An In Depth Guide To Meta-Tagging Your Tracks For Stock Music Libraries

Posted by Aaron Davison on Friday, September 21, 2012 Under: September 2012
Today's post is a guest post by stock music expert, Aaron Saloman.  Aaron and I recently created an in depth course together all about how to make money with stock music libraries called "How To Make Money With Stock Music Libraries" (fitting title!)

If you purchase our course this weekend only, you'll save 20% off the regular price and Aaron will also "meta-tag" the track of your choice and provide a comprehensive report including a description, possible genres and keywords.

Purchase our course here: 

Here's Aaron Saloman providing an in depth description of how to properly "meta-tag" your tracks and maximize your results with stock music libraries:

"Hello again!

            Aaron Saloman here. In case you’re new to Aaron Davison’s newsletter & blog, we recently collaborated on a course called “How to Make Money with Stock Music Libraries”. This was the first in a series of special niche-focused courses Aaron D. is doing on various aspects of music licensing. We also did a free supplementary interview with a bunch of additional info, which you can check out here:

            Aaron D. wrote a previous blog ( about one of the most important things you can do to maximize your chances of making money from stock/production music libraries – detailed meta-tagging of your tracks. I’m going to share a bit more info on this topic, because the importance of good metadata for your tracks really can’t be overstated.

            Meta-tagging is the process of categorizing, writing descriptions, and entering search keywords for your tracks, so they can be found amongst the tens of thousands of other compositions in the library. You could have a great song, recorded and mixed to the highest standards, but if customers search the library and your song never comes up in the results, it won’t sell.

            What to do?

            One approach (a misguided one, if you ask me) is to include as many genres, descriptive keywords, product, band, and place names as possible in the metadata, in the hopes that your tracks will show up in every search on the site. This is a losing approach though, because clients will quickly become frustrated if the songs that come up in a search don’t accurately match the descriptions. Too many composers doing this has led music libraries to develop very strict rules and guidelines for metadata, and sometimes even ban composers who try to take advantage of the search system. This doesn’t help anyone, and won’t lead to any extra sales in the long run. So the best approach is to be honest and accurate with your metadata, but as detailed as possible within those restrictions. If you’re not sure if your song fits in a particular genre or inspires a particular mood, ask someone! Run it by a friend, spouse, etc. If you’re not sure what a particular subgenre means, Google it! You’ll be broadening your musical knowledge at the same time as ensuring more sales by having your songs properly categorized.

           Here are some of the categories of metadata that you’ll often find on stock/production music sites, and a few thoughts on how to approach each one. You won’t find every category on every site – each one is different – but these are some general guidelines:


Self-explanatory. Write the title of your track - no extra info, composer names, or anything else. The only other info I will put in the title field is edit length, so the client can see it at a glance, or alternate mix info. Examples:

Big Guitar Song

Big Guitar Song (30 second edit)

Big Guitar Song (no lead guitar)


This is usually one of the first things a client sees when searching tracks, so it’s important. There are two broad approaches you can take for a good description: either describe the music in detail, or describe the mood/setting/images the music evokes. If you have space, it’s probably a good bet to provide a little of both. Here’s an example:

An in-your-face guitar noisefest with screeching leads, pounding drums, and distorted bass. Chaotic and furious, but fun. Perfect for a chase scene, extreme sports, or an underground punk club.

On the other end of the spectrum, here is a bad description:

Loud punk

(Yes, I really see a lot of tracks with descriptions like that.) 


This is pretty straightforward. Most sites have dropdown menus with a list of pre-selected categories, and will let you choose between one and three. Sometimes each genre choice will branch out to selectable sub-genres as well. Here is an example of how you might categorize a track, given three genre boxes, each with a selectable sub-genre:

1. Rock – Hard rock/Metal

2. Rock – Alternative/Punk

3. Dramatic Music – Action/Chase

If you’re not too familiar with a particular genre of music, be cautious. Certain genres, particularly metal and electronic music, are notorious for having hundreds of precise subcategories. In this case, keep it general, or spend 5 minutes on Wikipedia finding out exactly what these sub-genres mean. You don’t want someone searching for industrial electronic music to find your track miscategorized because you thought “industrial” meant “for business use”.


If you recorded your session to a click, write in the session tempo here. Make sure it’s exact; people use this info to time the music to visual edits. If your tempo changes, it wasn’t recorded to a click, or it’s an ambient piece, indicate that where possible. Acceptable examples:

120 bpm

variable - approx. 120 bpm



Primary & Secondary Keywords 

Along with a good description, this is probably the most crucial part of meta-tagging to generate sales of your stock music. Some sites only allow you one box for keywords, and some have separate boxes for primary (directly descriptive & relevant) and secondary (more impressionistic or evocative) keywords. 

When I started selling production music, I would type 5, 10, or maybe even 15 directly relevant keywords. I didn’t want to overdo it, and some of the sites had really scary-sounding rules about using too many vaguely related keywords. But I found with only a few keywords, the tracks didn’t sell that much. So after a couple years of sluggish sales, I decided to put in the hard work of going through every one of my tracks again (over 30 + edits at that point) on every single site (4 or 5 at the time), re-writing the descriptions, and expanding the keywords. First, I researched the other composers who were selling the most. Some sites will publicly display how many times a track has sold – use this to find out who is selling well & what they’re doing. I would listen to their tracks, and read their descriptions/keywords. After doing this for a bit, you start to get a sense of the track quality/description/keyword ratio that seems to work. With that as my basis, I used a thesaurus and went through all my tracks, adding as many relevant keywords as I could. The important word here is “relevant” – I didn’t want to annoy either the music libraries or their clients, so I was careful to only choose keywords that a reasonable person would use to describe the tracks.

This was a ton of work. I still sometimes catch a track on a site that I missed in one of my update sweeps, and I fix the description and keywords when I find one. To this end, it’s helpful to have a master document where you keep all your track descriptions and keywords, so you can copy and paste them on different sites. I can safely say that after devoting that much attention & time to my descriptions & keywords, my sales doubled or sometimes even tripled on individual sites. Here is an example of primary and secondary keywords for a hypothetical noisy punk song:

Primary: loud, fast, guitar, bass, drums, energetic, speed, crazy, chaotic

Secondary: electric guitars, distorted, distortion, evil, mischief, mischievous, angry, anger, chase, pursuit, monster, truck, car, race, police, cops, cop, crime, criminal, racing, speeding, careening, racetrack, race track, extreme, sports, snowboarding, hockey, football, skiing, ski jump, Olympics, skateboard, skateboarding, punk, metal, hard rock, heavy, punks, tattoo, tattoos, piercing, alternative, alt, boots, leather, club, bar, noise, noisy, live, bombastic, cacophony, chaos, fight, big, huge, energy, explode, explosion, driving, fun, anthemic, release, tension

That’s just a small selection – some libraries will allow you hundreds of keywords, others only a few. For the ones that allow more, break out the thesaurus! Go through each word, and write down other common words that mean the same thing. Use your judgment, though: while “boisterous” may show up in a thesaurus alongside “upbeat” and “fast”, it’s unlikely anyone will ever search for “boisterous punk rock”. But hey, who knows . . .          

Notice how I sometimes wrote multiple iterations of the same word: ex. “distortion” and “distorted”, since it’s probably equally likely people might search for either one. Again, use your judgment and keep it relevant.

And finally . . .

PRO / Writer & Publisher

Don’t forget this! To ensure your song isn’t accidentally credited to another composer with the same name, it’s a good idea to log into your PRO account and get your IPI number as well. This 9-digit number is a unique identifier that has been designed not to overlap internationally. Here’s how I would fill out these fields:


Writer: Jane Smith (SOCAN – IPI: 123456789)

Publisher: Jane Smith (SOCAN – IPI: 123456789)

If Jane had her own publishing company, she would write that info in the “publisher” field, along with the company’s unique IPI. However, since Jane “self-publishes”, she just writes the exact same info in both fields.

I hope all that info is helpful! Different music libraries allow for different levels of meta-tagging: some have additional categories such as “sounds like”, “instruments”, “time period”, and so on. Some only allow 3 or 4 checkboxes of information (less work for you)! It always depends on the library, but the items I’ve discussed here should give you a general idea of the amount of work involved in meta-tagging, along with some strategies for maximizing its effectiveness.

Thanks for all the great feedback on the course! And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to check out our course “How to Make Money With Stock Music Libraries”! We're offering a 20% discount if you purchase the course this weekend and I'm also including one free "Meta-Tag" Report.   Send me the track of your choice and I'll provide an in depth meta-tagging document that you can use as a sample for how to meta-tag your tracks.

Check out our course here: 

Aaron Saloman

In : September 2012 

Tags: stock music libraries  meta-tagging  music licensing 
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