Bridging the Gap With Stock Music

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s true, paying for music and adhering to copyright laws does create jobs, like in this post.

And yet, the “free music economy” persists, as more and more internet surfers demand cheap or free content to use as they please. But I think there is a happy medium between the “free music economy” and prohibitively expensive licensing, and that happy medium is stock music. As computer and mobile devices become increasingly more capable, and barriers to entry in creative tasks fall, more and more people want that soundtrack for their slideshow, presentation, home movie, or viral YouTube hit. I would say most infringers steal because they simply can’t afford to play the music industry’s game, nor is their project worthy of that kind of scrutiny.

Instead of stealing, though, which I think we can all agree stifles creativity and hurts content creators, keeping food off their tables and forcing otherwise talented artists to find work elsewhere, stock music is a reasonable, affordable alternative. Artists should look at ways they can bring their products to market in ways such as this as a more desirable alternative to giving away all their stuff for free. Doing so would counteract the pirate culture. I see stock music as bridging the gap, either to bring out an unknown’s work to the public, or to lengthen the revenue tail of a song that has fallen by the wayside amidst constant musical innovation.

Similarly, multimedia authors need to step back and do things the right way. Afterall, they probably wouldn’t like it if we broke into their home and took their family photos and plastered them online… unless they already do that on Facebook. There are options for affordable projects — and stock media is one of them, which effectively keeps musicians and artists employed and the economy running so that there will be new music for the next project.

Thinking of Going Exclusive? Don’t.

Thinking of going exclusive? Don’t. Exclusivity can be good for some, but for most, it’s just a bad decision. In this day and age, with all the economic uncertainty, it baffles me as to why anyone would go exclusive in anything, let alone their music licensing. Before you sign that agreement, make sure you consider the ramifications of your decision, by examining each of these points in detail, so that you don’t lose out in the long run.

1. Commission Rate Bait and Switch
Most libraries and marketplace sites offer a slightly higher commission rate if you go exclusive. Many offer between 50 and 60% as opposed to their normal 25-50%. While this seems like a good reason to go exclusive, many libraries will give you this higher rate as an introductory rate, and then lower it dramatically if your tracks don’t sell past a certain quota. Then, you’re tied into an exclusive contract and making far less money than you were originally promised.

You should diversify your sales channels for the same reason your diversify your investment portfolio. If one library tanks, or if sales patterns change, or you don’t perform as well on one, the others keep you in the game. Furthermore, you can make a higher average commission and gross income by spreading out, rather than selling in one place.

FACT: Productiontrax always pays 65% commissions on the prices YOU set.

2. Number of Sales vs. Price per Sale
Some libraries are notorious for setting low prices to gain a competitive edge. They then lock you in to exclusive contracts to sell your music for a few bucks (some as low as $1) a piece. Think about this for a second. They are giving out sync licenses (which most artists get paid THOUSANDS for) for less than $10. While they may sell more tracks (until their marketplace becomes so bloated with tracks that you might sell one a month…) your music is being devalued, and given away. You also have no control over the price of your music. The library you signed with can set any price they want, and some strategically price it just low enough that you can’t make your payout balance.

My advice, don’t sign an exclusivity agreement unless they guarantee a minimum price that you are comfortable with. Some smart copyright owners also ask for a minimum payout guarantee every month.

FACT: You control your pricing on Productiontrax. Period.

3. Hidden in the terms of service…
Read your contributor terms of service agreements carefully. Some libraries have started working with a companies like GoDigital and others to “track usage in and be appropriately compensated for internet streams”. These companies employ a technology that finds your music (that you already licensed out) in your customer’s projects. They then insert advertisements (or just claim copyright infringement) and collect revenue. This seems wonderful, until you realize that the contract you signed allows your library to keep 100% of any advertising revenue generated by your music.

Not only are you getting screwed there, with your library making tons of money without paying you a dime, but your customers are not getting what they paid for – and they are getting angry. See if they buy one of your songs again, knowing that YouTube is going to hijack their project.

FACT: Productiontrax never hides your royalties. We do not work with these “monitoring” companies, and we advocate for BOTH our clients (who are also your clients) and our artists.

4. Competition
Before going exclusive, ask yourself how big of a contributor base does the library you are signing with have? The larger the base, the harder it is for you to sell because there is more competition. That means more of the same sounding music, more choices, and lower chances of being selected. Think about it: a customer is on a huge community library with 1,000,000 artists. They look for a piece of dance music, and get your track among about 5,000 other options meeting their criteria. That gives you a 1 in 5,000 shot of selling your track to that customer. Might as well play the lottery with those odds.

If you diversify, you give yourself a greater chance of success because your music is in more places. If you are on 10 smaller libraries and each has, oh let’s say, 500 matching options for a given customer’s music search, you’ve just increased your chance of selling to 1/50.

Think about what you can do if you have 10 tracks in every category, on every site.

Diversification just makes more sense. Unless a library is making some very specific guarantees that you just can’t get anywhere else, always stay non-exclusive. This way, you stay in control of your financial future, and your hard work.

Film Composer Survival Guide

I recently found this “white paper” from Filmmusic.net while perusing the filmandgamecomposers.com forums:

http://www.filmmusic.net/dlx/Getting_Your_Music_Into_Film_TV_in_Economy_Today.pdf

Mainly, it explains that, in today’s economy, the value of custom work is being diminished daily by over-saturation of talent and declining budgets and spending. The key to success in the creative field of composing relies heavily on a little financial savvy and a whole lot of networking.

While it’s an excellent practical guide for career survival in today’s marketplace, I have to disagree with their notion that music libraries are partially to blame for the devaluation of custom scoring work. Custom work and library music serve two distinct market segments that have traditionally been separated by budget and deadlines/production process. Low budget films, student projects, fly-by-night radio ads, low budget and local tv commercials, all call for quick, low-cost solutions that simply cannot be met by a composer who specializes in custom work. Extend that to personal slide shows, corporate office presentations and the like. The meetings, spotting, and time commitment, not to mention creative mind-power required for custom scores are simply not worth the allotted budget for these types of projects. Hence the need for low-cost library music. On the other hand, scoring a feature film, or a national commercial campaign, or a mass-market video game release all call for a huge time commitment and a high level of expertise.

The mentality that composers should avoid the music library business is ridiculous, especially if one wants to survive in today’s business climate. Creatives should embrace the opportunity to diversify their business, and expand into new creative markets. If devaluation is a concern, Productiontrax.com gives all of our contributors full price control.

It is true that there are a ton of composers and songwriters today, and it seems as though everyone with a Mac is a musician. But media buyers, music supervisors, and film directors are not stupid — they have ears for musical quality as well, and for both library music and custom scoring jobs alike, there is always room at the top for the uniquely qualified and super talented.

Will The State of New York Kill The Music Industry?

“Gov. David Paterson has proposed a so-called ‘iPod tax’ on downloaded music and entertainment services to help his state close a $15.4 billion budget deficit.

However, Apple Inc.’s products aren’t Paterson’s only targets. He has proposed 88 new fees and taxes that go far beyond, including on movie tickets, taxi rides, soda, beer, wine, cigars, massages, cable and satellite TV.

That’s just one aspect of Paterson’s proposed $121.1 billion budget released yesterday. The budget attempts to make state government leaner while relying on a wave of new taxes and fees that will be passed down to businesses.

The proposed budget is balanced and holds state spending just under the inflation rate. The budget also erases a combined $15.4 billion in budget gaps over the next 15 months.

Paterson revealed his budget amid the unrelenting shake-up on Wall Street that has already depleted state tax revenue and triggered tens of thousands of layoffs. Before this recession, the state’s financial services sector had produced 20 percent of state tax revenue through income taxes, year-end bonuses, real estate deals and initial public offerings on the stock markets.”

I hope all people in the internet and music industry will speak out against unfair, unrealistic, and economically damaging taxes such as this one. While we’re not located in New York, their recent taxation policies have been a source of concern for not only businesses in the music industry, but every business that has a website and sells online (see their sales tax law currently being fought by major online retailers: http://www.newrules.org/retail/efairny.html)

How Amazon and Overstock responded to New York:
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/overstockcom-throws-new-york-affiliates-overboard-to-avoid-sales-tax/?ref=nyregion

Productiontrax.com Bails Out Multimedia Producers with Economic Stimulus Package

Phoenix, Ariz. (PRWEB) November 12, 2008 Productiontrax.com, a leading provider of royalty free music and stock sound effects, today announced the launch of their Economic Stimulus Package.

The recent economic recession has tightened budgets for many multimedia projects, leaving producers with few options for quality production music, as custom music options can cost thousands of dollars. This has created a demand for high-quality stock production music that producers can use as an inexpensive alternative to custom music.

In response, Productiontrax.com has launched their Economic Stimulus Package, which gives multimedia producers access to commercially licensed music tracks priced under $15.00. The tracks featured in the package were selected from a cross-section of Productiontrax.com’s extensive library.

“Over the last few months we’ve found that many of our customers’ budgets have been reduced, but there was still a demand for high-quality production music,” said Productiontrax.com founder and CEO David Negron. “We know that times are tough and we want to do everything we can to help our customers complete their projects on time and on budget. It also gives options to up and coming filmmakers who are looking for inexpensive music.”

Royalty free music tracks included in the Economic Stimulus Package are available for immediate download and can be purchased by visiting www.productiontrax.com/stimulus.php.

Productiontrax, (www.productiontrax.com), a leader in online distribution and licensing of royalty free music and sound effects, enables customers to license superior-quality royalty free music, sound effects, stock photos and stock video footage for use in film, television, and interactive media on an on-demand basis. As an innovator in online stock media, Productiontrax.com is the first site to allow creators of royalty free production music, sound effects, stock images and video to take an active role in licensing their work to the public. Productiontrax.com is dedicated to providing its customers with high-quality, yet affordable resources for multimedia productions. The music and images are 100% original, with new composers, new tracks and new images added everyday. Productiontrax.com is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and is a subsidiary of One Light Music Productions (www.onelightmusic.com).

Time To Build

I was reading a blog about how most people tend to panic and focus on the one thing (or multiple things) that are causing problems during difficult times. I’ll quote Seth to make it a little easier… He says, “We talk ourselves into hysteria about how, ‘none of our customers have any money,’ or, ‘in this bleak economy, we’ll never make a sale.'”

This couldn’t be any more true. Take a look at Cramer’s recent advice to everyone to take their money out of the stock market. Wall Street is going through some tough times as our economy adjusts to some irresponsibility in the financial markets… and what do most people do? SELL SELL SELL. They panic and take all their money out. I think they’re missing an opportunity. Why not ride it out, and while the market is down, BUY BUY BUY? The market is down over 40% from a year ago. Sure your portfolio might take a hit SHORT TERM, but it’s an INVESTMENT, remember? That means growth over time. Time…. Short of a Third World War and the obliteration of all man kind, I think it’s safe to say that the economy will eventually cycle back and move forward. Too many people have too much riding on it for it to fail — so why panic? (Now that I think about it, a Third World War may just be what we need to get this place on a fast track to growth).

And why not apply the same principal to your business or your life in general right now? Sure times are tough financially — but now is the time to really take a look at all of the other opportunities out there.

Instead of focusing on lower sales or income, why not take some of that cash you’ve been sitting on and upgrade your studio equipment. Have a lot of free time at the office because your custom music clients aren’t calling as often? Write new songs and build up your library. Look for ways that you can produce more efficiently. Explore different means of personal productivity. Learn new technology. Rewrite the track descriptions that you rushed through at 2am last year. Research different potential markets where your services might be needed. Catch up on that pesky accounting project that would really give you a clear picture of where you are right now. CLEAN YOUR DESK.

Personally, I’m looking at this time as a time of growth, and an opportunity to get into more markets cheaply and effectively because other businesses are panicking and offering their services for DIRT CHEAP just to make the sale. I’m starting new projects, taking on new “inventory” that will ultimately enhance our business’s bottom line, and getting in at ground floor rates.

And you should, too. The point is to stop whining and focusing on the one negative that you think is holding you back, and find the 5 positives that you can build on to ensure your success in the future. Be forward thinking, and don’t get stuck on today.