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March 14, 2011

Composer Amir Khan and I just attended the Game Developer Convention in San Francisco. What I saw confirmed what I already suspected: with the advent of mobile games and apps the already rapidly expanding game market is exploding.

I have been an avid gamer for the last 25 years. My sons introduced me to some of the great classics like Legend of Zelda and Super Metroid. I've been playing ever since. Though game music has long been an influence on my composing, I was always too busy to pursue game music.  

That's about to change. We are beginning a library project for casual games. We are also considering acting as agents for a few of our seasoned composers.  Some, like David Grimes in Boston, have long track records scoring games, including hits like Luxor. Others we feel can bring fresh perspectives to this field.  

-John Manchester


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Manchester Music is Cine Award Winner

February 09, 2011

Long time Manchester Music client Jonathan Barkan of Communications for Learning has just received a Cine  Golden Eagle Award for an entertaining piece on the American Flag.  Here's an excerpt with music from our library: Flag Video

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John Manchester Published in December Issue of Post Magazine

December 08, 2010

John Manchester's article A Brief History of Library Music has been published in this month's edition of Post Magazine.

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A Brief History of Library Music

October 18, 2010

The evolution of the music library business has been driven by technological change, notably the digital revolution.


Production library music was born in 1927 with the British company De Wolfe, under the name “pre-recorded music.” It was first available on wax cylinders, and then tapes and LPs. De Wolfe’s eventual competitors came mostly from the UK and Europe.

That’s due to the difference between unions here and abroad.  Library music was priced below standard music. German unions understood this and made special arrangements for library music. Unions in the UK quickly followed suit. But the US musician’s union insisted that players be paid the same residuals for production music as for custom music. If US libraries both abided by the union and remained competitive with prices overseas they would quickly go broke. Still, an American library, Ascher, started in the ’60’s, followed by Valentino.

Technology first changed the library business near the end of the 70s. Until then record duplication had been expensive. Now short runs of 1000 became available, making the medium of records affordable to new libraries. The result was two new American libraries -Omni and Network.

THE ‘80’S 

The digital revolution hit the music library business in the mid 80s, when Omni introduced the first music library CD (Disclosure: it contained my album “Imagination.”) Other libraries quickly followed suit. Customers enjoyed the convenience of CDS – they were harder to scratch than records, they offered random access to individual cuts and took up less shelf space.

Until the mid 80s the only options for visual presentations were film, which was very expensive to produce, and limited one-projector slide shows. As video equipment steadily came down in price, it became a new option as communications medium. And with the advent of personal computers, multiple slide projectors could be synced together for more satisfying shows. Boston was a center for these productions. Productions became better and cheaper, attracting more businesses with something to communicate.

New libraries arose to meet these growing markets for production music – Firstcom, Aircraft and Manhattan in the US, and others in Europe.

By the end of the 80s there were approximately fifteen libraries. Except for the new medium of CDs, their business model was the same as always. Customers paid a one-time fee (a needledrop) to use a piece of music. Or they could buy a “blanket” to cover all their productions for a year.

Coincident with the advent of the CD, someone came up with a new licensing concept. It was called “buyout,” though it’s now known by the misleading, but popular term “royalty free music.” The customer bought a CD for a one-time fee, along with the lifetime rights to use it in an unlimited number of productions.

The royalty free music model allowed a new set of entrepreneurs into the library business – those that weren’t rich. Traditional libraries were expensive to run. Music production still required professional recording studios and live musicians. Sessions could run hundreds of dollars an hour. And marketing required attending expensive trade shows and doing intensive telephone sales.

Royalty free music libraries took advantage of yet another technological advance – affordable synthesizers, samplers and home recording equipment. While music made with these new tools wasn’t yet as good as music done with live instruments, it meant lower overhead for the libraries, which in turn allowed them to survive on lower buyout revenues.

This gave these production music libraries access to many of the new markets that cheaper visual production was opening up. Colleges, churches, smaller companies, even elementary schools wanted to get their messages out with the new production tools. They now had music they could afford.

There was another set of new producers with limited budgets –those who needed music to score product for hundreds of new cable channels. Growth of the broadcast pie didn’t nearly meet the proliferation of channels, so production budgets kept being cut.

All of these new producers found royalty free music irresistible, so much so that they often came to the libraries rather than vice- versa. They couldn’t afford to care if the quality was a little off. This gave royalty free music libraries a huge marketing advantage over traditional libraries.

THE 90’S

In the late 80s and into the 90s libraries based on the traditional needledrop/blanket model entered the fray –Non-Stop, 615, Killer Tracks. But the growth explosion came in royalty free music libraries. As is often the case with evolutionary shifts, many musicians started those music libraries because they’d gotten tired of banging on the doors of the old style companies, who as they grew became more inaccessible to outsiders. These musicians saw royalty free music as a way to get their music out and took it.  Many of these new music libraries still had quality issues, but a few – notably Music Bakery and Manchester Music– were sounding very close to the big guys.

Another trend was that with the proliferation of libraries, higher end clients who had traditionally owned one library could now take on several. This was good for smaller, niche libraries like the Manchester Music Library, who could concentrate on their strengths without bothering to cover all musical bases and be everything to everyone.

Digital technology did benefit the big libraries in one sense – the telemarketing they’d always relied on for sales was coming down in price.

Video went digital. As prices for video tools continued to drop, even more players began producing communication products. The library music market continued to expand. Meanwhile digital audio recording became affordable for home studios, and their quality started rising to where it is today – in many cases indistinguishable from the pro studios. Buyout music libraries – who due to their licensing model would always remain poorer than the old-style ones –took advantage of this, and their music improved. Most still couldn’t afford live players. It was coming to matter less because music in general was becoming more and more electronic. Whole genres, like hip-hop, used no live musicians. Composers who played guitar and had good samples could make credible rock music by themselves at home.

The growth in new royalty free music libraries was outpacing the growth in their markets and competition became fierce. Some of the bigger ones resorted to telemarketing.

Then came the Internet. Now customers could purchase CDs from a website without even speaking to a salesperson – something appreciated by busy producers who often spent half the morning fielding calls from the ever growing number of libraries of both kinds. This gave the royalty free music libraries a distinct advantage over the big boys. Their product could not be licensed from a website. And they relied on the honor system for reporting of music usage, which meant a need for personal relationships with their clients. The royalty free music libraries have no such need.

THE 00’S

Now the pace at which digital technology affected the library music business rapidly increased. Whole new markets for library music opened up, it seemed by the month. Satellite. Websites. Message-on-hold, cell phones, iphones, phone apps, ipads. Video games and hotel kiosks. YouTube. They all needed to license music.

The biggest game changer came when download rates with TI and DSL got fast enough for clients to download full-resolution music. Now music libraries had a most enviable product – one that could be delivered entirely on-line. The traditional libraries used this to deliver product to their customers, but their licensing remained person-to-person based, by phone, though email was also a welcome innovation. Recently the big players have discontinued CD production, saving them a large expense and headache.

But the royalty free music libraries had an ideal situation – a product that could be marketed, sold and delivered online, and anonymously, something that was increasingly popular with customers used to shopping on Amazon and eBay. Customers could for the first time purchase individual music tracks royalty free.

Without the burden of producing CDs, individual musicians could now produce some tracks at home, put up their own website, and enter the music library business for a fraction of what it once cost. And many musicians were eager to do it. Musicians at the top of that industry – record production, national jingle and film scoring –had always sniffed at library music. Now as the record business disintegrated and jingles left New York for the hinterlands, these guys were no longer above writing library music. And when the libraries, flooded by their inquiries, turned them away, they simply started their own.

From a couple of handfuls of music libraries at the start of the 80s we now have over 300 established libraries, and countless other tiny outfits as described above.

This has created problems for both music libraries and their clients. As fast as the market for production music has grown, the libraries are growing much faster. That’s driven down prices on the low end, and revenues are smaller for almost every music library.

Clients face another problem. There may be more affordable options for music, but how to choose from amongst hundreds of libraries? And if you choose a large library, how to find what you need from thousands of CDs?

For the onetime user of library music who doesn’t need the highest quality, some time on google will produce a solution. But producers who do multiple projects, and who care about the quality of the music face a real problem. Professional editors and producers are very busy people. They can’t possibly do that google search every time they need to score a project.

So whether they go with a traditional music library or royalty free music libraries (or as some do now, both) what they need is to find a few reliable sources for music that’s good enough in quality and serves their stylistic needs.

They are employing their own editorial control here. But that doesn’t solve the other problem – how to quickly find what they need in the always growing music library catalogues.

Search and browse software can help, though it comes at some cost to the libraries, as any publisher who’s done the chore of key wording thousands of music tracks can attest.

We’ve done that job at Manchester Music. We also have another part of the solution. Over 15 years we’ve only produced 50 CDs. They are of universal high quality, composed by many different composers who have created a wide range of styles and sounds.  When you’re searching you can be sure you won’t find any junk.

If you need a lot of something esoteric – say 10 albums of traditional Irish music – you’ll have to go to one of the big traditional libraries. But we can fill most corporate users needs. And if you need the odd piece of didgeridoo hip-hop, or, as was once requested, a CD of Christmas carols for sax quartet, you can always go back to Google.

I want to thank my old colleague and current ASCAP board member Doug Wood for offering some background on the early days of the library business.

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Interview with Producer of new Chicago Album

September 01, 2010

John Van Eps, longtime composer for the Manchester Royalty Free Music Library has been working on a new project for the band Chicago.  You can here some of his music here.

Luminous Muse – John, Tell me how you got involved with this project.

John Van Eps – The band Maroon Five had done Latin versions of some of their hits. It was relatively successful. Chicago is represented by the same company – Primary Wave. Chicago decided to do a bunch of their own hits with a Latin feel. They put the word out and got some demos. The liked the three I did so they hired me to produce the project.

Read John Manchester's full interview of John Van Eps on the Luminous Muse blog

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Shift to Buyout

August 06, 2010

The current economic downturn has squeezed users of Production Library Music, from creators of TV series to Wedding Videographers. Projects are being cancelled. For those that survive, budgets are being slashed.  In order to keep their doors open, something has to give. One place producers look is Library Music. 
While we’ve seen evidence across our industry that business is down– from Annual Blanket to Royalty Free Music Libraries – one part of our business is expanding.  That’s clients who’ve had Annual Blankets with the big established music libraries and have abandoned them in favor of a Royalty Free music or buyout of our whole library. With their business down they’ve not only seen lower bottom lines, but have been using less music.  

At Manchester Music our extensive use of live instrumentation, including orchestra and first call New York players, our many composers of various ethnicities and nationalities – including a growing number of women, rare in the production music library or stock music industry - and our insistence on tracks of musical interest and quality make our royalty free music library one of unique quality and diversity of sound in the Royalty Free Music field. 

Our music is considered comparable in quality to that of the old established Annual Blanket Libraries. Our collection of 50 royalty free CDs provides most of what many clients need. Clients doing Corporate and Government work, lifestyle programs, message-on-hold, Bulletin Boards, Radio and TV Commercials – to name a few – can find what they need in our royalty free music collection. The one thing we don’t have that the biggest music libraries do is rare specialty genres. But if you need Christmas carols performed by Saxophone Quartet (a request we did once get) or music for the digeridoo, you can download a single track from another library. 

Which raises a question – why not just download individual Royalty Free Tracks as needed?  We provide that service. But if you use enough music downloading can quickly get expensive. If you are a corporate department, or government agency, and on a fixed budget, that could create a real problem.

The bottom line is that steady users of music will save money with Manchester Music in switching from a Blanket with a large library, with no sacrifice in quality, whether they choose the Royalty Free Buyout, or our Annual Blankets. 

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Vanishing Bandwidth

July 29, 2010

Being born in 1950, my teenage years coincided with the 1960’s. Music was without question the dominant art form in my life. Rock concerts were the most exciting events.

When my father took me to hear Martin Luther King speak at Wesleyan in 1963, I was blown away by his thundering voice, but even more by the choir of black women behind him as they linked hands and sang “We Shall Overcome”.  The crowd, including my father and I, sang along.

As we teens lost our innocence with sex and drugs, rock and roll was the constant soundtrack as it poured from car radios and transistors, or stereos in dark, incensed dens of basements and college dorms. It was not uncommon to spend hours just listening to music. It took up a lot of our bandwidth.

Today, innovations like the ipod make music more accessible than back then. Paradoxically, that convenience is bad for listening because it has encouraged multitasking. With PCs, iPads, Blackberries, and video games competing for our attention, music is just another thing to add to the mix of reading, texting, web-surfing, eating and walking. Music is still there as the soundtrack to our lives, but it’s been turned way down – not in volume, but in our consciousness. As the memory capacity of all of our gadgets continues to grow exponentially, our human capacity for attention remains fixed. It’s a zero sum game.

Since the ‘70s, music has also gradually been getting squeezed out of productions for which it’s background.  As George Lucas and Steven Spielberg added special effects to the filmmaker’s pallet they also beefed up sound effects. Both grabbed more of the audience’s attention, leaving less for music.

During the same period, rock bands performing in arenas discovered that playing and singing alone were no longer thrilling enough for audience members, especially those stuck in the back rows.  They spiced things up, adding lights and fog machines. Alice Cooper brought an electric chair on stage. Even at concerts, music was getting less attention. The music, though louder than ever, began shrinking in content, becoming simpler as guitarists who’d spent their youths mastering lightning fast licks discovered that simple power chords were more effective in echoing stadiums. Then came MTV. Now fans expected bands to look great on camera, to dance and even act. All of which made the notion of just sitting and listening seem boring.

Music shrank, not only in the genre of arena rock. Though Hip Hop had a serious verbal message, it had little melodic content. At the same time, Indie Rock tended to shy from obvious melodic hooks. Though very different, both musical forms were weak on melody, but strong on attitude. Which made it ideal as soundtrack music for multitasking personal mood music. These minimal forms of music became a personality accessory. Wearing earbuds made you feel that privately you were this certain kind of person who wears these pants and listens to this music. Blasted from subwoofers in a car, you could let the world know as well.  The melodies and hooks music had once provided – the story of the music – were no longer necessary, because the story was your life itself.

It took background music producers a while to recognize music’s diminished role in the world of digital media. Until fairly recently, music for movies, commercials and corporate presentations wasn’t essentially different from regular, “listening” music. While each of these media tended towards it’s own musical style – big orchestral for films, upbeat for ads, and cheesy library royalty free music for corporate things – it was still music, with melodies, arrangements and development. The best of it, like Bernard Hermann’s scores, could stand on its own.

Filmmakers were first to realize that music needed to shrink. This was because they could afford CGI and the best sound effects. In the blockbusters they made there wasn’t even much room for dialogue between all the car chases and explosions, let alone ubtlety in musical arrangements. Movie music began to take on the broad gestures of arena rock. Film composers realized that memorable melodies and gorgeous arrangements were not only unnecessary, but actually detracted from the all important visuals.

As the minimalist music trend moved down into advertising and corporate work, Hip Hop became popular as background music. Mix out the rap and you had a track that didn’t compete with dialog or visual/sound effects.

Production Music Libraries picked up on this trend.  In recent years, rhythmic royalty free music beds without a hint of melody, or even just consisting of bass and drums, have increasingly predominated. Loop CDs – inexpensive collections of percussive loops, from live drummers to programming with processing and ethnic instruments, have made the process easier for composers.

But this poses a problem. This new kind of background music stays out of the way, but it also tends to be mind-numbingly repetitive.  Music has gone from too much content to too little. It’s been tough for us music lovers, giving up the pleasures of counterpoint, development, voiceleading, and even harmony and melody, like being gradually forced onto a diet of bread and water after a lifetime of gourmet meals.

Which brings me to the new releases from Manchester Music, two new CDs of ambient royalty free music: “Chill Zone” and “Ambient Energy.”  The quality and diversity of sounds on these albums reflect the 12 young composers who created them. They’ve scored national commercials and independent films, received numerous awards, include three women (unfortunately rare among music library composers), and a wide representation of cultural backgrounds. Here they’ve pulled off the considerable feat of creating music, which despite minimal melodies, retains interest through unusual, sparkling sounds and cleverly evolving arrangements.

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

July 29, 2010

A couple of times a week Thomas Friedman has a brilliant idea that explains everything in the world economy! Or the world political situation! Or both!  That’s convenient, because he also has a column in the New York Times a couple of times a week in which to disseminate these gems.  While the Times has joined all the other newspapers in struggling to stay afloat in the rough seas of new media, I’m sure they still pay Tom well. And the moment Tom gets enough columns together he slaps them into another book. They sell like hotcakes.  All of which makes him the envy of many struggling bloggers. (Not this one. I make my money with music.)

Anyway, enough about Tom. What’s got me writing about him is one of his columns of a few months back.  In it, as is often the case, his latest grand theory comes bundled with a couple of neat personal anecdotes. Stories of entrepreneurs he knows and the clever things they’ve done to survive the terrible economy (which while not the cause of the Times’ troubles, has made them worse).  The gist of Tom’s story is how these entrepreneurs produced media projects using on-line talent, at a tiny fraction of what less clever guys pay for professionals, thereby saving themselves a bundle, and hopefully, their companies (and Tom being Tom, the Worldwide Economy!)

These entrepreneurs saved hundreds of dollars on the voice-overs.  I’ve never hired a low-cost narrator on-line, but I have worked with those expensive professional guys and gals a number of times. I also worked with an amateur. Once. The pros I worked with could knock off a ten page script in half an hour, leaving before their minimum hour was up. But that didn’t rankle, because we were paying for that studio time, and got on to the next part of the project. The time I hired an amateur, after ten hours he was still slogging his way through on the script. I finally called a friend in to help. A professional.  I was very lucky that my client was so kind (or foolish) to work with me again after that. I’ve heard similar tales from others.  I’ll give Tom the benefit of the doubt on this one – for all I know the country’s crawling with voice-over talent willing to work for peanuts, and if you don’t have to sit there while they spend hours getting it right, maybe it works out fine.

The music I can comment on.  He bought it at a site “for pennies.”  I went to the site and the stuff I saw actually cost $10, but whatever, Tom, ten bucks is dirt cheap for production library music.  The site was hard to navigate. I didn’t like the music, but maybe that’s just me. What was interesting, though, was that the “most popular” piece had been bought 12 times, grossing $120.  If the composer was paid the standard royalty of 50%, that’s $60 for the most popular piece on the site.

This is where Tom’s grand thesis –that all this cost saving is great for the economy – starts to fall apart. He does admit at the end of his column to a flaw in the plan -that it doesn’t create any jobs.  That’s when I found myself saying, Wait a minute. Because what I saw was a lot of people losing their jobs. Narrators, composers and photographers put out of work by amateurs. I’m not impugning their work, just stating the obvious: if your highest selling song makes $60, sorry, unless you can crank out five pieces a day, you aren’t making a living at it.  (I’ve done that, a few times.  But the next day I’m worthless.)

Then I had an evil thought. Given the Times troubles, using Friedman’s logic they could give his column space to any of a number of talented bloggers, who I’m sure would be glad to do his job gratis, for the publicity. See how Tom likes hitting the street along with all those out of work voice-over guys and photographers….

Then I remembered.  I’m still making a living, and so are many of my friends in the media business, despite all the cheap competition on line. That’s because the guy in that old coffee commercial had it right:  “You get what you pay for.”  Successful companies like to be associated with high quality productions, because to do otherwise makes them look bad. I’m not suggesting corporations should waste their money on Avatar-level effects. But even the priciest music is always a fraction of any production budget.

I just went back to that royalty free music site. As I expected, Tom’s plug did them well. Maybe someone there’s even squeaking out a living at their music. But at whose expense?

I’ve got my own anecdote, this one fictitious, though after Tom’s column, it sadly might have been the fate of someone who read Tom’s column and decided to try it his way.  A producer makes a video for his best client, a job that nets him $30,000. He’s about to use a $60 piece of music from that library he likes, except that he just read Tom’s piece.  He goes on-line, excited, and finds something for ten bucks! Oh yeah!

He premiers the video for his client, who happens to represent over half his yearly income.  A heavy silence follows, then, “Uh, looks fine.  But…what’s with that music? I don’t know…” He gives the producer a long look. He gets someone else for his next project. Saved 50 bucks and went out of business.

A last thing. There’s an aerial photo of Tom’s house floating around on the internet (shot by an amateur, or a pro, I don’t know.)  Though house isn’t quite the word…palatial estate? Compound? Mansion? Castle? One of those. What I’ll bet is that Tom didn’t pay bottom dollar to the guys who built it.  And that the paintings on the walls aren’t made of velvet, didn’t come from Walmart for $20. No, I’m sure they’re Art. Which, in my opinion, is just as it should be if you’re Thomas Friedman and can afford it. Imagine how we’d be impoverished if Pope Julius had gotten fed up with expensive, cranky old Michelangelo and hired some no-talent kid to slap a coat of paint on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Or if Bach’s patrons decided to cheap out and replace him with some lute-plucking drunk.

We can’t always expect to be surrounded by works of genius. But – to employ a Friedmanesque metaphor –if our culture is like a great common living room, every corner of which sounds with the tinkle of ringtones and flashes with bright images, some now in 3-D, then we don’t want it to be a drab lifeless place, any more than any of us would choose to live in a trailer. Beautiful things that bring meaning to our life and culture tend to cost money. And Tom Friedman knows this very well.

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July 29, 2010

A frank discussion of the blurring line between “License” and “Royalty Free” production music.

Twenty years ago, all music libraries were “License” – i.e., they only offered music on a Needledrop (or per-use) basis, or by Annual Blanket. Around 1990 “Buyout” or “Royalty Free Music” libraries appeared.  This was before the internet allowed for individual track downloads, so these libraries sold CDs along with a license that allowed for unlimited usage for a single, onetime fee.  These libraries caught on in the lower levels of the market, and, as the internet blossomed, with younger producers growing up with fast (and often free) music downloads.

When I started the Manchester Music Library in 1993 we only offered traditional licenses. But I had only three CDs, and grew from there at a slow rate. It was difficult to compete with music libraries with thousands.  I began offering CDs on a buyout basis, charging top market prices, and limiting what could be done with them, while still offering traditional licenses. As the library grew many customers found the Annual Blanket a better deal than buyout, but I let them choose. Straddling both worlds worked for me, but apparently not for many others. Only two other music libraries joined me in operating that way.

The number of libraries was already growing, but when internet music mp3 downloading and download royalty free music became practical, it exploded: anyone with some music tracks could put up a cheap website, and didn’t need to bother with the expense and hassle of making CDs. Presto! – another music library. For some reason, my dual strategy did not catch on. The vast majority of libraries where still either old-school License, or Buyout, and rarely the twain shall meet.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed many things that suggest that the two worlds are converging.  And perhaps it’s not coincidence that this started happening around the time that “Buyout” assumed the new name “Royalty Free Music.”  This new term is apparently very popular.   But if its purpose is to distinguish between buyout and license libraries, it’s peculiarly inapt. Because a “Royalty Free Music” library is no freer of royalties than the other kind. Once a piece of music is synchronized, neither kind of library charges any musician, composer or publisher royalties (the exception is a few old-school libraries who may still charge commercials on a 13-week basis.)  On the other hand, the vast majority of music libraries of either stripe collect performing royalties – from ASCAP and BMI (and occasionally directly.) Clients other than Radio and TV stations never pay a dime for performing rights no matter which kind of library they use. Perhaps in taking on what seems to be a more attractive name, Buyout libraries have inadvertently pointed out that there isn’t nearly as much difference between the two as people think.

And the differences keep narrowing. From the Royalty Free Music side, I’ve noticed a number of companies that once offered All Rights for one price adding on surcharges for things like the number of copies made, market size, or number of end users. Some  have added so many qualifications that many track downloads are in effect single use – i.e.,  Needledrops, though they will never call it that, because the Buyout industry has built itself to a large extent on fears of that very thing.  What led to these surcharges in some cases was library owners who were also composers. One had sold a track for $40 for use in a video game which sold in the millions. The other saw the piece he’d sold for a modest fee used on a major corporation’s website for ten years running. They understandably felt the unfairness of this. Now they charge more for certain applications.

What’s more surprising to me is what’s happening on the license side.  One major library is now offering a corporate annual blanket, which rather than limit the client to a set of CDs, as is traditional, limits them to a number of downloads from the entire library.  This is remarkably similar to the “subscription” program of one of the large Royalty Free music libraries.  And though their terms are apparently different, customers could not be blamed for starting to get confused about what’s what. 

Another large library offers music track downloads on a “per use” basis – except that nowhere on their website do they offer a mechanism for relicensing the pieces. Perhaps this is an oversight, but I wonder if it isn’t a coy way of horning in on the Royalty Free music market.

And if so, good for them.  Shortly after I decided to offer my CDs on a Buyout basis, I told a representative of one of the most prestigious of the old school libraries. She was incensed, giving me a version of the old “you’ll never work in this business again.” Her anger is understandable – Buyout threatens the old order of licensing.  In a sense I am no longer “working in that business.” That business doesn’t quite exist anymore.

I began to offer my music on a Royalty Free basis out of necessity; I know a number of talented composers who started their own Buyout libraries because they were tired of waiting for big license libraries to get around to listening to their demos.

Speaking as a library owner, however my customers are most comfortable buying my music is the way I want to sell it to them.  We sell Annual Blanket, Per Use and Royalty Free licenses. For info on their relative merits you can consult our FAQs.

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Site Launches

July 29, 2010

After two years of planning and six months of development, this site is finally launched! Browse and search for tracks or CDs, and check out our license options. Come visit John Manchester’s blog luminousmuse.wordpress.com where he discusses music licensing and the library business, as well as much more including pop music over the last 40 years and Classical over the last 400. The blog launched at the beginning of April, and readers are already commenting: 

"Great job John. Thanks for the enlightening piece on the music business."
“This was one of the most refreshing reviews I’ve seen of this album.”

“Yes! Excellent insight John!” 

“Excellent post – beautifully written and thought out.”

“You write with a sense for the “powerful and profound” in music, a kind of reverence, even, that’s rare among critics. I’ll keep reading…”

“John, this site looks awesome! And full of interesting as well as helpful information.”

“Very cool, John, ... I think it will be successful but, more importantly, lots of fun. I look forward to staying in touch.”

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New CDs

July 29, 2010

We’re proud to announce the release of two new CDs of Ambient music –"Chill Zone" and "Ambient Energy."  The quality and diversity of sounds on these albums reflect the 12 young composers who created them.  They have scored national commercials and independent films, received numerous awards and include three women and a wide representation of ethnic groups. On these CDs they’ve pulled off the considerable trick of creating music that maintains the listeners interest through unusual sounds and cleverly evolving arrangements. The tracks are full of mood and atmosphere, achieving development without using the traditional means to produce it.

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What is a Music Library?

July 29, 2010

Music libraries, more accurately described as production music libraries, supply music for productions.

Why do you need one? Can’t you just use whatever might sound good from your CD/iTunes collection? No.

If you want to do just about anything with recorded music aside from listen to it, federal law requires you to get one or more licenses from two parties: 

1. The publisher of the music, and 
2. The owner of the sound recording.

License Types

Synchronization License. 
If you are making a production, a synchronization license gives you the right to marry (synchronize) music with other media such as visuals, sound effects and voice-over

Mechanical License.
If you want to make copies of your production –for example, on DVD – you will also need a mechanical license.

Performing License. 
If your production is to be played in public you need a performing license.  For this purpose, the definition of “public” is broad, encompassing everything from radio, broadcast and cable TV; to websites, youtube videos, music-on-hold and phone apps.  Here it gets a little complicated, because Performing Rights Organizations such as ASCAP and BMI sell licenses to many of the outlets where productions are performed.  In these cases a producer is not required to get a performing license: ASCAP or BMI has already granted a license to the venue. But the producer needs to check.

Options for Licensing Music

If you wish to use music on a record with a major or independent record company, you need licenses from both the record label (for the sound recording) and the publisher (for the song). These two parties are usually separate entities, and it typically takes many phone calls over several months to negotiate with both parties. If you’re lucky the license will cost only $500, if you’re not so lucky it could be $50,000.  I’ve seen cases where the answer is simply no, you can’t use the piece you want for any price.

The right composer with a sophisticated computer music system can make you a nice custom score.  But it’s still going to take him some time to produce the music, and what if you don’t like what he does?  Then you’ll need more time, and maybe more money. To increase the odds that you’ll like what the composer makes and that it won’t take until next year for her to do it, you need someone with talent and experience, not your cousin who recently got Garage Band.  That’s going to cost at least several thousand dollars.  And what if you need a piece that has live instruments? Now we’re talking about New York, and big bucks.

Say you want to use a piece by Mozart.  In the US, music written before 1923 is in the public domain, which exempts you from getting a license from a publisher. HOWEVER, you still need to get licenses for the sound recording.  So unless you know someone who plays well and you know how to record them, you’re back having to contact a record company
All of which might lead you to…

Production music libraries have a great variety of music, pre-recorded.  The better ones have, when appropriate, hired live musicians; first call New York cats and European orchestras. Prices for most applications are set.  Even in the case where a price needs to be negotiated, it can be done in a few minutes.  With an online library, such as the Manchester Library, you will be able to browse for what you want, download the music along with a license, and pay with a credit card for as low as $45.

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John Van Eps

July 01, 2010

Composer John Van Eps, who’s contributed a number of CDs to our library, (MSE 007, EML 005 & 006, MAN 030 & 031 and more) has been working with the band Chicago for the last 20 years.  He’s now producing their latest album of new material. He’s scored films such as Nightmare on Elm St. 3, Penn and Teller Get Killed, and most recently War Made Easy with Sean Penn.  He arranged a long running CBS football theme, wrote the US Tennis Open theme, and has scored over 1000 nationally broadcast commercials for companies like Ford and Pepsi.  He currently has spots running for the Israeli Tourist Board and Pepperidge Farm. 

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