastering, metadata tagging, and uploading. Not to mention your own personal managing, and databasing. Yes, it IS a lot of work. Years or decades depending on how much time you can put into it.

    It’s not something your’e going to start off in, and be “successful” next year. (Unless you are extremely lucky) And even then – LONGEVITY – is in diversity and numbers, so there are no shortcuts IMO.

    Yes, the business is getting tougher. Every day. That 1000 songs will probably become 1500 to 2000 songs needed before you make the 1000. Writers write. All day long. Every day. It’s not a “fun game”. It’s a grind – although one I love very much.

    Good luck.


    PS – to Terlingua – I do not consider simple piano arpeggio pieces to be full production pieces, although one should definitely scatter simple, along with complex pieces into one’s portfolio. If you look for shortcuts, you’ll only be cheating your long term sustainability. Work. Then work. Then work some more. Then keep working when you can’t stand to work another minute. Then…. yeah, you got it…..keep working. In addition, you’ve somehow got to figure out your creative muse somewhere in the process or you’ll burn out.

    To those considering this path – if this is not for you, no worries – it’s not for everyone. Sleep is over-rated and really for old men. Making it via music licensing is a demanding and difficult way to earn a living.

    #26047 Reply

    Everything LAwriter just said +100.

    This is not a business for the fainthearted, impatient, or under capitalized.


    If you look for shortcuts, you’ll only be cheating your long term sustainability.

    There are, however, variables with respect to what “earning a living” means. For example, if you have additional income from a spouse/partner or pension or investments, you live someplace inexpensive (not LA or NYC), you live in a country that provides health care, you don’t have children or yours are grown, you don’t have a mortgage, you don’t have student loans…the list goes on, it may be easier to accomplish.

    #26048 Reply

    I sincerely hope we’re on topic here… it’s certainly valuable info for me.

    Thanks for the perspective. Composers who have been doing this a while would probably be surprised what a “black box” this business is to a newcomer. So many learning curves- researching the libraries, learning what constitutes a fair deal, figuring out what sort of compositions, out an an infinite universe of possibilities, might actually sell on a music library.

    I may have a shot. I live in an off-the-grid cabin near the Mexican border. I suspect my monthly nut is less than your electric bill. If I was trying to get a gig writing for movies, or a staff position on a TV show, it would be hopeless.

    I’m not.

    After 40+ years as a touring/recording artist (mostly blues and blues rock), studio owner, and producer I don’t have any ambitions higher than sitting in my comfy studio, looking out the window at the Chisos mountains, and creating music library music- and making a modest living from that. The kids are grown, the wife’s retired, health insurance taken care of.

    My biggest challenge is knowing what to write. To me, this is a job. I’ve got other avenues for distributing my “creative” music, but since I’m disinclined to tour, that’s not gonna cut it.

    For now, I’m researching what’s selling in the libraries I’ve been accepted to and treating those as “temp tracks.” In about 90 days, I’ve finished and uploaded 141 tracks (including edits). Productivity will improve as I master Kontakt and get clarity on what sort of music sells. I can hit that first thousand in a year.

    Once again- thanks to Art, and the participants here. You’re helping a lot.

    #26688 Reply

    It’s been awhile since this thread was alive. 🙂

    Since my second post in this thread, I’ve continued to struggle with “what to do” with the music I create – specifically and most urgently – the 4 large projects that push close to a hundred titles. The lure of the big PMA libraries remains strong, but their performance numbers continue to not add up – leaving me with the undenied feeling that the old paradigm doesn’t work for me – long term – anymore.

    Several PRO statements have come and gone, and a few facts have been solidifying in my mind and resonating with me :

    – the bigger PMA libraries I’m with have not been performing as I expected them to. No explanations given.

    – the smaller Non-Ex libraries that I’m in have been holding their own and growing. Both back end, and front end sync’s. Win/Win. Non-Ex is the backbone of my PRO statements. PMA libraries are only the frosting, or maybe sprinkles on the frosting.

    – Streaming has taken over the number of pages of my PRO statements exponentially, while adding just this side of nothing to the financial bottom line. The future looms perilous….

    – BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and the US government seem completely impotent at fixing the streaming “problem”. I suspect that keeping the general populous happy with commercial free drek for less than $10 a month appeals to the powers that move and shake this country.

    And so, after letting those 4 large projects sit for a few months, I have come to a decision. The upfront monies that 75+ songs might generate is substantial. (And I could really use a new car!) But the minimal back end that the companies that can pay substantial up fronts, and the continued movement of content into streaming sites is not making Exclusive a winning long term solution for me.

    I am retaining ownership of my music, and taking a contrarian approach from what industry pundits and from what traditional thought has always told me “I’m supposed to do”. It will cost my bottom line THIS year, and net me more NEXT year and most likely the rest of my days….

    At this point, in 2017 and forward, I don’t see any more music going to Exclusive libraries – PMA or otherwise – unless they dangle a very large, very lucrative carrot in front of me. (And I suspect that’s doubtful, and will become even more unlikely in the coming years.)

    I think those halcyon days are gone. What lies ahead are more turbulent times for composers. Old models wither and die. Like it or not. Think smart, or be left as fodder for the entertainment wars battleground.

    For me, there are too many unique and new avenues I can use to exploit the music I hold – both inside the music library world, and outside as well.

    My crystal ball tells me the old days are fading quickly, and I have taken heed. One must have ownership to take advantage of new paradigms.

    My thoughts, January 2017

    Best of luck to all who compose music and collectively make this world a better place!

    #26690 Reply

    Hi LA writer,

    Very insightful post, thank you…. I have gotta say that I find myself agreeing with most of your points. I find myself pursuing a more or less a similar direction. i hope that gives us both the confidence that it is an appropriate strategy. BTW I am in OC, I assume you are in LA. Would love to meet sometime and chat over a latte.

    #26692 Reply

    great stuff.


    #26693 Reply

    Wow, very insightful and useful information here. I am certainly not dissuaded by the business at all and love hearing about what it takes to succeed. As mentioned above I have only dipped my toes in the water, but this year I start getting serious. Thank you so much…

    #26694 Reply

    Musicmatters – I’m down in the Newport area from time to time. Usually pretty slammed when I’m there, but if you want to PM me your contact info, we can try to get together sometime.

    TerlinguaMusic – Thanks.

    In-light-Tone – Dipping ones toes in used to be a warm experience. These days it’s more like visiting an Arctic lake and dodging ice flows. LOL Good luck.

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