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Should I Sign With A ReTitle Library?


Chris Jones recently wrote an article about re-titling over at SonicScoop. I thought it would be of interest to many and Chris kindly gave us permission to re-post it here.

By Chris Jones

With master recording licensing and synchronization now being the current revenue-generating and promotional system in the music industry, we see all the traditional recording exploitation boundaries disappearing.

Music libraries take on scoring gigs, produce artists/songwriters, and ad work while maintaining their catalogs of TV-ready production music. Record labels seem to be fully hitched to omni-lateral licensing pie, artist-endorsed ad campaigns, single tie-ins, whatever. Add the quick-and-easy factor of digital delivery AND soon-to-be ubiquitous audio recognition tech AND deeper metadata AND the slippery slope of what passes as acceptable quality both audio- and video-wise AND this is America, the land of excess. Production = bigger and faster, but not always better.

Point: The “production music” pool is one big pattern-recognizing server of every kind of gang. It’s all our turf. Can you dig it?

One of these “gangs” or business models in production music specific publishers is the re-title library or (to illustrate points using metaphor and acronym) “inert” libraries. It’s a (typically) Independent Non-Exclusive ReTitle music library that will rep your catalog after they give your (only) master a unique title. The library then registers that unique title to their PRO (be it ASCAP, BMI, et al.) as that titles’ “publisher” and can then go forward and collect future performance royalties on said title and also collect any other fees (direct license, sync) associated with licensing. From the research I’ve done, this model has the composer world polarized yet unified in one aspect: we seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

On the surface, one would think: What’s to lose? I have tons of crap sitting on my drive doing nothing for nobody no-how. If someone can make me money and wants to take 50% please be my guest. And it’s non-exclusive? Even better. I’ll look up every re-title library and get cracking. Man, I am sitting on a f*****g gold mine.

So, should I sign with an inert library? That question creates more questions and that is the universal choking sign of a deal to me. I agree that the inert model could be a positive way to crowd-source useful, high-quality, and (most importantly) available masters. But I speak from the viewpoint of a composer that has a specific agenda of producing a high volume of library music for the big exclusive Production Music Association (PMA) libs in addition to what I’ll call “custom” music like songwriting, sound design for composers, remixing, whatever.

There are many ways to poke holes in the inert model, but let’s start with imminent ubiquity of audio pattern recognition technology. BMI acquired BlueArrow almost 5 years ago, and ASCAP has been working on Mediaguide since 2002. These are technologies and services that give your audio/masters a fingerprint via audio analysis, not traditional watermarking (which is hit-or-miss and distorts the file). The tech then monitors broadcasts looking for matches. Soon (the sooner the better) all broadcasts are going to be monitored with this robotic vigilance. Unfailing accuracy. Amid endless dirty AM radio ads, it will be searching for your singularly unique combination of digital DNA. Wait, what-the? This track has 5 titles and 5 publishers…the robot computes.

I’m curious how that’s going to work.

Plus, I thought the whole idea in business was to be exclusive. Where’d that go?

So I send this stupid breakbeat track called “A” to inert lib A. Inert lib A registers “A” to ASCAP as publisher. Already I’m uncomfortable. I send the same exact file to inert lib B. All the way to f*****g Z. I have 26 people claiming to publish my tracks? Are they all undercutting each other or is there a standardized fee? The fee is nothing because you gave sync away in lieu of the slow buck? You just gave away my 50% of shared sync but I guess the contract says you are publisher so you have that right. Oh and the gig was non-broadcast so there is no slow buck. No buck at all.

Oh well I’ll see money on the back end.

Holy s**t, there are 50,000 tracks on this drive! The editor, overhearing my subconscious italics, says 50,000 is way too much b*****t to wade through and goes back to cutting a backend-less corporate video. Then he looks closer. He’s p****d because it’s the same 50,000 tracks the guy from inert lib G left last week. He went through a random 100 or so and they all sucked so he figured they all must suck. Therefore, all inert libs must suck, he thinks. No wonder he waived sync. To charge would have been criminal and there’s no way he paid for this music.

I only have 25 tracks on that drive. I hope the users find them. Back-end may not enter the picture because there’s tons of s**t you never see called non-broadcast. It’s all front-end. So if they waive sync I’m screwed. If they direct license I’ll do better at .0002%, unless it’s .0002% of zero.

I hope A-Z keep tabs on the reporting process. I hope the drives aren’t circulating. I hope an exclusive deal on a track doesn’t come along because that would mean having to turn down a lot of money. I wonder if I could call every editor in the world that FTP-posted or p2ped my slutty one-offs and say, “I own the copyright on these masters and I want to sell them.” Seems like inert libs and their supporters wave the flag on “copyright control.” But how do you retain total control if your choice to sell exclusive is removed? Note: I worked with one inert model that had an “OK to buy” option but again…how could you repo that master if it’s in A-Z and beyond? I fear being the real publisher of these types of masters for these exact scenarios of potential ass-biting to be honest.

So, no, I don’t like it. I want people selling my stuff like they own it because they do. If you own music and want to re-purpose it please do. But why not re-cut it into expected TV format and sell it to a proper exclusive library with sales, search, and broadcast (back-end) clients? Refuse to re-cut because you “channelled” something or claim “it would just feel like murder”? You are a precious lazy b*****d. It’s a reject of some kind. That’s why it’s sitting on your drive. Slap some make-up on and make a :30. If you get frustrated because you cannot re-cut a through-composed orchestral film score, just think what a TV editor will say.

Regardless of what type of library model you love or hate, consider this: you still have to go away and make amazing tracks appear out of thin air every day. None of these arguments apply to composers that are unaware of their music’s failure to meet the creative and technical requirements to be broadcast in the 21st century.

310 thoughts on “Should I Sign With A ReTitle Library?”

  1. I have a question. As a noob to this whole production music field, I’ve carefully selected 3 non-exclusive libraries (that don’t seem to be in obvious direct competition though that’s not easy to ascertain) based a lot on what I’ve read on this site. I’ve put the same music into each of them with the intent that over the next 12 months the one that creates the best financial outcome for me will get to keep the tracks and I will pull duplicates from the other libraries. In the meantime, I will be pitching to some quality exclusive libraries with other tracks.

    Is this is a bad idea? I realise I will get quite a range of responses but I would like to consider pros and cons of this approach.

    Thanks for any replies.

    • Good idea!

      Make sure you do the trial with enough tracks – just a handful of tracks is probably not a fair test for the royalty free libraries – you’ll do better with some websites when you have a lot of tracks in their catalog. If someone’s looking for music, comes across yours and is blown away, they may very well browse through all the tracks you’ve uploaded and decide to buy a good number of them. Same goes for royalties based libraries – I know for sure that one particular network TV show (that uses a library I contribute to) discovered that I was a pretty reliable source of big dramatic tracks. I’ve got about 100 tracks in this library of over 5000 tracks, but the show keeps coming back to my stuff when they need that particular sound.

      The other reason it pays to upload a lot is some royalty free libraries (like Audiosparx for example) reward you by featuring you on their homepage.

    • I was up late the other night, following a harrowing experience in the legal system. I was just in the mood to stir the fire with some legal theory about retitling. I didn’t expect so many flames to rise.

      I do think the issues have been put into focus. And I’m still uncomfortable with retitling, even though the concept of multiple opportunities for the same tracks seemed tempting — but probably too good to be true in the long run.

      Thank you for all of your responses.



      • Hi Michael,

        Firstly, thanks for writing such interesting, well informed posts!

        Your main point seems to be that re-titling might be risky, but it’s good for small time composers who make a living from royalty free libraries and low budget projects, not from performance royalties.

        I think there’s a significant point being missed here – re-titling is largely done because of performance royalty generation, when libraries are trying to get their catalogs used on TV, and re-title the tracks in order to receive the publishing royalties.

        I might be mistaken here, but isn’t re-titling largely unnecessary for royalty free libraries and other non-broadcast (non royalty generating) situations? Most of the royalty free sites I’ve worked with have not re-titled.

        I’m probably one of the composers you’re talking about, who isn’t making millions (yet!) from my music, and would love to keep open all possible sources of revenue. That said, I make MOST of my income from performance royalties. I have about 200 tracks in a few carefully picked royalty free sites, but I have over 1500 tracks in various royalties generating libraries, some exclusive, a lot that aren’t. Around 300 of those tracks have been re-titled at least four times. The re-titling makes me a little nervous, but I have always tried to be careful about not giving the same tracks to libraries competing for the same projects. That’s meant picking one reality TV library (purely royalties based), one needle drop licensing company (who go after promos and commercials), and one or two niche based libraries (sports, documentaries). Like anyone, I want to avoid putting any of my clients in the embarrassing situation of fighting over who had the tracks placed first, at the same time I want to take advantage of good opportunities to make some money from my music!

        • Hi Matt,

          Thanks for the kind words and advice.

          I admit not being clear on the “royalty-free” end of the spectrum. Logic dictates that if you’re not going after back-end money, then it shouldn’t matter. You’re most likely competing against yourself on price.

          With respect to royalty-free libraries, do you bother to retitle at all, or do you just upload your tracks to a number of sites, using the same title?

          As I said, way back 100 posts ago, I look at my tracks as an investment. Some tracks are worth more than others. Some deserve to be, and have been used on, network TV. Some, gathered during years of writing for non-broadcast producers, should be be in the royalty-free world, and accessible to the type of client for which they were created.

          So — what I’ve been trying to do is figure out how to straddle both worlds. I’m focused on achieving my higher end goals, but I do not want to just trash a large number of functional tracks.

          So my questions are:

          1) In the royalty free world do you sell the same tracks through many libraries/sites without retitling?

          2) Do you do this on an anonymous basis, or under an alias, so that your creative personas are distinct?

          I’m simply looking for a way to market my “downscale” product without affecting my upscale product. I don’t want to engage in retitling if it could harm my long term goals. If I do not have to retitle to market royalty-free tracks, then that solves the problem. Just looking to generate a little “lunch money” while working on bigger things.

          Just one question, which you’ve probably answered before, how do you separate the good royalty free sites from those that are a waste of time?

          Thanks again for generously sharing your experience.


  2. Ok I get the whole retitle thing as being misleading to music supervisors. But what about the non exclusive deals that don’t retitle & just put a number or some kind of prefix before or after the track name? If the music supervisor got sent the same track, at least they would know straight away from the track title. I don’t think this is misleading at all.

    • Hey Anonymous,

      How are you?

      The “prefix” model does not work. If the same track (with 3 different prefixes) gets submitted to the same production, how does the supervisor decide which “prefix” to credit with the placement?

      Also, if the supervisor gets three versions of the same exact song submitted, you better believe that the license fee will go down significantly, since there are three salesman trying to sell the network on the same exact piece of music.

      It’s as if three hot dog vendors were trying to sell you the same exact hot dog on the street. Not the same brand, or type of hot dog, the same exat physical hot dog. How would you decide which one to buy from?

      In the end, this hurts the composer very badly and pushes rates down for the industry as a whole. I suggest you take the time to learn how to sell your music in a “business to business” environment (if you haven’t already) instead of worrying about non-exclusive retitlers that will never, ever make you enough money so you can retire.

      • Hi oontz oontz, I think you’re right on about the prefix situation.

        I’ve actually had a lot of success with re-titling libraries. I guess I’ve been lucky, but if you look around you’ll find libraries that have strong connections to network TV shows, and can get your music used. In fact, I’ve been pretty burned with exclusive deals, either where my music has been sitting on a shelf collecting dust, or where I got paid a little upfront and then the library has made 10’s of 1000’s of licensing dollars from my music. In fact, I heard a track I wrote for a library (who paid me upfront) used on the NBA final last night!
        My tip for finding good re-titling libraries is bigger isn’t better. In fact, you want to find libraries that are still fairly small, or lack the styles you’re good at. Also check out their credits – 2nd tier cable might sound impressive to the uninitiated, but pennies per minute isn’t quite the same as the $200 a minute (or $1500 for a featured performance) on prime time network TV!

        What any composer should avoid doing is going nuts with their tracks and basically placing them in every non-exclusive library in business. With GoDigital we’ve seen just one of the potential risks of that.

        • RE hearing your music on an NBA broadcast…

          Almost any sporting event, news or live broadcast can use pretty much any title and recording (famous copyright, library track or anything else) they want under what’s called an “ephemeral use” — and they don’t need to notify you, license the work or do anything but submit cue sheets to the PROs whose writers are represented in the broadcast.

          These are shows NOT intended to be re-broadcast or otherwise memorialized onto tape, video, etc. except for archival purposes.

          It’s one of the reasons that many compilations of old talk shows and comedy/variety shows don’t have as much music in them as you might think — the rights to license for DVD must be secured for all music uses and it’s just too expensive and time-consuming in a lot of instances.

          It’s also why some older films, which may have secured only theatrical and network broadcast rights get music stripped out of them and replaced when such films are them re-purposed for cable broadcast and/or onto DVD.

          • The “ephemeral use” exception has been interpreted to mean spontaneous, as in unplanned use. For example, a few seconds of marching band music gets broadcast before the broadcaster cuts away, or someone, like a live talk show host or guest suddenly bursts into song.

            An edited – pre-planned dip might be different. Chapter 1, section 106 of the Copyright Act is a little, shall we say, opaque.

            it’s been litigated and I think that the artists lost. Gael probably knows who, what where and when.

            • Always wondered about this. For instance; someone spontaneously breaking out with a chorus of “Happy Birthday to You” on TV.

            • I have friends over at Fox Sports Music, who tell me they apparently no longer do the ephemeral usage thing… got too much litigation from bands pissed their music was used without permission.

              The track used in the NBA finals was for a short historic featurette about the Lakers, so an ephemeral use would be really pushing it!

              • Hi, Matt,

                From 2004 and until late last year, one of my colleagues was the music coordinator at Fox Sports, working on Super Bowls, World Series, etc., etc. — and continues to consult for them.

                The “Big 3” network sports divisions are also big ephemeral use folks (I actually used to work for the person who is now in charge of music at one of those networks).

                Ephemeral uses remain the industry norm throughout sports broadcasts, news, certain talk shows and other live events.

                As far as a featurette… if it is intended for broadcast during the live event and is not being memorialized on to tape/DVD except for archival purposes, it could easily fall under the ephemeral use as the definition is applied today.

                It’s like those warm & fuzzy Olympic stories that get plopped in-between events to kill time. While they’re taped & edited in advance, they’re used within the framework of live (or tape-delayed) broadcasts of the actual events, and not intended for use outside of those parameters.

                If, however, the featurette is intended to be re-broadcast on its own (by itself or as a part of another broadcast, collection, etc.), outside of the live/tape-delayed event, it would NOT fall under the ephemeral use definition and needs to be otherwise licensed.

                I think you maybe referring to the brouhaha over Fox’s use of Arcade Fire’s “No Cars Go” in bumpers/transitions during the 2008 Super Bowl (which was very similar to the incident using “Salad Days” by Minor Threat during a 2005 Eagles/Broncos game). If I recall correctly, broadcasters prevailed in both instances and neither complaint even made its way into litigation because of the ephemeral use provisions (I could be wrong, but that’s what I remember reading about the 2008 incident that referenced the one from 2005 as well).

                Other restrictions and conditions apply to ephemeral uses, but the definition has expanded over the years (as have the conditions and technology under which they are applied).

                A statutory (compulsory) license is an exception to copyright that allows use of a copyrighted work without the explicit permission of its owner. Ephemeral uses fall into the realm of statutory licensing. Royalties and conditions for certain types of uses are set by law, and may designate a PRO or other copyright collecting agency or entity to receive and/or negotiate royalty payments.

                Part of “Sec. 112. Limitations on exclusive rights: Ephemeral recordings” of the Copyright Code:

                “…it is not an infringement of copyright for a transmitting organization entitled to transmit to the public a performance or display of a work, under a license, including a statutory license… or for a transmitting organization that is a broadcast radio or television station licensed as such by the Federal Communications Commission and that makes a broadcast transmission of a performance of a sound recording… to make no more than one copy… of a particular transmission program embodying the performance or display…”

                House Report No. 94-1476 states:

                “…Assuming that the transmission meets the other conditions of the provision, it makes no difference what type of public transmission the organization is making: commercial radio and television broadcasts, public radio and television broadcasts not exempted by section 110(2), pay-TV, closed circuit, background music, and so forth… the ephemeral recording must be ‘retained and used solely by the transmitting organization that made it’…”

                We’ve come a long way since the piano rolls that spawned the whole issue of statutory licenses, but the basics still remain.

                Oh, and @ MichaelL — A number of the changes to the 1972 Copyright Act were as a result of the Small Webcaster Settlement Act of 2002 and involved SoundExchange & The Voice of Webcasters. While some modifications were Internet-specific, other areas (including those affecting ephemeral uses) were also addressed. ๐Ÿ˜‰


                • Hi Gael, very interesting! Thanks for the clarification – I haven’t dug too deep into the whole issue, I just know they’re using a lot more library music now : )

                  I really appreciate reading your well informed posts here!

                • Hi Gael,

                  I submit to your knowledge and experience. Thank you for sharing it.

                  I could have use your insight 10 years ago, when half of my catalog was being hijacked! ๐Ÿ™



                  • MichaelL,

                    10 years ago I didn’t have quite the “insight” or knowledge I’ve gained in this decade, so I probably wouldn’t have been much help [lol]! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • It’s not as much misleading (most supervisors have a handle on which libraries are “re-titling” libraries now, and if they’re not sure, they’ll ask if they care)… it’s that a lot of supervisors actually are concerned about the value of music and how composers and artists are treated (astounding, I know).

      For many, it’s a self-serving caring, in that the lower the perceived value of music falls, the lower the supervisor fee can fall as well; others are advocates for composer rights.

      Regardless of the reason(s) behind the desire to not use re-titling libraries, more folks I know are hip to the practice and don’t want the inherent headaches that can arise as a result.

      There will always be those who could care less where the music comes from, who gets screwed or anything but “How much is it gonna cost me? And it better be cheap.”


      • So Gael (and any seasoned pros who want to chime in),

        What advice do you have for a 40 something writer who finally has time in life for “chasing the dream” of becoming a professional composer? I know where you stand on re-titling and you are pulling me toward your camp.

        I have about a dozen tracks in 5 retitle libraries since I started this a few months ago. Of course, no licenses (well one for $40). I should have known, if it seems too good to be true … Do you suggest:
        1) I pull my songs out where possible and search for exclusive libraries who will accept my stuff?
        2) Leave them and start concentrating on building a library of my own that I can submit to exclusive libraries
        3) Submit to exclusives first, then submit the rejects to the retitles?
        4) All of the above? LOL

        Thanks for putting in so much time here.
        Cheers to you!

        • What about trying to sell your music directly to the production companies?

          Get yourself a box.net account, an imdb.com “pro” account, and a DVR. All of which are tax deductions.

          Please believe me when I say that Supervisors will have IMMENSE respect for a 40 something year old guy trying to wheel and deal his own tracks. It might take a couple of years, but you’ll be keeping 100% of your royalties instead of giving up a good percentage of your royalties to a company who names your songs $72t22h2hhh.MP3

            • Try the professional version as opposed to the free version. You can personalize your box.net site with your logo, in addition to a bunch of other useful things. It’s probably given me a 1000% return on my investment of $15 per month..

              • Thanks for the recommendation. Does the pro version work well with larger files? I use ftp for my clients, most people can figure out how to use Cyberduck. Hosting 200GB for ftp/email is $40 a year.

                • Hey there,

                  The pro version works well, the customers can stream the files before they decide to download them, which is key for some Supervisors.

                  I use FTP as well for certain Supervisors. I also have a yousendit pro account that some people prefer.

  3. one thing I am still not really sure about. . . . .
    is ALL re-titling unethical?

    I ask because it seems that re-titling is always called “non-exclusive re-titling”. . . and it seems the contract I was recently offered is an “exclusive” contract. I still didn’t ask the guy just what they mean by “exclusive”, but I am assuming they mean that if I sign I will then not be allowed to sign with another re-titling library. . . .???

    is exclusive re-titling less unethical then non-exclusive?

    • Eddi,

      To some folks re-titling is perceived as a perfectly ethical practice. The mindset is “It’s my property [the copyright] and I can do with it what I want.”

      Others feel the entire concept is ethically flawed [I consider myself in this group].

      As with most arguments that involve commerce, some find their opinions changing along with wherever the money leads.

      You have to decide what you feel is right for YOU, since this is a practice that has yet to have its day in court (so to speak).

      Personally, I feel that if I create a WORK [in this case, a composition], I am obliged to treat that work as a unique creation and market it accordingly. Any recording I make of that creation is a unique sound representation of the work, and is equally unique in its treatment of the work. As such, for me to consider re-titling either the composition OR any recording so a company that had nothing to do with the creation of the work or the recording, paid no money to me to have it created, recorded, mixed or anything else — and then expects to have all or a piece of the publishing to that “title” and recording of it IN PERPETUITY (as in forever) is pretty cheeky. Place it in something and split the upfront license fee with me (whether it’s $9.95 or $9,500) and leave your grubby mitts of my back-end (pun intended).

      These libraries exist with such success because they rake in the back-end bucks — for works they did NOTHING and paid NOTHING to have created. The money some of these libraries make is obscene, when you think of how much of that money is made on the backs of the composers whose works and recordings they have commandeered in these “non-exclusive” deals.

      And make no mistake: Many who say they are “non-exclusive” really are NOT. They put conditions on that “non-exclusivity” in different ways, including saying you cannot license the same work/track to another library. Uhm… and that is NON-exclusive HOW? Oh, yeah… you’re allowed to plug your own stuff yourself, but not avail yourself of any other avenues out there that might compete with the particular library wanting to wrap up your works/recordings into THEIR stable? I don’t think so, Tim.

      Friends of mine who write for magazines are completely baffled at re-titling in the music world. None of them re-title articles to re-purpose them for another periodical or website. If it is reprinted elsewhere, it’s reprinted, and so noted; otherwise, their take is “I can always write another article.”


      • Gael,

        Thanks for all of the insight . As I’ve said, I haven’t signed with a retitler and probably wouldn’t. I’ve been following the issue to decide what to do with my 1500 tracks.

        My opinion that retitling will not go away soon, is simply based on the fact that it’s long long road through the courts to the point where laws are changed through legislation.

        As far as ethics go, there are a million stories in the naked city, and equal amounts of dubious conduct in the exclusive world. I’ve got co-writers who’ve never even heard the tracks that they “co-wrote.”

        So, I’ve got a lot of tracks and want to be very careful what I do with them.

        Thanks again,


      • Thanks Gael…
        I asked companyX about what “exclusive” means in their contract, and he replied just what you said — Under this contract I am not allowed to work with any other pitching company.

        But, it is not “forever”. They claim that if the contract is terminated they will delete all tracks from their database.

        It is not like I am still considering their offer, because from the beginning I have had a terrible feeling in my STOMACH about re-titling…. but I continue to analyse this contract as it helps me to understand this business model.

        Gael, so what I am hearing from you is that an EXCLUSIVE re-titling deal is even WORSE than a NON-EXCLUSIVE re-titling deal.

        • Actually, no, Eddie.

          While I’m not a huge fan, an exclusive deal, under the right circumstances can be a good thing for certain composers in certain arenas.

          I know composers who negotiate a 50/50 split on publishing (and, of course, also keep all their writer’s share) for everything they create for an exclusive library. It’s often based on how much money is paid to them up front to cover the creation of the work and the recording of it.

          It is, however, more common to be paid a good upfront composing fee, the company picks up the tab for all musicians and recording costs, and the company then takes the full publishing share and ownership of the master recording. It’s basically a work-made-for-hire — in the fashion of film/TV composers.

          As for “not forever” — don’t fool yourself. They retain certain rights to any TITLES whose revenue stream rights you have assigned to them. That means no matter how many times “Cheesy Horror Film” plays on Premium Cable Co’s #3 station in France, and in theatres in Germany, they will still be receiving revenue for the use of your “Killer Stalks Stupid Chick in Nightgown With a Candle Walking Through Dark Castle” that’s in the movie. Of course, you’ll still be getting your writer royalties from your PRO, but they still “own” the publisher revenue stream IN PERPETUITY for that title — even if they are no longer licensing the work in any new features, etc.

          Confused yet? [lol]

          • …but it seems fair enough that if they work to find a placement, and this placement generates back-end, then they should be entitled to continue collecting that back-end as long as it keeps coming. I don’t think it would be fair that if I would terminate the contract that this should also block back-end on stuff they worked to get.

            I don’t really see a problem with this (….or???).

            My main fear would be if they would really actually delete my tracks if I would terminate…. the contract does not detail this – it only says that the deal can be terminated with 60 days notice and that all revenue streams from their placements will continue.

            • Sorry, Eddi, I disagree,

              Barring artist/publisher contracts (which are almost entirely exclusive deals)…

              Unless someone is PAYING FOR YOU TO COMPOSE THE WORK and also PAYING FOR THE MUSICIANS and PAYING FOR THE RECORDING SESSIONS and PAYING FOR ALL ACCOMPANYING COSTS in the creation of the work AND the recording of it, NO ONE (and I repeat, NO ONE) is “entitled” to your back-end royalties or publishing.

              Finder’s fee or cut of the up-front licensing fee, yes — that’s fair.

              But if they think that they’re owed a piece of YOUR creation FOREVER just because they got you a placement (or two or three or whatever) in a movie or TV show, big whoop-dee-doo. Their cut of the license fee is more than fair compensation. Ownership of YOUR creation is not, although they’d fight me to the death on that point.

              It just doesn’t fly with me. Never has, never will.

              • [by the way, a word to the administraters – – – the lay-out of this FORUM is very very frustrating. . . there are SO many sub-threads on this one thread that it becomes impossible after a while to find all the replies you are looking for.- I think the standard FORUM lay-out, found on most forums is much better – – each new reply gets put below the previous one regardless].

                Hi Gael,

                Ok, yes, I hear you.
                Yes it is a bit like an agent takes 20% of the gig fee for getting you the gig. . . . but then they do not demand that they take a 50% cut on all the CDs you will sell at that gig!

                so now I am understanding quite clearly where the 2 camps sit:
                1- The Artists’ camp which maintains that all back-end goes to the Artist
                2- The Agents’ camp the claims that they are entitled to back-end as part of their payment.
                [gross over-generalization]

                Yes, I see it now, and it is all about “Self-respect” and Self-valuing”.

                It can be tough— there is no much music out there, and so little appreciation, that even when one sweats for years to create what we know is good music – – – after a while one learns to under-value one’s own work simply from lack of appreciation.

                But you are right Gael, and my gut feeling in now, and has always kept me on a course such as you are advocating.

                Yes, maybe it means I “sit” on my music my whole life. . . but I do have this gut feeling, that it is mine, and ought to remain mine. I would not be opposed to simply having my work and copyrights bought out if I felt comfortable with the price.

                – – –

                anyway, my plan is to simply to begin to approach film makers directly with my music.

                • @ Eddi “[by the way, a word to the administrators – – – the lay-out of this FORUM is very very frustrating. . .]”

                  Let’s see, you are spending a lot of time on this site, obviously benefiting from the expertise of a number of seasoned people, it’s free AND you’re complaining?

                  Granted, on this particular thread, a forum setting would be easier but generally the blog format works fairly well. Trying to convert this site to a forum format would be extremely time consuming, unless of course you would like to hire someone to do it for me:-) BTW it’s “administrator” in the singular. While I have enjoyed putting this site together and maintaining it. Writing music is my first priority!

  4. The PMA is hosting a panel on re-titling this Monday June 21st. Anyone who is planning on attending can have dinner on me before the event. I live about 100 yards from the venue.

    Please look to the PMA homepage for time and place…

    • Yikes, downtown L.A. at 6:00 PM? I’ll have to leave at 3:00 to make it! Still…

      Just to save you looking for the PMA site:

      Non-Exclusive Retitling & Other Developments Impacting the Production Music Industry
      Join us as we present an exciting panel to discuss topics affecting production music libraries. This event is open to PMA Members, non-members, & guests.

      Sheraton Los Angeles-Downtown
      711 South Hope Street
      Los Angeles, CA 90017
      (less than 1/2 mile from LA Live & Promax)
      Monday June 21st
      6 PM – 9 PM
      No-Host Bar
      PMA Members – $10
      Non-Members & Guests – $15
      (cash or check only)
      RSVP to Debra@pmamusic.com

  5. Ladies and Gents,

    A few years ago, a class action lawsuit was brought upon a major TV network conglomerate, on behalf of copyright owners.

    The settlements were paid out based on the number of TITLES that were supposedly used illegally.

    If you only had one COMPOSITION placed illegally, but under three different TITLES under three different “LIBRARIES”, you might have seen money come through that was three times as much as it should have been.

    Now, these class action lawsuits pop up every 10 years or so. Do retitlers actually think that the TV networks will be OK with this?

    Also, it screws over composers that do not retitle because the retitled songs are double/tripple/octuple dipping in the pool of settlement funds.

    These networks have MILLIONS of needle-drops a year, so it would be IMPOSSIBLE to decipher which compositions correspond to which titles for any TEN YEAR period.

    All the networks have to do is not use the retitle companies. If you as a composer are known to frequent retitlers to “distribute” your music, your compositions will most likely be looked over, regardless of who sends them to the network.

    • There’s actually another one in the works already — don’t recall all the details, but it was brought up at a panel on which I was participating a few months ago. It is expected that there will be more to follow, and from a number of sources. The issues aren’t going away any time soon.

  6. I just had to laugh just now. I am still talking with the guy from “companyX” who is trying to convince me to sign his contract…. this is what he just wrote in his last email:
    Wouldn’t you say he sounds just a bit confused????

    “I don’t know how else to say it– there are no “dangers” to re-titling. There are plenty of people in our business who rip artists off, and some of them do use the alternate-title process to do it.”

    • Have you checked out “company X” on this website? See what others say about their experiences with this company.

      If you can’t find any comments, just identify “company x” and ask.

      If you have serious concerns, you could limit the term of the deal. Give them six months.

      But … I must ask… have you registered the copyrights on all of your tracks? If not, do that before you do another thing.

      And seriously try to find a lawyer to help you. Are you in the US? If you cannot afford a lawyer, you might be able to find one to help you pro bono. In my city they have an organization called “volunteer lawyers for the arts.”


      • I thought I was not supposed to reveal company names if what I am saying could be taken as slanderous? Anyhow, I didn’t find this company on this lists here.

        I am a SOCAN (Canada) member, but live in Czech most of the time. I don’t fully understand the copyright process so I don’t know to which level my stuff is copyrighted.

        I have my music on self-published CDs on CDBABY (edward powell), and all titles are registered with SOCAN. Also note that in Canada we do NOT need to have a publishing company to collect publishing royalties – – I just double checked this with SOCAN . . I am automatically considered the owner and publisher of my own work as long as there is not another publisher listed.

        So I told this company that I can’t afford a lawyer based on some “promise” of future income. . . and I have no trustworthy recommendation for this company. . . therefore, and since my CURRENT catalogue took me years of work to make, I will simply not sign ANY retitling deal because of the inherant risks.

        Maybe I’m missing out on some money by refusing. . . but I have no way of knowing without a recommendation, or cash upfront, or an excellent lawyer – – – – none of which I have.

        • @Eddi

          “Also note that in Canada we do NOT need to have a publishing company to collect publishing royalties – – I just double checked this with SOCAN . . I am automatically considered the owner and publisher of my own work as long as there is not another publisher listed.”

          My PRO is IMRO/Ireland and like SOCAN it does NOT require a publisher attached to make any payments. It operates on the same premise as SOCAN

          I was informed by a US library that ASCAP/BMI HAD to have a publisher attached to make payments. Is this true and if so why ? IMRO is partnered by ASCAP is the US. It will collect 100% of US royalties for me, from them, if there is no publisher attached.

          If this is true, what do our US cousins do, form a publishing company and self publish? Bizarre if true.

          • I don’t know the details, but as far as my understanding goes it has to do simply with US Law. Our American cousins need to form their own publishing company if they want to self publish and get paid — as far as I understand it. Bummer for them ๐Ÿ™

          • Hi Denis,

            It’s not all that difficult to form a publishing entity to self publish. A composer can register as a publisher with their PRO. Fees vary.

            Depending upon how you want to do business, it can be as simple as opening a bank account titled “composer A d/b/a (doing business as) XYZ Publishing. In this model you are acting as a sole proprietor.

            If one really intends to do some serious publishing, they may want to incorporate or form an LLC. Doing so, however, opens up tax and other issues.

            Hope its a lovely day in Ireland today!



          • BMi allows a writer to be noted as the publisher (author published) on a cue sheet and the writer WILL receive associated performance rights royalties.

            ASCAP does NOT recognize the “author published” notation but instead holds those monse “in trust” (whatever THAT means, since I know writers who have never seen past due royalties when they did finally register a publishing entity with them).

            It’s $25-$35 for ASCAP registration, around $150-$250 for BMI (the latter has a higher fee partly to discourage those who are not really professionals in the field to register company names that will have zero-five or so works attached to them, which causes huge admin fees).

            Since BMI DOES pay “author published” royalties from cue sheet designations, no need to secure a publishing entity there unless you’re going to have a larger body of work and want to possibly “up your street cred” with other industry folks, but if an ASCAP writer, drop the few bucks and create one so you at least have a chance of getting your performance rights royalties from the publisher side of any placement.


  7. Can I ask a question?
    From all the writers out there that get placements…. about what percentage are strictly “media composers” (people who dedicate themselves mostly to this craft, and build personal libraries for the express purpose of trying to get placements.
    …and what percentage would be writers/musicians who put groups together, put out CDs, play gigs, try to get known primarily as performers.


    • I kinda do both. Just finished a CD and did a video with my wife but not interested in gigs (been there, done that), just interested in making all kinds of music. BTW this particular CD took a few years to come together. The library stuff goes much faster!

    • I am definitely in the media composer camp. I was in bands many years ago. I like being able to control my own output and destiny to an extent.

        • Hi Eddi,

          I’ve been both. I was a media composer for a Looong time. I had a contemporary jazz (hate the term smooth) CD chart in the 90’s.

          Took a break, HA, to become a lawyer. Now I’m a “recovering attorney” — ran back to music as fast as I could.

          I’ve done the art route. Media composer now. I respect what we media composers do as an art form, in and of itself. I have a film background. There’s something to be said for versatility — being able to write in many styles. One day it’s an epic orchestra the next, I’m digging out the NI B4II and working on a Memphis groove.

          Man is that NI B4 a lot lighter than my old Leslie Tone Cabinet!


          • thanks again, this is all giving me a clearer picture of what is goin’ on here – and possibly how I can fit myself in.

    • >what percentage are strictly “media composers” (people who dedicate themselves mostly to this craft, and build personal libraries for the express purpose of trying to get placements…and what percentage would be writers/musicians who put groups together<

      Hi Ed, Michael Nickolas here. I played in bands for the first part of my career, until I got tired of playing for the drunken college kids, private party guests and tourists at the ski areas and islands. ๐Ÿ™‚ I got a great education working for Cakewalk Music software for a bit, and built a studio in my home. I've had some success (as you know) getting TV placements, but the bulk of my income for the last five years came from songwriting for the children's educational market. Haven't had a kids project in a while so I'm building up my library and shopping existing tracks. Oh- an article I wrote is published in the July issue of "Recording Magazine.

  8. Are you all saying that you think every 1 minute track should be priced the same no matter what the quality? Theres a large difference in quality between a track made from loops and a track “composed” using high quality samples.

    Like it or not, there is good and bad music out there – yes its a matter of opinion on which track is what. Good music deserves to be sold for a higher price. Its like seeing two plumbers in a yellow pages – one is $2 an hour, another is $40 an hour. You get the $2 an hour plumber and he fixes your pipes with an elastic band, but it brakes a week later – should have paid extra for the one who would have done a proper job. (bad analogy I know lol..)

    My main point is what others have said – good music does deserve to sell at a higher price…and yes it is a matter of opinion as to what constitues “good” music, which is why its such a complex issue and will never be solved

    • @ Emmett — I’m not sure who you’re responding to, but I think that I agree. What I suggest above is looking at our tracks as investments of different value. I do think that something I labored on for days should be worth more than something that only took a few hours.

      That said, in the strange world that is the music business, I’ve actually LOST money on music that was labored over with love, and expensively produced with live “A list” musicians. Conversely, I’ve made approaching 30K in royalties for a track that took only
      6 hrs to write and produce, with samples, for which I was originally paid $150. AND, the royalties should be 2X that, but the publisher made a relative, who has probably never even heard the track, a co-writer.

      @John the other John — I agree that compositional skills matter. I can’t comprehend writing as quickly as that video. I have a very similar set-up regarding technology. I write until I sweat blood. It takes longer than 9 minutes for my template to load.
      As far as what’s memorable and will stand the test of time, I’m sure that there’s a place for that in the production music world. But….. so many of the productions that this music is used in are not memorable in and of themselves.

      However, for an unscientific survey…..would you say that exclusive libraries more than retitlers favor compositional skills and originality?

      • Funny you mention that MichaeIL. Yes, the two I mentioned that respect compositional skills and originality happen to be exclusive libraries. Don’t know if it’s a pattern though.

        • I think that’s likely to be the case. They’re looking at a long term investment. They want tracks that will payout over years, particularly if they’ve put out money upfront.

          I would love to have more of that work.
          Ah …here’s X amount of dollars, now go write us some great music.
          I can dream.

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