The most important part of purchasing Royalty Free Music
should be the most fun-- just listening
Set aside some time to select music. Allot at least an hour. Listen to more than 5 or 10 seconds of each prospective tune. Listen for
and identify editing posts and spots that you can use for swells and releases, for example. This will pay you solid dividends and
actually save time when you’re doing a score.
Soundtrack Creation Software?
In our hurry hurry, rush rush world with ever smaller budgets, we dream of a magic box that will make the right decisions for us.
Software that will let us pull a rabbit out of the hat and relieve us of the work of actually “knowing” the music we use.
Great sound design does not come so easily. Nor does the satisfaction of a job well done. Don’t deprive yourself of the real joy
and fun of doing great sound and using great music. Re-explore the simple crossfade for example. There is no faster way to assemble a
show score. And here’s another idea. Do your soundtrack first. Then cut in the visuals to the sound. You can’t always go
this route but when you have the opportuntiy, the results can be amazing.
And what about loops?
If you have the time to use loop based music creation software, you probably don’t have a deadline problem or a client watching
the clock. If you’re one of the lucky ones without these problems, beware of your own ego. Creating good music takes lots of time
and hard work. Your creations will probably sound good to you because you have the pride of authorship. But the real question is, will
they sound good to the client and not come off as too simplistic, “off the wall” or “loopy”? It might make more
sense to first take advantage of the literally thousands of well crafted fully produced royalty free music tracks available today.
Perhaps your time and the client’s money would be better spent crafting outstanding sound design.
Choose Music That Focuses Attention
How many times have you been admonished by a client not to let the music “fight” the narration? A “catch 22”?
Maybe. But don’t do your sound design with one hand tied behind your back. Select music that’s workable and yet still
motivational in character. Ride gain if you have to and/or use compression on your voice track so it will punch through. Consider using
your software’s “ducking” feature or creating swells and releases to call attention to points in the script. Does
narration really communicate iif nobody listens? Music shouldn’t fight the narrative, it should, along with visuals, focus
attention on it.
The Client Wants to Use a Tune He Heard On the Radio?
Donâ€™t let that happen. It isnâ€™t right, itâ€™s stealing. Its also very much illegal. No gray area here. You may think youâ€™ll never get
caught. Think again. Producers get caught all the time. And sometimes, depending on how deep the clientâ€™s pockets are, it can cost a
pretty penny (not to mention your reputation and lost future business). Certainly not in any sense worth it. Point the client toward
the many excellent sound-alike or â€œin the same bagâ€� recordings available from Royalty Free Music libraries. Peace of mind is what we
sell along with some very good sounds too. If you need help, call a Royalty Free Music library. We are in business to serve you. If the
client is adamant, a custom sound-alike might also be an answer. No, your clientâ€™s ASCAP or BMI license wonâ€™t likely cover him. No, a
mechanical license from the Harry Fox Agency wonâ€™t either. Get an honest quote from the publisher and/or record label for a master use
synchronization license for the tune the client is in love with. That should put the matter to rest quickly. Do the right thing. Youâ€™ll
Avoiding a Needle Drop Mentality
Should you buy an entire library or download just a single tune? There is no universal right answer. Budget certainly is a factor. High
selectivity is certainly another. No one in our industry can deny that we’ve come through some pretty tough economic times.
Plenty of incentive to be careful with money set aside for music. But at the same time, let’s not forget that unlike a “
needle drop”, “production blanket” or “annual blanket” licensing approach, music that is licensed on a
royalty free basis is not really an expense but actually an investment in an asset. Oh sure, you may budget a download like a needle
drop and with CDs so cheap today, its easy to “expense them” or tie them to the cost of one project. But there is a clear
difference. Check your royalty free license (each library is different to a degree). Chances are your license provides you with
multiple if not unlimited use of licensed music for 50-99 years (“lifetime blanket”). While you may be tempted to charge
off the cost of a royalty free tune to a single show remember that your CPA would tell you that the majority of your investment should
be amortized over numerous projects, bringing your average cost per use down to sometimes pennies. An outstanding value, no other way
to look at it.
Choosing a Royalty ree Music Delivery Format--
What’s a Mother To Do?
The number one delivery format
for Royalty Free Music is still the venerable Compact Disc. But there
are others and good ones at that. Not the least of these is the single-track
download. Now you can choose from literally thousands of tracks and
get exactly and precisely what you think will do your job or minimally
meet a client’s needs. These
downloads used to be just .mp3s but now with DSL and cable modem, uncompressed
.wav and. aiff files are common too. In the last two years .mp4 (AAC),
a compressed format, has burst upon the scene offering quality that is
indistinguishable from CDs while retaining the space saving advantages
of .mp3. For those that need full bandwidth downloads, there’s
44.1khz and for those who want to trade off a little quality for a smaller
file size, there’s 22khz. There are many pricing scenarios but
generally speaking, you pay essentially by the length of the material
The argument for downloading is high selectivity and the risk of buying
a CD with only 1 or 2 useable selections. But in the last year, a new
concept of downloading entire CD volumes has been introduced that makes
it economic to buy entire volumes. This concept relies on the absolute
CD quality of .mp4s along with a lower price to compensate the buyer
for his or her own time and a CD-R upon which to burn the music. End
users can typically save $50 or more over conventional CDs with delivery
to the computer desktop often in 15 minutes or less.
. mp4 (AAC) has spawned two
other high quality formats, CD-ROM and hard drive. These, however,
are clearly library oriented as opposed to CDs or individual tracks.
Simple “economy of scale” economics
allows library CD-ROMs with as many as 15 volumes each to be produced
for far less than conventional CDs, resulting in end user prices typically
more than 50% less. Furthermore, because the discs contain computer files,
the importation into editing software is often made easier. If format
conversion is necessary, it is often very rapid. Perhaps the biggest
advantage is having a large body of musical works available without the
usual clutter associated with using CDs.
Hard drives take the advantages
of CD-ROMs one-step further. Even the hand held variety, can contain
a given company’s entire catalog.
Again economy of scale makes it possible to deliver all of the quality
of CDs at a fraction of the cost.
Great sound design becomes affordable for small to medium sized producers
as well as larger traditional big library users. Other hard drive advantages
include portability, compatibility with other post houses, and onboard
and intuitive high-speed search capability (sometimes more than one).
Deciding what to buy and
how much to buy still boils down to your analysis of short term and
long term needs. If you want greater control over costs and cash flow,
a download plan makes good sense. After all, you have an entire company’s
libraries accessible 24/7, why stock the shelves?
This is especially true with some of the bulk download plans available
that bring the cost of a download down to more nearly the cost per cut
on a CD. But there’s a lot to be said for having a body of music
available at your literal fingertips. The cost per cut is lowest and
it impresses the clients, too. Compact discs are universally accepted
but more and more the alternative CD-ROM and hard drive formats are finding
favor. How your facilities are configured and your comfort level with
various computer-based technologies will largely dictate your preference.
If cost and quality are the only considerations, however, the CD-ROM
and hard drive formats may increasingly make good sense.
Again, there are no right
or wrong answers. What works for you is what counts. Remember, a royalty
free music library is an investment in an asset. Buy this asset the
way you would buy a new car. And look at the company behind the product.
Check out their license terms. Look at the customer support they offer,
especially if downloading. Analyze their music search mechanisms on
line or supplied with music. Above all, listen to the music. Music
shouldn’t be like buying a pound of nails.
A pile of CDs at a good price is not necessarily a good deal. Sure, look
at the number of cuts you get per volume but also ask whether they’re
just “padding” the disc with a lot of mix and edit outs instead
of giving you what you really need, more musical selections.
Finally. Ask a lot of questions. Call the libraries and get what you
need to make an informed decision. Your investment in royalty free music
is an investment in YOU!