Why Music Tracks Get Rejected

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    Art Munson

    Mark Lewis over at MusicLoops.com shared his thoughts on why music tracks get rejected and we both thought it would be good info to share here.

    Thanks Mark!
    Why Tracks Are Not Approved
    My policy is not to comment on why tracks get rejected but I want to just list some basic things here to, hopefully, make the subject less of a mystery.

    So here goes, possible reasons for rejection

    1. No MP3 preview.
    this happens a lot. There is no MP3 preview attached to the file, either due to the fault of the composer or because something happened on the server. If you see a file has been rejected the first thing you should do is check to see if it has a preview and that you/I can hear it. If not, upload a new preview into the trackinfo page and let me know when it is there or re-upload the entire track as a new one so it simply goes through the approval system again.

    2. Good But Not Good Enough
    A lot of rejections happen when a composer who is good at one style tries his hand at another style. The track is usually ok but when we have composers whose specialty is that same genre then I usually do not want to clutter up the choice with something that is just not as good as what is already in there. For a hypothetical example, a hard rock composer trying his hand at house music. We have great house music composers already and putting a first effort next to their music doesn’t make sense.

    3. Final Mix is Too Low
    Some of you need to buy a compressor/limiter plugin to pump up your volume in the final mix. The music has to be in your face even if it is a romantic string quartet. If the loudest thing in your preview is the audio watermark saying ‘preview’ then you probably need to remix and pump it up a bit.

    4. Drum Loops With Something On Top
    Whenever I hear something that is just a stock drum loop with something played over the top I reject it. There has to be some production value, even a cymbal crash, dynamics, breakdowns, etc. If it sounds like it was thrown together in an afternoon then I usually reject it. This happens quite a bit with just a few composers.

    5. Strings Are Too Cheezy
    I’ve rejected some great tracks solely because the string samples sound like they came from a 1990’s era korg module. With all the outstanding sample libraries available there is no reason to be using cheezy midi sounding string samples.

    6. Bad Midi Performance
    Even if the string or horn samples are great some composers play them like they were just another piano patch. Many instruments, like a trumpet for example cannot play over itself, it cannot play two notes at once, yet I hear clashing notes in some tracks because it was played like a piano. This is a dead give away for a midi sounding track and we do not want midi sounding tracks.

    Also, try randomizing your attacks, in velocity and placement. It is impossible for a horn or string section to hit the beat at exactly the same time and same velocity. So lay off the quantize and try some subtle randomization.

    7. Bad Distorted Guitar Tone
    This is a tough one to get right. The song could be great but if the tone of your distorted rock track is not up to snuff it will be rejected. If you need examples of what a great guitar tone sounds like simply go to the Heavy Rock section of our library and sort by most popular.

    8. It Won’t Sell
    Sometimes the track is great, well recorded and mixed, but from my experience I know it won’t sell. Like progressive rock, nobody buys progressive rock for their projects.

    9. Just Awful
    Sorry but occasionally some tracks are just awful and they get rejected.

    Those are the basic reasons. I really try to be as objective as possible and I always wait on rejections and review the track in the next 2 or 3 approval sessions as well in case I was grumpy or something the first time I heard it. I absolutely do not think my judgement is the final say on the quality of the music I am hearing but I do have very good instincts of what music should be in my library. So please do not take anything personally.

    I hope this helps.

    Mark Lewis
    Partners In Rhyme, Inc.


    Good info,  I will add though that you shouldn’t give up on rejected tracks.  When I first submitted to a popular site, my cues were rejected.   When I was later accepted, I submitted one of the cues that didn’t get me in.  That cue has been one of my most used.


    Go figger.


    I think there’s a plug in you can use to fix the “Just Awful” tracks.




    All good stuff however I think number 3 is unfortunate.  I really don’t think the volume of the mix should be a factor in decision making – turn it up!  Heavily compressed/limited music sounds terrible even if it does “compete”.  I always leave a decent amount of headroom in my tracks.  Most audio/visual projects do not require the music to be compressed and limited to the same degree as  commercial pop music.


    Best, D.


    I agree with what you are saying but I am referring to extreme cases. When there is a track that is very quiet and subtle in the beginning and builds up to a huge dramatic middle section it really is essential to even out the volume a bit. Otherwise customers will not be able to hear a long quiet intro and simply move one to the next track that they can hear. They’ll move on to something they can hear before they turn up the volume on their computers to try to hear a quiet intro.
    Just something to keep in mind.


    Compression and balancing in library music is a very valid discussion in its own right.

    I think we all would agree that over compression/limiting is a bad thing especially when done by amateurs. BUT this whole area is very genre specific. Modern pop/rock/dance music is very squashed and if this is your genre then you need to compete with the competition. It is a part of the sound wether you or I like it.

    Use your ears I suppose. A useful tip in this regard is to set a ceiling on your limiter to -.5 db. Completely maxed out masters will/may clip when dithered down to 16 bit and will sound truly awful when converted to mp3.

    Also a piece with a huge dynamic range should be limited too, Unless your a hi-end film composer whose masters are stemmed and then mixed on a soundstage you have no choice. The majority of my clients want to put the music on their product and leave it  without a lot of extra tweaking against other elements. I certainly dont mean crushing all dynamics out of it but be realistic about the market and your music’s  uses.

    Also a potential client will listen to a number of tracks before making a decision, yours needs to jump out at them, a track with a long, very low volume intro would struggle against the competition .

    My 2 cents


    another thing to add..right music…wrong style for a particular library

    [Removed by moderator. Please keep your experiences with ML out of the conversation.]

    I also work in an unorthodox way and don’t use samples which makes my stuff stand out to some as great and unique…and to others probably weird and different 🙂


    Much good advice.

    #2 is a tricky one. Because it takes so many cues to earn decent money as a library composer, it generally necessitates writing in a number of genres. If all that you write is trance or house music or dubstep, what are you going to do 10 years from now? How do you become a composer for the long run?

    With the exception of when I was a recording “artist,” I’ve never been a genre specific composer. I’ve been a film/media/library composer. My observation, and this is in general terms, is that the music which often works the best is genre “flavored.”  That’s to say , for example, that for mass market appeal there is a difference between the dubstep that makes your ears bleed in a club and the dubstep that a luxury car maker is going to use to sell cars. It has to appeal to a broader audience.

    Some genres or styles and potential uses are less clearly defined, like “kids music,” “corporate music,”  or “science music.”  When you’re composing for subjects as varied as the mating rituals of horseshoe crabs, government dishwashing procedures (yes, I did), or the latest medical breakthrough, the music often defies genre.

    If I’m writing library music and stretching out of my comfort zone, or expertise, I hire the best session players available…who know how to get the sound.

    #6 …a pet peeve. This is an important one. Next to bad writing, there’s nothing worse than the poor use of samples. A trumpet,  a violin, a flute, etc. are more than just sounds. Playing them like a piano, and not “thinking” like a trumpet player, violinist, flutist, etc., is the kiss of death….just as bad (worse actually) as having a “bad” guitar tone.  Beyond that, if you’re going to use those instruments learn how to write and arrange for them. 

    #3  @Davy….sorry studies have shown that when played side buy side listeners prefer the music that is perceived to be louder, even if the music itself is not as good as the softer choice. There are a number of processing options available, like the Oxford Inflator, that increase perceived loudness without over compressing dynamics.

    All the best,


    Art Munson

    Please keep your experiences with ML out of the conversation. It’s not relevant. I have already deleted one segment of a reply so please no more.


    #3  @Davy….sorry studies have shown that when played side buy side listeners prefer the music that is perceived to be louder, even if the music itself is not as good as the softer choice. There are a number of processing options available, like the Oxford Inflator, that increase perceived loudness without over compressing dynamics.

    Yep or use an Expander (opposite to compression, brings quiet bits up )


    Hi folks, thanx for the thread, it`s very informative….

    But people, please don`t let us forget this “why someone is rejecting cues” topic is the opinion of a single Library operator. Others may have other views if a song is good enough or not. It’s all relative ….. (Einstein would say) 🙂

    bigg rome

    I LUV #9–LOL


    I think we all understand that Mark was speaking about why he sometimes rejects tracks for his library.  #1 clearly relates to his own procedure. Many of the other examples are good general guidelines, but by no means universal.

    Please try to keep in mind that this business has many models and tiers. In most cases they serve a very different client bases. It follows, logically, that not every style of music is going to fit in every library. Thinking that it would, could or should is just delusional, which will only waste your time and lead to disappointment.  And, some libraries are willing to say “we have enough in that category already.”

    When someone says “library A accepted my music and it’s gotten lots of placements, I don’t know why library B keeps rejecting me,” that’s a red flag that has “I don’t get it ” written all over it. Sorry for being blunt.  Some libraries, as “Advice” put it in another thread, ” do a lot of blanket deals with cable shows.”  A good chunk of the music that works for those cable shows WILL NOT work for many of the corporate / business clients that buy from RF libraries and vice versa. There may be overlap, but in some ways the worlds are apples an oranges. Unfortunately many composers are only exposed to what they see on TV, and therefore don’t understand the kind of music that is sometimes used in other situations. It is different…a little less affected by pop-culture.

    The bottom-line is, don’t get all defensive and ticked when a library rejects your music because it doesn’t meet their needs. 





    Two more very subjective reasons why some tracks do not get approved

    1. Anything based on a Check Berry Johnny B Goode guitar riff.
    2. Any romantic piano piece with a melody that goes 1 3 5, 1 3 5, 1 3, 1 3 5, 1 3 5, 1 3.



    I think the thread is very good for newbies and of course for professionals too, to constantly think about quality music. But still it is more out there as black and white 🙂

    I will tell you an example of what some folks probably happened here before. I had a rejected acoustic guitar track with a very good exclusive library. Damn, I was sour. I listened to the track and thought what is the problem with this song ??? It`s good played, a nice composition and the sound is good !

    A year later I wrote a whole album with pop and acoustic tracks for another exclusive library and I placed the acoustic guitar track on the album. 6 weeks later the track was constantly used in TV.

    That´s how it is. All relative ! You  never know. How many pop tracks got rejected which later became famous ? A lot…..

    Now rejections are not a real problem for me anymore. I see it sporty 🙂

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