We are exposed to music every day in the media and it’s easy to forget that people actually work very hard behind the scenes to bring us entertaining content. These people never receive standing ovations for their work — and outside of a few in the industry, no one knows or cares who they are.
In the mid-1990s, I started composing music for production music libraries. Production music libraries have large catalogs of music that are available to license in television and film productions. When music is needed, and the production doesn’t have a full-time composer or music staff, TV or film producers search through these libraries to find the right music cues for the project. Once they find the right piece of music, they pay a licensing fee to use it in the project. The publisher and composer normally split the profits from licensing.
Since I started this venture, my production music has been placed in over 150 television episodes, specials and films. Most projects are produced and broadcast in the U.S. A large number are then syndicated around the world.
Performing Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP, of which I am a member, collect royalties from broadcasters when the music appears on these televised shows. The royalties are then distributed to the publishers and composers whose music was used. While royalties from instrumental music can be extremely small for each music cue, the number of times they are broadcast can add up to a nice little bonus check for a composer.
Unless you are a staff composer, there is no notoriety or credit given for composing/producing music that is licensed through a production music library. On a lot of my licensed work, you will only see “Music by: Pump Audio or Getty Images or Warner/Chappell Music.” And because I never know what productions are using my music, I don’t find out which shows I’m on until I see royalty statements, which can arrive up to a year later.
If you are a composer or songwriter, don’t overlook this opportunity to make a little extra money from your hard work. It’s unlikely that it will ever be enough revenue to sustain you. But it is a great way to supplement your income.