The manipulation behind "music briefs" for exclusive libs.

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  • #28118 Reply

    I think it’s time we discuss briefs. Music libraries send briefs to writers stating: “please write tracks that sound like_____we need to beef up our catalog for a project or show that needs these kinds of tunes (they provide a link to a reference track).”

    I get it I get it, the brief hits your email box and you think “great! these guys like and trust me, they must like my music, let’s write a few!” You feel good for the entire day. You feel wanted and desired.


    Look, briefs are important when you are getting paid a fee to write, but when briefs come in for free exclusive tracks, what is there to get excited about? Why are you agreeing to this business model? Why doesn’t everyone just say “thanks, but no thanks” to this “opportunity”?

    I get the idea of saying… well… I have nothing to write now and this creative brief interests me, so I’ll do one anyway. Here’s my counter argument: sure, go ahead and write in the genre of the brief or ref track, but why just hand it over for free to an exclusive publisher?
    Why not write the tune then see how well it does in the non-exclusive world or even the direct licensing world (AKA RF markets).

    I just find it so manipulative how certain companies send briefs to writers making them feel special, wanted, needed, desired, etc.. The reality is that it amounts to overt exploitation. They are getting you for free! $0! FREE WORK in exchange for your patient hope that the cue will place on a show, and you will get back end in 9 to 18 months folks. That is a loooong loooong time.

    What do I suggest? write the cue based on the brief, then see how the NE’s and RF’s do with that exact same cue. If you do not see results, you can always send that same cue to the original exclusive library down the road. Exclusive libs are in the business of exploiting composers for free work in exchange for EXCLUSIVE REPRESENTATION AND OWNERSHIP OF THE CUE IN PERPETUITY. How is this possibly a good deal?

    Ladies and Gents, I never give my cues to exclusive companies and my statements are still on the rise in every market.

    If people need exclusive cues written for a specific TV show brief, please ask for money to write the cue(s). If they don’t want to pay you, don’t sign over a cue for free! Give them two 2 choices:
    1. Free if it’s NE
    2. Pay me a fee (AKA Advance, consideration fee, work for hire) if you want to control the cue in perpetuity, exclusively.

    That’s my healthy advice for today. I think it’s healthy industry advice for all writers, even publishers too. When a publisher does not pay for intellectual property, they basically see no value in it, nor do they have an urgency to place it and generate income. Publishers need to invest too.

    What do you think?

    #28119 Reply

    It depends on the library and their track record, their relationships, etc. I know people who’ve written to a brief, given the track away exclusively, and it paid off. But yes, it’s a risk. My feeling is never say never, just decide on a case by case basis. There are libraries I would consider this with and many I wouldn’t.

    The good news is no one is forcing anyone to do anything. If a deal is not for you, just pass on it and move on.

    #28120 Reply

    for me the key word is perpetuity. as still a new comer to this industry i am already of the feeling that it is unfair for a library to ask you to write exclusive tracks for free and they will own the rights to it in perpetuity. on the other hand if its for libraries were they are only signing you up for a 3 year deal then i think its worth the stretch especially if you are seeing results.

    unless they are an A list library i dont think composers should be giving away their exclusive tracks in perpetuity.

    #28121 Reply

    Problem is, even though I’m relatively new in the game, I’ve yet to meet an NE that has even come close to placing/earning what my favorite exclusives have.

    Exclusives make the process much simpler for me. YMMV but that has been my reality.

    Not that I completely disagree with what you are saying. And given this years dismal results all the way around , I’m giving in until the end of next year before I decide where I want to focus. I’ll still be taking part but time will tell.

    #28122 Reply

    I get it though, the downside of opening tv/film composing to the masses is that there is always a multitude of people who will do for free ( semi pros, like I consider myself), guys with day jobs who will submit for no upfront fees , basically for free and a wing and a prayer, what they used to pay full time professionals up front to do. Is not lost on me. But I am also not convinced that the “gold” is in submitting to a bucket load of Non exclusives either. Been there , done that.

    #28125 Reply

    Great topic Music1234!
    I have had this debate with myself many times and I agree with you 100%. There is only one library that I am currently writing occasionally for these briefs. But I am guilty of trying it out with 5 different libraries with very poor results.

    I have set a “rule” for myself that I will only write for requests in my wheelhouse that I can do in about 5 hours or less. Of course, I have broken my rule many times as a cue takes on a life of its own. I cringe when I think of a couple of good ones that I lost to an exclusive library for 3+ years.

    Why do I do it?
    – I have one 6 year old non-ex cue that has made me $1,600+ in back end from a single library and it is still going strong. That is from only 20 placements. Side note, 2 years after submitting it had only made me $300. I hope that a few of my new exclusives will have that type of success. One has 11 placements in 15 months, so far the income is only $64 but I know much more is coming thanks to Tunesat. Most of us have learned that Post Production to Airing to Royalty Payments takes a very long time. Plus 9-18 months is how long it takes for the 1st payout, which is hopefully the tip of the iceberg.

    – I have found that my reality TV type cues do not sell well at all in the RF market. I often write 2 tracks for each brief, one goes to the library that sent the brief and the other goes out non-ex. Of course it still takes 2 years to know which one does better. Man I miss the old Non-Exclusive days 🙁

    Regarding “Give them 2 choices,” I have tried that. I had a track accepted by the non-ex library beginning with “C” and offered it to a library that recently went exclusive. They were not interested in anything non-ex, regardless of quality.

    However, a few months ago a different library told me a producer “loved” one of my tracks and wanted another like it (non-ex for Scripps, ha). I said “no thank you.” They immediately offered me $100 to do it (exclusive, perpetuity). I was shocked, but decided to do it even though it was a pitiful offer. It was a half day job and I hope they will try to get it licensed a lot to recoup their huge investment, ha.

    A while back that same library sent out a custom music request for a few Netflix series, (exclusive perpetuity I think). Because I’m on the mailing list I saw that they got all they needed. Wait until those poor folks learn what Netflix pays in back end. That library regularly advertises on FMN looking for new composers. If an established library is advertising for new composers, there must be a reason why the old ones left. They know there is an endless supply of composers just starting out and desperate to get placements (like I was).

    #28126 Reply
    Composer Of Notes

    Couldn’t the same be said about writing ANY exclusive music with no upfront fee? I always go with the hot hand. If a library is getting me placements, then I’m there. If not, then I usually ignore the briefs.

    #28127 Reply

    a lot of factors and variables – besides getting paid up front – play a role in deciding whether or not to do the brief. One factor is backend and some libraries have gotten me massive backend so of course I’ll send them tracks.

    Like that famous line from the movies – “show me the money?” – if they’re showing you (or have shown you) the money and the structure of the deal is paying-off, send ’em the tracks.

    #28128 Reply

    I,like Advice,take it on a case by case basis.I was with 2 NE libraries that turned into E and,although they don’t pay upfront,each one of them gets me 4-digit quarterly payments for the last 2 years.
    So,it’s not always true that the publishers,who don’t pay for tracks,don’t see any value in them or don’t pitch them aggressively to various opportunities.

    I’m with 10+ NE libraries because when i started submitting music to companies almost 5 years ago,i didn’t want to do exclusive.
    Only 1-2 of them gets me some good placements (in fact,non of the other NE gets me ANY placements).And still 80% of my back-end money comes from the exclusive ones.

    Tried to ask for some advance fee once and they said no.They certainly didn’t force me to do music for them.

    I did an album for an exclusive company with some upfront payment.
    The tracks were finished and sent to them last September.
    They paid me and said the album release was scheduled for March.Then they told me the release was rescheduled for July.It’s still not published…and i don’t like thinking an album worth of material is sitting for 1 year now.
    So,from now on,upfront money won’t be the key factor for me to take a job.I’m doing this for a living so,ideally,i want to work with the ones that put my music to work immediately.

    If the NE libraries worked great for me,sure,i would have stayed with them.It just didn’t work out well.I know others had/have great success with NE libraries.Maybe for a new library music composer (i started in 2013) is harder to find good NE libraries,specially when most of them turn to exclusive (or favor exclusivity).

    Sometimes i do what you said Music1234; write a track for a brief but then deciding to keep it for direct licensing and RF use.I don’t do this very often though,only if i feel the track has NE potential.

    I never thought the libraries that send briefs without upfront fees are “so manipulative”.If the requested music is in my ballpark,they share everything 50/50 and they got me great placements in the past then i don’t know how “manipulative” applies here.

    Of course i would like to get paid upfront for my exclusive tracks.But only 1-2 libraries i work with do that and that’s not enough to pay the bills.RF income is ok but again only a small % of my yearly income.
    If i give up the exclusive libraries that don’t pay upfront,then i’m losing at least 60% of my income.
    And this means i should go back to my old day-job,which would make me less happy than i am now!

    #28129 Reply
    NY Composer

    I find my situation similar to Alan, whereby my TV cues rarely sell on NE/RF libraries. Almost all of my music is Cinematic mood setting ques rather than actual “Songs”. My Epic Orchestras are an exception.

    IMO I believe that every Exclusive Lib should pay a fee but WE are the ones that set the standard.

    The exclusives I decided to stay with, often register with my PRO in a week and use brief music within a few weeks on TV.

    One of the Libs send out briefs for actual TV shows.

    This is the reason why Exclusives work for me. I may not get an upfront fee but my back end far exceeds Non-Ex Libs.

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