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How many of you are making a living from library music?
Old 5th May 2019
  #1
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Question How many of you are making a living from library music?

I made a quick search and was surprised that there weren’t any conversations about this. I am trying to see how common or realistic it is to earn a livable salary solely from selling production/trailer music to libraries. Veterans, please feel free to elaborate on what it takes!
Old 5th May 2019
  #2
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I think there are some threads on this, though I think it's mostly discussions within the library threads vs seperate threads. Anyway, I make my living doing this. My focus is on trailer music, and that's where most of my income comes from, but I have dabbled in TV, advertising, film, games, etc. (And still do on the side).

There are really so many factors involved in terms of getting it going - strategy, track style/skill/production, the library, personal relationships with that library, etc, what is trending, what type of music you write, etc.

It's hard to nail it down, but in general my advice to anyone looking to make it a full time gig would be to firstly consider where you stand as far as writing and production goes, what might be your strength/weakness, and what the various libraries all offer etc. Studying the libraries out there gives you an idea of what they are looking for exactly, what the standard is, etc. As well as studying what is regularly getting placed. As far as getting into libraries it's all a big gamble as there are so many options - exclusive vs non exclusive, having a library that gets lots of placements but maybe not for you, it's a lot of trial and error. You can have really great tracks that collect dust in one library, that might get placed all day in another.

My strategy is a smaller amount of cues (a few per week, vs some of the TV guys who pump out a few a day), and I try and land bigger syncs working with exclusive libraries and doing a lot of custom requests etc. It's working pretty well at the moment but who knows, I could switch it up at some point. Some people are absolutely killing it by just having an insane amount of cues out there, those royalties add up I'm sure, and it's important to have some kind of a long term strategy, as your income each year can be hugely different!

I think it's very much a realistic goal to have, but I would say that it can (and probably will) take a few years to get it really going - writing a decent amount of tracks, finding a good home/library, getting really used to the format/structures, all that stuff can take a while.


This might be a bit general, but perhaps I can offer some advice or answer any more specific questions.
Old 5th May 2019
  #3
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I couldn’t have asked for a better response to this, thank you. What are the lengths of the cues you usually construct?

Also, You said your focus is on trailer music, but when I think of cues I imagine smaller length tracks suitable for enforcing an emotion within a scene, rather than a trailer that creates hype for the entire project. Are you saying you write smaller cues that are intended for use within trailers?
Old 5th May 2019
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
I couldn’t have asked for a better response to this, thank you. What are the lengths of the cues you usually construct?

Also, You said your focus is on trailer music, but when I think of cues I imagine smaller length tracks suitable for enforcing an emotion within a scene, rather than a trailer that creates hype for the entire project. Are you saying you write smaller cues that are intended for use within trailers?
Hybrid/Orchestral trailer tracks are typically 2-3 mins in length, favouring closer to 3 mins to allow for extra endings/stops/final hits etc. Having multiple endings is a big bonus, it also makes your cue more licensable for tv spots. More sound design trailer cues/perc cues tend to be a bit shorter, between 1-1.30. This keeps them more exciting, they're usually comprised of one main idea/chord/sound, and also because sound design cues don't usually cover an entire theatrical trailer.

My focus is on writing trailer-specific/focused tracks. There's a pretty standard format that's used, even if you're pitching for TV spots it helps to have more to work with than less, unless it's a very specific custom request, in those cases you might be doing 30 or 60 sec cues. Think of trailer cues as editors toolboxes vs pieces of music to listen to.

On youtube - Trailer Music Weekly & EpicHeavenMusic (though watch out for the 'epic' non trailer tracks, totally different thing). are good places to start as far as references go as well as watching a lot of TV spots and trailers every day.
Old 5th May 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heckadactyl View Post
Hybrid/Orchestral trailer tracks are typically 2-3 mins in length, favouring closer to 3 mins to allow for extra endings/stops/final hits etc. Having multiple endings is a big bonus, it also makes your cue more licensable for tv spots. More sound design trailer cues/perc cues tend to be a bit shorter, between 1-1.30. This keeps them more exciting, they're usually comprised of one main idea/chord/sound, and also because sound design cues don't usually cover an entire theatrical trailer.

My focus is on writing trailer-specific/focused tracks. There's a pretty standard format that's used, even if you're pitching for TV spots it helps to have more to work with than less, unless it's a very specific custom request, in those cases you might be doing 30 or 60 sec cues. Think of trailer cues as editors toolboxes vs pieces of music to listen to.

On youtube - Trailer Music Weekly & EpicHeavenMusic (though watch out for the 'epic' non trailer tracks, totally different thing). are good places to start as far as references go as well as watching a lot of TV spots and trailers every day.
So the tracks on these channels are similar to the tracks you would submit to your libraries, perhaps minus additional endings/versions? Do you submit tracks as albums or one at a time?

I could ask you endless questions. Thank you for the resources. If you have any other suggestions for places I can learn more about the industry, I’m all ears.

I have seen full-timers on GS talk about how easy it is to find out information about licensing through google, but I haven’t had the same experience whatsoever. There are so many things that have taken me off course through that method (royalty-free libraries, cattle-call companies, etc)

Maybe there are search terms that work better than others when researching this type of work?
Old 5th May 2019
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
So the tracks on these channels are similar to the tracks you would submit to your libraries, perhaps minus additional endings/versions? Do you submit tracks as albums or one at a time?

I could ask you endless questions. Thank you for the resources. If you have any other suggestions for places I can learn more about the industry, I’m all ears.

I have seen full-timers on GS talk about how easy it is to find out information about licensing through google, but I haven’t had the same experience whatsoever. There are so many things that have taken me off course through that method (royalty-free libraries, cattle-call companies, etc)

Maybe there are search terms that work better than others when researching this type of work?
Yup. For more ideas (for trailer music specifically), look at anything released by RSM, Position Music, AudioMachine, Ninja Tracks, etc as those ones tend to be publically available. More and more releases and companies are now no longer released to the public, as to keep things a bit more secret... I usually submit one track at a time, or a couple - depends on the brief and the project, and then go from there.

If you want to learn more about trailer music specifically, check out Evenant.com, and their facebook group especially - filled with super useful tips, and a large bunch of trailer composers hang out there.

There are some great resources out there as far as licensing goes. Here's a very useful article that covers most of the bases (4 parts I think): https://www.soundonsound.com/music-b...y-music-part-1. This is written by Dan Graham who runs a label/trailer company called Gothic Storm, among a few others I think. There are definitely a lot of articles out there online, but yeah it can be hard to find the right info!

That said I am also happy to answer any further questions, anytime!
Old 5th May 2019
  #7
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Me, will hit $200k this yr.
Old 5th May 2019
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heckadactyl View Post

There are some great resources out there as far as licensing goes. Here's a very useful article that covers most of the bases (4 parts I think): https://www.soundonsound.com/music-b...y-music-part-1. This is written by Dan Graham who runs a label/trailer company called Gothic Storm, among a few others I think. There are definitely a lot of articles out there online, but yeah it can be hard to find the right info!

That said I am also happy to answer any further questions, anytime!
I’m already loving Evenant, and the first part of that Sound on Sound article is helping me understand the patience aspect of it. How many trailer cues would you say you aim for every year?

I think I still need some work in terms of quality compared to the guys on Position, but hopefully I can figure out where my weaknesses are and fix them. I actually posted a track that almost got into a smaller library in another thread: Trailer composers, can you critique my mix?

I want to come up with a routine that would enable me to do this while managing school and one other project I do on the side for electronic music. Did you have to make a lot of sacrifices to free up time for this kind of commitment?
Old 5th May 2019
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by youngrichyrich View Post
Me, will hit $200k this yr.
I have to be honest, I didn’t believe you when I first read this. After reading some of the resources posted above it definitely seems possible and that’s insane to me. How long have you been working at this, and is there any one thing or quality in your work you would attribute to your success?
Old 5th May 2019
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
After reading some of the resources posted above it definitely seems possible ...
Whereas I really do not think numbers in that range is the norm, it is definitely possible.

Cheers.
Old 5th May 2019
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Whereas I really do not think numbers in that range is the norm, it is definitely possible.

Cheers.
Are you saying that my $400k income is abnormal?
Old 5th May 2019
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Are you saying that my $400k income is abnormal?
No, I am saying YOU are abnormal!


Old 5th May 2019
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
No, I am saying YOU are abnormal!



I think anyone in the music business is abnormal, don't you?
Old 5th May 2019
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I think anyone in the music business is abnormal, don't you?
Well, you certainly got that right!
Old 5th May 2019
  #15
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
Veterans, please feel free to elaborate on what it takes!
I think the future cannot accurately be judged by the past / present until streaming shakes out and things fall into place - long term. Could be good, but most likely won't.

Starting out in 2019 essentially means it will be at least 2029 (if you want to judge according to past stats) before one could essentially be "making a living" (let's say, extremely frugally, in LA, with a small family, studio and quite modest home - although renting is more likely).

Throw streaming into the fray and those "past stats" get tossed out the window. I know I personally have long running movies where PRO payments have dropped 96% when they were pulled from cable and put only on streaming (Disney, Dreamworks). How's that for fun?

So that "what it takes to make a living" thing gets tossed out the window if you're looking 10 years down the line as virtually everything is moving over to streaming - and we have no long term ruler to judge things by.

I'm OK. I'll survive - my studio is well equipped, my house paid off, and I've got music in literally thousands of TV shows and movies. By attrition, even though PRO payments are already softening substantially, I'll make it until I can rely on investments and retirement to skate by...

But for those starting out who want to do this for a living, it's dire straits I'm afraid.

BTW - ALL of my comments are in regards to a DECENT LIVING (LA), and music placed into and written specifically for : TV / Film. Not trailers. If you're writing LA scores in India (it's happening), or trailers from Russia (yup) then you might make an incredible living.

As of 2019, there are several new emerging hurdles facing TV/Film composers who write specifically for TV that have not been in attendance previously - like production companies not only taking the publishers (standard), but also requesting writers. I mean....like 50-100%. WTH?!?!?!? Agents are having a $#[email protected] fit with these production companies....but the gatekeepers keep pushing. They know they can find a composer who WILL take their $#[email protected] contracts.

I really have no comments on trailers. I haven't been too involved in that side of things since the late 90's when I was working on tons of trailers and licensing music for $100k-200k+ wasn't uncommon, and it's a different world now. But you can plan that what affects the music, TV and Film biz will trickle down to some degree to the trailer biz.

One thing is for sure regarding the future - although things have been "similar" - yet in decline - for the last 40 years , thereby yielding a baseline for quantifying these types of requests, the FUTURE is going to look exponentially different. The guys making a good living will be the ones thinking outside the box, and trying new avenues.

Who knows..... You've got about as good a guess as any of us, cause we're looking to the past for comments. Good luck.

I hear the world needs more lawyers and code monkeys. That's where the $$$ is.

Last edited by drBill; 6th May 2019 at 05:18 PM..
Old 6th May 2019
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
I have to be honest, I didn’t believe you when I first read this. After reading some of the resources posted above it definitely seems possible and that’s insane to me. How long have you been working at this, and is there any one thing or quality in your work you would attribute to your success?
5 years and I own a company in the space. We'll do around 600-800 tracks this year.

Getting great tracks done at scale. That's what's worked for us.
Old 6th May 2019
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
I made a quick search and was surprised that there weren’t any conversations about this. I am trying to see how common or realistic it is to earn a livable salary solely from selling production/trailer music to libraries. Veterans, please feel free to elaborate on what it takes!
Cold calling
Old 6th May 2019
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DylanParade View Post
I’m already loving Evenant, and the first part of that Sound on Sound article is helping me understand the patience aspect of it. How many trailer cues would you say you aim for every year?

I think I still need some work in terms of quality compared to the guys on Position, but hopefully I can figure out where my weaknesses are and fix them. I actually posted a track that almost got into a smaller library in another thread: Trailer composers, can you critique my mix?

I want to come up with a routine that would enable me to do this while managing school and one other project I do on the side for electronic music. Did you have to make a lot of sacrifices to free up time for this kind of commitment?

Hard to say, but I do at least 2 a week, sometimes up to 4-5 if it's a really busy week or I'm pitching for custom stuff, tv spots, etc. Just to clarify all my comments here and above are on trailer music only, it's a different world in TV and I can't comment so much on that.

As for freeing up time - I've been full time with music for a a number of years but yeah I've had to make a lot of sacrifices , I think you have to if you really want to make a (decent) living doing this. When I first switched to trailer music I took a bit of a risk, turning down some other opportunities, but I wanted to do something different.

I'll have a listen to your track on the other thread.
Old 6th May 2019
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by youngrichyrich View Post
5 years and I own a company in the space. We'll do around 600-800 tracks this year.

Getting great tracks done at scale. That's what's worked for us.
600-800 tracks this year is amazing. I admire your output!!

Given you've been doing it 5 years and must have a few thousand great tracks out there already, $200k seems a surprisingly small amount considering the vast output. Are you selling these on RF sites or something? The individual tracks don't seem to be making you much in themselves.
Old 6th May 2019
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lornemalvo View Post
600-800 tracks this year is amazing. I admire your output!!

Given you've been doing it 5 years and must have a few thousand great tracks out there already, $200k seems a surprisingly small amount considering the vast output. Are you selling these on RF sites or something? The individual tracks don't seem to be making you much in themselves.
How many tracks do you have out there? What's your average $ per track?
Old 7th May 2019
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lornemalvo View Post
600-800 tracks this year is amazing. I admire your output!!

Given you've been doing it 5 years and must have a few thousand great tracks out there already, $200k seems a surprisingly small amount considering the vast output. Are you selling these on RF sites or something? The individual tracks don't seem to be making you much in themselves.
Thank you, Lorne!

I think once you consider that we have a team and everybody takes a cut, $200k is pretty reasonable. It's what I take home after our payroll and expenses, pre-tax.

I'd say that 80% of our tracks get $500+ upfront a piece, 20% are $0-300.
Old 7th May 2019
  #22
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I quit my job a few years ago and gave myself 6 months to earn a living before going back to ‘real work’.

I wasn’t quite that quick! But at around the 12 month mark my income from library music alone was enough to cover living expenses.
Old 7th May 2019
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonwright View Post
I quit my job a few years ago and gave myself 6 months to earn a living before going back to ‘real work’.

I wasn’t quite that quick! But at around the 12 month mark my income from library music alone was enough to cover living expenses.
That's really quick! Esp being that it takes 9 mos to 1 year to get paid after the performances air.

Good job!
Old 7th May 2019
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
That's really quick! Esp being that it takes 9 mos to 1 year to get paid after the performances air.

Good job!
Thanks! I approached it two ways. I submitted to both exclusive production music libraries, and the non-exclusives, such as Pond5. Pond5 started paying out within the first month.

The PRO libraries started a lot more slowly, as you say, around 9 months later.
Old 7th May 2019
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonwright View Post
Thanks! I approached it two ways. I submitted to both exclusive production music libraries, and the non-exclusives, such as Pond5. Pond5 started paying out within the first month.

The PRO libraries started a lot more slowly, as you say, around 9 months later.
Did the exclusive libraries have budgets? Some pay $1500 per track.
Old 7th May 2019
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnFulford View Post
Did the exclusive libraries have budgets? Some pay $1500 per track.
Not at first no (I had no prior experience), they were all PRO earnings only, with a sprinkling of upfront sales.
Old 7th May 2019
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonwright View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
That's really quick! Esp being that it takes 9 mos to 1 year to get paid after the performances air.

Good job!
Thanks! I approached it two ways. I submitted to both exclusive production music libraries, and the non-exclusives, such as Pond5. Pond5 started paying out within the first month.

The PRO libraries started a lot more slowly, as you say, around 9 months later.
Wow, what kind of income levels are you seeing from pond5?
Old 7th May 2019
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohwell View Post
Wow, what kind of income levels are you seeing from pond5?
Usually between $1,200 and $2,000 per month, depending on the time of year.
Old 7th May 2019
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonwright View Post
Usually between $1,200 and $2,000 per month, depending on the time of year.
That is really amazing for pond5. Do you have a lot of tracks with them?!
Old 7th May 2019
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohwell View Post
That is really amazing for pond5. Do you have a lot of tracks with them?!
I think around 250 tracks, plus versions (60 sec etc), which bumps the number up a bit.
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