Breaking Through The Confusion Of Stock Music - Part 1
I've been writing music for stock libraries for four years now and thought I would take the time to do a few blogs that share a bit of the knowledge I've learned about the industry and a few of my experiences within it.
WHAT IS STOCK MUSIC?
Stock music, also referred to as library music or production music, is music written and uploaded to libraries where potential buyers search for music that fits with their media project. This could be anything from a film, a TV show, a video game, an advert, a radio jingle, any form of media really. An easy example to conjure for you are those jolly-sounding banking or pension adverts on TV with the ukulele or whistling.... or both.
It can be a lucrative industry to dive into but it is also immensely saturated. Search for 'stock music libraries' on google and endless pages of results return with links to loads of different websites, all doing basically the same thing; giving you the opportunity to upload your music with the hope that someone will buy it and use it in some sort of media project.
The great thing is, for most libraries, your song can be purchased over and over by different buyers. On some of the more elite libraries, songs are bought on a licensed contract basis where they are used for a specific project and can no longer be bought by anyone else. You might think that's a bummer but these contracts are usually big money. As I said though, this is usually done on the elite sites, which you more than likely have to pay to be a part of before uploading any music, and that's after you've gone through the application process in order to make sure your music is good enough.
Sounds good doesn't it? Especially if, like me, you've been writing your own music for a while and all you've done with it is occasionally upload it to soundcloud or youtube. But how do you know which site to go with?
There are two terms you'll come across a lot when looking at stock music libraries. They're pretty important to understand as well but, from their names, it's easy to assume their meaning. Signing up to an exclusive library means that particular library represents all your music and ONLY that library. If you go and upload your music on another library be prepared for a hefty fine as you'll have breached the terms in that first library's contract.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention, most libraries have a contract you must sign when you register, and even if they don't, they'll be terms and conditions you automatically agree to by signing up (so make sure you read them). The thing is, when someone buys your music, you don't get all the money from the sale, it's split between you and the library. Therefore, the library has a stake in your music. If you go exclusive, that split leans more towards you (70% for you, 30% for the library, though the split can be different depending on the library). If you decide exclusive was a bad idea, it can also be tricky removing your music from that library since, again, in the contract there's probably a clause stating you're not allowed to.
So, apart from the money split, why go exclusive? Usually, the library deems your music as more important than that of a non-exclusive author, they'll showcase it, and in some cases, a library will either put you forward for a work brief or give you the opportunity of submitting music to the brief yourself (again, the potential of big monies here). Being a non-exclusive either doesn't give you this chance, or, even if it does, puts you right at the bottom of the submission pecking order.
Okay, so what's the deal with non-exclusive? Yes, negatively speaking, your music isn't as likely to be showcased, it isn't as likely to be put forward for a work brief, and the money split is often worse; at best commonly being a 50/50 share but usually it's worse with one particular library offering only 35% to you.
By being non-exclusive with just one library, you most certainly make much less money than being exclusive but there's a big positive as to why being non-exclusive can be a good thing, at least to begin with: you are usually free to put the same music on any other non-exclusive library (I've noticed on a few occasions, libraries state they don't like it if you're on another library so again, be careful to read the contract and requirements of each library). This means, instead of having my music on one library, I could have it on ten, twenty, or more. The only issue there is, if you have a big catalogue of music, it takes longer to upload the same music to loads of different libraries. Having said that, with the potential of earning more money, why wouldn't you take the time to do it?
Again though, be careful to read the contract you sign (yes, even non-exclusive authors have to sign a contract). The reason I say this is that sometimes, even as a non-exclusive author, a library might not allow you to delete your music, though it doesn't happen often.
Also, be aware that some libraries don't allow you to set your own prices and do it automatically. These sites can sometimes price your items lower than you intended, so check the contract, check the writer's agreement, and also check out the site itself, making a note of the prices they set on the songs you can see listed.
COMPARE THE SALES
The beauty of being able to upload to loads of libraries is that you'll not only see which libraries do better than others but which songs do better on which libraries. After a year or two, you might notice that one library makes you next to nothing but another does really well. This means you can start to think about which sites to put more effort into and which ones to either stop uploading to or even delete if need be.
If there's one library in particular that does very well with a certain genre of music you're uploading, and the library offers the opportunity of going exclusive, do think about the idea of going exclusive with that particular genre on that library. Again, make sure you've deleted those songs from all the other libraries and the rest of the songs from that library before you go exclusive. And just to be safe, give it thirty days after you've deleted everything before you go exclusive as, sometimes, libraries can be slow to delete the songs and we don't want to accidentally breach a contract.
IN THE NEXT BLOG...
I'll be talking about P.R.O's; what they are, why they're a good idea to join, why you might not want to join, and their relation to stock libraries.