Home ยป Retitling ยป Retitling



There is a lot of controversy about the practice of retitling music by music libraries that offer non-exclusive deals. Retitling allows the composer to place their music with many companies thus widening the opportunities for getting their music heard and thus sold. Some think this “de-values” ones music while others think it’s unethical or possibly illegal.

151 thoughts on “Retitling”

  1. I have dealt with all sorts of libraries in the past 5 years. The issue with retitling is not necessarily limited to non-exclusive companies. Many exclusive companies retitle songs and register them with PROs. This is not done in a malicious way. It is usually done to assign the usage of a song for a particular purpose or ad campaign.

    A good deal of exclusive libraries do provide blanket licenses to networks or ad agencies. Songs are sometimes retitled as “________ Cues” for a particular TV show or as “X Song short edit” for when a full song is edited into alternate arrangements. A title of a song does not necessarily make or break a song, especially an instrumental piece.

    I discovered that each title that is registered with a PRO has a unique Work ID assigned to it. There are over 4,000 songs titled “I Love You” at BMI alone. It is very easy to mix up a placement of a song with that title. One thing that helps is the usage of the Work ID. That ID would have the correct songwriters and publishers associated with it. That would help with payouts.

    It’s a complex issue no matter what way you slice it. But I believe that the Work ID could be used along with other methods to help correct the placement of music.

  2. hello everyone, i wanted to ask everyone about their experience with retitling.

    it seems most independent music licensing service’s re-title. i understand why….

    but specifically for adverting/brand music, from my experience i know that most advertisers require, or want, an exclusive while a commercial is active.

    i also understand for film and tv placement music buyers might not care about re-titling.

    i find it odd how indie licensing outlets can offer an “exclusive” on any given track when the same master and song most likely exists as another title on other licensing site.

    i have heard of “exclusive” tracks crossing over because of this practice. that can cause some major legal problems and headaches.

    so, specifically for adverting/brand music, doesn’t it seem like a potentially misleading business practice to offer an “exclusive” when the same songs exist some where else?

    has anyone had any experience on this particular subject relating to advertising/brand placements?

    • I would assume that any library offering exclusivity to their clients would actually own the rights. If not, they’re being reckless and practically begging to get sued.
      Do you have any examples?

      • hi matt, yes….i am aware of at least 2 cases where tracks overlapped. there is one big non-exclusive library that re-titled a track, sold a time based exclusive to a brand, and that same track showed up in another brands commercial via a different non-exclusive library that also re-titles. but, i don’t think i should mention any names here.

        i get why they re-title for a film or tv drop. i also understand there are some instance’s where a brand doesn’t want an exclusive. but most of the time they do when they pay a 5 figure fee, which is often.

        it blows me away that anyone would offer an exclusive on a title, fully aware of the fact that the same song or track could be available through another licensing source.

        bottom line is…you either own the exclusive or you don’t.

    • @ Composer & Matt,

      It would seem that any re-titling library engaging in the placement of such non-exclusive tracks — yet claiming those tracks (and the compositions contained therein) are “exclusive” to their library — would be in breach of contract with the composers/artists who have written the music (and lyrics if applicable) & recorded the works — who have signed non-exclusive agreements with the library.

      If, as the libraries claim, they are merely re-titling and taking a portion of publishing on that TITLE in order to claim revenue streams from their efforts, and are NOT claiming any exclusive copyright participation, it would seem that saying they have an “exclusive” work is out-and-out-fraud.

      Then again, logic doesn’t always prevail…

      Perhaps MIchaelL could weigh in on this since he is an attorney?


      • OK, but lets be perfectly clear, I am a “recovering attorney.” I made my living as a composer for almost two decades before briefly venturing to the dark side. I managed to escape with my life, and I am in process of launching phase II of my composing career.

        First, in my opinion, any company that is concerned with creating and protecting brand identity should HIRE A COMPOSER to write a piece of music specifically for that company and/or product.

        If that’s not what they’re after then maybe it doesn’t matter so much. For example, if a company just wants to bolster its image with a certain demographic it may license a recognizable song by a well known artist. Jaguar licensing Desert Rose by Sting comes to mind. Why, you ask? …because the song is exotic and sophisticated, like a Jag, AND Jag buyers are likely to be a bit older, affluent AND Sting fans. I think Volkswagen licensed one or more tracks by Moby — younger, less affluent market. You get the point.

        But, to answer the question…I will paraphrase a former leader of the free world: It all depends on what you definition of “exclusive is.” None of us has the contract in front of us, so we do not know the details of what promises were and were not made, what the client understood, and what the client wanted.

        The library may have simply agreed to not license that track to another of its clients for the specified time period.

        The library may have simply agreed to not license the track to a competitor for the same period of time.

        The library may not have warranted that it was the exclusive owner of the track, and could therefore guarantee that the track was not available elsewhere.

        Was the overlapping use of the track by competitors, for similar products? If not, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s even helpful. For example, a few years back I think that Danny Elfman’s “Breakfast Machine” from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” was used simultaneously in a credit card commercial and in the trailer for “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” (unless that was a knock-off). Was using the same piece of music harmful? Did it dilute the market for either product? Or (I’m such a cynic) did the trailer for Mr. Magorium put people in the mood to buy toys — for which they would most likely use a credit card?

        To answer Gael directly: if the library knowingly represented that it had, and could provide, exclusive rights for that piece of music to its client, when that was not true, its a material misrepresentation of fact. From a practical point, other than the value of the contract, i.e., the license fee, the client would have to prove its damages. To what degree did the client suffer financially because another company licensed the same piece of music to someone else? In the credit card / movie trailer scenario above, there may be no damages. If the client was selling sneakers, it would have to prove 1) that it sold fewer sneakers, and 2) that the sale of fewer sneakers was attributable to the library’s failure to provide exclusivity, and not some other reason, like its sneakers are inferior.

        Because the client was only interested in the piece of music for a limited duration, after which it knew (or should have known) that other companies, even competitors, could use the same piece of music, there’s a good chance that branding is not what this track is being used for.

        So…as lawyers are fond of saying, “it all depends.”

        I’ll throw one more log one the fire. What if it was the composer who was less that truthful?
        What if the composer placed the track in “library A” exclusively under one title, and then retitled it themselves and placed it in ” library B.”

        Ok –one more log. @ composer, did you hear enough of the track know that it was exactly the same? Or, was it just very similar? Do you know that some libraries knock-off other libraries?

        Without all of the facts it’s just conjecture.

        OK legal junkies, I’ve got to get back to template building with Logic, VE Pro and Bidule.

        Much work to be done



        • Makes sense, Michael…

          It’s all in the definitions and whose contract says what — as well as whether damages would outweigh court costs, etc. Lots of layers to unfold before full determinations could be made.

          Thanks for bringing your expertise out of the deep, dark closet and sharing it with us. ๐Ÿ™‚

          [who thinks life and business would be so much easier if people just told the truth ;)]

          • @Gael

            The thing with damages is not just whether they would outweigh the court / litigation costs, but whether you can prove your damages.

            If the client is going to claim damages to its brand because the track was not licensed exclusively, the must be able to quantify AND prove the damages.

            So…first prove that you lost X amount of dollars, which takes forensic accounting (out of the stratosphere expensive), and then prove that the library’s failure to provide an exclusive license was the cause of the loss. If it was only one cause of the loss, then what percentage?

            I think that there would be great difficulty proving that the library’s breach caused significant economic harm.


            PS. I’m putting my legal self back in the cage.

  3. I know this sounds funny, but I do not trust Gael’s business ethics.

    The re-titling issue does not bother me very much. It is not that big of a deal. But I did notice in some other posts that she says she lets CDs sit on her desk for over a year before reviewing them. That does not strike me as someone being a professional. Why would it take more than a month for a CD to be reviewed? Also, she spoke about tossing CDs in the trash that were “glossy” and not even wanting to use those CDs as coasters. How cruel is that?

    Artists work hard to create music and send it to companies. If a company does not have a use for it, that is fine. But to taunt other people and minimize their work is absurd. Gael may be successful, but that seems to come from crushing people’s dreams and stepping on people’s necks. Why must people in power be so mean? Does it ever occur to people like Gael that they are not the end-all-be-all of the world? I just wish that people would be kinder to one another and not spew so mush insolence and arrogance.

    It is sad to see how one person can treat so many others as if they are less than human.

    • @Nameless: I know Gael personally and I have no problem vouching for her and her ethics. She gives freely to the music community more than anyone I know and is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I think you are miss-reading her comments.

      And, I might add, she does not hide behind anonymity.

    • @ Nameless

      Whoa — TIME OUT!!!!

      I don’t know Gael and sometimes she and I go back and forth on the retitle thing, but questioning someones ethics is not good, unless you have personal experience to back it up.

      She is passionate about practices that she believes to be unethical. That IS a good thing whether you agree or not.

      She said some things, mostly out of frustration, not ego from some ivory tower, that are hard for some to hear. BUT what she said is true. No matter how hard some people work on a project, no matter how pretty the package is, sometimes it’s just crap (or at least not marketable), and sometimes the person who did it IS just deluding themselves. And when you’re buried in crap every day you get a little cranky about it.

      I think you misunderstood her about a CD sitting on her desk for a year. I think she said that a CD sat there for a year, or years, until the right opportunity for the music came along. There’s a big difference.

      It sounds like you’re being pretty hard on yourself and assuming that your music is one of the coasters in the can.

      As far as crushing peoples’ dreams and stepping on peoples’ necks that is so WAY overblown dramatic. This IS a BUSINESS.

    • Thanks Art & Michael,

      For Nameless, who questions my ethics…

      When I was offered my first job at a music supervision house, I said to the boss that there was one thing that might be a deal breaker, and if it was a problem for him we should part ways before I started. My comment? “I will not lie for you. EVER. I don’t lie to cover my own tush, and I won’t lie to cover yours.” He laughed and said it was “no problem,” but some months later when he asked me to lie about something for him I just gave him a look and reminded him of our conversation. He went to someone else in the office who WOULD lie for him and never made such a request of me again.

      I’m a lot of things… sometimes a little TOO honest (although when I am communicating with someone privately specifically about THEIR work, I try to be as diplomatic as possible). Michael nailed it when he used the word “cranky” ’cause sometimes I DO get cranky at all the junk that makes its way into my office. I especially get cranky when folks who want to get into the industry remain willfully ignorant of how it works. There’s a lot of good, free info out there, and so many refuse to avail themselves of it. Sometimes, however, I go WAY overboard to try and give honest, “sandwich” style, constructive criticism (this is good, this is not, this works, that doesn’t, here’s how to fix it). And unless I am specifically hired as a consultant for an in-depth, one-on-one session, that info is given free of charge. I don’t go all Simon Cowell on anyone, even if what I say may not necessarily be the effusive praise the artist/composer is hoping to hear.

      I never said I tossed CDs in the garbage without listening, merely that once I HAVE listened, if it doesn’t pass muster, I toss it in the garbage (UNLESS they have included a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and then I return it. I don’t tell ’em their music sucks, but their package shore wuz purty — I simply let them know what they sent doesn’t fit my needs). It’s not my job to tutor or mentor every artist/composer who sends me unsolicited music. It’s my job to find good music for the projects on which I’m working. I have thousands of CDs in my office. I’m certainly not going to keep the junk hanging around gathering dust.

      As Michael rightly noted, I don’t let CDs sit around for a year without review — although I have kept some selected favorites in a special spot waiting for a project in which I CAN use them. Okay… maybe I did let a bunch slide late last year and the first part of this year, but I’d say being in a coma for over a week, spending 6 weeks in the hospital and learning how to walk again gives me a reasonable excuse. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Think about this, too, Nameless… supervisors sometimes get hundreds of unsolicited CDs each month — many more unsolicited emails with “listen to my music” pleas. We cannot listen to everything right away, or even reply quickly to every request because we’re working on our latest project(s). It is why I always say a quick phone call ASKING for permission to send CDs or links is much more courteous and effective. The artists/composers who do their homework, make a call and ask what kind of music I need right NOW, and how I want it delivered to me get first listen. Those whose CDs just show up on the doorstep unannounced may sit in the pile until I have time to take a peek. I don’t have a big staff or unpaid interns to whom I farm out half of my work — including screening submissions — I do it myself (or with my various partners on projects).

      Sorry you have an issue with comments that were never directed at YOU, but referencing the glut of material that comes every supervisor’s way… unless, of course, you asked me to review your work and you were displeased with my personal, private response. Then again, since you choose to remain hidden in anonymity, there’s no way to know.

      If I didn’t care about the composer community, their rights and their education, I wouldn’t spend time on the phone, answering personal emails and posting on various forums — and making a number of handouts available free of charge. I get calls and emails every day asking for advice on everything from A-Z, including on how to become a music supervisor. I freely give what was freely given to me as I was learning “the biz” (and continues to come my way via other, more erudite colleagues) — information, advice and knowledge.

      So feel free to question a lot of things about me — as well as disagree with my opinions — but don’t ever suppose that I don’t care about the artist, the composer or their well-being.

      [who now cannot get “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” out of her head… lol]

      P.S. for MichaelL… just got back from watching the Penguins lose a squeaker to the Ducks in Anaheim… Hubby & I are driving tomorrow to Phoenix to hopefully see ’em kick some Coyotes bum. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Play nicely amongst yourselves, and have a great weekend, all! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. “Floe characterized the practice of re-titling quite astutely as a “loophole” in the system. Whether that loophole is eventually closed, or whether any future litigation puts either the library and/or the composer at risk is still to be determined”

    It’s only a loophole in the eyes of the beholder. It’s a writer’s right to change titles to his work in my eyes. The only fraud would be to pass it off to a client as an exclusive work.

    Don’t you think that clients dealing with non-exclusive libraries know what non-exclusive means. Many clients don’t give a hoot if the track is being used elsewhere with a different title. They just want a track that will work with their projects.

    I see this entire agenda of re-titling being perpetrated by the exclusive libraries that want to kill their competition and by the lazy broadcasters that want to use digital fingerprinting to replace the standard cue sheets. It’s certainly not in the interests of the composers.

    As far as registering copyrights with the Library of Congress – I don’t do it. It’s just another Government formed monopoly. Besides, my work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form.

    I’m tired of special interest’s groups forcing their agenda down everyone’s throats.

    • Ok… I’ve got a few minutes. I have not yet signed anything with a retitler. I have plenty of exclusive tracks out there. But….

      The loudest argument is that retitling is merely a loophole that may, and I emphasize MAY, spell spell disaster for copyright holders in the future. The one scenario, and one that I see as more likely, if it ever comes down to it, is that the loophole becomes legitimized by law,and thus is no longer a loophole.

      In other words, rational lawmakers in a pro business environment (which is all the noise these days) will figure out a way to modify the copyright law to accommodate the practice. There is too much positive economy at stake. They will deal with the blanket license issues etc. One thing they are very unlikely to do is allow a court decision, if it ever happens, to open a floodgate of litigation from composers and libraries and end users. That would waste judicial resources, on issues that quite frankly they may not consider worthy. It will be far easier to make it work than to make it go away. And, in a world of 9.6% unemployment, the government is not likely to tell people that they can’t earn a living. Retitling is not dealing drugs, or robbing banks. It is a business model that is most loudly criticized by its competitors. Oh wait, isn’t competition the American way? Doesn’t competition, in theory, spark innovation?

      @John (the other John) because you don’t copyright, which is a completely different discussion, the whole retitling argument doesn’t even apply to you! You have found the loophole to the loophole.

      So…while we argue about the intricacies US copyright law, and a hypothetical apocalypse, somebody somewhere is writing a lot of music AND making money at it.

    • @ John,

      Please don’t assume that just because someone is against re-titling and/or for digital tracking that they’re some sort of shill for the exclusive libraries, the broadcasters or that there’s some sort of conspiracy afoot.

      There are supervisors (like myself) who have had it with the slew of regurgitated submissions, tired of listening over and over and over to the SAME tracks with different names.

      The ethics and/or potential legalities aside, re-titling libraries waste my time. I don’t use them if at all possible.

      As a composers, songwriter and artist as well, I want my works to have a pristine lineage, without potential encumbrances and/or any sort of “iffy” status — now or in the future. Yes, with the genie out of the bottle (as Art previously noted), and as MichaelL surmises, with the amount of commerce already locked into re-titling, litigation may go the libraries’ way (since they’ll have a whole bunch more money to throw at lobbyists and lawyers than will any single composer or group of ’em). But then again, David may clock Goliath.

      As a supervisor, I’d rather the money I put forth for licensed music either go directly to the composer or via a non-exclusive music broker that neither re-titles, nor takes any part in the publishing, but simply splits up-front license fees with the creator of the work. I don’t feel the need to put money into the pockets of gigantic libraries making the bulk of their money off the backs of composers who have given up 100% of the publishing on a “title” — it just irks the heck outta me when over half the income goes to entities which had NO part in creating, paying for the creation of, or paying for the recording of a work. Talk about corporate greed. These folks are NOT looking out for YOU, but adding to their own bottom line with these deals.

      The digital fingerprinting technology is not out there to appease lazy broadcasters, supervisors or editors (or whomever) — it is to help ACCURATELY TRACK THE USE OF YOUR WORK, which can amount to a substantial amount of money. As I said in another post, when Beta-testing such technology years ago, a pretty consistent 15%-20% lack of traditional reporting was picked up by the digital tech — and the PRO forked over that money in the next quarter’s check — money which would have been lost without the digital tracking.

      And as far as copyright? I certainly hope you never have to go to court to substantiate claims to any of your work (say, if someone used one of your compositions/tracks without your permission, without a license or whatever and you wanted to sue them over it). Without copyright REGISTRATION to show proof of ownership your chances of coming out on top would be pretty slim.

      Not everyone is out to get you… only most. ๐Ÿ˜‰


      • Regarding not copyrighting.

        Gael is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. You cannot file suit in federal court to protect your copyright if you have not registered the copyright. The is a must. No registration no suit.

        That being said…you must also have at least $75,000 worth of damages. That’ll never happen you say?

        I haven’t had a single track make 75K yet. However, I’ve had four tracks that I wrote over a two day period make over 100K, and running. The tracks arose out of the same transaction. The total writer’s share to date is actually 200K. Unfortunately, I have a co-writer who has probably never even heard the tracks, but has received half the royalties!

        If I wanted to I could sue, because the damages in the aggregate are high enough. However, litigation in federal court is extremely expensive. It could cost 100K to get 100K. So….I bite the bullet and count my blessings…all 50% of them.

      • With all due respect Gael, there’s an obvious separation of non-exclusive and exclusive music libraries. Any client can choose which direction he/she wants to go.

        As far as your “slew of regurgitated submissions”; make it perfectly clear that you only deal with exclusive submissions. If re-titling libraries waste your time, why deal with them at all?

        There’s a large market for non-exclusive libraries – let the free market pick & choose who they want to deal with.

        Ethics? I think you’ll find some disagreement there.

        • @ John,

          I never said that clients can’t choose which direction to take, or that composers can’t choose to sign whatever deals they feel are right for them. I simply put my opinion & choices out there based on my experiences and the advice from some very trusted and knowledgeable sources (including intellectual property attorneys and sources at the U.S. Copyright Office, etc.).

          I’ve already said that some folks will just have to “agree to disagree” on the subject of re-titling, and that there are differing opinions about both the ethics and potential for future legal difficulties. That is to be expected when dealing with “grey area” situations.

          And, apparently, you’ve misread or misunderstood my posts. I use music from a variety of sources for a variety of reasons. I don’t deal solely with exclusive situations. How else would I have garnered the experience with the other sources? There are actually certain exclusive libraries I choose not to deal with because I think their contracts/payments with/to the composers are heavily skewed in the library’s favor.

          Besides going directly to the source (composer/artist), I also use non-exclusive, non-retitling services where all the back-end revenue remains with the owners of the respective compositions and recordings. As for dealing with other libraries… sometimes a show has a specific set of pre-authorized sources which the supervisor is obliged to use; then there are the times I am working with colleagues who have some sort of “sweetheart” deal with a particular library that the project has requested we check first — before trying any other sources. When left to my own devices, however, I have specific sources who have what I consider to be fair agreements with their content providers.

          I know there are supervisor who don’t care where the music comes from, who gets paid what, and/or how their decisions in where to find the music for their films/shows affect the industry as a whole, and the perceptions those in the industry might happen to hold about music and its importance to a project. I’m not that supervisor.

          I’ve never said that composers shouldn’t sign whatever deal they choose. I feel it is my obligation, however, to put the caveats out there so folks can make informed decisions about their intellectual property and really think about the road they wish to take (kinda like reading the propositions and independently researching candidates instead of just using one’s political party’s voting guide and/or campaign ads when marking one’s ballot). If I’m asked my opinion, I give it. I also make it clear that it IS an opinion and others may disagree. When it’s a case of current LAW, however, I will shout it from the mountaintops.


          • @ Gael

            You’ve had a tough week, getting hammered by posts good and bad.

            You’re a passionate advocate.

            It’s Friday night (here). Chill with your favorite beverage.

            The hounds will be back at the door on Monday. ๐Ÿ™‚



          • So Gael’s a “passionate advocate” and posters who disagree with her are “hounds” MichaelL? ๐Ÿ˜€

          • I was including myself in the pack of those who often disagree with her (mostly on the way it will play out in the long run)

            She was getting battered today — a little too relentlessly.

            @Nameless, however, did go a tad overboard.

            I suppose chivalry isn’t dead. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • [i]” I never said that clients can’t choose which direction to take, or that composers can’t choose to sign whatever deals they feel are right for them.”[/i] – Gael

            And I never said you did say that Gael. My reply was in reference to this:

            [i]”There are supervisors (like myself) who have had it with the slew of regurgitated submissions, tired of listening over and over and over to the SAME tracks with different names”[/i] -Gael.

            And this:

            [i]”The ethics and/or potential legalities aside, re-titling libraries waste my time. I don’t use them if at all possible” [/i] -Gael

            If re-titling libraries waste your time, why do you bother with them?

            [i]” I simply put my opinion & choices out there based on my experiences[/i] – Gail

            And that’s what I did as well.

          • “…if at all possible” being the operative words” – Gael

            If we start splitting hairs Gael, we’ll never get off this topic. ๐Ÿ˜€

            “You ain’t nuthin’ but a hound dog” should never be sung by a girl. Well, maybe Cyndi Lauper. ๐Ÿ˜€

          • I think Big Mama thornton would have disagreed with ya, John…

            She was the first to record “Hound Dog’ (in 1952). This Leiber & Stoller classic as recorded by Big Mama was the first track they produced themselves, and spent seven weeks at #1 on Billboard’s R&B charts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Six more artists recorded the song before Elvis’s 1956 version, including Freddie Bell and the Bellboys in 1955. The Bellboys’ recording and performances of the song (Elvis was an “also appearing” artist at the Bellboys’ Sands run in Vegas) definitely inspired Elvis’ version.

            And Cyndi Lauper can sing anything and I’d listen. ๐Ÿ˜‰


          • @ Gael — wow that is encyclopedic knowledge.

            Re: Cyndi Lauper, I can hear the eyes rolling around in the back of people’s heads, but I’ve got to agree with Gael. That woman can sing — great phrasing, emotion, and style — not just another generic voice layered on top of a synthesized track.

            Of course a good bit of our fellow posters are probably thinking “my mom used to listen to Cyndi Lauoer.”

            my 2 cents.

          • lol, Michael…

            Licensing songs from the Elvis estate is an adventure, and there are only 9 or 10 songs he recorded which the estate doesn’t own/control, so I had to do a lot of research on a particular film to see which ones could be re-recorded without going through the estate. I’d always loved Big Mama Thornton’s sass and brass — and love unique, immediately identifiable voices such as hers, Cyndi, Odetta, Aretha, Neil Young, and scads more. The homogenized, American Idol clones annoy the heck outta me. A bunch of screamers who wouldn’t understand subtlety if it were explained to them using one-syllable words and primary colors… I don’t care about your vocal gymnastics — whoopdeedo — you can sing lots of notes really fast or go really, really high (but Mariah, do you need to remind us of that in every song?). If someone doesn’t move me with their interpretation of a song I don’t care how adept they are — especially if they sound like 10 other wailers who forget that a melody exists in the middle of their vocal gyrations.

            My 2 cents. ๐Ÿ˜‰


          • @Gael

            I guess have ears of a certain age.

            Re: “idol” flash w/o substance generally, a few talented folk have gone from there to prove themselves. Who we’re talking about 25 years from now, like Cyndi Lauper, is yet to be determined.

            2 more cents.


      • Gael said “it just irks the heck outta me when over half the income goes to entities which had NO part in creating, paying for the creation of, or paying for the recording of a work. Talk about corporate greed. These folks are NOT looking out for YOU, but adding to their own bottom line with these deals.”

        And that pretty much has been my argument from the beginning of this topic!!! Thank you Gael!!! I’m PRO-COMPOSER for the sake of the ART of creating music, as well as we being COMPENSATED correctly for OUR creation…Some opposing arguments seems to be PRO-LIBRARY, for the sake of keeping an ENTITY in business (and they really could care less about YOUR art, as long as they make $$$!)

  5. I just think there is a great deal of elitism in regards to music libraries by posters here. Just because some artists work with non-exclusive libraries or royalty-free libraries does not mean those artists have inferior music. What if those same tunes were shopped to exclusive libraries and calls were never returned? It would not make sense to throw away a song just because an exclusive library rejected it. Also, not all non-exclusive libraries accept anything sent to them. They have selection criteria as well. I just think that the composers who believe that they are superior to others just because they have music with exclusive libraries are not telling the whole truth.

    I think that artists should work with whoever can help them with their music. If you have more success with royalty-free sites, stick with those. If exclusive libraries help to bring in the big bucks, keep working with them. If doing work-for-hire gigs make you happy and helpmyoumto get paid, you should do those. The whole issue with ownership and rights is not a concern with many artists. Many of us do not want to handle all of the legal concerns over the rights of a song. We just want to create good music and get paid for it when it is used. The people who harp over exclusivity and copyrights and such come off as people who are better suited to become executives, accountants, or attorneys. Those are noble professions, but being a musician who makes a few grand a year from composing music is noble as well. Not everyone wants to become a superstar composer. Give the little guy some credit and stop treating him like gum on the bottom of your shoe. That same guy could become a legend one day.

    • @Nameless this thread is way way off track now.

      There is elitism in every profession. Some of it is based on reality and some of it is fluff. Most of it is based on competition.

      With respect to this forum, there is a definite blend of two groups: 1) artists who want to license their songs and 2) composers who write production music for a living. Sometimes they overlap. I don’t know if either group looks down on the other.

      It might be nice to have separate forums for each group, but that would be way to much to ask of Art, who already does a great job with this site.

    • @ Nameless,

      I’ve already said there are libraries with good music, bad music and mediocre music. Nothing elitist about that.

      I know which libraries have the good stuff and stay away from the crap.

      When one says “production music” however, that pretty much implies background status with more of a generic approach, not necessarily “front and center” kinds of tracks. Why? Because much of production music IS just that, and the more small “companies” that crop up (usually one guy with a computer, a keyboard and a GoDaddy.com website), the more supervisors stick to the known sources with a record of providing quality tracks (and generally with a large catalogue).

      Whether it’s a warranted perception sort of depends on which side of the fence you’re on — the listener or the creator. After all, most musicians tend to think their stuff is the latest and greatest and if you don’t agree with them, you’re the bad guy/gal and don’t know anything. Just think of all the screamers at American Idol auditions when they get sent home. [lol]

      That perception is also why a number of the better libraries don’t refer to their companies simply as “production music” — they use modifiers such as “Class A” or “High Quality” or “Premiere Source” or even refer to themselves as a “Music Concierge” in order to set themselves apart from the often negative perception of production music.

      I can’t tell you how many times I get asked for my advice about a composer’s music and tracks, and they are completely delusional about the quality. It almost seems that the worse the recording (and/or composition itself), the “puffier” they are about their prowess.

      It’s kinda like promo packages… some of the best music I’ve ever received is in simple packaging with little or no marketing flair. The big, splashy, glossy packages with all the visual bells and whistles are often home to some of the worst music ever. I remember one time, one of my partners put a CD into the computer from such a package, and within a minute (after skipping through a number of the tracks), popped it out and dumped the whole shebang in the garbage, declaring it wasn’t even “coaster worthy.” He was right. ๐Ÿ˜‰


      • I use the term production music to differentiate between someone who wants to be a an artist / pop star etc., and is trying to license their songs, and the professional composers who write cues, be they up-front, background, stellar or not even coaster worthy.

        And Gael is correct, they come in all stripes. But, I’d just be careful about the “one guy with computer” characterization. Some of those guys have an additional 50 to 100K (or more) of hardware and/or software at their fingertips and are in fact creating some of the best tracks out there.

        Others are undoubtedly delusional and Gael, who is on the receiving end, is only being honest, not elitist.

        Check out the work of John Graham, Craig Sharmat and Andrew Kerestes. These guys are film composers who also write cues / library tracks, whatever you want to call it. Go to VI Control Center and randomly check out the work of composers there. That will give you an idea of where you are in the food chain.

        I think your point, and I tend to agree, is that there are many many markets and sub markets and sub sub markets for composers. There are thousands of non-broadcast producers for whom PROs and cue sheets are irrelevant. People are earning money writing tracks in bedrooms in Eastern Europe and selling them royalty free online. So why not let composers do what they can, at whatever level is appropriate?

        Never let anyone here or anywhere else make you feel like gum on the bottom of their shoe. Stick to your guns and do what works for you.

        • lol Michael…

          This biz truly is incestuous…

          I have first-hand knowledge of Craig’s work… he played guitar for me for a number of live shows some years ago and he’s quite talented in many different arenas.

          I can tell which composers are using live musicians, have the $100K+ worth of equipment and/or the ones who are just diddling around and throwing the linguine at the wall. But I still tend to think of “production music” more as background, and a completely different level of work than custom composition or high-end, in-your-face scoring music.


          • lol back at you. Great cross cultural reference to the proper test for al dente AND one of the best lines from the Odd Couple.

            Foreground / background as guitarist Pat Martino said back in the day of New Age … it’s just “new wage.”

            Love to do some high end music for you someday. I have two computers. ๐Ÿ˜‰



  6. Gael, I think MichealL has correctly stated that you work in another realm as far as music is concerned. You are a person with a great deal of experience and pride. I do not see the point of you dissuading other from selling their music through royalty-free sites or submitting music to non-exclusive libraries.

    You seemed so concerned with non-exclusive libraries making money from works after the contract has expired. But the writer also makes money from those placements! What difference does it make if a company gets the publisher’s share of royalties into perpetuity? The writer would still get the writer’s share of royalties into perpetuity as well. In most cases, the library provided the composer with no upfront money and only makes money from PRO royalties. Many non-exclusive libraries also charge a blanket fee or give free access to their catalog to companies in exchange for usage of a percentage of material.

    Also, if a composer signs an exclusive deal with a publisher and gets an upfront buyout fee, he loses the rights to that work. But guess what, the writer would still get the writer’s share of royalties into perpetuity! In the end, t really does not matter if a composer goes non-exclusive or exclusive if he is only going to be collecting the writer’s share of royalties.

    Many composers choose to not even deal with PROs and sell their music directly to fans. There are many young bands that sell music online and sell CDs and merchandise at concerts. These musicians are often just as good as acts signed to major label deals. But they choose to remain independent to retain creative control of their own works.

    The truth is that royalties are residual income. A composer should never count on royalties as a primary source of income. Royalties can be sporadically paid due to reasons beyond the composer’s control. Even major label artists sometimes have to audit record labels and music publishing arms to receive back royalties.

    In summary, all of the fighting regarding non-exclusive vs. exclusive vs. royalty-free does not really matter. A composer can make money from all three routes. I have. Just because music library composers do not earn millions of dollars and do not appear on TV does not mean that they cannot earn a good living from making music. There is room for all kinds of music and artists out there. Like someone here said, a musician should spread around music like manure and see what sprouts up.

    • Not having licensed a single thing yet, I’ll take whatever break I can get from wherever it may come from until I have the luxury of better options. I’ll worry about the consequences later (as long as it’s not illegal).

    • @ Nameless,

      I already addressed MichaelL’s erroneous assumptions in my post to him.

      I understand your points. I know the various methods by which composers and/or artists can monetize their work.

      Just because folks disagree doesn’t mean one or the other is ignorant, out-of-touch or turning a blind eye to how the various levels of the industry work.

      I will address one statement in your post: “Many non-exclusive libraries also charge a blanket fee or give free access to their catalog to companies in exchange for usage of a percentage of material.”

      Yes. And many composers rarely, if ever, gets to share in any portion of that blanket license fee. Even with the PROs, only a certain number of the “top” writers see any money from the blanket licenses they issue to restaurants, venues, networks, etc. — even if none of their music happened to be placed that quarter or year. It is their reputation that allows them to partake in income which might rightfully belong to Indie-Composer-Who-Writes-His-Butt-Off-And-Gets-Placed-Everywhere-But-Sees-Little-Money-From-His-Efforts.

      We’ll simply have to agree to disagree on the subject of re-titling. It doesn’t mean either of us is inherently more or less intelligent or concerned about composer rights — simply that we have a different take on what is ethical and/or ultimately a better course toward the goal of fair rights for all composers.


  7. [From Moderator: This was moved from the Indie Tracks thread as the comments developed into the retitling question.]

    In there FAQs section it says:

    “For our purposes we will ask you to rename your work (something not similar to names listed with other libraries or clients for the same piece). We will then register the renamed work with you as the writer with ASCAP or BMI (whichever you are currently associated with) and we will be listed as the publisher only for when it is used through our library under this title, which is why we will rename the track.”

    I’m wondering if this is to prevent their clients from Google searching a track in their library to see if they can find a better deal with a competing library.

    • It is theoretically possible if the re-titled name is similar to other names used such as using the original title with a prefix or suffix. Some re-title libraries make sure the title is unique. Others actually prefer it not be so unique. In fact, I wish all re-title libraries would use original titles with a prefix or suffix. That way, at least if a music sup gets the same track from multiple sources he/she won’t waste their time listening to two identical tracks.

      When a track is in multiple re-title libraries there is always some risk of a conflict. If a supervisor hears the same track from multiple sources, he/she could get concerned and just walk away from it. For better or worse, with so many libraries and so many tracks out there, the odds of a conflict are relatively small.

      My guess is music sups are way too busy to start Googling around for a better price on a track. The above scenario where they get a track from multiple sources is more likely. I do not like placing my tracks in libraries with public access web pages (unless the tracks are soley for that purpose), especially if my name and orginal title are used. I am more concerned that a LIBRARY will get annoyed if they see the tracks I have with them competing on production music download site. Even though my deal with them can be non-exclusive, I don’t want any potential hassles. It would be easy for a library owner to say, “Why should I pitch your tracks when you are practically giving them away on Site X?”.

      A subject of debate is whether or not composers should EVER put the same track in multiple non-exclusive libraries. With a great many composers putting their tracks in tons of different libraries, music sups are overwhelmed with too many tracks from too many sources and God knows how many duplicates. It’s cheapened everything. The advise I’ve read is not to do multiples or at least keep them to a minimum. If you crank out a lot of tracks each year, it’s easier to take the one track/one library approach. You write tracks and spread them around. It’s much tougher for folks with small catalogs. If you commit to one non-exclusive library and you are not sure they are the right fit for you (not talking “no sales for 3 months” here, lol) your small catalog may be going nowhere.

      One problem is, with current technology, the barrier to entry for new libraries has never been smaller. Putting up a website with tracks, offering “no risk” non-exclusive contracts, mailing out hard drives or CDs to sups, etc. isn’t all that hard. Every day I hear about a new library.


      • “You write tracks and spread them around. It’s much tougher for folks with small catalogs. If you commit to one non-exclusive library and you are not sure they are the right fit for you (not talking “no sales for 3 months” here, lol) your small catalog may be going nowhere.”

        You just nailed it for me anonX. That is exactly the situation I’m in now. Just a few songs so far sending out to libraries that will accept it under their terms just to get going. While I would prefer to stay away from controversial elements of this business that may have some consequences down the road, at least for now dealing with libraries that retitling is an opportunity to get as much mileage as possible out of the few music pieces I have at least until I have reason to believe it is counter productive for me. For now it works for my situation.
        If I can improve what I’m doing enough to get taken by some of the better libraries who offer exclusives or semi exclusives I would reconsider my position. Too soon to tell right now.

      • @ AnonX,

        “If a supervisor hears the same track from multiple sources, he/she could get concerned and just walk away from it. For better or worse, with so many libraries and so many tracks out there, the odds of a conflict are relatively small.”

        Yep. We just walk away and go to another source with a lesser chance of any conflicts. You might be surprised, however, at how many times a week I hear the same music from different sources. Perhaps, being an instrumentalist, composer, vocalist and songwriter myself I have a more discerning ear (and better tonal memory [lol]) than some other supervisors, and I pick up on what others may miss. I don’t think so, though… I’ve had this discussion with a lot of supervisors. It’s the reason why many of us choose one or two major, trusted sources for production music and only listen outside of those realms if we don’t find what we need from our “usual suspects.”.

        And you’re right — we rarely take the time to find out whether we can get the same piece for a better price elsewhere — we simply negotiate with whoever got heard first and if they agree to the budget’s price, we license it. If not, we find something else from somebody else.

        “I do not like placing my tracks in libraries with public access web pages …”

        Good choice. I don’t advocate putting one’s music up anywhere it can be downloaded in whole by anyone (except, of course, for artists who have their music on their sites for retail sale). Most reputable libraries require that a supervisor register with them in order to listen to their catalogue. As such, it’s a business-to-business site with terms and conditions to which the supervisors must agree. It’s not a fail-safe, but with such sites there is at least some recourse if your music is used without a proper license being issued. The library knows the project and the supervisor’s identity, so if they hear their music in the project, they know who to hunt down if a license hasn’t been obtained. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        “With a great many composers putting their tracks in tons of different libraries, music sups are overwhelmed with too many tracks from too many sources and God knows how many duplicates. It’s cheapened everything. The advise I’ve read is not to do multiples or at least keep them to a minimum.”

        I absolutely agree with you. We are overwhelmed with emails, unsolicited CDs via snail mail (they make good coasters, btw), phone calls about the “best new composer” or the “greatest new singer/songwriter” on the block. The more times I hear the same track from different sources, the less likely I am to use that source for music, and the more skeptical I tend to be about their quality control and how their composers may be treated with respect to compensation for their work.

        “Every day I hear about a new library.”

        Yep… and every day I hear more music that sounds just like the track before it. Just having the tech doesn’t qualify one to be a composer or make others want to buy what they’re trying to sell. ๐Ÿ™‚


        • @Gael – As an aside I like to read your posts find them very educational. Thanks for all you share here.

          @ anyone – I can understand the “spread the manure approach and see what sprouts” if your music is pretty generic and mass-produced ie. constantly churning out tracks.

          For myself, I’ve chosen the road leading to bigger and better things and it’s already paying off. I’m very new to this – 6mths – which is nothing in the time scale of this business, but in that time I’ve gotten into several great libraries, and most recently have been invited to write and record a whole album of industrial electronica for a very good trailer library with top credits.

          Production and composition wise I know I still have a long way to go, but I know I have something to offer if such a good library is prepared to have me write a whole album for them. And I reached this point by refusing to settle. I’m not going to shove my music into 20 different so-called “royalty-free” production libraries and hope to make a few bucks as a hobby. I want to make top quality contacts in the industry and know that my music is being shopped out on its own merits to well-paying spots. I refuse to devalue my music and sell it at $10-20 a pop (at least not my newer stuff with better production and experience in it.)

          Agreed, there is a market for that and plenty of writers prepared to provide content for it. I’m just choosing something else. To that end, I’m keeping my non-exclusive contacts to the 4, I currently am in and one that would be nice to get into one day (and of them not every track is in all libraries). I’ll grow my non-excl. catalogue steadily but at the same time be putting more time into tracks aimed at exclusive deals.

          As such, a comment I made in the newbie thread, that got a bit lost I think, is my tip to other noobs. Hold your best pieces tightly and shop them out to good quality exclusive libraries where they would fit. You may well be surprised at what doors open if you’re just prepared to try, keep lifting your game, keep developing your abilities and keep plugging away.

        • “Yep… and every day I hear more music that sounds just like the track before it. Just having the tech doesn’t qualify one to be a composer or make others want to buy what they’re trying to sell.”

          There are two reasons that come to mind. First, everybody is using the SAME technology the SAME way. There’s way too many guys trying to sound like Two Steps from Hell, because they own every toy in the EW toy box. Second, too many libraries and music supervisors (I’m not saying you) ask for music that “sounds like” this or that. So, when people are using the same tools and being asked to copy other artists, there is little innovation. Of course that all flows from the public’s preference for the familiar, which is another discussion.


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