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I’m a lifelong musician who made the jump into writing production music 4 years ago and am now full time, earning mid five figures between sync fees and royalties.
I spent the previous 10 years as a gigging sideman musician, band member, and music teacher and was able to start out by writing library cues during the daytime before rehearsals, music lessons (after kids get off school), and gigs (night times).
When starting out, I decided to cast a wide net and submit my first 12 songs album to as many non-exclusive libraries as I could find as an info gathering action. I had no idea what would work and what wouldn’t. I lucked out and found a few libraries that earned enough money to encourage me to pursue writing more. I wrote 3-4 more 12 song albums and after a year, I was bringing in 1k/month, which was enough to make me stop taking some gigs, stop accepting new music students, and focus even more time and resources on making my production music cues even better.
During my first few years (and still), I did my due diligence, spent countless hours on the web, YouTube, listening to podcasts, reading MLR, etc., and decided to write some albums for exclusive libraries, as well as continuing to feed the NE ones that’d been supplementing my other music income. I considered the amount of work I was doing researching + writing to be full time (at least 40 hrs a week), but I was also still playing some jobbing gigs, performing with passion project bands, and teaching a handful of music students every week. My income in the first several years didn’t reflect the amount of time I was putting in, but I loved that my schedule was always filled with something musical, and that I was building ownership over music I had written, and getting paid again and again for it, instead of working on other people’s music for a one-time sideman fee.
In my third year, I was offered a full time, exclusive (couldn’t write for other libraries) writing deal with a library who expected a certain amount of tracks per month in exchange for a monthly salary (sync buyout) + I got to keep 100% writer’s royalties. I did this for almost a year and continued my sideman + teaching duties part time until that library dropped me as a writer. They stated that they wanted to bring in some new writers to diversify their catalog and had to make room.
My fourth year was filled with several albums, co-writer collaborations, new deals with new libraries including ones with up front production money and advances, and finally seeing PRO returns on the exclusive albums I’d submitted several years ago. I was thrilled to see placements on CBS, NBC, PBS, BBC, RTL, Discovery, Netflix, commercials, and more!
I’m now not gigging at all (COVID) but still teach music lessons 1 day per week to help others with their musical pursuits. Other than that, library music is my full-time pursuit.
My thoughts about going full-time:
-Try to lower your expenses. This will allow you the time required to write enough music to afford more!
-Everything you need to know can be found for free on the University of YouTube, web forums, magazine articles, podcasts etc. The educational resources I’ve paid for include this forum (Great job, Thanks Art!), and to attend the Production Music Conference held by the PMA.
-Long game. There’s no jumping in immediately at 60-100k. Work and study at it like you’re a student who needs 6-8 years of schooling (masters degree) before you’re worth that much to an employer.
-Specialize in whatever music you’re the best at and try your hardest to stick with it
This is an amazing “how to” 10 part article about library music and the process that I share with those who might be interested:
This is an easy way to get people informed without consuming a ton of your time. It provides a blueprint for exactly what you need to do to break into the business. Just forward them the link, tell them to read all 10 parts, and tell them to come back once they’ve finished with more questions. Most people never ask more questions.
I sent a msg to ASCAP asking about future airings of an ad I’d already sent in a claim for. After 4 weeks, no response. I’ll let you know what they say.January 12, 2021 at 11:12 am in reply to: How important is a personal relationship with your library? #37169
One thing I’ve learned in my years of writing library music is to trust your instincts. There’s too many libraries out there to try and force something to work that doesn’t fit. If you’re not getting the communication you need, there’s probably another library out there who can provide it. It takes legwork to find relationships that work.
If you’re looking for libraries that provide updates, two come to mind: Velvet Green Music & Scorekeepers both send out updates with client requests and what they’re accepting submissions for. Sometimes monthly, sometimes quarterly.January 6, 2021 at 11:02 am in reply to: Success Story: Navigating (Battling) ASCAP for Infomercial Royalties #37146
Yes, Music1234! I’m constantly reminded that the composing of the music is really only half of the work we do. Just as much time must be spent on the admin side making sure everything is in order.
While chasing down the royalties for this infomercial, I had no idea what it’d end up paying out. I had read people saying that sometimes commercials only pay fractions of a penny per play and was prepared to make $7 to $11 for my efforts. I’m quite pleased that wasn’t the case, and also a reason I wanted to share specifics.
Re: Soundmouse, I understand that they’d have tons more data to report if they were reporting to composers, but it seems like we live in the age where everything should be automated. They’ve got my email address. Can’t they just CC me on whatever they’re sending to the PROs???
Sweet track, Art! Love the vibe, great arrangement and riffs.
Thanks for the firsthand feedback and advice everybody!
Although it’s invite only, I’d suggest joining SEASAC based on the fact that they accept TuneSat reports as claims for royalties.July 11, 2020 at 2:47 pm in reply to: Advice needed for making the transition from RF to bigger libraries #35384
Hey @tenroomsaudio, a few things I’d add about transitioning into ‘bigger’ libraries from RF:
1.) expect an exclusive, 50/50 deal. This is the standard deal. Use it as a barometer to see if you’re signing away your tracks favorably or are getting ripped off. Anything more than 50/50 = amazing! Anything less = Not Amazing!
2.) when looking at top tier libraries, search for what smaller libraries feed into them and send tracks to those libraries. You can usually search for ‘labels’ or ‘libraries’ and find several smaller libraries whose tracks are making up the catalog of the bigger library. For example, when you look at a library like APM and their credits (top tier), check out how their music is coming from lots of other small libraries:
These are the libraries that’ll be easier to get into than sending tracks directly to APM. If your tracks get accepted to one of the smaller feeder libraries, your tracks will become a part of APM’s catalog and be searchable for ‘top tier’ placements. This has been the case for me with some CNN, Discovery, Netflix, PBS, and NBC has placements.
3.) do not underestimate a non-exclusive deal. From my experience, non-exclusive libraries often don’t have the same clout or attraction to bigger clients. However, having a catalog of your own music to be able to license yourself or submit to other non-exclusive libraries in the future can be just as valuable as having some tracks in a well connected exclusive library. I’d recommend having some music with both!
So johnnyboy, are you saying that because ASCAP’s survey didn’t monitor any of the 200 shows your music got played in you didn’t get paid?
Or was the problem that the cue sheets were turned in so much later after the shows aired and ASCAP didn’t pay any royalties for something so far in the past?