Money And Pricing In Stock Music

Posted by Aaron Davison on Thursday, January 17, 2013 Under: January 2013

Hello again,

            I imagine you’re getting used to me around here, but for any new readers, a quick intro: I’m Aaron Saloman, a musician, composer, and producer/engineer based in Montréal. This past summer, Aaron Davison got in touch with me, and together we created a course called “How to Make Money with Stock Music Libraries”..

            In my other guest blogs, I’ve talked about some of the topics we cover in the course: registering tracks with your PRO (link -, writing great metadata so your tracks can be found (link -, and production/recording quality for stock music (link -“stock-music”-tracks-sound-let-your-ears-tell-you-). Another topic we get into that I’ve been putting off blogging about is the big one that always seems to confound musicians – the dreaded issue of money (cue ominous descending timpani, diminished chord, strings in cluster harmonies, etc.)

            I say I’ve been putting it off cause money and pricing discussions always seem to lead to arguments among musicians. Not even between musicians and club owners, musicians and record labels, musicians and fans – but just between musicians themselves! When I was making tentative inroads into the music library world a few years ago, I would look up all the info I could find to try and get some sense of how tracks should be priced. Often, all I would come up with was people fighting on message boards! Here’s a paraphrased idea of how these discussions usually look:

Person 1: Hey everyone, I’m new to this whole music library thing, how should I price my tracks for the most sales?


Person 2: I won’t sell any tracks for under $500, people don’t value music anymore, etc, etc, etc.


Person 1: OK, Person 2, that’s cool. I see where you’re coming from, but do you get many sales at that price point?


Person 3: I sell all my tracks for $2 cause I’m building up my list of credits right now, and no one will pay for unproven talent, right?


Person 1: Hey Person 3, I see what you’re saying, but that doesn’t seem like it would pay for your time creating a track, even if the track sold 100 times every month.


Person 2: Person 3 is an idiot and an amateur! All music libraries should pay me $2000 upfront for each track I upload! My $500 sale price is a bargain!


Person 3: Person 2 is an idiot and thinks everything will be handed to them! Who are you, John Williams? No one’s clamouring to get your music! You have to prime the market with some free stuff to build a reputation!


Person 1: OK, thanks you two, I think I’ll go try another forum.......


Person 2: AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!


Person 3: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!


(End scene)

Whew, that was stressful. I’m not much of a scriptwriter, but I think you get the point. As with most discussions that devolve into arguments like this, the truth here lies somewhere in a murky grey area. It may lean more to one side or the other depending on a number of factors, but it’s closer to the middle than to either Person 2 or Person 3’s perspective.

I’ve noticed a trend over the last year or two, where most stock libraries are encouraging composers to raise prices a little. They know that most great composers won’t bother selling tracks for $2 - $5, and even the largest libraries want great composers to participate and upload tracks. It’s better for everybody.

There are still stock libraries that sell tracks for next to nothing, but participate at your own risk: other places have a “blacklist”, and won’t work with composers that participate in those libraries. That might seem a bit harsh, but it helps everyone in the end. After all, if you have the same track available for $59.99 at one library and $2 at another, will the more expensive one ever sell? Probably not. All you’ll end up with is some lost business relationships (from the first library when they find your track undercutting itself), and maybe $3 at the end of the month after the second library takes its 50% from your sales.

Make sure you read the license terms when you’re signing up to be a composer for a new library. My favorite libraries offer “multi-tiered” licenses depending how the client intends to use the music. For example, if the client wants to use your track as background for a trade show or YouTube video, the track might cost $30. If it’s destined for a local ad or indie film, maybe the price will automatically change to $50. If it’s for a feature film or national ad campaign, it might be $100 or more. The site automatically adjusts the price based on intended usage as the buyer is checking out. These are usually referred to as Standard, Medium, and Wide Release licenses, or terms similar to those. If a library doesn’t offer these scalable licenses, then make sure you’re comfortable with the base price. For example, I’m happy for a small local business to get a track for their website for $20 or $30. I don’t know how comfortable I’d be if a major movie bought an unconditional, perpetual license for $20, then the movie went on to gross hundreds of millions of dollars. But that’s just me! Everyone has their own personal standards. Just make sure the pricing decisions you make are fair to everyone – the music library selling your tracks, the customer buying them, and most of all, you.



            If you haven’t yet, please check out our course “How to Make Money With Stock Music Libraries”! 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 : January 2013 

Tags: stock music  music libraries 
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