Should You Write Library Music?

Should I write music for libraries?

At the very beginning of my film scoring journey I asked myself this question a lot, and occasionally I still do.

Alessandro Mastroianni's Blog - Library Music

By the way, if you don’t know what a production music library is, here you go.

Libraries are a great way for composers to stay busy between projects and, if you do it constantly for years and years, are also a good way to generate more or less steady streams of passive income. 

While the topic is hot and heavily discussed, there is a general consensus over the fact that, as a consequence of a wild race to the bottom and a saturated market, the fees aren’t where they used to be and the competition is fierce.

I’m a relatively young composer and I don’t have enough experience to comment on where the market is heading but, as someone who does write for libraries quite often, I think about whether it is worth it or even good to keep doing it all the time. 

The thing is that library music is a numbers game: you need to have hundreds and hundreds of tracks out there and they need to be signed with libraries that are right for the kind of music you make. In this way they can guide you to produce the best music you can, meeting quality standards and the current demand.

The effort is huge: I know a few composers who write up to 2/3 tracks per day and they generate a massive catalog.

It is clear to see how time and energy-consuming such a process is, as if our job wasn’t busy enough.  

And that’s the key: do you want to spend all your energy on that, possibly giving up on nurturing relationships with filmmakers or perfecting your art of scoring to picture?

I answered this question very recently: no, I don’t want to give up on that. 

I don’t want to give up on helping a director to tell a story to write a happy ukulele track for the summer (and I know it because I wrote a few of those and I hated it).

However... 

Library music is far from being a synonym for poor quality, awfully produced underscore as it was years ago.

Some libraries have wonderful music supervisors and A&R departments with great connections in the industry and wonderful skills. 

Writing for libraries taught me skills that came in handy in loads of other work: the ability to listen to references, to take feedback and implement suggestions, understand different genres and, more importantly, moods.

It also teaches you to have a large output of music per day, which was vital for me when I started scoring episodic content with weekly deadlines.

Library music also makes you produce a catalog of music ready to be licensed  (if you managed to keep your rights and sign non-exclusive publishing deals) for projects, which is vital for projects where writing new material is simply impossible for time or budget constraints.

To wrap it up: I still don’t have a straight answer to the question.  My personal idea is that I will keep writing music for libraries, keeping the quality high, using it to learn new genres and train my writing and producing skills.

But writing to picture, telling a story with music is something unique, the very reason why I love this job.

If you’re interested in the topic, don’t miss the next post, I’ll be sharing a list of resources for the library composer.