Production music  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
stock footage, Radio Soulwax: Librarian Girl

Production music is the name given to the music owned by production music libraries and licensed to customers for use in film, television, radio and other media. To collectors, the genre is known as "library music".

Unlike popular and classical music publishers, who typically own less than 50 percent of the copyright in a composition, music production libraries own all of the copyrights of their music, meaning that it can be licensed without seeking the composer's permission, as is necessary in licensing music from normal publishers. This is because virtually all music created for music libraries is done on a work for hire basis. Production music is therefore a convenient medium for media producers—they can be assured that they will be able to license any piece of music in the library at a reasonable rate.

Production music libraries will typically offer a broad range of musical styles and genres, enabling producers and editors to find much of what they need in the same library. Music libraries vary in size from a few hundred tracks up to many thousands. The first production music library was setup by De Wolfe Music in 1927 with the advent of sound in film, the company originally scored music for use in silent film.


Business model

The business model of production music libraries is based on two income streams:

  • License or synchronization fees: These are the fees paid upfront to the library for permission to synchronize its music to a piece of film, video or audio. These fees can range from a few dollars for an internet usage, to thousands for a network commercial usage. Some libraries, especially in the UK and Europe, split these fees with the composer of the music. In the US, it is more common for a composer to be paid a work-for-hire fee upfront by the library for composing the music, thus waiving his/her share of any future license fees. In the United Kingdom, license fees for production music are nationally standardized and set by the MCPS. In the US and elsewhere, libraries are free to determine their own license fees.
  • Performance income (or performance royalties): Performances income is generated when music is publicly performed - for example, on television or radio. The producer of the show or film that has licensed the music does not pay these fees. Instead, large fees are paid annually by broadcasters (such as television networks and radio stations) to performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC in the US and the PRS in the UK, who then distribute income among their members. To ensure it is distributed fairly and accurately, most broadcasters are required to keep note of what music they have broadcast and for how long. This information is then used by the performance societies to allocate income to their members. Typically, a library will receive 50 percent of the performance income (this is known as the publisher's share), with the composer receiving the remaining 50 percent. Like license fees, performance income is highly variable and dependent on the nature of the usage; a local radio usage will yield a very modest income - perhaps a few dollars each time it is played, whereas repeated use in a primetime network television show can generate many thousands of dollars.


The production music market is dominated by libraries affiliated with the large record and publishing companies: KPM is owned by EMI; Universal Music Publishing Group has music libraries under their own name as well as others owned by them such as FirstCom and KillerTracks; Boosey & Hawkes Production Music (including Cavendish, Abaco, Strip Sounds, Epic Score and Justement labels) is owned by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers; Extreme Music is owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and merged with Burst Labs in April, 2008; and Warner/Chappell (a division of Warner Music Group) owns Non-Stop Music.

Independent labels include Germany based Sonoton, (claimed to be the largest independent), Radio Mall, Crucial Music, MegaTrax, Heavy Hitters, Opus 1, 5 Alarm Music, Videohelper, The Diner, Jingle Punks Music, West One Music, Fontana Music Library (based in Czech Republic) and Vibey Library Publishing.

Hybrid license method

This method of licensing combines the creation of original, custom music with a catalog of traditional "library" music under one license agreement. The goal is to suit the needs of a budget conscious production but still provide that production with a unique and original show theme or audio brand. In this scenario, show producer identifies those scenes she/he feels are most important to the success of the show, and those scenes are scored to picture by the composer. Those less important scenes will utilize the library also provided by the same publisher/composer. Upon completion, the custom music and the library tracks are licensed together under one production blanket, the ownership of the custom music remains with the publisher who produced it, and the publisher can (after a term of exclusivity negotiated between the parties) re-license the custom music as part of its library to recuperate production costs.

This allows the music composer/producer to quote lower rates because they are retaining ownership of the custom music, and will have the ability to make money with the same recording in a different production later on. It also allows the program or film producer to deliver content of very high quality, ensures that the most important scenes have the perfect music, and those less important scenes are addressed with an affordable solution.

"Royalty-free" libraries

With the proliferation of music libraries in recent years and the increase in competition, some smaller libraries have evolved the somewhat misleadingly titled 'royalty-free' model. These libraries do not charge their customers for licensing the music. Instead, the customers purchase a CD of music - priced typically between 50 and 300 dollars - whose content is licensed in perpetuity for them to synchronize as often they wish. These libraries depend mainly on performance royalties for their income (with a small amount of income from sales of physical CDs or online track downloads). Assuming that the music is broadcast, royalties are paid on the music, though it is the broadcaster, not the customer, who pays them.

However, in some cases, the customer is the broadcaster, and in some countries (such as the United Kingdom) PRS licenses are required and royalties become payable for almost all non-domestic use of the music. Online music licenses must be obtained to use the music on websites, in podcasts, streaming video and downloads. Non-domestic use/public performance licenses are required for businesses to play music to their employees or use the music in presentations. Broadcast/public performance licenses are required to use the music with telephone on-hold systems.

There are however companies that offer completely royalty-free music which is not registered with any Performance rights organisation (also known as "royalty collection agencies").

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Production music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools