Royalty Free Libraries. Should You? Who's Right?

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  • #14742 Reply
    MichaelL
    Participant

    Are you a UK writer or a US one? I ask because the UK model re. advances and income etc is very different to the US model. I actually find the UK model to be a much fairer model in that everything, all income, forever and ever is split 50/50. You’d be hard pushed to find a UK library that pays any advance now.

    I’m a US writer. I am aware that its very different in the UK. Several of the exclsuive libraries that I have written for are radio focused, which means zero performance dollars. It’s vertically integrated stuff within a media giant. And no sync fees.

    All those people who supplied their tracks for $50 a pop are now losing out – performances rarely put plenty of food on the table and really only the best stuff gets used anyway.

    Tim..let me parse the meaning here. Are you saying that UK writers DO NOT get the bulk of their money from backend royalties? They get most of their money from sync fees? That’s the opposite here. Backend money is the holy grail that everyone here (except trailer composers) is chasing.

    #14745 Reply
    More Advice
    Guest

    I jumped on the RF bandwagon one year ago to see what one can earn. I was fairly pleased to make some money. However, the money does not compare at all to what one can make in PRO library. Some may say that RF is mostly for non-broadcast, corporate/industrial/ educational, personal projects, amateur student film maker applications. What I am starting to observe is BIG BUSINESS is showing up. I heard that recently a $17 track was used on a Super Bowl ad. That’s insanity and destructive and race to the bottomish.

    I am also starting to think that the model can cause confusion: on one hand it’s “royalty free”, on the other hand, some places ask that all PRO info be added for every track :who is the publisher, who is the writer, etc. This to me is “semi royalty free”. Who is demanding that a broadcaster fill out a cue sheet if they go on air with the track? I personally have never seen a cue sheet from my hundreds of RF sales. The model clearly is driving prices into the toilette – again take note of the $17 track on a super bowl ad.

    I am having a lot of second thoughts about this model and it’s ramifications moving forward. Back end royalties must be part of the equation forever, otherwise we are really in trouble.

    I look forward to everyone’s thoughts, especially from the experienced guys who play in both markets. While very few are earning 5 to 10K a month in this RF arena, perhaps literally just 40 guys, we have to ask ourselves if it is worth it to hang around this party for $200 to $400 a month, knowing that we are devaluing our industry and knowing that Big business is chomping on the opportunity like a pride of lions with an endless supply of baby zebras in their territory.

    #14765 Reply
    woodsdenis
    Participant

    1) a library that is marketing itself as ‘royalty free’ where there are no further sync fees for future use after the initial payment, yet
    still insists on clients filling out cue sheets if the music airs on TV, film or radio.
    This is the vast majority of websites competing for google searches containing the words ‘royalty free ___ music’.

    Is something we should all remember and the majority are non exclusive. There are many variations, so casting around “royalty free” as an insult does not help anyone to understand the business.

    AS as an example, is a “royalty free” site which insists on PRO cue sheets and has different rates of sync fees depending on usage.

    There are others who charge a once off fee for any usage and don’t insist on PRO cue sheets.

    There are others who forbid any PRO affiliation for their composers.

    and all variation of above !!!!!!

    So lets talk about exclusives.Their roster of composers is well stocked by now and subsequently very, very, difficult to get into, if not impossible, unless you bring something extremely unique to the table. I am not saying don’t try, of course you should. You could literally spend years submitting and getting nowhere, correct me if I am wrong but the big writers for exclusives have been doing it for a very long time. This is why non-exclusives are attractive to new composers.

    If the big exclusives represented by the PMA want to stop the race to the bottom, they need to reach out to get new composers on board IMHO. In the past there has been an elitist view of their own product and a marked disdain of any music that wasn’t controlled by them. Possibly motivated by fear and shrinking revenues ?

    Before we get all partisan on this there is fantastic music on ALL sites exclusive/Non exclusive/royalty free(in all its incarnations) and also some terrible music on all of the above.

    As MichaelL always reiterates their are many tiers and markets to this business. Music, ultimately is a commodity. Investigate and use all avenues of revenue is my opinion. There is no absolute wrong or right.

    #14766 Reply
    SCP
    Participant

    What I would like to know is – What constitutes a good Exclusive deal that someone like me, who makes a few hundred dollars a month from RF sites, would want to give up? Because all I’ve been offered from Exclusive libraries is this:

    Give us your tracks for 3-5 years (or in perp.) along with alts/stings/stems/notes etc…And we’ll give you little to no synch fee, take your publishing, and may or may not tell you if your track got placed so keep an eye on your PRO statements a year from now.

    I guess what I’m saying is the demands of the modern Exclusive deal have pushed me towards RF. I’d love to hear what a good Exclusive arrangement is and if it’s attainable by the types of writers that make a few hundred from RF’s.

    Wow – I just realized how bitter I must come across, but I’m really not. Just looking for solutions from many of the esteemed folks here. thanks!

    #14772 Reply
    Art Munson
    Keymaster

    @Art… Your decision to be more focused and go after “higher end” placements, continues a proven path for success that Mark Petrie followed, which was to establish a base income at one level of the industry then build on that, and move on.

    I think it’s the natural order of things. When one is entering any endeavor you start down a path that’s usually a path of least resistance. Royalty free music sites are one such path for beginning composers. As most of you know I’m probably the oldest guy on this forum, have decades of experience in the music business but have only come to the world of production/library music in the last few years. I consider my myself a newbie in this area but am ready to move up the ladder. But as long as there are newbies, RF sites with clients and that path of least resistance, the RF sites will not be going away!

    BTW it doesn’t take thousands of songs to make some extra money in the RF world a couple of hundred with alternate mixes will get you to 1500 or so tracks (I currently have 8 mixes per song). The alt mixes are easy to spin off and that should be enough to make some decent money, assuming you are writing what folks are buying. Just know that it will never take the place of PRO money.

    One thing I have observed by monitoring MLR all these years is that those that have been in the production/library music for a very long time are the ones that whine the loudest about today’s state of affairs. MichaelL, Mark Petrie (and a number of others here) are two that “get it”, they see the future and understand it. Technology is constantly upsetting apple carts, look out yours may be next!

    I should also point out that while some folks can win the lottery and make hundreds of thousands of dollars with very few tracks that is the exception rather than the rule. It’s much like any business, there will be many trying to make a successful venture but only very few will have ultimate success. It’s not necessarily the most gifted or talented but more about being in the right place at the right time a good bit of hustle and some luck. Still, there are those who believe there own press and you will not convince them otherwise.

    One last thing. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, “Music is business, business is war, war is hell, adapt or die!”

    #14774 Reply
    Art Munson
    Keymaster

    If the big exclusives represented by the PMA want to stop the race to the bottom, they need to reach out to get new composers on board IMHO. In the past there has been an elitist view of their own product and a marked disdain of any music that wasn’t controlled by them. Possibly motivated by fear and shrinking revenues ?

    That’s exactly what I talked about with a PMA board member at lunch last week and he agreed. Hopefully, by joining, I can start that conversation.

    #14764 Reply
    Desire_Inspires
    Participant

    Royalty free libraries are cool to me. As a matter of fact, I fully embrace the royalty free music model!

    If composers want to make big money, they probably should not be solely focused on the royalty free music libraries. They should only work for exclusive libraries such as those affiliated with PMA. Those libraries are the best ones for career-minded individuals that are seeking to make a living from making music.

    But the royalty free companies are for those that are not necessarily chasing $200,000 a year in royalties. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a composer being content with making $1,000 a month from music.

    The guys that want to make $1,000 a month from music need a marketplace and also deserve a marketplace to sell their creations.

    People with nice day jobs and a love for music do not need to compete and fight as hard as the guys that choose to have full time careers in music.

    So there really are no problems with the royalty free model itself. The model should be free to exist because it is beneficial to those who gain from it. It is not harmful to those who do not gain from it. It just is not relevant to those that want to earn big money.

    No need to fight about these things. No one should feel bad about working for less money or not being fully immersed in music creation. A man should not be judged by the size of his royalty checks!!

    There is zero downside to working with royalty free libraries.

    #14778 Reply
    More Advice
    Guest

    The question is not being framed properly in this thread

    Royalty Free Libraries. Should You? Who’s Right?

    The question at hand is will RF slowly erode the back end royalty model that is clearly, without a doubt, a more profitable model! If it will erode it, why are we supporting it?

    Can we count on PRO libraries and the PROS to win the battle in the broadcast arena? I personally don’t have a problem with folks buying our music for cheap to use on personal or small business web projects, but if the Networks slowly migrate to shop at RF and the royalties disappear, we screwed ourselves! again!

    Guys I just received $2500 in foreign royalties for 3 tracks that aired in the Netherlands, and let me tell you the music ( 2 out of 3 cuts) was not that special. This was a bizarre case where I just tossed some cues out there and someone gobbled them up and stuck money in my pocket. I did not see this coming. Clearly this is 10 times better then waiting around for 200 sales to occur in RF.

    I know we all want and need multiple revenue streams from multiple sources, but if we slowly destroy the PRO income along the way (and enrich just a few i.e. the owners of these RF sites), that is not good.

    #14779 Reply
    Edouardo
    Participant

    I do not understand why some of you guys consider that because the music is sold on a RF site it means there will not be any back end. Many of the well implanted non-excl site offer assistance to clients in helping them deal with cue sheets. Me too, on my all fresh flashy website have set up a full section to explain licensing to potential clients: They pay once the sync fee, then they just need to inform the broadcaster of their project about the music they used (Track Title, Name and CAE Number of composer).

    Before quitting to dedicate fully to composition, I was a researcher in chemistry, developing ecological alternative for the industry to replace currently used toxic solutions. Sometimes these solutions could not be implemented just because the information just didnĀ“t reach the customer. In addition the stakeholders, felt it was too much trouble…

    The problem appears to be the same in the music industry.

    I actually find that the RF system is very flexible and fair for both composers and customers as long as everybody does his part (Composer: Make good music obviously; Libraries: Offer ranges of licences depending on use; and Customer: filing Cue sheets or making sure the broadcaster get’s the data needed to do so)

    The only model I reject, is sites that forbid PRO registration of the tracks submitted (for me this is ridiculous)

    For the exclusive model, Tim’s arguments did hit a chord, but in my current status, much too risky, like paying for a lottery ticket. However, as we say in France: If you don’t play, you can’t win. So I will probably start taking 10% of my future tracks and put them in an exclusive box. The question becomes… Which library can I trust? A little research first seems appropriate…

    #14780 Reply
    woodsdenis
    Participant

    That’s exactly what I talked about with a PMA board member at lunch last week and he agreed. Hopefully, by joining, I can start that conversation.

    Thats great Art , keep us informed.

    I like you, have been around the music business a few years, but only the library part of it for the past 4 years or so. I am also going to pursue the exclusive route now, diversify and don’t rely on any one income stream is my motto. Also for me, its important to be ready to adapt to what is a very fast moving industry and world.

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