BG: Music & SFX Libraries

In the last couple of years there’s been an explosion in the music and sound effects libraries industry. There’s more variety and a higher caliber of music and sound effects than ever before.

Unlike many services these days, where asking for a customized product is like asking for a slice of the moon on a cracker, sound library producers take pride in their ability to give the consumer personal, and often custom-tailored works. This buyer’s guide will introduce you to what you need to know about licensing professional music for your productions.

Licensing

Remember, whenever you use music created by someone other than yourself, you need to obtain permission from the holder of the copyright. Like any good legal transaction, this requires money and red tape. But wait! The music libraries in this grid were designed to make this process as easy as possible. There are three common types of licenses, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

  • Buyout license (Also known as royalty-free):

    This is one of the most common types of music license. It’s a one-time flat-fee license that gives the user unlimited use of the selections. While many companies refer to this as a lifetime agreement, there is technically a 99-year limitation on this license. But hey, will you really be needing it 100 years from now? As with all the other licenses, the music is non-transferable, so you can’t lend it to a friend.

    Many people enjoy this type of license because of its simplicity. There are no additional fees to worry about and after signing the initial agreement, there’s no more paperwork. Unless you use lots and lots of music, this is a great way to go. Some people, mostly pros making commercials for TV, feel limited by this arrangement because they have a need for more music. For this group of producers, the other licenses may work better.

  • Annual blanket:

    This license allows the customers to use a wide array of music or sound effects as much as they want for one year. The videographers receive new music throughout the year as it becomes available, just as if they had joined a record club. Some companies offer two and three year agreements at discounted rates. Prices on annual blanket licenses vary greatly depending on the quantity of music. For example, all of Production Garden’s music comes with the option of either buyout or blanket license options. You can pay from $59 to $95 per disk for a buyout license or $1495 for an annual blanket fee. The annual blanket fee allows access to over twenty-two disks from their G Series 100 Library. This costs nearly half what it would cost to purchase a buyout license for the entire library.

    Likewise, Narrator Tracks, which describes their music as specifically designed for video producers, has both types of licenses. For $100 you can have unlimited rights to the music on a single disk, or pay $299 and get use of the entire library for one year. Annual blanket licenses require paperwork each time you use a track.

  • Per-use License:

    Also known as a needle drop or more recently, a Laser drop, this license allows you to lease one or more tracks for a one-time use in a single project.

    On average, the cost, is about $70 per minute. This type of license is handy for someone who doesn’t want to purchase an entire library or disk but has found the perfect track for a particular piece.

    The Rights

    When you license music, there are three basic rights that allow different usage. They are mechanical, synchronization and public performance rights. The mechanical right lets you re-record the music. The synchronization right is a fancy way of saying you can use the music in your video. And the public performance (or broadcast) right allows you to play the work on television, radio, cable or in front of a paying audience. Some production companies, like Creative Support Services, provide you with all three rights at no additional charge. Others price them independently, charging more for performance rights. Non-broadcast producers — like event videographers and hobbyists — pay considerably less than major producers.

    Unique to the Industry

    The music and sound effects production companies are a very flexible crowd. Whether or not they can touch their own toes, many of them will bend over backwards to get you what you want at a reasonable price. They can be flexible when it comes to price because there are many variables that determine cost: license type, quantity, multiple disk discounts, length, etc. For more detailed pricing, check out the manufacturers’ Web sites or call them. If you use the Web listen to their downloadable samples.

    There is no denying the power that music can have on a video. With such a huge selection, it’s a great time to invest in some professional sounds for your videos.

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