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 Replies to “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?

    1. 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?

      1. 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.

    2. @ 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?


      1. 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



        1. 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. πŸ™‚

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

          1. @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.

    1. @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.

    2. @ 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.

    3. 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. πŸ˜‰

      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. πŸ˜‰

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

  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.

    1. 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.

    2. @ 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. πŸ˜‰


      1. 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.

      2. 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.

        1. @ 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.


          1. @ 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. πŸ™‚



            1. So Gael’s a “passionate advocate” and posters who disagree with her are “hounds” MichaelL? πŸ˜€

              1. 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. πŸ˜‰

          2. [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.

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

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

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

                1. 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. πŸ˜‰

                  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. πŸ˜‰


                2. @ 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.

                3. 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. πŸ˜‰


                4. @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.


      3. 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.

    1. @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.

    2. @ 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 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. πŸ˜‰


      1. 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.

        1. 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.


          1. 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. πŸ˜‰



  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.

    1. 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).

    2. @ 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.

    1. 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.


      1. “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.

      2. @ 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. πŸ˜‰

        “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. πŸ™‚


        1. @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.

        2. “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.

  8. Rob, not sure who Yadgyu is but I just thought someone really needed to bring some clarity to the issues of copyright, non-exclusive libraries, and performing rights organizations.

    Did you know that many independent musicians are not registered with a PRO? The reason this is true is because they sell their music directly to fans. They do not expect their music to be played on the radio or used for film and TV synchronization. If a band does not expect to collect royalties, the band does not need a PRO. But that band would definitely hold and control the copyright to their work. I am not sure how iTunes works, but there are many other websites where musicians sell their songs and collect money.

    Licensing music is different from selling CDs, mp3s, etc. Many musicians that try to license music for the first time have to figure out what a PRO does and how to join. Not all musicians have a CAE/IPI number. Once they become writers with a PRO, they can then license their songs through libraries. Also, those musicians can become publishers as well. They can assign publishing rights to the songs they have written and directly license songs to different companies. This is how musicians can collect writers’ royalties and publishers’ royalties from songs. Also, musicians that directly negotiate with a company to license music will be more likely to receive a synchronization fee. These fees are direct payments, meaning that they are exclusive from royalty payments.

    In the end, music libraries are technically not necessary for musicians to license music. But many libraries have established clients who they license music to. The better libraries know how to pitch songs. This is why many musicians choose to work with libraries.

    I can break down the nitty-gritty between non-exclusive and exclusive libraries if anyone is interested.

    1. @ Nameless,

      Oh, sheesh… Where to start?

      Grab a cup o’ cocoa, this may take awhile…

      How about a quote from copyright law: “…Publication of a work can affect the limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner that are set forth in the law…”

      (1) Re-titling is NOT the same as sub-publishing. A sub-publisher simply collects on the publisher’s behalf in various foreign (non-U.S.) territories. Titles are not changed (except when lyrics are translated into the language of a specific country, at which time, whoever translates the lyrics gets a piece of the derivative copyright, which is then separately registered. This way, the foreign translator/lyricist gets paid only for their participation in the translated [not original] work). It gets more convoluted with mechanicals, sheet music, etc., but the gist is that for a specific WORK, the sub-publisher collects on the publisher’s behalf. The sub-publisher can charge anywhere from 10%-50% of collected fees, but the usual range is 15%-25%. There is NO actual ownership implied or contracted. It is merely collecting outside of one’s PRO’s jurisdiction, for a specific period of time. Major publishers generally have offices in the larger foreign markets to handle such things; the indie folks have to do more legwork to get local sub-publishing deals.

      (2) Libraries are collecting on revenue streams from ONE work with ONE copyright — and usually, from ONE master attached to the ONE work. Each re-titled piece is given implied and/or contractual “ownership” to that specific title. As such, there is a portion of the composer’s bundle of rights being assigned to a specific company IN PERPETUITY. It doesn’t matter if there is a reversion clause for the work itself. The library will continue to receive back-end monies IN PERPETUITY to the title with them. That means when “Midget Western” airs at 3am on basic cable 10 years from now, they’ll still be making money off your “Tiny Town Hoe Down, Part Deux” — a title they no longer represent, and which they probably played (or paid) no part in creating. It doesn’t matter what you call the work, it is still a part of the original copyright. Giving up these various portions (which generally add up to more than 100%) is, IMHO, a potential recipe for future disaster, despite the libraries’ admonition that it’s how they track the income from their efforts and keep things tidy for bookkeeping. With today’s technology, and more and more folks starting to use the kinds of watermarking I beta tested over 12 years ago, what we find is that such recognition tech brings up as many titles attached to a specific sound file as are out in circulation. It makes it quite difficult to correctly and quickly ascertain exactly what was used where and is being played or broadcast by whom. There are already libraries out there having hissy fits, each claiming that particular uses are THEIRS and not the other library(ies) that may also be repping the same track/composition for the same projects.

      (3) In the U.S., since one can simply inform their PRO that they are choosing to direct license works for a particular venue, project, etc., it makes NO sense NOT to register said compositions with a PRO. Why? Because there are ways to track uses of compositions & recordings digitally, and this often uncovers unlicensed uses of material. You may not be actively seeking to license your work for film, TV, etc., but it doesn’t mean that someone who desires to use your work might not do so without obtaining a license from you. Without some sort of PRO registration, you may be losing out on substantial income. When we (and a major library which was also beta testing a specific watermarking system) got our PRO statements, we both discovered that the digital reports for the same period confirmed a 15%-20% UNDER-reporting of uses of our works. That often happens because a supervisor had a CD sitting on their desk and the editor of a show picked it up, thinking it was okay to use. Sometimes they just don’t care; sometimes they simply think they won’t get caught. But heck, one library got seats in some luxury boxes for various sporting events as a “mea culpa” — and we were also invited to attend — when several such unlicensed uses were uncovered via the watermarking system. πŸ˜‰ Whatever the circumstances, protection is paramount — from registration of copyright, to licensing, to merchandising, to physical product (CDs), to downloads.

      (4) Yes, it is true that as soon as a work is created in any tangible form, it is automatically copyrighted. Before one can bring any lawsuit to court, however, a formal registration is REQUIRED to show proof of ownership to that work. So a word to those who think sending an envelope to themselves (often referred to as a “poor man’s copyright”), or a date stamp on a computer file or whatever is sufficient proof, think again. This is from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, during a conversation with counsel at the U.S. Copyright Office, as well as several high-profile, intellectual property attorneys.

      (5) Anyone with a modicum of intelligence can go online and register as a writer with ASCAP or BMI. They make it pretty easy. There’s no really good reason NOT to do it. SESAC is by invitation only, so don’t bother unless a SESAC writer or publisher has put your name forward to them, or SESAC has actively sought you out.

      (6) If one is registering as a writer with ASCAP, and planning on licensing music for any sort of film, TV, ad work, etc., then it’s worth plunking down the $35 for registering a publishing entity as well. Why? ASCAP won’t pay publishing performance rights royalties to the writer for self-published works (who, unless they’ve assigned their publishing to someone else does own that publishing). BMI, on the other hand, WILL allow a writer to be noted as “author published” on cue sheets and WILL pay the publishing side of royalties directly to the writer. To obtain a BMI publishing entity requires payment of a heftier fee, but since they’ll pay the writer both sides of their royalties without one, unless you have a substantial catalogue making a lot of money, you may not feel the need to obtain a publishing entity until you’ve got a better cash flow.

      (7) CAE/IPI numbers are assigned when registering. A CAE number simply identifies the rights holder. The IPI number identifies the work. No big deal. Not brain surgery. Nothing mysterious. These registrations should not be a stop for anyone who can read and write at a junior high school level.

      (8) “…musicians that [sic] directly negotiate with a company to license music will be more likely to receive a synchronization fee” HUH?!? While a composer may receive a higher percentage of a sync (and/or master rights) fee when licensing their work directly to a project, anyone who signs a non-exclusive deal that precludes them from sharing in such sync/master rights fees isn’t cooking on all burners or a bit desperate to get their music placed, IMO. Please remember, too, that a synchronization fee is paid for use of the composition ONLY. A master rights fee is paid for the use of a specific recording of a particular composition. If the rights holder is the same for both sides, a combination license may be issued, but the two parts are still separate.

      I know all the arguments for re-titling, I simply happen to disagree with them. Others do not. My viewpoint has ALWAYS been that NO library should be taking your back-end for compositions and/or tracks you’ve created on your own dime. Period. Ever. If a library/song plugger takes up to half of any up-front sync/master license fees generated by their efforts, that’s more than fair — but it should be the beginning and end of the financial involvement for any licensed use. A piece of your hide forever is not fair to the creator of the work and its recording of it (let’s not forget the recording in all of this). Now, if an library pays you a substantial fee to create a specific work, then assumes all or part of the costs associated with recording it (an exclusive buyout or exclusive partial buyout), then there would be a valid argument for partial — or maybe even full ownership by the library. Remember — in a sub-publishing situation, the sub-publisher merely receives a fee for the work they do — just the way a CPA would get a fee for doing your taxes or an agent would get a percentage of the total amount you’re paid for a gig they’ve secured on your behalf. Why should a non-exclusive library that paid nothing for the work or recording to be created be any different? An actor’s agent doesn’t share in any of the residuals paid directly to the actor. Why should a library get a cut of your performance rights royalties? It amounts to the same thing.

      So that’s where I’m coming from, Nameless. Despite what others may say, it IS about the composer’s intellectual property rights and safeguarding them — not just for now, but for the future as well.

      For questions regarding specific music licensing terms, may I suggest a look at:

      For more about sound recognition technology:

      And you can download a copy of a writeup on various music library models here:


      1. Hi Gael,

        MichaelL — the lawyer — here. I do not disagree for the most part with your legal analysis or your analysis regarding PROs. As always, you’ve done your homework.

        All I ask is that you consider that vast number of writers who will never enter your world — the folks writing in bedrooms and basements around the world, and selling tracks online for $35. See my response to Pat above.

        You are giving solid and valid “A-list” advice that does not apply many many people on this forum. As a result, they may confuse their world with yours and be afraid to take advantage of what may be their best, or only, opportunities to make money writing music.



        1. Yes, I am the bedroom writer who may never enter that world though I would like to. For the forseeable future, I don’t see me quite good enough to be at that level that affords me a place in some of these ethical debates about retitling etc.(and so far not many others see me that good either yet. lol)
          I have to get what I can get.

      2. Gael!!!

        You’re awesome…That is all!!!

        Glad I came back to this discussion!!! FINALLY, someone who understands my side of things!!!

  9. Oontz, can I share the truth with you? I am not here to fight, but you and many other people do not understand what a copyright is. A copyright is the ownership of a piece of work. A person owns a song as soon as it is created. A person can sign away the rights to that song or temporarily assign that song to another party.

    Registering a song with a PRO technically has nothing to do with a copyright. I can register a song with a PRO and get paid royalties from it if I choose to. But I am not obligated to do so. Many composers do not choose to deal with PROs because they do not care about royalties. If I make a song, I can sell it and license it myself. I do not need to register with a music library or publisher. Since I own the composition, I can assign the rights in any manner I choose.

    Non-exclusive libraries only seek to make royalty income from the assignment of a track. They cannot legally claim ownership unless a composer gives them ownership. They only have rights to make royalties from the name that they retitle the composition and sound recording as. If the same song is licensed to a company by another library or directly from the composer, the first library would make no royalties from that composition. Meanwhile, the composer would get 50% of royalties from the song (writer’s share) if he had the song with another library. If he licensed it directly, he would get 100% of royalties (50% from writer’s share + 50% from publisher’s share).

    I know that re-titling is an emotional subject here. But people here tend to let their emotions get in the way of the truth. The truth is that a re-titled song has nothing to do with the copyright. How does BMI or ASCAP know that you truly created a song you registered? Some scoundrel could easily find my songs, retitle them, name himself as a writer and/or publisher, register the songs with a PRO, and get paid royalties. I would have to make the determination of whether or not I was being credited for my work. I could just as well make 100 songs and say Oontz Oontz wrote them, register him as a co- writer and sign those songs with a library. It would be silly but I could technically do that.

        1. Hi Pat,

          When it comes to retitling, you need to place things into perspective.

          First, you must understand that Gael, with all due respect, represents a narrow portion of the market, specifically, the Hollywood music supervisor higher end market. And I do mean all due respect. She knows what she’s doing.

          But, like everything else in this world there are different levels at which things happen There’s the NBA, and then there’s hoops in the local park.

          Gael is in the equivalent of the NBA. My only criticism of her advice is that it ignores all of the other levels at which things happen in this business.

          So — excluding feature films, television shows and network ads — there are untold numbers of people around the globe who use music for all sorts things from corporate videos to music on hold — one might say the equivalent of hoops in the park. Many libraries, particularly the royalty free libraries, cater to this level of production. These libraries provide income from direct sales of your tracks. Retitling doesn’t really matter so much at this level.

          In Gael’s world the stakes are much higher, so retitling may be an issue. I say MAY be an issue because everyone is different. Gael’s response the ENW above seems focused on the inconvenience and confusion caused by picking music based on its title alone. Obviously, however, this does not bother everyone to the same degree.

          As a former music editor, I would say that’s a bit like judging a book by it’s cover. I would look beyond the title to the description and the instrumentation before giving a listen. That said, I would also decide within 10 to 15 seconds if I was going to use the piece.

          Gael has stated in previous posts that sometimes a piece of music may sit on her shelf for years until the right opportunity comes along. That’s all well and good. But, unless you’re earning a living some other way you could starve while you wait for that to happen.

          Also, you need to determine what kind of music we are talking about. Gael and many others speak of “songs.” Yes, many film and television sound tracks are “song” based, or prominently feature songs with lyrics at some point. If you are writing corporate instrumental or other non-song, non-Hollywood tracks tracks you are not in that world. And you need to understand how to make money in your world.

          The best advice that I can give you is to understand where Gael is coming from. Understand the opportunities that exist outside her frame of reference. Understand yourself –that is understand your strengths and your limitations.

          The vast majority of writers will never work at Gael’s level. To eliminate all of the other possibilities in the hope that you will catch the brass ring will only do you a disservice.

          One IMPORTANT caveat:I am speaking to people who want to write production music. If you are an artist, and you only work in one genre, say singer-sonwriter, perhaps not so much.

          1. Hi MichaelL,
            Thanks for your interesting post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts . I like your NBA analogy.
            At this stage for me, I am exploring all options available to me which aren’t that many being new and not as professional as others who may enjoy a much wider range of options. Since this is pretty new to me, most of what I read is from those with more experience and expertise than I have in this field. I respect the opinions of people like Gael, who is very knowledgeable and very helpful. I enjoy reading what many here have to say but I also realize that like doctors and lawyers, experts have their own informed opinions yet sometimes disagree. For now, I just have to write as much music as possible and send it out to has many sources as possible who will accept it until I have better options.

            1. Pat,

              I would never tell anyone to limit their dreams. But, I recall what you’ve said previously about your time-frame, training etc. I’ve also listened to your tracks.

              Only you can determine when someone is giving advice that may not apply to you. It is not one size fits all in this business.

              But, based upon your situation, I say it’s OK to dream big, but don’t limit your options waiting for lightning to strike.


              1. Thanks MichaelL.
                One of my problems is not being really sure what my options really are for what I do. I don’t have a pulse on what may be my niche. I’m hoping the feedback I get will give me a little more insight into where I might fit in all this if I have a chance at fitting at all.
                I just ordered Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV: 114 Tips for Writing, Recording, & Pitching in Today’s Hottest Market” by Robin Frederick and will also purchase some music production tutorials to get my production chops up.
                More importantly, I realize that I need to start writing the way composers who write for libraries write. Trying to keep an open mind here which I’m beginning to realize is essential.

          2. @ MichaelL,

            With all due respect, you couldn’t be more off-base about me and the “world(s)” in which I work and have worked.

            I do NOT play in the exalted sandboxes in which Karyn Rachtman or Kathy Nelson (or even TV’s Alex Patsavas) of the supervision world build their castles. They’re in the supervisory “NBA” ilk of which you speak. I’ve played everywhere from the run-down, neighborhood playground to the developmental league; from the high school gym to the major university arena. But don’t confuse any of that with Staples Center [even the Clippers ;)], despite the casts that may have appeared in the projects on which I’ve worked. Many highly-respected actors work on VERY low-budget features and/or cable films or documentaries if they believe in the message/cause the project represents.

            I’ve worked mostly on indie projects, whether it’s film or TV, and have a substantial amount of experience in dealing with so-called “production music” libraries — the good, the bad and the mediocre. I know that world and the music in it. Big budget folks can toss around the big bucks to get whatever they want without much (or any) compromise. Supervisors in the indie arena have to be really creative to get good product for not a lot of money.

            I have stitched together complete film scores using production music when the filmmakers didn’t have enough money to hire a composer. I’ve licensed orchestral pieces for video game trailers and put music into live corporate/industrial events and wedding videos and direct licensing for retail outlets. Yes, I’ve also worked on some decently budgeted films. It doesn’t put me onto the A-list, however — if it had, I wouldn’t be driving a 15-year-old car. πŸ˜‰ It also doesn’t mean I don’t aspire to supervising larger-budget features and/or TV shows, which is where I feel I have a lot in common with the production music and/or TV show composers who want to score films, or a writer who pens articles for a magazine, but is concurrently working on his/her “Great American Novel.”

            If you will look more carefully, you’ll see that I most often refer to a work as a “composition” and use “song” only as it specifically pertains to a SONG (such as is the case when a song may sit on my shelf for a long time because it has lyrics which are scene/mood specific). So while the song-centric approach may apply to some, it certain does not apply to me. If that were the case, score and production music composers wouldn’t come to me for advice, or to present their concerns and interests in the world-wide intellectual property arena.

            I know many disagree with the one work, one recording, exclusive approach. I can’t change that opinion, or the non-exclusive, re-titling production music business models working within the narrow legal confines in which they operate — any more than I can change the ones which ask for money up-front to listen to a composer’s work. There’s a sucker born every minute, as the old saying goes. I can, however, present what I feel is in the best interest of the composer seeking to protect themselves and their work in this ever-changing music world.

            I would hazard a guess that there aren’t many on this (or any other composer’s list) who want to spend their entire career writing production library music that is so generic that it could be spread around from library to library without many supervisors and/or editors ever recognizing that they’d heard a specific work from several sources. I don’t think any composer truly wants to write forgettable music. Just as with the adept in any profession, good composers aspire to much more, and I am proceeding on that supposition when I state my opinions.

            Who doesn’t want to share in a $25K-$40K+ license fee (and/or any resulting back-end) for that amazing, bombastic orchestral & choral piece for a major motion picture trailer? Trust me on this… the vast majority of those are not coming from a generic production music library, but directly from the composers or from exclusive libraries which have often paid a bundle for the creation of the work and its recording of it.

            The reality is that in the entertainment world, only a very small percentage in all the surrounding professions get to play with the big boys. Most composers won’t get to reap the benefits of that world, or even the rungs just below it. It doesn’t mean, however, that they should be settling for a $10-$50 license fee because they’ve dumped their best work into a mediocre library — when they could get it into a terrific library that garners much more for licensing the same piece for the same type of use.

            Case in point? A major TV network’s flagship show had a licensed music budget of $100K per episode [don’t ask how I found that out… I have my sources ;)]. A particular episode in which a client had placed a piece had three cues (all instrumental) licensed in it: one at $10K, and one at ONE DOLLAR — similar sounds, similar uses. The network was balking at his $6K fee until I mentioned what I had learned. They backed down, paid the $6K and there was really a negligible difference in instrumentation and quality amongst the three cues.

            The powers-that-be want what they want when they want it, and if they think they can get you to give it to them for free, they’ll ask (and DO). Don’t be the one to blanketly give them the opportunity to devalue your work and pay practically nothing because you’ve put your best music into a less than stellar production music library (yeah, there are good ones, but some truly suck, and most are no better than ho-hum).

            Why put yourself into a spot where your music is the one being paid the $1 license fee? Be pickier about where your music is stashed and what you get from its use. That’s what this list is about — sharing personal experiences you’ve had with the various libraries so other composers can see what works best for their specific situation.

            The major point I’m trying to make is that your work has VALUE, and the more you dilute that value by making the same work available in multiple places — throwing the pasta plate at the wall to see what sticks and where — the less appetizing that food (music) is going to be.

            Forget the ethics. Forget the potential for future litigation. Forget the possible loss of all or part of your copyright if laws change.

            Think about the value of the work itself.

            If you’re writing stuff for wedding videos, fine. Get the top dollar you can get for that KIND of music. Write & record for the specific marketplaces. This way your best work gets put forth for the best/better opportunities and your lesser work (we all have ’em) gets presented for the “quick buck” situations. Just don’t go spreading the same manure around at each level of the marketplace and expect somehow it’ll smell better because the budget’s higher or the library’s bigger, badder and more well-funded than the littler ones.

            If your absolute goal as a composer is to write a bunch of music to stuff into production music libraries and get placed into 500 wedding videos a year at $10 a pop (half of which will probably end up in your pocket) and another 100 industrials/corporate functions/videos at $50 a pop, more power to you.

            I hardly think that is what most composers wish for their respective careers. It may be a stepping-stone, but it’s been my experience that the majority of the creative and talented minds generally seek much higher ground.


            1. That 15 year old car is a mercedes isn’t it? πŸ˜‰ I apologize for lumping everyone in LA onto the A-List.

              I hear everything you’re saying. No, I don’t aspire to do corporate videos. Left those days behind years ago. I’ve had four theme “songs” running in syndication for 10 years. No, nothing major.

              But, this business is overcrowded because everybody and his uncle with a computer and a soft synth wants to license music. My only point is that the non-exclusive route at $20 a pop might be the best they can do, or it might help pay the bills while they are waiting for something better. For a lot of these writers it’s just a hobby –extra cash.

              Thanks again for taking the time to provide a long and detailed answer.


                1. Oh man….there goes my image of the Hollywood A-list.

                  Another myth shattered and flushed down the tubes. πŸ˜‰

  10. I do not understand where Gael is coming from. Songs are re-titled so that a music library can collect revenue from the publisher’s share of the work. Every non-exclusive library I have signed with states that they take no ownership of the copyright. Even some deals with exclusive libraries state that they take ownership for a specified amount of time. The copyright can revert back to the original creator after a certain period of time.

    Re-titling is the legal equivalent to sub-publishing. Many major publishers work with sub-publishers all around the world to get songs placed in foreign markets. It is cheaper for publishers to let a local compnay do the footwork and give that sub-publisher a piece of the revenue. The writer of the song would still get royalties for writing the song. The only case in which a writer would not get any royalties is if the deal was a work-for-hire deal. With that kind of deal, the creator legally gives the company the rights to the song. The company takes full control of the song, becoming the writer and the publisher.

    1. Please ask art to kindly delete your post. It’s filled to the brim with dangerously inaccurate information that can be detrimental to young composers, or composers who don’t know any better.

  11. Hi,

    I have been told that to retitle songs could lead to issues and legal nightmares. Has anyone encountered issues with this?

    1. Only if you have it exclusively in one library and retitled non-exclusively in another. Of course that’s unlawful, but I bet it happens. Actually it happened unintentionally with me. Fortunately the retitle, non-exclusive library gave it up without a fight. And the exclusive library was sympathetic with my honest mistake.

      Good to keep solid records of what library has what tracks. Can get complicated when dealing with hundreds of tracks and several libraries (some exclusive, and some not).

      1. I’ve always wondered tho…wouldn’t this cause issues with copyrights? Since the song is retitled, could it be possible that the copyright could be ruled null and void if there was ever a court case?

        1. Being copyrighted has nothing to do with being registered with the Library of Congress. Your music is automatically copyrighted when you create it and put it into tangible form (CD, manuscript, cassette, etc).

          Music libraries generally don’t concern themselves with copyright registrations. There’s normally a clause in their contracts dealing with that issue (placing the writer solely responsible that the intellectual property is his/her own creation).

          I believe you can add alternate titles on a copyright registration if it concerns you.

          1. As the owner of a work you can file amendments to your copyrights for whatever reasons — whether it’s to add alternate titles, additional material, etc.

            As you said, the copyright registration to a work is completely different than PRO registration. There is a bundle of rights associated with a copyright that doesn’t exist with a PRO registration of a title. What is still murky, however, is how retitling could eventually affect ownership of that work.

            Libraries don’t re-register a retitled work with the U.S. Copyright Office because to do so would be official fraud since they don’t own any part of the copyright to the WORK or the RECORDING of it. Their “ownership,” so to speak, is ephemeral at best, and based on contract, not ownership — yet the “in perpetuity” rights to their title as registered with the PROs implies some sort of ownership — AND they get to profit from the royalties on that title forever, even beyond the term of their representation of the work under that title. They register the new title with the PROs because that is how libraries make their money — from taking part ownership in something that is not even part of the copyright (the title) in contractual form.

            Are heads spinning yet?

            Every title registered with a PRO that is a retitling of an existing work registered with them (under another title) fraudulently inflates their catalogue. Part of the formula determining how much a broadcaster, venue or restaurant has to pay each year for their blanket license is partially determined by the PRO’s catalogue size. If the number of works is far less than the actual number of TITLES, that means the PRO is also a party to the fraud (albeit “unknowingly” even though they KNOW retitling works is a rampant practice). What happens if a major network decides to sue a PRO for fraud because they don’t want to pay the rising blanket license fees and question how the PRO is determining the actual size of their catalogue? Anyone want to be part of that mess?

            You own your stuff. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. If you contractually obligate yourself to something make sure you’ve covered your patootie. Think ahead. Think of the ethics involved, not just how to skate the fine line of legalese — since laws can change. It you stick with the ethical approach then when loopholes are closed with any new legislation, you haven’t lost a thing.

              1. @ Pat,

                Currently, re-titling is an ethical issue, not necessarily a legal one… although, according to a number of VERY astute legal minds, some who have litigated major copyright and intellectual property cases, by engaging in re-titling a composer could be setting him/herself up for future legal issues, including the potential loss of ownership to their copyright(s). It all depends on when the issue comes before the courts, and who brings the suit against whom. It could very well be those paying blanket license fees (fees which are at least partially determined by the size of a PRO’s catalogue — catalogues which are being artificially inflated by numerous re-titled compositions — as opposed to a certain number of actual WORKS).

                I tend to think that erring on the side of caution in protecting my rights in perpetuity is far wiser than putting them in jeopardy. Others disagree. So be it.


            1. Gael,

              EXACTLY! which is why TV production blanket license fees are going down the tubes. Production companies/networks are sick and tired of paying three or four times for 1 piece of intellectual property that has three or four “titles” spread among many “libraries”

            2. Gael:
              I’ve received a contract from a library. Their version of a re-title is to add a numerical code as a prefix to the unchanged title.

              Your title remains the same but it might affect searches for your original title.

              I’d be curious about your opinion of re-titling in this fashion.



              1. @ ENW,

                Put yourself in the supervisor’s shoes… If I have several tracks which have come up in a genre search for a spot and I get the following titles popping up with a little “play” button beside each, which do you think I’m gonna listen to first, and which ones may never even get a cursory glance?

                (1) HCN – Hip Hop
                (2) 54637892 Hip Hot Caramel Night
                (3) Hip Hot Caramel Night
                (4) HCN – 76253892
                (5) Hip Hop Jam

                We’re visceral creatures. When we first use a library’s search engine or flash drive or whatever, we put in the words that best describe what we’re seeking. Once titles start popping up, we then look at the titles to see what grabs us.

                Trust me… numerical titles and abbreviated titles tend to tick us off because we have to click on every title just to find out that it doesn’t fit the bill for what we need. At least when we have some sort of reasonable title that piques our interest we can zero in on a handful instead of a huge lineup.


                1. I can see how that could be annoying but at the same time,in general, wouldn’t most supervisors already be aware of the retitling policies of the libraries they choose to deal with?

                2. Pat,

                  Even if the supe knows it’s a retitle library, which titles out of Gael’s list look appealing? I know instantly which ones I’d click play and which ones I’d ignore.

                3. I agree with you the one without the numbers looks better and I’m sure there are supervisors who don’t like it but at the same time if retitling was a business model that wasn’t working overall for the libraries that chose to use it, we wouldn’t be discussing it. They’d simply be out of business.That is my motivation at least to getting started and using them to get the biggest bang for the buck with the few songs I have. I’m not so much thinking how the supervisors are looking at the title and whether or not they may like the looks of my song with a number in front of it as I am focusing on the fact that it must be working for the libraries that do it and are staying in business. I’m not making a case for retitling per se, I’m just making a case for me using the model that already exists that seems to work for the library and therefore working for writers.

            3. I doubt the practice of retitling will come to an end anytime in the near future. It’s big business. I think that’s just wishful thinking from the exclusive library camp. The exclusive libraries would love to eliminate their competition through the manipulating of legalities.

              I think if it ever becomes a legal issue, it will be side-stepped by the retitlers by not registering copyrights with the Library of Congress. As a matter of fact; most of my tracks playing on TV aren’t registered.

              1. @Doubtful: Just to be clear re-title libraries do not (or should not) “register” a title with the Library Of Congress (did you mean Copyright Office) as you stated. That would be illegal.

                1. What Art said. πŸ™‚

                  Registering a re-title with the U.S. Copyright Office would be considered official fraud, in that the re-titling library does not, with their limited contract with the composer (copyright holder), have ownership of the entire bundle of rights which comes with a copyright. They are contractually sharing in a specific income stream from a specific TITLE (not work), which is only a portion of that bundle of rights, and for now, a contractual issue existing in-between the cracks.

                  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.

                  To use a baseball analogy…

                  You often hear managers talking to the press after a disappointing loss that appears to be the direct result of a bad call (or 2 or 3) by an umpire (or 2 or 3). Rarely does the manager blame the loss on the umps. Instead, the mantra seems to go “We didn’t score enough runs.” Basically, regardless of the circumstances one cannot control, you do the best you can and rack up the runs so that no matter how bad the call(s) may be, your team still wins because it scored more runs than your opponent.

                  I liken that to the issue of creating music for libraries… Write & record more music.

                  Put specific pieces in specific exclusive libraries, or into non-exclusive catalogues/clearinghouses that don’t re-title. This way, no matter what happens eventually in the courts or what legislation is put into place, your music rights are pristine and not subject to interpretation.


                2. “Put specific pieces in specific exclusive libraries, or into non-exclusive catalogues/clearinghouses that don’t re-title. ”

                  @Gael, I think we’ve found common ground. When I’ve referred to the thousands of producers of corporate videos and other lower end non-broadcast productions and argued that composers should be able to sell their work non-exclusively, I was referring to the non-exclusive model above.

                  I’ve been advocating for the little guy, who will never make it in your world, which is not the non-exclusive model above. The model also seems to be profitable for composers outside the US.

                  When we banter back and forth, I don’t want to dismiss any writer who is not working solely in the exclusive world. The only causes writers Nameless to rightly perceive the library business as elitist.



  12. “What good is a song if it isn’t generating any revenue?” – Yadgyu

    How about just the pleasure of composing and listening…Sounds like your passion is in making money, not music.

    That mentality epitomizes what the Music Industry is turning into.

    1. Why are you on a site about making money from musical compositions if you are not interested in making money from musical compositions? Sounds a bit kooky to me. But to each his own.

      Money isn’t everything, right? Keep telling that to yourself.

  13. This brings up the question: if the artist has a number of songs, some that are excellent and extremely well crafted over many hours or weeks, and others that are off- the- cuff improvs or more conventional, how should they be outplaced respectively?

    The thing is that the excellent songs should probably be outplaced in a way that is given special treatment, and not just tossed in on royalty-free hard drive collections.

    So what would the criteria and practices be by which to distinguish libraries or publishers who would give the best treatment and profitable placement to tunes that stand out more and required more investment of time from the artist?

    1. Well the easy answer is: put the really good tracks in as many high quality license based libraries as possible, i.e those that have high expectations of quality.
      Some royalty free sites let you name your own price. Why not sell those great tracks on those sites too, for a higher than average price?

    2. Quality is relative.

      It is not about making the best song; it is about making the best-selling song. What good is a song if it isn’t generating any revenue?

      1. Wow – there’s the attitude that killed the record labels… and how ARE those 72 songs about ducks treating you @ 75Β’/each, Yadgyu?

        1. Not bad actually.

          I just got my collection licensed to two libraries. Those songs are being used on a non-exclusive basis. That collection, “Random Ducks”, is exactly what the music library world needs.

          There are too many one-off tracks by too many small-time musicians. Collectors want variety and they want quantity. How can someone really expect to make any money off of one song in a 5,000+ song library? My songs will compete against each other, instead of other people’s songs. I will be knocking out the competition and leaving myself with more opportunities for my music to be used.

          I am working on a follow-up that I plan to submit on an exclusive basis. I have a few libraries interested. When I finalize things, I will let you guys know. Hopefully we can all celebrate our successes together.

          Get On My Level!!!

  14. @MusicLibraryRpt Because spectacular music generates spectacular money! – learned from own experience. Re: Why waste a year making three …

  15. “Why waste a year making three “spectacular” songs when I can make 100 simple songs in a year and get paid more money?” – Yadgyu

    Have you always had so much passion for music Yadgyu?

  16. looks like one or two individuals here , are here to provide a comedic element, unwittingly or otherwise. Yadgu..dude, if youre doing well, then god bless you.

  17. “I don’t see why so many people complain about re-titling. Most of you do not make good enough tracks to generate any real money with an exclusive publisher” – Yadgyu

    And how do you know that?

  18. I don’t see why so many people complain about re-titling. Most of you do not make good enough tracks to generate any real money with an exclusive publisher. If your songs were so good, you would be with Sony/ATV, Universal Music, EMI, or Warner/Chappelle.

    I myself do not try too hard to be “the best”. Why waste a year making three “spectacular” songs when I can make 100 simple songs in a year and get paid more money? I think that some of you just are not cut out for the business side of the music business.

    1. I’ve made more money off 3 of my best tracks, than off 100’s of my other tracks. When you have a seriously great track, you’re more likely to win significant license revenue. The world of royalty-free seems to reward quantity over quality (for now), while the big bucks world of licenses seeks the best there is.

  19. NP πŸ™‚

    As said above – it’s the title that is important – that is what is on the cuesheet.
    So just make sure the title is registered .. If I have a track with three different titles .. I will register it 3 times.

    In fact some of my publishers go to the lengths of individually registering every single edit .. sometimes there are 15 versions .. so you have Track Title 1, Track Title 2, 3, 4, … etc etc

    Best not to leave anything to chance.

    It doesn’t really create over head. The cue sheets come in > the names match up ? you are proportioned your share of the royalty pot.

  20. Thank you for your answer Boom. Its interesting, in that it must create a massive amount of overhead for all the PROΒ΄s .

    Interestingly though, why should i need to reregister the retitles with PRS in the UK? Surely the factthat my name is on the writing credit should be enough for them to know , as they DO communicate with ASCAP and BMI. For instance, if without a retitle, my music gets used on an american show, then using your logic, i would need to register the same title yet again with BM or ASCAP, just to make sure i do get my backend on that title.

    Does that make sense?

  21. @mort shuman – well why dont you just register the new titles ?
    You must register the titles with PRS .. they will get ur dosh from their counterparts on other territories , ie the States ..

    FWIW – The only time I sign exclusivity away – is when the Library PAYS UP FRONT with an advance or preferably non-recoup able production fees.

    If they dont want to pay – then no – they sure as hell can’t own exclusivity on my hard work.

  22. Ok, so let me get this straight here.

    Lets say im in the UK, and have regsitered all my work with PRS. Now lets say thati sign a 50:50 deal with a retitle library (so i gethalf of all the backend) . Now what happens if i DONT register the retitles with PRS in the UK…do i still get paid from USA useage via BMI or ASCAP?

    can someone clear this up once and for all please, cause a lot of busy libraries in the states offer this on a regular basis. The onyl probem i can see, is there is no way, other than to ring BMI or ASCAP and check wether if after signing to such a library, your work has actually been registered with the new joint writer publisher split.

  23. Interesting discussion. I’ve had several placements with a Library using the re-title model and live in the UK so it’s even muddier over here. They look to take 100% of my publishing and split the performance royalty 50/50. I would imagine if the track were to create $ 1000 then I’d essentially get 25% as they’d get 50% of the pie as a publisher and then the other 50% would be split with me at 25% so for every $1000 the track made I’d get $250. Or maybe I’m not fully understanding the process…

  24. Hope this is in-line still – do we actually re-register the work with our PRO if it was re-titled by the music library or can we just use the AKA on the original registration of works, with our PRO?

  25. I wonder if anyone visiting this site has heard of this before, because it’s something I’ve only heard of recently: a library requesting that a composer use an alias, to have some kind of exclusivity to the name. Occasionally composers will create an alias to promote a commercial release, e.g. E S Posthumus (Pfeifer Brothers). However, that’s a different situation to a music library who simply want to separate themselves from other libraries that have hired the same composer in the past.
    In case you’re wondering, it’s a big trailer music company, probably in the top 10.

  26. One of the comments from Floe was the horror of giving up all publishing. I haven’t seen it that way. The contract I sign allow them to claim the publishing share of the performance rights for their placement. I can still (as my own publisher) flog the rights to the song, as long as I am clear that it is already in use on a nonexclusive basis. If you have a song with a full publisher, and all they do is a placement, they get the publishing share. There is no significant administrative work being done their either. And if you get a placement under an exclusive publishing deal–the publisher still gets their share of the PRO money, whereas with retitling, you can get it.

    Tis a crazy world out there.

  27. Just to add, Dansen
    Although I also agree that the whole thing may be shaky on a legal basis, I feel like I sometimes read contradictions from composers. Some will complain about re-titling, looking down at re-titling libaries, while at the same time declaring they would never sign an exclusive with a library. I think these POVs are at odds.

    (Note: By “re-titling library” I mean one that re-titles solely to differentiate usage with PROs. Lots of libraries change titles for marketing purposes- to indicate the type of sound the track has)

    Like you, I like re-titling because it is helping me get music signed and placed. Am I being selfish and ignoring some bigger picture? I don’t know.

    Assuming no legal ruling suddenly shakes up the industry, things will settle in their place based on the laws of supply and demand.


  28. I have to say that I agree with everything ABOUT RE-TITLING has said in this thread.

    In addition to that, my experience has been that although I have a few tracks with different titles in a few different libraries, it is only one library at any given time that is placing a track. In other words, I have never – on a practical level – seen any of my tracks licensed out by more than one library, re-titling or not. In essence, it’s like having several agents working on your behalf and whoever gets a gig (i.e., gets a track placed) makes some money along with you.

    Truth is, I’m getting nervous about this new resistance to re-titling from COMPOSERS!. It’s a good deal and one of the few remaining sources of revenue for film/TV composers. Don’t blow it by making this model go away…times are tough enough as it is.

  29. πŸ˜‰

    I hear ya ABOUT RE-TITLING!!! It’s almost like it’s destiny!!! lol

    Thanks for the insight on what composers can possibly look at negotiating with some libraries out there. I totally agree…You don’t want to overdo it, or else you can be a turn-off to the library. There was a library in particular that sent me a couple of emails, saying he is totally open to questions, comments, or concerns with their agreement. Even on their site, it says “we want composers to be completely comfortable with the agreement”. So at least with them, I think I can negotiate a few things.

    Me personally, I have had a couple of placements…not many. I’m a recording artist and producer, and had stopped producing for a few years (being an artist, husband, father, manager, studio engineer, among other things, can take it’s toll…so I had to leave the producing alone for awhile. But I’ve just gotten back into producing, so I have a lot of instrumentals I’m looking to license (in addition to my songs). πŸ™‚

  30. Hi Floe
    We have to stop meeting like this. πŸ˜‰

    I agree we should never pay money to submit tracks to a library. Reviewing music is their business. That’s why I’m not big on Sonicbids or Broadjam. They listing parties take part of the submission fee and I’ve seen cases where it appears that’s all they were in it for.

    Taxi is different there, BTW, because the listing parties do not share in the fees so they have no motivation to run up the listings.

    Regarding negotiating contracts, most of the time there is no room for negotiation on the financial side. Most libraries, except maybe very small startups, can’t have diffferent contract terms for different composers and have to manage who has what.

    What you ***sometimes*** can negotiate are some minor wording changes or additional words. For example, you might be able to get a contract term can be cut back such as from 5 years to 3 years and/or change the exact wording on how you can terminate with notice… Or that the library will send you copies of cue sheets… Maybe you want an exception that your music won’t be used in porn or snuff films. A good entertainment attorney can tell you what the most important things to ask about are. It’s important not to overdo it– ask about only major things that might concern you. If you want the deal, you don’t want to be a pain to them.

    A number of libraries, like Crucial, make it clear that their contract is non-negotiable.

    All of us have to find a comfortable balance between protecting ourselves and making no career progress.

    Floe, can I ask if you have any library deals or placements in film/TV?


  31. Thanks Art!!! Keep up the great work!!!

    And thanks again ABOUT RE-TITLING! The more we discuss this, the more I understand your point about giving libraries half of the publisher’s share. Giving the amount of work and effort most libraries engage in, it does make sense to offer some kind of compensation for their efforts, on top of their share of the licensing fee. I would think, if anything, splitting the publisher’s share is fair. But as I said in an earlier post, I don’t agree with a library receiving ALL of the publisher’s share…I still think that’s extreme. Your average co-publishing or administration deal would grant a publisher half of the publisher’s share, so I guess granting the same to a library (especially a library that is working HARD for their composers) would be ok.

    It seems like there must be a better way to do this, though, without engaging in re-titling. Because as I’ve said before, I just see potential for a lot of headache down the road if you have a lot of re-titling deals, with duplicate titles being sent to music supervisors…even if you do choose to cancel the deals. Libraries would continue to be paid forever for a mirror image of a song that a publisher may eventually own, if you engage in a co-publishing deal, for example. The publisher surely would not be happy with that!!!

    In the end, my initial goal is working with those who don’t partake in taking any back-end royalties. Then, as a next step, CAREFULLY consider SOME libraries who re-title. This site is giving us very valuable information to help weed out the weak libraries out there.

    Composers should empower themselves and put their foot down when discussing deals with libraries. For example, me personally, I refuse to deal with any library that charge any upfront fee to submit tracks. That’s ridiculous to me!!! This is one example of how composers should empower themselves. Because in the end, this is still OUR music we’re offering to libraries. Composers should understand the value in their music, and not let anyone gain access to their work, just because they’ve received “the green light”.

    I wonder how much negotiation some of these libraries are willing to engage in with composers? I guess it wouldn’t hurt to give that a shot. Negotiation should always be involved when contracts are involved, and it seems there should be no exception for libraries that re-title.

    Thanks again for the input. Truly appreciate the healthy conversation!!!

  32. Floe
    You don’t suck, LOL! πŸ™‚ We are all helpless without spell checkers and post editing these days!

    I disagree with you about libraries taking the publisher’s share. In most ways they are doing the same job as a standard music publisher in promoting your music. They have the same expenses for offices, phones, CD’s, employees, subscriptions to professional lead sources, internet sites, etc, etc. The 50/50 split with the publisher has been industry practice for many years and seems fair. I don’t see why you would give 50% to a “publisher” but not a library when they successfully market your music.

    We can agree to disagree, no sweat.

    I mentioned that I ran a very small library for a while and learned a lot about what it’s like on the other side. It’s very hard work and expensive. It wasn’t my F/T job and with so many libraries popping up, I gave it up. Without F/T effort to build the right personal relationships and having to be one of 100 guys sending tracks out for the same opp, I realized it wasn’t worth it.

    Even had I never done that, I’d rather pay 50% to the library who does the job for me, then sit with a contract that has me keep all PRO royalties but effectively is just a piece of paper. πŸ˜‰

  33. Geez…I suck πŸ™‚

    With this quesiton I MEANT to say: Is it me, or does anyone else feel taking ALL of the publisher’s share for a LICENSING company’s “efforts” is extreme?!?!?!

    I guess, to some extent, this is a good question for publishing companies also, but obviously, the discussion is directly related to licensing companies.

    Art…I’m assuming a comment cannot be edited/deleted, since the comments are anonymous…?

    Sorry, I’ll proofread a couple of more times with all future comments!

  34. *my comment above…sorry for the typos…replace “scare” with “scarce”. My brain was doing some heavy churning as I was typing, even after the proofread πŸ™‚


    Thanks for your comments. I truly appreciate your view of this concept, and you’ve made some great points.

    Your second point is very important, because as you said, some re-titling contracts may ask for a portion of copyright or “assign all rights”, etc. Being an artist, I’ve even seen some standard record contracts with a co-publishing section, which is a big no-no in my opinion, especially if the record company isn’t actively pursuing placements for the artist.

    But back to the subject, I read a previous comment in which someone said that a licensing company should indeed have a portion of the back-end royalties, because the licensing fees are getting more scare, or non-existent in some cases. That may be true, but from a composer’s standpoint, SO WHAT! That is no excuse for a licensing company to receive back-end royalties via re-titling. As it says in most the these agreements, it is agreed the licensing fee is split (in most cases) 50/50. If there is a case where there is no licensing fee, or a very small one, then SO BE IT!!! It doesn’t change the fact that a licensing fee is still split between the composer and the licensing company!!!

    On top of that, if licensing fees are so scarce, then why do companies like Pump Audio SUDDENLY choose to take even a LARGER portion of the licensing fee (now 65% instead of 50%)??? I understand they were bought recently by Getty Images, but still…I would assume licensing fees are still pretty decent nowadays, especially for an independent artist!

    Me personally, I am totally ok with signing an exclusive deal with a publishing company (actually have an administration deal at this time). But if it’s a co-pub deal, and I’m giving a portion of the copyright and publishing to someone, there’s definitely going to be some serious negotiation.

    And I’m kind of stuck in the middle about licensing companies receiving any back-end royalties. I’m more of the opposing side, due to the re-titling thing. I just don’t like how some companies plaster on their site “You keep all of your writer’s share” or “everything is fairly split 50/50”, as if they are being totally straightforward with composers. OF COURSE I get to keep all of the writer’s share, because it’s SUPPOSED TO BE OFF LIMITS TO BEGIN WITH!!! πŸ™‚ And some companies who scream “everything is fairly split 50/50” look to take ALL of the publisher’s share! Is it me, or does anyone else feel taking ALL of the publisher’s share for a publishing company’s “efforts” is extreme?!?!?! So I think the reason why some composers are afraid to sign anything is because either (a) they don’t understand what they’re signing and refuse to find a lawyer…or (b) they are turned off by some of the misleading wordplay that some licensing companies use.

    Keep the comments coming, because this is important! Thanks Art for this site!!!! I’ve learned a LOT in such a short period of time!!! πŸ™‚

  36. Hi Floe
    The article in that link brings up excellent points. Will there one day be a legal challenge that rules out this practice?

    A couple of notes to composers to help avoid problems.

    (1) If you sign any non-exclusive deals for a track, you cannot also sign an exclusive deal such as a publishing one for the same track. If you want to accept an exclusive offer you have to terminate (if possible) those other contracts. Signing an exclusive while having other deals out there is putting your signature on a lie. It could cause big legal grief for you and the licensee. However, when you sign a contract you almost always assume all liability for claims. Causing grief for end-users hurts all of us.

    (2) Read contract language very carefully– consult with a **qualified entertainment** attorney. I’ve seen some horribly written non-exclusive re-title contracts which looked like someone just hacked up a standard publishing contract. A non-exclusive library contract should not have wording like “assigns copyright”, “assigns all rights” in the way publishing deals do. You are (in a nutshell) only assigning them the right to re-title and collect their share of royalties.

    Item 2 is important for a lot of obvious reasons but in the event of a conflict where 2 libraries make a claim on a submission and show their contracts, it can be really ugly. One actually claims to own the copyright!

    I am not a lawyer- the big disclaimer here.

    Floe, you said:
    ** I still don’t understand how it makes sense for a licensing company to take a portion (in some cases I’ve seen, ALL) of the publisher’s share, without truly owning the publishing of the SONG to begin with! **

    There are 2 ways of looking at what you said. It sounds like you think it’s bad for libraries to take some or all of the publisher’s share. **I may have read that wrong and, if so, sorry.** Libraries need to make money too or they wouldn’t be in business. For their hard work in actually making placements, from my perspective, they are very welcome to 1/2 of the PRO revenue. But on the other hand, very often composers are unwilling to sign a full publishing contract which would make taking the publisher’s share undoubtably legal. So, is there a contradiction here?

    I ran a start-up library for a while and made a few placements. As a new kid on the block, I could barely get composers to sign my non-exclusive (and very friendly!) contract, let alone an exclusive one. They were scared to death of signing anything. As composers, if we are concerned about re-titling, how willing would we be to sign exclusive deals?

    It’s all food for thought.

  37. Re-titling is a loophole, plain and simple. I’m not knocking the fact that placements can, and will, be made with re-titling. That’s the whole point as far as the licensing company is concerned.

    I still don’t understand how it makes sense for a licensing company to take a portion (in some cases I’ve seen, ALL) of the publisher’s share, without truly owning the publishing of the SONG to begin with! Someone recognized the fact that the PROs don’t truly track an actual SONG, but the song TITLE…So licensing companies can claim publishing on a TITLE (not the copyrighted SONG), FOREVER?!?!? When did a title of a song become something to negotiate exclusively, in a non-exclusive agreement (???), for the sake of making money??? As someone pointed out earlier, eventually, music supervisors are going to get sick of getting tons of duplicates of the same song.

    This blog asks some of the same questions about re-titling that I ask:

    Who knows if I’ll eventually work with a licensing company that engages in re-titling…I think I probably will, just because it seems to be the norm nowadays. But artists need to truly understand both sides of this concept, because I see years down the road, re-titling is going to cause a MESS for copyright holders!

  38. Re-titling, and least for the past 5-10 years and near future has opened up tons of doors for libraries and composers. When the demand for film/TV (a lot was cable shows) grew like wild, many new libraries jumped into the business. But there was no way many songwriters and composers would sign exclusive deals with them. So, this method allowed them to have music to pitch. And since there was both increased demand and a big supply of music, many libraries became successful.

    I don’t think anyone has truly challenged this in the courts regarding copyright law so I’m not sure if it’s true that just because this is done, it is compatible with those laws. But a lot of people– composers, libaries, and PRO’s are happy with it. (I am happy with it!)

    Re-titling is primarily used so libraries can collect back end royalties only on their specific uses of music, while not affecting royalties for other uses. A large percentage of libraries take the publisher’s share of PRO royalties (50% of the pie).

    I thought I read some comments that libraries shouldn’t have to take any back end money since they get 50% of the up-front license fees. There are a lot of variables there and a library having a business model that keeps them operating and effective is important too. In many cases, with license fees so small these days, if they took no back-end they’d have to close shop. For example, if a library serves mainly cable TV networks like MTV, their only real source of income would be back end. In other markets like advertising jingles, big time films, etc there may be much more in the way of license fees.

    With a number of libraries who don’t take back-end, I do scratch my head as to how they will stay in business. (I’m sure there are quite a few with sound biz models).

    I don’t see any reason to look down on re-titling libraries. What matters is if they have a sound business and can make placements. As with libraries that pay no license fee up-front, you have to look at where you are in your career and the entire picture. I’ve seen folks who never placed a thing, stand on principle while their CD’s gathered dust bunnies on their shelves.

    The bad part of this whole re-titling thing is music supervisors are getting bombarded by way too many libraries, thousands of tracks, and many duplicates. There may come a point where they get frustrated and start shifting to only work with exclusive libraries. They don’t have a lot of time and don’t need any hassles. Knowing a library truly has a song under contract is one less issue for them. I expect some weeding out over the next few years.

    I have tracks in a number of re-titling libaries, one of which has made TV placements for me.

  39. Again, I agree Art. the libraries do get hammered too and some of these libraries really are “in-the-know” about music publishing and licensing. they shouldn’t work for free, so when they are getting us deals that don’t pay anything upfront, they should get their equal shares on the backend. the only way to do that is to retitle so that we can still work with others that are trying to do the same thing. it’s actually a very good thing for us and i don’t know why people keep saying that it is deceptive. it’s only deceptive if the writer has no idea that you are renaming the titles.

  40. The way I see it, re-titling is SIMPLY a way for licensing companies to claim a share of the back-end royalties, but without claiming to be a true administrator or co-publisher for a composer…It’s almost like an administration or co-publishing deal loophole, in favor of the licensing company.

    Basically you’re duplicating a song with your PRO, and giving up a portion of your publishing for that duplicated song, without truly being compensated for it. I mean really…WHY SHOULD A LICENSING COMPANY RECEIVE ANY BACK-END ROYALTIES?!?!?! THEY’RE ALREADY GETTING HALF OF THE LICENSE FEE FOR THEIR EFFORTS. THIS IS A CO-PUBLISHING DEAL, but without any of the potential perks (primarily, negotiation of an ADVANCE, to compensate for a percentage of the publishing!!!).

    I don’t see a great benefit for composers to create a mirror-image of their own music, just so that a licensing company can get paid.

    A LOT of licensing companies out there are doing this. And I understand the “50% of something is better than 100% of nothing” argument, so please don’t bring this up. Time and time again, it seems like the musician/artist/composer, once again, is the one who truly suffers from deceptive industry practices…And I’m adding re-titling to that loooooong list!

    Any comments are encouraged! This is an important topic, so I’m all ears!!!

    1. I have worked directly with a TV production company that produces a lot of shows for various cable channels. They were constantly being bombarded by music libraries willing to give them hard drives of music for little or nothing upfront, just the back end monies. I also know of some production houses that will only work with a music library for NO upfront money and ONLY if they split the back end with the library. So I think some of the libraries are getting hammered also. I have only placed a few things with an upfront sync fee. If I had much better credits I could demand more but until that time I’m comfortable with this business model.

      Just my 2 pennies worth.

  41. A lot of people have very strong opinions about re-titling and I certainly respect their opinions.

    I guess I don’t understand what the alternative is in this marketplace. Do I really want to sign with one music library and hope that they are going to do a good job of placing my music? Do I want to wait a year or so with that one company and then move on to another if they are not cutting it? Not so much. After all as much as I love the music I create it is just a product and it’s also all about shelf space. I want to be in as many stores as possible with my product, albeit quality stores.

    I also don’t see how re-titling is deceptive. Is it deceptive that only a few manufacturers in various industries make a variety of different branded TVs, appliances, mattresses, food, drink? It’s done all the time and has been going on for a long time. As for the legality of it and all the “what ifs” that people bring up? Obviously there are many people buying into this business model and new ideas have generally been ahead of the curve of the accepted norm. In 1903, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in Ford Motor Company, saying, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad.”

    Until someone can show me a better way, re-titling makes the most sense for me.


  42. The business of putting the same piece of work into many different outlets under different names is simply deceptive………. one cannot complain about the bad ethics of Publishers PRO’s etc if one stoops to the same low morals.


  43. I suppose many people here have heard about the photographer Annie Leibovitz’s recent financial problems. One thing struck me: she was able to leverage her copyrights into a very tidy advance. Go try that with copyrights that are split left right and centre.

  44. I’ve had several offers to place my music in various film and TV projects if I agreed to the retitling process. So far, I’ve resisted this approach and I’m waiting for someone to come up with another model for third party compensation for placement that doesn’t affect my original copyright.

    This is music that was NOT written for library use initially.

  45. it actually is compatible with the copyright laws, or none of the companies that do it, would take such measures to make it part of their business model, but like you say, the controversy is still there. you can’t copyright titles and as long as the original music is copyrighted with the library of congress, the copyright owner should be okay. unless you’re looking to be the next Beatle, it shouldn’t matter if your music is being retitled. whoever gets it into the hands that subsequently gets it heard, should get their rightful share, especially for composers that are pumping out music and wanting to make a living out of doing just that. look how many libraries there are listed here. you think composers would make more money by not retitling and going with just one exclusive publisher who isn’t going to push your music as much as the libraries will anyway? these days, you gain recognition by how many credits you have or how many digital downloads you have. you think none of the bigger composers haven’t gone behind their exclusive publisher’s back to rename titles so that they would have more opportunity? even some of them are retitling!!

  46. Getting a composer’s music “out there” is a great thing, but would be better to keep original title, and have other sellers set up as co-publishers or sub-publishers who have compatible marketing niches with the primary copyright owners, i.e. the “master” publishers.

    This is a win-win like distribution in the physical world, while keeping the original song’s name to help promote and increase it’s fullest potential value (recognition and reputation) over time. The sales percentages (commissions) and revenue sharing amounts could be the same, but would need to be agreed on (in writing) before such new deals are done.

    So I believe there are better business models than the old (worn out) re-titling game. Legally it’s not even compatible with the copyright laws, so there’s got to be a better way!


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