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Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?

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Jack Gray
Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:05:14 pm

Hello everyone.

I'm a new member - truly grateful to have stumbled upon this gold mine of no-holds-barred experience and wisdom.

If I may, I'd like to pick your brains about music libraries and spots.

(Full disclosure: as the principal of a new library targeted to advertising, I'm eager for feedback on how I might earn your business someday...)



Question #1: About the marketplace and vendors...
My thinking up to now has been:

1) The supply of music far exceeds demand. Music of all kinds (and quality) can be had legally for nothing or next to it. So, any newcomer must offer a really killer value proposition to get any attention at all.

2) At the highest end, custom music houses and licensed pop music (ranging from unknown indies to major artists) will get most or all of the business.

3) At the lowest end, cost will win, so even the most generic stock music will do.

4) Somewhere between those extremes, there is a niche market that can be served by higher-calibre libraries. However, even those essentially offer music that is untargeted, i.e. not specifically aimed at the kind of style and sensibility that usually works well in commercials.

5) A company that caters to that niche market, has a viable catalog, cares about results as much as clients do, and does it all at competitive rates should have a shot in this marketplace.

Reasonable?

Question #2: About finding the right music...

From reading the COW forums, I get the sense that many of you dread the music selection process - even if you're just temping. Simply too little time, and too much music, and it's very unsatisfying.

I'm wondering if, like me, you find the websites and search engines at most music libraries to be a real pain? You wade through tons of verbiage and dancing widgets to get to a complicated search engine, and then the search returns a huge list of (sometimes unremarkable) music, with titles and descriptions that rarely help you decide what to listen to.

My thinking is that folks would prefer a library that has a straightforward website / search and a selective catalog, doesn't overwhelm you with CDs, DVDs, drives, etc., and will give specific recommendations or referrals if called.

True?

Question #3: Is it useful to you if a library offers to do edits, alterations, or even customizations (at no charge)?


Thanks everyone - I appreciate your time and advice.


Jack Gray
Shord and Sweed Music: profile on CreativeCow
Shord and Sweed Music: website


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Nick Griffin
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Oct 31, 2009 at 1:56:16 pm

[Jack Gray] "At the highest end, custom music houses and licensed pop music (ranging from unknown indies to major artists) will get most or all of the business."

Jack-
Yes, this is true for high end national and many regional spots. Custom music or clearance for pop music is almost always part of the budget and is expected to be there because the agency creatives want something which EXACTLY hits their cues and EXACTLY carries the mood they're looking for. This doesn't mean that the right piece of stock music couldn't accomplish the same thing, but there's a budget for custom music and in the world of high end TV spots nobody is into "cutting corners." (What they call saving money.)

BTW, if you'd like a prime example of stock music being used where one would ordinarily expect custom I refer you to HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show's open/close theme as well as the internal music is from Killer Tracks and available for anyone to license.


[Jack Gray] "At the lowest end, cost will win, so even the most generic stock music will do."

Yes, but. There are some producers who are looking for something better than generic crap and there are some low cost pieces which are decent. Not many, IMHO, but some.


[Jack Gray] "A company that caters to that niche market, has a viable catalog, cares about results as much as clients do, and does it all at competitive rates should have a shot in this marketplace."

Yes. Provided that company can provide enough of an outreach (marketing program) to get to the people who will actually use it. The real market that exists these days (IMHO) is mid-priced, higher quality stock music. Less expensive than the major libraries, and of better quality than the majority of royalty-free / buy-out stuff that's out there now. Do some with a corporate flavor and I could easily be a customer.


[Jack Gray] "My thinking is that folks would prefer a library that has a straightforward website / search and a selective catalog, doesn't overwhelm you with CDs, DVDs, drives, etc."

I'll be honest here. We have seven of the Killer Tracks libraries here, several hundred CDs, and I am very unhappy about their decision to go entirely electronic starting January 1. Why? Because by loading disks into three different machines I can audition music and narrow my searches MUCH quicker than I can by going one----- disk--------at------- a------- time. I've tried their online search engine and HATE it.

[Jack Gray] "will give specific recommendations or referrals if called."

Killer has (and I assume many other libraries have) an on-staff librarian who makes recommendations and can help producers find what they're looking for. It's not always perfect, but the service is available.

And why are you limiting yourself to spots? Maybe it's because we're in the corporate/industrial business, but there's a lot more out there than spots and I avoid anything that only comes in 60, 30 and 10 second lengths. I also think that a single niche model is somewhat dangerous unless you can really NAIL it and, as mentioned early, are able to penetrate that niche so they know you're there.


[Jack Gray] "customizations (at no charge)?"
Wake up, Jack. Under this plan success would quickly put you out of business. You really can't customize music on an on-demand basis. Good production music is produced in such a way that editors can cut and overlap it to get what they want. They're the ones who customize, not you.

Hope some of my rant is helpful.




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Tim Wilson
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Oct 31, 2009 at 3:44:23 pm

[Nick Griffin] "[Jack Gray] "At the lowest end, cost will win, so even the most generic stock music will do."

Yes, but. There are some producers who are looking for something better than generic crap"


I spent serious money for licensing the FirstCom library, and I have to tell you, it made up for itself many, many times over. Literally. I paid several thousand dollars a year for one of the lower-end packages, and in bid after bid, I had clients say, "I'm looking at a lot of good reels, but the music in yours stands out so far ahead of the others that I know you'll make MY projects stand out the same way."

Each job I won where the client specifically called out my music paid for my entire year's music license 5, 6, sometimes 20 times over - every single time.

Tip: unless your clients expect your clients to use something like this themselves, don't slam your reel together with the same electronica that everyone else does. I used snippets of video, edited to the ACTUAL MUSIC I used - when the said that my "music sounded better" - well, it DID. But it was also USED better.

The moral of the story: seriously, use music that will make the client feel good about themselves. The smart ones will care, and will apply their feelings about your music to their own needs - and they'll pay the bills for the dullard clients. This is always the case of course.

(BTW, big fan of Killer Tracks. They weren't as good a match for what I was doing at the time, but now that they're owned by the Universal Music Group, their music is anything but generic. Want Chuck D to record your hip hop beats? Done.)

[Nick Griffin] "And why are you limiting yourself to spots? Maybe it's because we're in the corporate/industrial business, but there's a lot more out there than spots and I avoid anything that only comes in 60, 30 and 10 second lengths.

One of my favorite things about the FirstCom library was an entire category of music called Underscores. Classical music is great, but the dynamic range is intentionally too wide to talk over. They offered recordings of recognizable pieces by "brand-name" world-class orchestras specifically recorded to be narrated over.

They did the same for other genres too. My point is support Nick's point that you need to think more broadly about music, and pay now for more than what you need now. Every investment should be made with the expectation that you will grow. Otherwise, why make it?


"Good production music is produced in such a way that editors can cut and overlap it to get what they want. They're the ones who customize, not you."

Cleverly cut and fade, ride levels, and you can do what you need to do, almost every time. Add some software that will change pitch or match beats as needed - lots of very affordable examples - and as you develop even a few skills, you can stick the landing every time.

Clients will notice. They'll pay you for it.

The beat goes on,
Tim








Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

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Nick Griffin
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Oct 31, 2009 at 4:18:18 pm

[Tim Wilson] "Want Chuck D to record your hip hop beats? Done."

Umm, yea I guess you're right, but that's the stuff I really have no call for whatsoever. Killer, Match, and NYB libraries have sent me so many disks over the years that there is NO POSSIBLE WAY I will EVER have a use for. Maybe that's the good thing about them stopping the disks part of their service -- they won't take up so much storage space.

I discussed my specific need for corporate stuff with my Killer Tracks rep and he sent me a large portion of the Network music library and it fits our needs extremely well. We still occasionally use stuff from the others including NJJ and Atmosphere, but for our style and our clients' taste Network is a great match.

(And for those who may not understand how this works, when dealing with companies like this you don't OWN the disks and as Walter said, they send you a ton of disks for free in exchange for a deposit to be spent against licensing. Then as you continue to use them either on a laserdrop basis of annual contract, they send you new releases as they come out. Should you terminate the relationship they expect their disks BACK as they were never yours in the first place.)

There are so many true-isms in Tim's post. You get what you pay for with many things in life, music is near the top of the list. I once had a client say that our video was so much better than his old one because the one from the other company "sounded like a cheap porno movie." (I commented that we aspire to sound like the kind of movie where people keep their clothes on.)

We've also discussed here before that good production music raises the level of entire productions, just as Tim mentions. It sounds silly, but the right music can actually make a sloppy shot "look" better. Seriously.



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Mike Cohen
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 2, 2009 at 5:29:00 pm

Tim, we have been a Firstcom customer for 20 years. Every 3 years I re-evaluate the alternatives and come up with the same conclusion - you get what you pay for.

Smartsound and Digital juice are always in the running, but a large selection of the exact type of music we need seals the deal. Buy-out libraries offer many genres and seem like a good deal, but most of the genres are inappropriate for the work we do.

If you take the political, movie-type themes, sports themes, heavy metal, guitar riffs, hip hop, calypso, world beat, olympic fanfares, classical, polka and other non-corporate type music out of the mix, we are left with several dozen discs of acoustic underscores and tracks that have a contemporary sound. None of the other libraries have come close to this variety.

It seems like a lot to pay, but variety when you need it and consistency of particular types of music is worth it.

The Firstcom website has a pretty powerful engine for selecting instruments or moods and it finds sample tracks. The new contract will have web-only downloads, no more discs. I too think browsing a disc is more efficient than the web, but this internet thing seems to be here to stay.

Mike Cohen






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walter biscardi
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 2, 2009 at 5:37:27 pm

[Mike Cohen] "you get what you pay for. "

Absolutely. Good music libraries cost more, but you can pretty much find anything you need there. And a library like Non-Stop will also work to create an original cut of music should your project require it. That's pretty cool.




Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
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Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" now in Post.

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Richard Cooper
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 4, 2009 at 3:39:36 am

Agreed, and you can cover your FirstCom costs by charging $125 per track used to the client. Do that 50 - 100 tracks over the course of a year and you have covered your music library costs several times over. I love FirstCom and I will definitely check out Non Stop.

Richard Cooper
FrostLine Productions, LLC
Anchorage, Alaska

Everyone has a story to tell.
http://www.FrostLineProductions.com


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Tim Wilson
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 4, 2009 at 1:35:09 pm

[Richard Cooper] "Agreed, and you can cover your FirstCom costs by charging $125 per track used to the client."

One of the reasons that I love project pricing is that I was able to get away with charging a LOT more than $125 per track. :-)


tw


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walter biscardi
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Oct 31, 2009 at 3:54:25 pm

[Jack Gray] "I'm wondering if, like me, you find the websites and search engines at most music libraries to be a real pain? "

This is the primary reason I started using Non-Stop Music for the library, that and they gave me all the CDs for free when I signed on with a credit. Their search engine is fantastic and we can download all the music we want for temp use in the edit.

Licensing fees are outstanding too and my account reps are easy to work with.

Good luck on your venture. I consider Non-Stop to be the model that any good music library should follow.





Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" now in Post.

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Blog!

Twitter!


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Ben Crosbie
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 1, 2009 at 5:53:35 pm

I second Non-Stop music. I've had great success finding good music there, and the licensing has been more than reasonable.

http://www.eidolonfilms.com


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Jack Gray
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 3, 2009 at 1:04:45 pm

#000000>Thanks to everyone for your very valuable feedback thus far.


It seems that corporate / industrial is the main focus for many of you, and so, a library aimed at commercials (like Shord and Sweed Music) is not going to be especially relevant to your day-to-day business needs.


By way of responding to specific questions and points that have been made:

#0000ff size=2>
Nick: "The real market that exists these days (IMHO) is mid-priced, higher quality stock music. Less expensive than the major libraries, and of better quality than the majority of royalty-free / buy-out stuff that's out there now."


#000000>JG: This is similar to the market plan of Shord and Sweed Music: attractive rates, but - no generic stock music. Our catalog has been chosen specifically to sound like custom advertising music (rather than to cover all genre bases, as seems to be the case with even the very best of the existing libraries). Of course, tastes and opinions vary, so I think you'd have to do some listening to our catalog to really get a sense of what I'm driving at here.

#0000ff size=2>
Nick: "...why are you limiting yourself to spots?


#000000>JG: I don't think it's possible to build a new omnibus-style library and compete with leaders such as Killer and Non-Stop without a huge store of capital, time, and (as you say) marketing muscle. On the other hand (again, to your point), I have learned via my own advertising placements that custom music is not always a given. So, I've built relationships with a worldwide bunch of talented contributors who, like me, prefer short form over corporate (more musically rewarding). Several of them have custom credits with major advertisers (refer to our credits page).

#0000ff size=2>
Nick: "You really can't customize music on an on-demand basis."


#000000>JG: Hope I haven't misunderstood your point, Nick; maybe I need to explain myself a bit further. Generally speaking, Shord and Sweed tracks are available in multiple versions, with increasingly spare arrangements. Thus, if a client likes a basic track, but needs it to be less foreground at certain points, then the final arrangement can be quickly tweaked via edits without involving the composer.



Is there anyone here whose business leans a bit more toward spots, and would care to weigh in on whether existing libraries really deliver value in terms of specific suitability for commercials AND attractive rates, etc.?


Thanks again.

Jack Gray
Shord and Sweed Music: profile on CreativeCow
Shord and Sweed Music: website


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Todd Terry
Re: Your thoughts on music libraries and commercials?
on Nov 4, 2009 at 3:42:05 pm

Hi Jack...

I'm late to the party, but I'll chime in.

We do some corporate, but the vast bulk of what we produce is :30 broadcast commercials, so I'm always looking for those tracks.

I'd say, as others have mentioned here, that ease of use should be what you really strive for with your library. We already own a couple of different libraries (a couple of hundred discs, I guess) but don't primarily use them. It's just too darn hard to wade through them, frankly.

We usually buy music on-line, via a half-dozen or so different vendors that we regularly go to. We've ended up gravitating to those that have the best search features to lead us in the right direction and avoid wasting time. Some, yes, work better than others. The ones that work better get most of our business, probably.

Some of the tracks we use are total buy-out... others are buy-out for a specific project... and others are more closely rights-managed. It seems the better a track is, the more paperwork that's involved... ha.

Various available length cuts are of course a bonus. When doing a commercial, what I hate is finding a great 3:40 track, but their :30 version is just the first :30 that fades out at :29.9. That usually leads to a lot of sound editing and patching to try to cobble together a true-sounding :30 with a cold ending.

And obviously the bigger and better and more variety your library has, the better. There's nothing worse than turning on the boob tube and hearing "your" track on someone else's spot. We did a campaign last year for a bottled water company. We searched and searched and finally found the perfect track, actually from a fairly obscure source. Within a couple of days that same track was all over the air as the main theme for tons of NBC bumper promos for their new fall season. Grrrrrr.

Good luck with your venture...


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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