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Topic: Composing for Music Library

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  1. #1

    Composing for Music Library

    I know this is OT but I didn't want it to get lost in an unused forum.

    I need some input from you working composers. How do you work with Music Libraries? I have this general idea from a friend (but don't know if this is correct)

    The Deal

    1. Get paid upfront for a piece... $500 (going rate) for this fee you...
    compose and perform a two minute piece with alternates at :60, :30, :15
    you receive NOTHING on placement. you cannot use this piece elsewhere.
    you DO receive ASCAP/BMI/SESAC writers fee for airplay

    Upside..
    You get paid something for sure
    You can claim ownership on your resume
    Downside
    If you've done well, you've sold out for peanuts...chalk it up to experience.
    You still have your airplay fees
    //This method may be better for a smaller firm since there is not a large user base; most placements will come from the placements made by the directors of the company.

    2. Get NOTHING upfront for a piece...
    compose and perform a two minute piece with alternates at :60, :30, :15
    you receive HALF of the placement fee. you cannot use this piece elsewhere.
    you DO receive ASCAP/BMI/SESAC writers fee for airplay

    Upside
    If you've done well, you make more money for the composing fee.
    Downside
    If you haven't done well, you get nothing.
    //This method might be better for a larger firm that constantly is sending CDs to a large user base i.e. APM

    3. Side Deal-Get NOTHING upfront for a piece...
    compose and perform a two minute piece with alternates at :60, :30, :15
    you receive HALF of the placement fee. you CAN use this piece elsewhere.
    you DO receive ASCAP/BMI/SESAC writers fee for airplay

    Upside
    If you've done well, you make more money for the composing fee.
    Downside
    none-you still own the piece

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Sep 1999
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    Dallas, Texas
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    Re: Composing for Music Library

    4. Best Deal

    Tell Music Library to ***k off.

    Compose and perform a two minute piece with alternatives.

    You keep all the rights and administer your music as you see fit.

    +++++++

    People have approached me on numerous occasions trying to get me to sell out stuff to (or compose for) music libraries. One company offered to buy my entire catalog. If I had done that at the time (and it would have been decent enough money) I would be SO SO SO SO SO mad at myself right now. I have a huge catalog, every single bit owned outright, and I continue to make money on things I produced 8-10 years ago. When I'm stuck, or running short on time, or just would rather be doing something else, I can fish back into that catalog again and again, and make money on that material. All the money, not just a little bit of it.

    It's very easy to be tempted, but my recommendation to you is to keep your music for yourself and just keep plugging away.

    One tip that I'd pass on is that you SHOULD try to make your two-minute, plus short derivatives and bumpers, even if they're not necessarily required for the job. I try to make the time for this whenever I possibly can. It's much easier to do when you're already in the middle of it, rather than coming back to something a few months or years later, and needing to "knock off" your own work. It's just quicker and more painless when you're already in the moment of a given piece.

    I have never regretted hanging onto the rights for my music, and sometimes it is a fight to do so. Sometimes I negotiate lower fees in order to keep 100% of my author/publishing rights. But it has paid off, and as I said, I'd be a very sad cat today if I'd sold off the collection of tunes that I was sorely tempted to sell in the past.

    Just my two cents worth, but I am very happy with my decisions in this matter.

  3. #3

    Re: Composing for Music Library

    My thoughts on the subject is that I stay away from music libraries that don't pay anything up front, period! There is absolutely no guarantee that your music will ever be used and if it is, there is a good chance that it won't bring in nearly as much as you think. Only if the library is extremely well known the risk is slightly less, otherwise save your time.

    If you get paid up front, generally this is the best deal, especially if there is a good volume associated with the deal. As far as the exclusivity, you could negotiate that if the piece doesn't get used on something within 2-3 years, the music reverts back to you, or something similar.

    As far as ASCAP/BMI PRO royalties, always keep the writer's share no matter what, once again there is no guarantee that you will ever make any money on these, but if the piece is broadcast it could add up.

    Remember, the only thing you can count on for sure is the money up front, everything else is a gamble, gambling is generally a dumb thing!
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Re: Composing for Music Library

    Go with Bruce - I don't think I've seen better advice on this subject.

  5. #5

    Re: Composing for Music Library>>>How to plug away?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce A. Richardson
    4. Best Deal

    It's very easy to be tempted, but my recommendation to you is to keep your music for yourself and just keep plugging away.

    matter.
    (Hi Bruce;-)

    Related question: I've been composing/recording for a TV production company
    for 3 years, making enough money to not having to do anything else.
    They are happy with my work, and the only way I see this relation end is if they go out of business. This could happen, and I probably would be wise to get more clients. I'm looking for a solid strategy to go about this, should I get an agent, start calling production companies left and right, etc.etc?
    I did once send out 20 demo packages, calling before and calling after, with absolutely no results.
    All advice appreciated!

    Troels

    www.troelsoxenvad.com

  6. #6

    Re: Composing for Music Library

    Troels,

    With this topic being discussed many times before, you should do some searches to see if you can find your answers. Where are you based out of? This has everything to do with what your aproach should be.
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  7. #7

    Re: Composing for Music Library

    BTW, as a reply to Bruce, in my experience writing for Music Libraries (which I generally despise as a concept, but that I really feel are here to stay) has been a relatively positive one as long as the agreement going into it is beneficial for both parties. Rarely have I been able to re-use a cue that I had written for something else, it has happened a couple of times, but generally I end up having to make numerous changes anyway that I might as well have written a new piece. Plus, as your catalog gets older, it tends to sound dated and when you go and dig up pieces you produced 10 years ago, you end up wanting to re-do them using the latest samples.

    Several people on this board have sucessfully composed for libraries, but as I mentioned before, stay away from the ones that don't pay up front.

    Also, be aware that some sample libraries have restrictions that prevent you from using them on a music library.
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  8. #8

    Re: Composing for Music Library

    Just a different view on the topic...

    I think if you're going to do it, I would choose to NOT be paid upfront. That way you OWN the music, master and publishing. As long as you do a non-exclusive deal, let a library pitch your music for you. If you get a placement, great you'll get half the sync fee (probably not too much - $250-$500 bucks) and ALL of the ASCAP/BMI. If you took the probably small upfront fee, then you wouldn't own it anymore and I totally agree with Bruce on this. However, if you've got stuff on the shelf, why not let somebody else try turn it into some money for you. You've got nothing to lose, and you can continue your efforts, as Bruce says, to place it yourself. I don't really see the downside in this. Now I'm talking about music you've already written, cause it might be a big waste of time to write new music for no money upfront and no guarantee that you'll ever see any on the backend. I've had leftover tracks from shows that I did this kind of deal on and have gotten some decent placements on them that I never would of gotten from my own efforts - I probably wouldn't have wasted the time trying to place them.

    At the end of the day, getting music in a library is a crapshoot. Money upfront or not, if you're lucky it'll be on the shelf on the right day at the right time when somebody stumbles upon your track and uses it. It's total luck I think.

    Use it as just one of the many ways that YOU need to promote your music and yourself, and it can turn into a decent little portion of your income. I think the best thing is to not put all of your eggs in one basket or rely on anyone (library, production company, etc.) to take care of you. Worry about the best things for you, try and make intelligent decisions, and over time it all should work out.

    Jeff

  9. #9

    Re: Composing for Music Library

    Somebody please tell me that Jeff knows what he's talking about! This sounds the best to me. Sort of...Why not?

    When you're working on a TV show-or a movie are you working for hire and lose all rights or do you own it?

    And for comparison (I guess no one wants to specify this) how much do you get for a minute of music?

    (Because I don't know)how is this different than composing for a library?

    Also, this thread is about someone trying to get a start. To get some inertia...

  10. #10

    Re: Composing for Music Library

    Rjames -

    I'm sure someone will come in here guns a blazin and pick holes in my views, but everything I said was from personal experience. Everyone seems to have their own idea of what works best for them.

    As far as TV/films being work for hire, I mean every deal is different and everything is negotiable. But most times, yes you'll have to do that kind of deal (you'll always get your writer's share of royalties, NEVER do anything that you have to sign that away). Even if you do a work for hire deal, inevitably when you're working on something, there will be cues that are not used for one reason or another, and usually you can use them again. Over time you end up having tons of music that you're doing nothing with cause you're on to the next thing. These are the kind of tracks that I think are good for trying a non-exclusive library deal on, in my opinion.

    As far as the per minute, I mean fees are all over the place, and I don't think anyone's going to throw out real numbers here. As far as TV/film though (as opposed to games I guess) I don't think you're going to get paid by the minute. If you get hired to score a project, usually you have to give as much music as needed so everyone's happy.

    Ok, good luck, I'm sure there will be varying points of view on this topic......

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