Stock Music Report

Posted by Aaron Davison on Friday, June 7, 2013 Under: June 2013

Today's post is another guest post from Aaron Saloman.  Aaron is a musician from Canada who makes about half of his income from writing and licensing "stock" music.  Aaron and I created a course together recently all about how to make money by licensing music via stock music libraries.  This weekend only, between now and Sunday, save 20% off our course.

Hello readers of!

            This is Aaron Saloman again, checking in with an update on the constantly-evolving world of stock/production music libraries. For those of you who don’t already know me: I’m a musician, composer, and producer/engineer based in Montréal, and co-creator of the course “How to Make Money with Stock Music Libraries”.

Things never stay still for long in the music world, and that’s especially true in the niche of stock & production music licensing. I talked in another blog about how, in the 90’s, stock music had a bit of a bad reputation. Cheesy drum machines, stiff performances, and unschooled home recordings had come to dominate the available selection.

That situation has completely turned around. With the proliferation of quality home studio gear and great-sounding sample libraries, stock music is now the soundtrack to all but the biggest budget TV shows, as well as movie trailers, video games, web videos, shopping mall music, trade show booth soundtracks, and the list goes on…. My last SOCAN (the Canadian equivalent of ASCAP or BMI in the US) statement indicated cue sheets filed for American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Party Down, Dance Moms, That Metal Show, Finding Amelia, and around 20 other network TV shows using my music. This kind of reach would have been very difficult for a composer as recently as 10 to 15 years ago, but is now accessible to anyone from anywhere in the world.

With so many libraries vying for the best clients and the biggest shows, stock libraries have been looking for ways to stand out from the competition. One way to do this is to have an exclusive catalogue – that is, music that can’t be found anywhere else. The problem is, it takes composers a lot of time to write, record, and mix enough cues to start generating significant earnings from stock libraries. Remember: we’re not talking small, boutique publishers curating each cue for a music supervisor, we’re talking automated search engines with tens or hundreds of thousands of songs.

In a recent episode of the “Music, Money, and Life” podcast , I talked about how placing 10 or 20 tracks with one stock  library usually won’t cut it; personally, I started to see results once I surpassed 100 tracks in multiple libraries. To spend all that time and then take the cues completely out of circulation by giving them all to one library, forever is a pretty big risk. Think about it: from the library’s perspective, it’s essentially the same to have 1000 great composers with 10 great tracks each, as to have 10 great composers with 1000 great tracks each. But on the composer end, these two situations would lead to wildly different outcomes – the former could never be more than a hobbyist’s pursuit, while the latter could be a full-time living.

There’s no right answer here. Personally, I usually ask for something upfront in order to provide exclusive music. After all, my rent and bills don’t magically go away for the couple months it takes to compose a batch of tracks, and the year or two that those tracks might take to generate performance royalties. On the other hand, if I know a particular library is guaranteed to score me a ton of placements quickly, it might be worth making an exception to my rule.

All that to say, remember that it’s always a negotiation, and a negotiation, by definition, has more than one side. There’s nothing wrong with making sure (politely, of course) that there’s an upside for you before entering into a business partnership. Good library/composer relationships lead to more great music and more happy customers!

This month’s tip: STEMS!

            OK, on to some lighter fare: tips & tricks!

            As I said above, things move fast in the world of music licensing, and there have been a few changes even since we released the stock music course last summer. One thing I’ve been noticing is more libraries asking for mix stems.

            “What are mix stems?”, you ask. Mix stems are just the components of your mix, broken up into little groups. For example: drums & bass only, rhythm section only, melody instrument only, and so on. Show editors can use these to extend the duration of your track or make your song sound more varied than it really is. Another handy use for stems is to temporarily drop certain instruments out of the mix that could obscure onscreen dialogue.

            So when you or your engineer are mixing, make stems! Just mute all your other tracks, and bounce individual instruments or instrument groups as needed. Each library will have their own preferred stems, but it’s pretty typical to be asked for drums only, drums & bass only, no drums, and no lead instrument, at the very least.

            Make sure your stems are all exactly the same length as the full track. That is to say: if there’s a drum intro and you’re bouncing the piano stem, it doesn’t matter – leave the silence at the beginning where your drum intro would have been. Another good thing to do is run your mix stems through the same mastering settings as your entire track. This way, levels and tones will be similar if they need to transition between the full track and your stems.

That’s all for now!



            For an in-depth intro to the world of stock music, please make sure to check out our course “How to Make Money With Stock Music Libraries”.  This weekend only you can save 20% off the regular price and as a bonus to everyone who purchases this weekend, I’m offering a free 20 minute Skype consultation where you can ask me any questions you have.


Happy music licensing!


Aaron Saloman

In : June 2013 

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