Category Archives: Composer Tips

Tips for composers who are interested in creating, distributing and earning a living from a catalog of royalty free music.

When Composers of Royalty Free Music Die What Happens to Their Music and Earnings?

This article is for royalty free music composers specifically but is good advice for anybody in business.

Composers who are distributing their royalty free music catalog via online websites like ours need to take into consideration the frailty of the human condition and the fact that anything can happen to you and it could happen to you today. I actually had a good friend of mine get killed when he got hit by a bus, he stepped off the curb at the wrong time and bang, that was it. ‘Getting hit by a bus’ is a such an overused cliche but it really makes you think about life when it actually happens.

The issue with composers of royalty free music catalogs is basically…
Does your wife/husband know your Paypal password?
Does your wife/husband know which websites you are distributing your music through?
Does your wife/husband even know that you are making money online with your music?

The Partners In Rhyme Family of Composers
We have been distributing music online for 17 years. Some of our composers have been with us for over 15 years. That is why we always refer to our roster of composers as the ‘Partners In Rhyme family of composers’ and that is why we are so careful about who we let into our family of composers.
In that amount of time we have seen many of our composers have major ups and downs, get married and divorced, lots of them have had children and we have also unfortunately had two of our composers die.

I will explain the importance of this issue by telling you a couple of very personal stories involving Partners In Rhyme composers.

A Long Time PIR Composer Disappears
A few years ago I had noticed that one of our composers who had been distributing his royalty free music catalog with us since the very early days had not contacted me with new music or questions in a very long time. I had sent him a few emails to see how he was doing with no response. I finally figured he must have changed his email address and I started searching online for his name.
The first thing I found was a Myspace page full of condolence messages. I was shocked. Our composer had died a year before and we had been selling his music and making payments to his paypal account during that entire time.
It took a lot more digging, almost like digital forensic work, but I was finally able to find his wife’s email address via another Myspace page and contacted her. I wrote to her to explain that her husband had been earning, and was being paid, all this money and we had no idea that he was dead. After a few back and forth emails I finally made clear what the situation was and we started sending his payments to her Paypal account instead. I don’t think she ever understood the situation regarding the previous year’s payments though and to this day I think the composer’s original paypal account is sitting there with close to $10,000 in it, unclaimed.
She is, at least, still earning money to this day and the composer’s music is still being used in all kinds of projects.

Musicloops.com Composer Disappears
The same situation happened more recently when I couldn’t get a response to a request for a 1099 form from one of our musicloops.com composers and I ended up doing another web search only to find condolence websites instead. I was able to contact his wife but in the end we had to delete his music catalog because she simply did not want to understand or deal with what I was telling her about her husband’s earnings and that we were distributing his music.
I understood that it was a difficult time for her but I think her husband would have wanted her to have the monthly earnings and also would have wanted his music to live on and be used in projects for years to come.

Take Away Advice
This is kind of a depressing article but it is something to think about.
Let your significant other or a trusted family member know what you are doing with your music, give somebody the password to your paypal account and let them know the email addresses of the people you are dealing with in regards to your royalty free music catalog.
If you get hit by the proverbial bus you will probably no longer care what happens to your musical legacy but your loved ones probably will.

Let me know what you think about this issue, post your comments and suggestions below.

Thanks,
Mark

Free Online and Offline Audio File Conversion

At Partners In Rhyme we deliver all of the audio our customers order in WAV format. Some of our customers need their audio in MP3 format and we help them with instructions on how to easily convert their audio to any format they need using free iTunes software.
For those of your who do not want to download software to convert your audio there is a new free online audio conversion site just for you called Media.io
http://media.io/

To convert using iTunes follow the instructions below:

Converting to MP3 is very easy. If you don’t already have it download the free app iTunes (Mac or PC) here:

http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/

Load all of the sounds into iTunes (simply drag and drop in most operating systems) then choose iTunes > Preferences
Click on the ‘General’ tab, then click on the ‘Import Settings’ button and choose ‘MP3 Encoder’.
You can also choose the quality setting you want or choose ‘custom’ if you have a specific setting in mind.
Click OK. Then go back to the library, select all of your tracks that you want to convert, then choose Advanced > Create MP3 Version.
Once that is done you will have an MP3 version of the track in your iTunes music folder.

Interview with Sound Designer for Red Dead Redemption

Read Dead Redemption is one of my favorite PS3 games, not only for the game play but for the beautiful environments, musical soundtrack and flawless sound design.
I am posting a link to an in depth interview the audio director of Red Dead Redemption.

The interview is by Miguel Isaza for designingsound.org

When I saw the first images of Red Dead Redemption I knew that it will be a beautiful and amazing game. Then, the gameplay confirmed me that not only the visuals were great. The sound work there was fantastic. Clean mix, great sounds, and a perfect sonic experience for any player. So, if like me, you wanted to know more about the sound direction of the game, here is an interview with its audio director Jeffrey Whitcher.

Interview with Music Supervisor Greg Debonne

Arron, the owner at PlayItLoudMusic.com has kindly given me permission reprint his interview with Music Supervisor Greg Debonne here in its entirety.

Interview with Gregory Debonne

Greg’s credentials can be found on numerous reality shows with networks including MTV, VH1, The Discovery Channel, SPIKE, A&E, Lifetime, BRAVO, to a name a few. As a music supervisor with experience as a composer/arranger in conjunction with session work on production music cues, Debonne also is a well integrated member of the Los Angeles music community. To top it off he has perfect pitch!

We want to thank Greg again for taking the time to answer our questions on a Sunday night.

There is a lot of great insight here!

What got you into Music Supervision?

I’ve been involved in music all my life. Prior to music supervision, I was an associate producer of reality television shows. An AP job on reality television shows has morphed, but back in the day -in the early 2000s- you actually had some reality shows on MTV and VH1 that were music oriented whereby as the AP, I was also kind of the music coordinator as well. I had to handle all of the clearance for that as well, the liaison between the production

and clearance. On shows where there was a music super, I would assist that music super because I knew the MTV and VH1 systems of doing things so well. It was a natural segway for me to go into music supervision.

How has it changed the way you listen to music?

I’ve always listened to music from an arrangemental and orchestral standpoint, but now I listen to music relative to what’s going to work well to picture in that regard as well. I’m listening to the phrasing of every instrumental element individually, as well as combined, assessing just how easy it is for a music editor to cut that piece of music to picture underneath dialogue, assessing its compositional value and the dynamic ebb and flow in that regard, as well as other aesthetic nuances.

How can artists find out about new projects and their related music supervisors?

Different artists have different ways of going about it. But I know people who literally get online and find out who is the music supervisor of what shows. People look up shows that I’ve done. “Oh, who’s the music supervisor on that? Oh, Greg Debonne. Well then, I’m going to google Greg Debonne.” So, there’s that approach.

There’s also the approach of where you simply know of the music super’s name and you contact them and say “Hi, are you’re looking for music?” That music supervisor will get back to you and either say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It always helps for an artist to know what that music supervisor is looking for stylistically. Now, there are some music supervisors who only want what they’re looking for at the time, pertinent to whatever project they’re working. Me, I won’t turn anyone away if it’s good and potentially viable for future use. However, if it’s not applicable to whatever project I’m working at the time, I may not get to it right away.

Click Here to Read The Full Interview Continue reading

Pump Audio Demands (A lot) More Money From Their Composers

Pump Audio has sent out the notice posted below to all of their contributors.
It basically says that from now on their split will be 35% to the artists and 65% to Getty Images.

It would be surprising if this was a Pump Audio decision but it is definitely not surprising that this is a Getty Images decision. Getty Images along with Jupiter Images are pretty ruthless in how they treat their composers. And their composers are the ones who make their business models profitable.

Dear Pump Audio Artist,

We would like to thank you for your music and congratulate you on being part of one of the fastest growing music licensing companies in the world. Since the acquisition of Pump Audio by Getty Images, we continue to hear praises from a wide expansion of our clients on the depth and quality of our catalog and that is a testament to you.

As we plan for the future growth of our offering to the global music licensing client base, we have determined that to fully support the 400+ person Getty Images sales staff and invest in marketing and technology needs that we must make adjustments to the current revenue split system. By making these changes, we intend to accelerate the pace of our growth and achieve our goal of becoming the largest music licensor in the world.

The new model will be as following:

1) Licensing fees will now be 35% to the artist, 65% to Pump Audio/Getty Images

2) This change will take place as of July 1, 2009. Any royalties payable through June 30, 2009 will not be affected by this change

3) Performance royalty splits will remain at 50% of the publisher’s share

4) Those that don’t accept the new split will have their music removed from the system no later than December 31, 2009.

5) The rights you granted to us in the original contract do not change

If you have any questions, please email [email protected]

Please sign the enclosed amendment and send back to Artist Relations.

I have been reading about this development on blogs like the themusicsnob.com here
Pump Audio Reduces Music Licensing Payments

There are lots of comments regarding this move by Getty and Pump Audio, most of them bad, things like;

“That’s defaulting on the contract. If they have a signed agreement with me that states 50/50 and they decide to make changes to the split, they need to have a new contract signed with that agreement, which I will not do, and if they default on my contract and change the terms without my written consent, I will sue them.”

and;

“You have to really stay on top of things with Pump/Getty and I will definitely be looking for alternatives. Just when I was thinking they were cool it turns out to be another artist-leaching corporation”

I’d also like to quote Scott Hallgren, Owner/composer/producer at Scootman Music Productions http://www.scootmanmusic.com

Scott has contacted his rep at Pump Audio with some direct questions and received these as replies

1. Nacia at Pump couldn’t promise me the problems they’ve been having reconciling all of their databases (including, among other things: incorrect contact, PRO, and direct deposit info) are going to be fixed anytime soon. Even with all the new bodies, notice none are dedicated to admin…

2. She also informed me that Pump would now be giving their ‘clients’ UP TO A YEAR to report usage. Not pay, just report! So an artist could conceivably be waiting for 2+ years for payment if the bi-annual reporting didn’t fall in one’s favor.

3. I’ve also learned from another source that Pump are 15 months behind in registering their PRO info.

Scott goes on to say:

I have music in the PumpBox and have gotten a placement, but after this and the forced addition of our content to iStockPhoto.com (without receiving the benefits that people who joined iStock of their own volition, natch), I’m beginning to wonder if I need to ‘beat feet’ and let my participation die a natural death…

I think one of the reasons behind the success of Partners In Rhyme and www.musicloops.com and www.sound-effect.com is that we are a company run by musicians, first and foremost we think of our musicians above all else because we know first-hand what it is like to try to make a living at composing music.

It is difficult in that musicians are just that, musicians, they do not have MBAs or degrees in marketing and promotion and they are often times completely socially inept. To expect a musician to spend his/her days producing creative work and then ask them to also handle all the business dealings plus the marketing, self promotion, accounting, etc, etc. is a really big ask.

At Partners In Rhyme we are trying to make a place where musicians just have to create, we take of the rest and send them a nice paycheck every month. I can promise you we will never turn “corporate” (even though we are incorporated) and we will always be on the side of the little guy.

50/50 Forever! :-)

So how do you feel about this new development at Pump Audio?

Do you have music in their library and are you going to keep it there?

Are you also looking for alternatives like these other Pump Audio composers?

Tell us your feelings and what your plans are. It might help other composers figure out their own way forward.

12 Websites Where Musicians Can Pitch Their Music to Producers


There are lots of royalty free music sites out there to submit your music to but there are more and more sites appearing that actually pitch your music to certain projects and producers for free or for a fee. There are also a few crowd-sourcing / collaboration type sites here.
These sites are distinctly different from the free-for-all type sites like productiontrax, audiojungle and audiosparx and might be an interesting addition to your search for outlets for your production music.

1. Humtoo.com
http://www.humtoo.com/

A global meeting place for music makers and content creators. This site is pretty cool as it is free to signup and submit your music to videos and project descriptions.

2. Film Music.net
http://www.filmmusic.net/
Paid monthly subscription to submit music to be considered

  Immediate Access to our Film/TV Music Jobs Database
Access to Film Music Network Live! 24 hr/day streaming audio of Film Music Network events
Immediate Access to our Film & TV Music Salary & Rate Survey
Full benefits and discounts at all participating Film Music Network Vendor Partners.

3. The Composer Collective
http://www.thecomposercollective.com/tcc/composersignup.asp

The Composer Collective is comprised of cinematic composers dedicated to creating dramatic scores of the highest quality for film, television, interactive and commercial media. We group composers into innovative and productive workforces, giving the film industry a much-needed resource for intelligent music at never-before-seen productivity levels. This service is known as TeamScore™.

Choosing TeamScore™ puts you on the front lines of the film business as it changes and adapts rapidly to the demands of distributors and consumers worldwide.

4. Taxi.net
https://www.taxi.com/join/?88.7.207.46.6651122970743537
Paid yearly subscription is $299.95

http://www.taxi.com/abouts/join-whatyoullget.html
More than 1,200 opportunities per year to pitch your music to Major and Indie Record Labels, Top Music Publishers, and Music Supervisors working on film and TV projects. That’s TEN TIMES the number of opportunities you’ll get with TAXI imitators! And don’t forget, we have opportunities in nearly every conceivable genre of music.

5. Broadjam
http://www.broadjam.com/delivery/index.php?sessionID=q4qqrqkt2vc05bi4s15palahj1
offers an ‘opportunities’ service for $5-$10 per sbmission depending on what type a paid account you have

a broadjam member to enter opportunities. sign up today. you’ll also get other services designed to help independent musicians like you, promote themselves.

6. Studentfilms.com Forum
http://forums.studentfilms.com/eve/forums/a/frm/f/6156029451

Jobs posted for composers and composer submitting their resumes and profiles. Free to register.
Lots of posts like ‘Composer Needed’ and ‘Composer Available’.

7. Soundreef (beta)
http://www.soundreef.com/private_beta/promoterPage?o=13

Swap music for promotion? Not sure what that means but worth investigating.

8. YouLicense
direct job opportunities are available here
http://www.youlicense.com/Opportunities/default.aspx

here’s the RSS feed for the jobs list 

http://www.youlicense.com/XML/RSS/Opportunities/YouLicenseOpportunities.xml

9. Minimum Noise
http://www.minimumnoise.com/
A new site with all kinds of projects for "crowdsourcing musicians".

10. Pump Audio
http://pumpaudio.com/artists/index.php

There is no submission fee. If your music is not used, you lose nothing.
You will receive 50% of the license fees we receive for your music.
Pump’s deal is completely non-exclusive.
Our deal will never prevent you from working with anyone else.

11. Musicdealers.com
http://musicdealers.com/
A new site where you can upload and create a profile and the people at musicdealers pitch your tracks to potential clients.

12. Musicloops.com
Our site where you can submit a demo. No fees to join. Price your own tracks, lots of sales, with 50% of the price goes to the composer.

Royalty Free Composer Tips: Creating A Music Library pt2

Some great questions from musicformedia over at filmandgamecomposers.com:

When you first created your library was it all music you had already made, or was it stuff that you created specifically for the purpose of selling in a stock music library?

We started out our music career as composers for TV shows and commercials, radio ads and video games. We would always give our clients 3 or 4 different ideas to choose from for their spot. These were all fairly well-developed ideas. They would choose one and the rest would go on the shelf. Our first collection of royalty free music (published in 1996) was a collection of these alternate choices.

Once that collection started selling we realized we needed to create music specifically for our production music library.

If you were creating your library of stock music from scratch again, what would you do differently?

I think I would have kept track of the different mixes better. In the old days once a mix was done the set up was pretty much lost forever. Now we can recall any mix and have it come back sounding exactly the way it did a couple of years ago.

Do you think there is a set “package” of types of music you should upload? What I mean by this is, if you sell a lot of music, is there a certain amount of of types that sell more than others – ie. should you create a library of 50 songs (each with a 60 second edit, 30 second edit, 15 second edit and 2 or 3 loops), maybe 4-5 sound effect bundles – like a “Video Game” Sound Effect Bundle, “Horror Movie” Sound Effect Bundle etc. I hope this makes sense – my general question is, should you be creating a set amount of each type to maximise sales?

Bundles are great, the more creative the better. In my experience many of our customers go for the full length track but people who just need a loop for their website will buy one or two of these from the package. Lots of people buy the 60 second version because it is usually a bit cheaper.

We have some composers who upload bundles of music loops and corresponding button sounds. Music and complimenting sound effects is a good idea (we did this with our Horror! collection and it sells very well).
In your case maybe some nice ambient nature sounds to go along with your piano music.

Some advice on pricing your packages; if your full length track is 1:30 I would price it the same as your 60 second version.
In general I would price the 60 second version of the tracks close to or the same as the full length track price.

How long are your tracks usually? I have a lot of 20-30 second piano pieces, but I’m not sure they’re long enough.

This is considered fairly short, you might want to extend them. 20 seconds is good for a website, most of our 20 second loops go for $9.95.
The 30 second version might be $14.95 or $19.95 but you really want to get up to at least 60 seconds for most uses.

I’ve noticed a few full sized scores for films – ie. 10-15mins tracks – do you sell any of these yourself, and do you find they sell well?

Most full scores are actual symphony recordings of classical music. At least on our websites I haven’t seen any composers uploading anything over 5 or 6 minutes.

Royalty Free Music Composer Tip: How To Build A Catalog

I have been selling royalty free music for more than 10 years now. I receive composer submissions and demos on a daily basis. I also see what sells and what customers are requesting everyday.
I don’t often give advise to composers but thought I would post some basic observations in case it is of any use to composers looking to get into the royalty free music industry.

1. Be Prolific
If you want to make a living at selling your production music the first thing you need is a large library of music.
The composers who have large catalogs on our sites earn the most and earn very consistently. 75-300 tracks and up is considered a large library.

2. Create edits and loops with your full length tracks.
The customers on our websites love the fact that we offer not only full length tracks but edits, loops, underscores and alternate takes. You can also sell the whole package of full length track, edits for a higher price than the full length track alone.
This coupled with a large library will practically guarantee steady sales (as long as the music is top quality of course).

A typical package would be:
Full length track 2 to 3 minutes
60 second edit
30 second edit
15 second edit
2 or 3 loops.

3. Write What You Know
Professional production music composers are a very versatile lot. They can write music in many styles and can do it convincingly. However many of the demos I receive are from composers who are trying to be all things to everybody, writing in as many styles as possible with the majority of the track coming across as mediocre. We pass on these types of demos 99% of the time.
If you are an excellent New Age Music composer don’t try your hand at Nu-Metal just to fill out your catalog, write more New Age Music instead. Write the music you love to write, not what you think will sell.

4. Add Something Real
In this day of laptop studios, garageband and reason it seems that everyone is now trying their hat at being a “composer”. I may be old skool but back in the day musicians used to practice their instruments for hours everyday and went to school to study harmony and composition. Today it seems that anyone who can download some free drum loops from the web calls themselves a composer.
All this to say when you compose try adding something real to your compositions. Instead of only relying on your loop library (the one that thousands of other people are using) try adding some real guitar parts, or a weird vocal part, or a sax, get your friend to play harmonica, pick up any simple percussion instrument, even a tambourine, and record it live. Give your standard loop library composition a soul by adding something real.

5. Melody
Just like in popular music melody plays a big factor in royalty free music. Sure there are lots of instances where you want the music to sit in the background and not attract too much attention but according to our sales stats music with a good, strong, uplifting melody outsells all other types of music.

6. Holiday Music
Would you like a Christmas bonus every year in your royalty free music paycheck? Then do Christmas and holiday music in whatever style your composition skills are strongest. A hip hop version of Jingle Bells, an ozzy osbourne version of The First Noel.
This would go for all types of public domain music, a Nu-Metal version of God Bless America, a jazz version of the Star Spangled Banner, drum n bass Auld Lang Syne, etc.
Our customers just love this kind of stuff.

7. Structure
Make sure to think about the listener when you’re are putting together the structure of your royalty free music tracks.

a. Don’t have a 2 minute intro before getting to the main melody. You need to grab the listener quickly, get to the point as soon as possible (within reason of course).

b. Give them an ending. No fades. Give them a proper ending with a chord and cymbals that ring out. This is very important for the ends of commercials and radio spots.

c. Give them a B section, also known as a bridge. You can do the same thing with a breakdown if it is dance music. You need to give the customer some variety in the track, something to play with in editing.

Hope this helps. Let me know what you think.
I’ll be posting more tips for royalty free music composers in the coming weeks.
-Mark

Royalty Free Music Composer Tip: Keywords & Descriptions

Here’s a great question that I found on the Film and Game Composer’s Forum from a member who is a roylaty free music composer:

"Does anyone have any kind of knowledge about keywords and descriptions on royalty free sites? Does it REALLY help sales? I mean considering the extra time required to think up and input these terms…"

I believe I have extensive knowledge in this area and yes, there is no doubt that good descriptions and keywords for your tracks have a big impact on sales.

"If it is a helpful tool, then what are some of the more popular techniques that are generally employed by composers and producers on Royalty Free websites…"

Here’s a list of general concepts that will help you to fill out your descriptions. If you answer most or all of these questions in your description plus add a little flare and creativity you will end up with a great description that compels the customer click on the play preview button.

Things to convey to the customer
what genre(s) it is:  jazzy, fusion, latin, rock, speed metal
what tempo: uptempo, slow,
type of feel: funky, laid back
instruments used with descriptive adjectives: real guitar, swirling synths, majestic strings
emotion: sad, lonely, happy, soulful, lost,
what type of use: children’s show, wedding video, corporate presentation, hollywood blockbuster
structure: is there a bridge, is there a chorus, is there a breakdown, etc?
sounds like?: name some bands that the music might be similar to.

Examples:

Michele Vanni writes great descriptions

Rearview
The road lies ahead, a new adventure, and in the rearview mirror we see familiar
places fading in the distance. The radio plays this happy and somewhat nostalgic
tune driven by 12 string acoustic guitars. The main theme is played with more energy
and additional electric guitar the second time around.

Dan Morrissey also writes great descriptions

Exit : Stage Front
Twisted synth sequences get this pitbull of a track moving, then massive guitar riffs
crash in with drums and bass to form an irrrestistable groove. Imagine a cross between
White Zombie and Kraftwerk. Contains drums, synth ,bass and lots of guitars!

Bjorn Lynne also knows the value of a great description,

Spellcraft
Depicting a magic fantasy world of fairies and deep forests full of magical creatures and
ancient adventures. Otherworldly, pastoral. Piano, vocal pads, tremolo guitars, mysterious
sounds and hand drums.

Customers love descriptions! It makes it easier for them to browse and gets them interested in the tracks before they even hear it. Remember that customers more often than not use the search function of royalty free music websites. If your description says "rock song" it will probably never be found or purchased.

Royalty Free Music Composer Tip: Don’t Devalue Your Catalog

With increased competition in the royalty free music marketplace there are lots of sites popping up that are selling music for ridiculously low fees. They are asking composers to upload their tracks promising them only 40% or 45% of a $10.00 fee. The composer would take home whopping $4.50 for a high quality full length track.
$4.50 will barely get you a gallon of gas.
These sites do not offer any backend royalties either.

I urge all royalty free music composers to avoid these types of sites or at least give some serious thought to what you are doing before you upload. These sites will only devalue your catalog and make it hard for other distribution channels to accept your music. If your track is on sale for $10.00 on eCheapMusic.com then it will make it very difficult for a proper site to justify charging a higher price for your music elsewhere.

Just my 2 cents but I know that many other royalty free music site owners agree with me on this one.