Loudness in Production Music – What You Need To Know

‘The Loudness War’ is a hot topic in production music circles. For those who aren’t familiar, loudness involves the way that music is compressed and limited at the mixing and mastering stages. This allows the music to sound LOUD!

Apart from being weary of giving the listener ear fatigue, regulatory standards (such as R128) impact the way loudness relates to music production. New measuring metrics, including LUFS, compete with older RMS measurements. All of these factors make loudness a potential minefield for anyone looking to produce professional, high-quality audio.

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production music waveform
The whole premise of ‘loudness’ in music comes down to the way the ear perceives the quiet and not so quiet passages within a piece.

The history of LOUD

The idea of making your music sound loud is nothing new. Making sure that your album out enough volume was essential back when records competed with each other on jukeboxes in bars. The actual mechanics of mastering records required various tricks to make things sound louder and more bassy. Meanwhile, physical limitations of making sure the stylus stayed in the groove meant that loudness could only go so far.

These limitations no longer applied after the introduction of CDs and DAT in the 80s. Mastering engineers realized that boundaries could be pushed to make releases sound louder than ever before.

Mix and master

Essentially, loudness comes down to the way the ear differentiates between loud and quiet passages. (Dynamic range is the difference between loud and soft.) A listener percieves an overall boost in volume by squashing peaks and boosting quieter sections.

Compression and limiting tools in mixing and mastering often achieve this effect. However, dynamics can be lost (essentially the difference in volume peak levels), and an ear-fatiguing, ‘brick-walling’ is the end result.

Loudness and Production Music

It is important for production music to stand out from the crowd. Yet, making it too loud can mean end-users suffer in the long run. Most broadcast platforms, including online services like Youtube, apply their own normalization processes. This makes sure everything sounds similar in terms of volume. So, highly compressed pieces of music end up sounding thinner and less effective than those that maintain dynamic range. This is especially true when extra layers of modifications are used.

Moderation and balance are key when it comes to deciding how loud to make production music tracks. Composers and producers should learn this lesson if in order to stand up against the competition.

Expanding Your Production Music Library

Ideas for composers for increasing the number of clips in their music library.

Would you like to have or need more clips of your production music along with a wider range of time lengths and potential applications for your music? Here are some relatively simple and good ideas.

One thing you can do is to use pieces of music that you already have as completed works. Let’s say, for instance, that you have a five minute film score with a spacey ambient string section intro, a main full instrumental chord progression, a catchy melody theme, an energetic driving drum break, and a calm serene melodic interlude. It is not very difficult to have all these related individual sections edited into separate stand alone music clips. If you were to take for example the percussion break, this can easily be edited and turned into two individual clips, one as a percussion phrase with a distinct resolute ending and the other one as a loop.

Production Music EditingAlways remember you must be sure to check that the loop loops seamlessly before making it available for lease. All too often what sounds great in your audio editing software will have noticeable seams when actually looped. These loops can have noticeable clicks, timing errors, artifacts, or dynamic inconsistencies. It is always a good idea to make sure and check the rendered file before making it available for licensing! The same technique holds true for the chord progressions, ambient interludes, and melodies.

Two more benefits of this are:
1) the producer who is licensing your music can now have more options for time lengths and choices for dynamics of the original piece to use in their related project, and

2) you will have many more clips for a wider range of applications even if they are not related to the same end production.

Another way to have more clips can be by using different dynamics for the same passage. For example, one version can have only chord changes, another will have the melody line, and another without any percussion.

And yet another way is to make different time lengths of the same piece. One easy way to do this with MIDI produced tracks is by increasing or decreasing the tempo. For instance, a sixty second track at 60 beats per minute will become a thirty second track at 120 beats per minute. Yes, it will speed up the tempo but it does work for some things like ambient and certain kinds of melodic ambient and can have some interesting results. Of course there is always “copy and paste” too.

Well, I hope these suggestions will help a bit because they have worked for me!

Zoid Proteus “Interstellar Music”
http://www.productiontrax.com/profile.php?id=8215&sentby=13561

Production Music and Content ID: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

With production music venturing more and more into the online space, content ID and musical fingerprinting programs are becoming evermore necessary, evermore prevalent and evermore obtrusive. Fingerprinting and content recognition is vital for combating piracy, but at the same time creates headaches in a crowded and quickly-changing creative field of royalty free music production.

audio fingerprinting
The Good
Content Identification is great for maintaining order in an industry that sees more piracy every day. With the increasing availability of high-end but low-cost audio software, more and more people are expressing their creativity with music more than ever. While accessibility drives innovation in the arts, technological progress oftentimes comes at the expense of time-honored copyright laws. For content owners and the artists who create, content ID programs offer a way to monitor and be properly compensated for your work. Content Identification systems can recognize your music in a video, on a website, or in an app, thereby giving you the opportunity to exercise your right as first exploitation. No matter your distribution and compensation strategy, all artists benefit from knowing who is using their music, and where their music is playing.

The Bad
On Youtube especially, Content ID is soulless. The systems in place do not recognize people, and cannot infer circumstances, nor does the system attempt to try. Some may argue that this is by design — an attempt to leave authoritative control in the hands of the copyright owner. However, without fully grasping common licensing practices, especially in the stock media and production music industries, these content scans are an all-powerful guilty-until-proven-innocent judge and jury. Customers of stock music sites often find themselves harrassed by the YouTube Content ID system for using music that they have properly licensed, oftentimes with threats of closing down the user’s channel. So much for doing things the right way, and ignoring pleas from the licensor, no matter how much authority was granted to them by the original copyright holder, requiring full licenses from the original owner in order to fully satisfy its documentation needs.

Additionally, content identification systems don’t have real ears. While fingerprinting and sonic imaging have come a long way in recent years, true content matching can only be done by a human being — especially when it comes to production music. Think about it: every composer out there is using the same sample libraries as the next guy. OF COURSE THEY ALL MATCH SOMETHING ELSE, it’s because the instruments are identical. Only a human can make the distinction between a fair use of a lick or sample kit, a common harmonic progression, or a loop pack.

youtube content idThe Ugly
The YouTube Content ID system contractually requires the content owners who provide the data to be exclusive rights holders. Yes, exclusive. Read the terms. All of those Ad Rev and Ad Share companies out there? Yeah, they’re all claiming that they own your (the composer) work. Worse, they’re collecting ad revenue on your behalf and chances are, unless you’ve signed a contract with these companies, you’re not seeing a dime. We know of a bunch of music libraries who made deals to provide huge databases of music tracks to these companies without telling you, and without paying you. What winds up happening because of this, in addition to someone else making money off of your hard work who is not you, is that tracks are getting improperly attributed. Confusion abounds as to who really owns what — and usually, to satisfy the DMCA, service providers are forced by the law to turn a blind eye. Some protection.

How Productiontrax Uses Content ID
Productiontrax.com does not submit song data to Content ID programs. We do, however, scan our library against the content identification databases to identify songs, and we match this data to the data provided by our users. Why? We do this for two reasons:

1) To make sure that our clients are properly licensed when they purchase music on Productiontrax.com. Scanning, fingerprinting, and identifying songs uploaded help us to keep the promises we make in the end user license, representing and warranting that we have properly and adequately obtained rights to license all of the work posted to our site. This protects our customers, protects us, and helps protect you.

2) To protect composers. Through content identification, we can spot fraud, illegal uses, and stolen music — not from us, but from you. We can also spot errors in the content identification database, where your music is being attributed to another musician, composer, or fraudster, when in fact, it belongs to you.

Ultimately, Content ID, when used and maintained properly is an excellent tool, and should be used by copyright owners. But for your sake, do it without the middleman.

Recording Public Domain Songs for Production

Classical music and other public domain songs make for excellent source material for production music. But utilizing these compositions and then legally licensing your recordings can get tricky. With a little forethought, research, and knowledge of copyright rules, you can avoid inadvertently infringing on another composer’s copyright. Give your tracks a copyright tune-up. Here are some things to consider:

copyright1) Research the song. First and foremost, you need to know exactly when the song was written and published. Take careful note of this, as copyright terms expire after a specific time, as determined by where the music might be used. In the United States, works published prior to 1923 are currently public domain. For example, the common song Happy Birthday was written and published after 1923, meaning that song, as common as it is, is still under copyright and cannot be used. There are some caveats, however. So…

2) Research your composer. Know some basics about your composer. Is he still alive? This is important as copyright status depends largely on the composer’s date of death. Find out when the composer died. If he or she is still living, chances are you cannot license any of their music. In the United States, for all works published after 1922, if the composer is no longer living, the copyright expires 95 years from the date the song was written and published. That means that any work published in 1923 will enter the public domain in 2019.

3) If there are lyrics, the lyrics must also be in the public domain. This makes operas, arias, and classical songs a royal pain. You cannot reproduce a song with its lyrics unless the lyrics are also in the public domain, as the lyricist still has rights in the piece. Research this carefully if you are considering producing a recording of any popular operas. Puccini operas are a prime example of this — depending on the lyricist, some operas are now public domain, and some are not.

4) Never, EVER, sell or license a recording you did not make. Period. Don’t do it. Because of the complexities of copyright law, absolutely NO SOUND RECORDINGS are currently in the public domain. Sound recordings have their own copyright, so all recordings must be licensed from the producers or owners of the recording, i.e. the record label that produced them.

Considering producing a classical work for your next round of library music tracks? Be sure to carefully research every aspect of a song before you dive in. This will save you huge headaches, legal trouble, and lots of time.

Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Australian & Digidiroo

For our next installment in examining the the most overlooked production music categories, we’re turning to world music. Specifically, Australian & Digidiroo. Royalty free music libraries around the globe tend to be lacking in the extremely useful and oft neglected compositional genre, representing a huge opportunity for composers involved in stock music production.

australian digiderooAustralian music has a long, rich, and diverse history, and spans a diverse range of tastes and cultural sounds. Heavily influenced by European colonization, Australia’s classical music and folk music mirror the styles common to Europe in their respective eras, while modern day pop and country genres are largely consistent with trends in the United States.

But most notably, and probably the most recognizable, is the use of digidiroo in aboriginal and folk music. Similar in sound generating function to the trumpet, the digideroo is a long wooden wind instrument that creates that quintessential drone pipe sound. If you’ve ever seen a film with a chase scene through the jungle, or a pan across a hot desert, you’ve likely heard the low, buzzing drone of the digigeroo.

Why is Australian music so useful in production? The characteristic digideroo sound can be used in a wide variety of film and video genres, most effectively to set foreign scenes in harsh environments. Commonly, the sounds tytpical to Australian folk genres create excitement in advertising, hinting at the new and different. The drone can be used to create tension, either in concert with other tribal percussion, symphonic strings, and brash brass stingers, or on its own as a minimalist score.

Overlooked Production Music Categories for Composers: Opera

A lot of production music composers focus their energy on creating royalty free music for just a few specific categories. Typically, composers will say, “I’m a film music composer,” and subsequently post music to the film music category. Or they might be really familiar with corporate videos, and therefore only classify their music as corporate. These categories are not only well known, but also have a lot of competition as a result. This practice leads many composers to overlook production of music for different genres, which are equally as necessary for the licensing needs of many a multimedia project.

Stumped on what style to write in? Here this series explores genres that are extremely useful for customers of royalty free music, but tend to go neglected over the course of a composer’s production schedule.

Opera
operaThis sub genre of classical music is often overlooked, usually because of its complexity, and the resources needed for production. Opera requires orchestral composition and recording, which, ironically enough, is the easy part, given the higher quality and lower cost of orchestral samples for digital workstations. The difficult part? Finding a good live singer to float over the orchestra.

Opera tracks are exceptionally useful in places you normally wouldn’t expect. Car commercials, fragrance commercials, even cleaning supply commercials. Opera tracks can add an element of sophistication, mysteriousness, even comedy, depending on how the track is used. And yet, this category is strikingly relatively empty.

If you’re a composer, you have a few strategies for approaching production. Public domain operas are an excellent choice (not to mention one of two legal approaches). Be sure the composer is long gone, and that the lyricist is, as well. Note that some more recent operas by Vivaldi are not in the public domain, not because of Vivaldi, but because the lyrics belong to the estate of the lyricist. So do your homework before selecting one to produce to make into usable royalty free music. That said, however, the scores to most operas are easily accessible, so with the right samples, and a good strategic approach, you can create realistic, and by-the-book production music opera tracks. Dig in to an old public domain opera like Mozart. Select a couple of popular or not so popular movements, and team up with a great singer.

You can also write something original — no need to write a full opera, just something that has the same sound and feel. Keep the music sounding classical to impressionist, lush and stringy. Pick a language, any language, and write some lyrics. They don’t even need to make sense, especially if your singer has some great technique and vibrato. The point is that making a statement isn’t necessary here, simply creating the sound and feel of an opera is all that a commercial production needs. Have fun, and treat it like any other production project. It’s just another song, in a slightly different style.

5 Ways To Record Better Sound Effects

sound effectsRecording sound effects or building a catalog of sounds to sell on some royalty free music or stock audio library sites? Follow these five tips for maximizing your library’s size and overal success. You’ll find that, with just a little careful planning and organization, you’ll be able to curate the sound library that your production business needs to succeed.

1) Make a list in advance. Just as film producers create a list of shots they need to complete a scene or a video, and optimize their lists to minimize shooting time (equipment rental is expensive, man), so should the professional sound designer. Whether your goal is to get a single animal sound, or a collection of city ambiences, know what you’re going for before you get on location. Make a list, and be specific! Do you need footsteps? Howling? Traffic? Once you’ve got your list, you can then optimize your locations — for example, you can get footsteps on a sidewalk, and at the same time get some traffic sounds if you record on a busy street. You can save time, and at the same time, get creative with your catalog. A little pre-planning can go a long way.

2) Invest in a high quality microphone and DAW. While technology is getting better and better, and cheaper quality equipment is becoming increasingly available, it’s still important for sound effects producers to invest in great gear. Do your homework, because just like quality gear is becoming cheaper, cheap gear is becoming more and more prevalent. Find microphones that have excellent reponse at all frequencies, a solid hard disk to store your takes to, and don’t skimp on your editing software. A quality digital audio editor such as ProTools or Logic can save you time and make your audio sound great.

3) Edit, Edit, Edit. Getting rid of extraneous noises is key in creating quality sound effects that are ready to use in production. No one wants footstep sounds with dogs barking in the background when they’re searching for footstep sound effects. Cut the extra sounds, and your clients will thank you for it. Reduce the ambient noise as much as you can, as this will allow your sound effects to be used in as many different projects as possible without much editing. Separating your sounds this way will also pay off big in the size of your catalog.

4) Master your recordings and create high-resolution mixes. Invest in some quality mastering plug-ins. This will make your recordings have the loudness they need, along with the equalization required to make them sound their best. But remember, don’t over-master. Chances are that whoever is purchasing your audio is likely to edit the effects to suit their specific needs. You can coun’t on them adjusting volume, changing reverb, or mixing with other sounds. The key is to give them the best base material possible. Along these lines, don’t forget to bounce to uncompressed formats like WAV or AIFF, which have far superior sound quality than a highly compressed MP3.

5) Tag and Describe your Sound Effects accurately. When you’ve completed your mixes, don’t just label your files Car 1, Car 2, Car 3. That doesn’t tell your customer anything about the sound they’re looking at, and wastes their time. If you’ve recorded a Ferrari Testarosa revving up it’s engine, label the file that way. People searching sound effects libraries have tons of material to go through, and need help finding things quickly. Similarly, you can save yourself numerous headaches when you need to dig up a file from your archives a year from now. With a little forethought and organization, you can build a better sound effects library with minimal effort.

Sonic Branding – Using Music and Sound Effects to Create a Brand

by Bruno Strapko

The idea of using sound for branding is not new, but particularly in Europe, is considered an important marketing speciality. Using all of the usual marketing techniques of research, trial and retrial, entire agencies target sonic branding. It is the least used branding method and considered the technique with the most growth potential.

Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.
Contributing audio and music to marketing and branding campaigns can be a lucrative source of income for the stock music composer.
At the 2012 Audio Branding Congress at the University of Oxford, virtually every research project and branding development came from Europe. Speaking to other attendees, they were surprised at the lack of American participation when they felt American development was extremely mature. Cases cited included Harley-Davidson’s famous exhaust tuning studio, Intel Inside, and the omnipresent McDonald’s audio logo. New work presented at Oxford included sound design for the atmosphere in Harrod’s famous toy department in London featuring regenerative soundscapes, audio logos for two famous European companies, and an entire suite of sonically different logo-based music for use throughout the Dell Computer organization.

Recent literature that sum up current directions in sonic branding include “Sound Business” by Julian Treasure of The Sound Agency and “Audio Branding”, a compilation of articles and studies representing all issues associated with creating effective audio branding.

While considered a niche, sonic branding can be a differentiating part of the portfolio of a sound designer and/or composer. The unique chances to present their work from typical broadcast and the Internet to prestigious and renowned public spaces can be a fulfilling and challenging opportunity. Presented properly, any sound design student can be introduced to opportunities very closely tied to the main thrust of their education track. With awareness of jingle writers and sound designers in studios for traditional advertising media, adding the potential in sonic branding is worth investigating.

Stock Audio Pick of the Week – Cool Business Model

This week’s royalty free music pick of the week features production music by Michael Musco, track ID 325204 Cool Business Model. This stock music track is packed full of chill corporate attitude that says progressive but civilized, technological but with values. Ideal for advertising, corporate video, even exhibitions and presentations.

License the high resolution track here: http://www.productiontrax.com/royalty-free-music/325204

5 Great Ways To Use Royalty Free Stock Music

There are thousands of ways to effectively use royalty free music in a multimedia project, each of which enhances the feel and professionalism of a production. We’ve put together a short list of five great uses for stock production music to get your creative juices flowing.

Stock Music Microphone

1) Create a Video Game Soundtrack. From first person shooters to RPG, you can use action tracks and cinematic fantasy cuts to create a new world of interaction.

2) Energize a Corporate Video or Industrial Film. Whether it’s about wine and cheese, or duct tape, royalty free music and audio can add a new layer of interest and energy to corporate videos and promotional or training material.

3) Spice up a Website with Background Music. The perfect music track, whether it’s playing via HTML 5 audio or Flash, can drastically change the user experience on any website. Just make sure you give the user an option to adjust the volume.

4) Spread the Love with E-Greeting Cards. Pick out a romantic piece of music and combine it with a cute animation, and you’ll be set for any holiday requiring cards or flowers. The right music cut will take a great greeting card to tear-producing (in a good way).

5) Add Intrigue and Drama with an Audio Book Narration Bed. A common use for stock audio is creating an additional dramatic layer beneath audiobook narrations. Music helps tell a story, and royalty free music is an affordable way to just that in your next book project.

There are ton’s of other applications out there for using music as part of a multimedia project. So let us know — how do you use royalty free music in a unique way?