27 thoughts on “What Is A Standard Cue Length?”

  1. My experience working with libraries that target reality TV background is even though only 15-30 seconds usually get used by the music editor, they want cues of at least 1:30-2:00 to give their clients more flexibility. Some won’t even accept cues under a certain length (not talking the cut-downs).

    I have to agree with Michael that quite often, the beginning of the cue is used with a quick paste in of the button ending. But I have *very occasionally* had the “B” section of an A-B-A format cue used.

    What this does tell us is (1) In the absence of other info, shoot for at least 1:30 (2:00 better) for the full length version. (2) Get to the “meat” right away. If the client doesn’t hear what they want or at least get drawn in to hear more within a few seconds, you are done.

    I have one cue that represents easily 75% of all my TV BG cue placements. It opens with powerful guitar riffs at the start. I wrote it like 15 years ago and it still gets placed all the time. It shows how if a cue makes a “mood” statement right from the get-go, it can do well. A cue has to scream what it’s identity is.

    Just my random thoughts on a summer day. D

    • I thank you for this in side information it really helped out a lot. I am a instrumental background music and cue composer,and I am new to the cue side of things. … Thanks

  2. Hi Guys, Sorry, I’m late in the game here, but this is directly from JP’s artist mgmt dept – hope it helps!

    “In the TV Licensing world shorter tracks do fair much better. Breaking up your longer 3-4 minute songs would be a great idea. Think in terms of smaller musical pieces that would not get in the way of a dialogue heavy reality TV show.”

  3. No bad on anyone’s part 🙂 I forgot to mention that it was obvious that they edited those longer edits from the full length tracks which is why i say I’m glad I submit long tracks, or maybe I have to get better at my own edits 🙂 And yes , like most, I do take pride, have obsessive passion for music regardless of genre, style or end game and just plain ol love what I’m doing 🙂 Music is music, heart and soul is the foundation of all of it regardless of genre, style, etc., one doesn’t rule over the other ….. a good tune is a good tune 🙂 Just my personal thoughts, nothing less nothing more. Have to get back to work now, spent too much time on here as it is, and finish the next batch of hot rod tunes for shows like Vegas Rat Rods :), placements in 7 of the first 8 episodes with two more next week [ as I been informed ], quite pleased, so must keep feeding where my success is, and it’s easy as I love blues rock and electric southern. Have a great weekend MichealL !

  4. Good answers, and thanks for clarifying. I think I originally was responding to “7 cues a day”, which made me wonder how long of cues I should be trying to write for the reality TV market, which I am now focusing more on. It seems the edits that I do for RF libraries as habit now – 15, 30m 60 secs, beds (which I just recently heard described as narratives), stingers are pretty good practice. I do this 15-20 hours per week, at leas t15 on this stuff, and gig around once per week, and work. So precludes me from doing multiple cues a day. Because now I am in nine libraries, and want to (I think, just for lack of a better mousetrap) follow the Emmet Cooke 3 year plan of getting 100 tracks of music into 20 libraries and paring down from there depending on which are working for me, uploading/tagging etc. takes a significant amount of time as well. Any thoughts on this strategy for beginners (20 libraries in 2 years, 100 tracks)? Personally I would love to pare this down to a handful. Also trying to mix it up between royalty free, NE, and I have some exclusive tracks out there as well. For the record, now moving into year 3, although I spent year 1 with the , er car company, and getting feedback from there and their (rather good ) user feedback forums before starting to submit on my own. SO I consider this my second year of working at the library business (although been a musician for closing in on 40 years).

    • Hello Chuck.
      It sounds like you are busy!
      I was wondering if you would mind if I asked you a few questions about the music sync licensing business. I too am a musician with a day job and want to break into this area.

  5. Trying to keep this on topic.

    I have worked directly with clients either scoring corporate videos, films or TV. In those cases the length of any particular piece of music was determined by the specifics of the job. For reality TV the client was fine with 30 second cues. In other cases it depended on a particular scene. I don’t believe that’s what Chuck’s original question was all about. I took him to mean that if you are writing cues and do not know what the end use would be, what would be considered a standard length. Thus my answer.

    • Yes. When scoring the cue length is determined by the specific scene or use.
      WFH libraries have been asking me for 2:00 cues plus edits.
      I recall reading, I think in MusicLoops FAQ, that its customers like cues to be longer than 2:00.
      For reality TV, where editors use only 15-20 bits and pieces, short cues, like 1:30, are fine. Why do more?
      That is why I said you write for the market.

      But…if you are a singer/songwriter, which may be where ArtistsR1st is coming from, none of the above makes any sense, because songs are not cues.

      • Michael, as I said above:

        “I don’t believe that’s what Chuck’s original question was all about. I took him to mean that if you are writing cues and do not know what the end use would be, what would be considered a standard length. Thus my answer.”

        As for ArtistsR1st’s reply. I did not get that he was talking about songs.

      • Actually Michael, I’m an instrumentalist. My track length varies. it’s kind of hard to explain but I keep going or stop until it sounds ” right ” to me, I’m sure you know what I mean. My lengths can vary from anywhere from 30 sec to three minutes and sometimes longer. lengthy tracks I break down to 60, 30, 15 second edits and some stingers along with an underscore. Some tracks I just leave as is. I’m glad I do longer tracks, it seems to be working for me personally as I’ve been fortunate to be getting TV placements that have been using 30 sec, 45 sec edits of my tracks and on a few occasions, as the other night on ” Vegas Rat Rods ” they used the full 60 seconds of a track, which I think is quite rare in Reality TV, but correct if I’m wrong. I also get get useage of under 20 seconds of course but so far over 20 seconds seems to be more often than not, just an assumption on my part but I think that’s because I offer options with longer tracks. Everyone is different and one should roll with what seems to work for them, I don’t really think there is a right or wrong IMHO. I’m still new to television but what I’ve been doing so far seems to working for me 🙂

        • Sorry AR1. I focused on your use of the words “heart and soul” which seems incongruios with “Vegas Rat Rods.” It sounds more like language from an introspective singer/songwriter or “artist” versus library writer. My bad.
          It’s good to take pride in your work.


  6. I keep hearing a standard cue length should be something like 2 – 3 minutes in length. I also see often fir certain kinds of cues, like what Michael is talking about here, is that maybe 20 seconds or less will get used. SO are we still talking about writing two minute cues. ? Using edits of full length cues? Or just writing stuff that is maybe up to a minute in length and using these? I I counted my edits I could easily say I write 7 tracks a week, Or split my tracks into separate “edits” i.e. some various 15 secs edits/stingers/loops of full tracks. Or are we often talking writing a 30-60 second unique pieces and calling it a day when writing cues to submit to libraries known to work with reality shows? If so where does that put us with the 2-3 minute cues? RF where they are like using it for a full backing track. If my sales were any indication, seems I would be better off writing like 10 stingers a week then one full length track with longer edits. I’m relatively sure Jingle Punks isn’t talking about 7 2-3 minute band/ensemble bits a day….

    • Chuck, that’s the problem with trying to put everything everywhere and have it suit everyone’s needs.

      You are correct that RF customers seem to like the option of longer pieces. Who knows why? Maybe they perceive it as value for their money. Maybe they are as much into piecing together a musical background of 20 second snippets.

      No they aren’t talking about 7, 2-3 minute band/ ensemble cues. That’s over-thing and over-working. We’re talking about 1:30 of “wallpaper”…simple background stuff that keeps things moving.

      The point is that when we try to be one-size-fits all you can waste a lot of energy.
      I think it’s best to write for the market rather than writing one cue and trying to make it work six ways to Sunday.

      • “The point is that when we try to be one-size-fits all you can waste a lot of energy.
        I think it’s best to write for the market rather than writing one cue and trying to make it work six ways to Sunday.”

        Can’t say I totally agree with that. Granted a trailer music piece might not work for reality TV but in my limited experience a well thought out 2 minute piece, with alternate mixes, will work for RF, reality TV, commercials and other situations.

        • Very true Art. I always try to have a well thought out and clever approach to everything I do regardless of the length or complexity and I have several tracks and their edits that are used in multiple ways, corporate, TV, commercials, short film, etc. And I also make sure my heart and soul is into anything I do or I just don’t do it, but that’s just me, I don’t know how to do it any other way.

          • Just going by what I’ve learned from the most successful person I know, or have heard of, in this end of the business.

          • “And I also make sure my heart and soul is into anything I do or I just don’t do it, but that’s just me, I don’t know how to do it any other way.”

            Have you ever scored a corporate film where the narration and images were about stamped metal hardware on a conveyor belt?

            I’d be really curious what your “heart and soul” impulse would be there, in a situation completely void of emotion.

            • ?????? ” Have you ever scored a corporate film where the narration and images were about stamped metal hardware on a conveyor belt? “. No, I have not !…. ” I’d be really curious what your “heart and soul” impulse would be there, in a situation completely void of emotion”…. I would sink everything I had into it.

              • “I would sink everything I had into it.”

                Ok, well I have scored dozens of corporate, documentary, educational, informational films, videos and live events to picture etc. as well as having composed for a number of TV shows (bid deal…that and $3.75 will get me a latte). The point being that there are often situations for which one composes in which bringing your “heart and soul” to it would be at the least impractical, if not inappropriate. I think reality TV and its fleeting use of bits and pieces of music is one of those situations.

                Art and commerce are two different worlds. If I was writing for reality TV, I would try to write as many cues per day as possible. Like the Forbes article said…”the average JP composer writes 7 songs per day.” I would try to do that, at whatever level that average JP writer is writing. I would not spend days on a cue. The economics do not justify it.

                Keep in mind that we are talking about JP and reality TV. Other situations, like WFH are different, and often demand more.

                If you compose for a living and you’ve never had to write music that you didn’t like, or didn’t want to write, or that wasn’t your “art,” you are very fortunate.

                • I would also add that in this instance, I think the interchangeable use of the terms “song” and “cue” is misleading..

                  A song is something with lyrics. I would not expect a songwriter to crank out 7 songs in a day.

                  Whereas, a highly-efficient instrumental writer, who isn’t trying to be John Williams should be able to produce multiple cues, at least on the reality TV level, per day.

                  • Yeah, I’m just not into the cranking out multiple cues per day thing, reality TV or otherwise. I also believe it doesn’t preclude you from being successful if one chooses to work slower. It’s just a matter of each of us finding a path that’s the most comfortable for attaining our goals.

        • Art, I agree that in some cases a well-crafted cue might work across platforms.
          But, I think successful businesses know who their target consumer is.
          That’s why, for example, pharmaceutical companies don’t use hip hop or rock to sell
          arthritis medicine during the evening news. But beverage makers do use hip hop or
          rock to sell sports drinks during basketball games.

          IMO the typical RF consumer is not a reality TV editor, getting free music on a
          hard drive from a library like JP. They are more likely to be corporate and independent
          non-broadcast media producers. Of course, there will be overlap, because some
          RF clients, particularly corporate clients, sometimes want music that sounds
          like what they hear on TV. But, in many cases those consumers need music that
          does not fit the reality TV formula.

          • “But, I think successful businesses know who their target consumer is.”

            Michael, I still think you are missing the point. I believe we were talking about writing music where you do not know the end use. Robin and I write in many different styles and have seen our music used in situations we would have never thought possible. Also the alt mixes offer more possibilities to a potential client.

            • I get it Art.

              I’m talking about when you do know the end use. Specifically, because the thread was started in JP, and someone was talking about “7 cues per day.”

              If you know the end use is reality TV, ala JP, then you write “7 cue a day” music, not your magnum opus….especially now that libraries are capping the number of non-exclusive cues they accept.

    • To answer your question Chuck….

      There really is no “standard” cue length, with respect to full-length cuts. WFH libraries that I write for ask for between 1:30 and 3:00.

      In addition to the full-length mix, I’m asked for 60, 30, 15 second versions, and a full-length bed mix. You should know that those lengths are actually 59.5, 29.5 and 14.5. In other words, don’t have your final note land on the 60, 30, or 15 second mark. When you are self-marketing you may also do a stinger(s), D n’ B mixes, and loops, etc. I haven’t had a WFH library ask for those mixes.

      I believe that JP is talking about 7 distinct 1-2 minute cues per day, not 7 edits of one cue. If you listen carefully to this kind of music, for the most part it’s background wallpaper. It does not require development of themes, or long “song” format writing.

      I composed a 2:00 + cue for a reality show, and the editors kept using the first 20-30 seconds and the end. They never touched the “chorus.” So, I took the chorus out and made a separate cue from it.

      I hope that answers your question.


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