I’ve been asked for advice on best way to start composing stock music and how to begin seeing some profit from all the hard work spent slaving away at a computer. Following on from my previous article on the subject, this time I’ve attempted to answer a few of the most common questions that crop up.
This article assumes you’re producing music of a professional standard, have a few tracks ready to go and are happy to continue composing new music regularly in the future.
As with any new job, you need to work hard, start at the bottom and slowly work your way up. In musical terms, this means finding a few decent libraries that your music fits with and contribute new music as regularly as possible.
Which stock music libraries should I apply to?
The biggest libraries are probably the best ones to join initially. You may feel your music will get lost in their massive catalogues but it is possible to make yourself heard. I’ve already reviewed a few of the most popular libraries in a previous article.
Should I go exclusive or non-exclusive?
If you’re just starting out I’d recommend signing up to a few of the popular non-exclusive libraries first. Most of them allow you to upload/remove tracks at any time and give you the freedom to see which of your tracks sell well. They are also a great way to learn the process of composing, uploading, tagging and promoting.
How much do I charge?
Some stock music libraries let you price your own tracks, which is useful for finding the ‘sweet spot’ when pricing your music as you can alter the price and see how that affects sales. Have a look at existing top-selling tracks in your genre and note the general pricing range. You’ll often see music from an insulting USD$1.00 up to an insane USD$500 for a similar track, but there will always be a more sensible average range. Start there and see how you go.
Other libraries price the track for you, some price towards the high end, some to the very low end. It’s down to you to decide your lower limits.
What percentage commission should I receive on a sale?
This varies from library to library, but you can expect from 30% to 50%.
How many tracks should I have ready initially?
Most libraries allow you to upload music at your own pace and have no minimum requirements. There are a few that require an amount of around 30-50 tracks before you can set up an account with them. This is usually stipulated in the application process.
Do I need to create edits?
Including multiple versions – such as a 60 second and 30 second edits plus loops – of your tracks isn’t required but can increase your chances of making a sale.
How tracks should I compose a week?
Stock music is a numbers game. So the more tracks you have out there, the more chance you’ll have of selling some and making some money. If you have time, 2-3 new tracks (not including edits) per week is a good balance between musical output and quality. Of course the instrumentation and your preferred genre will affect this. A simple piano piece will require a lot less time and work than an epic orchestral track.
When do I get paid?
Many of the non-exclusive stock music libraries have automated payment system (via Paypal) through which you receive your funds every month or every quarter. For many, this will be preferable to waiting a year or two to receive an unspecified amount of royalties when first starting out.
Should I use my real name or an alias when composing stock music?
There is absolutely nothing to stop you having multiple pseudonyms for different libraries. Personally, I use Score Studio for my royalty free work and my name for custom work and exclusive libraries.
Final things to consider:
Some libraries will not allow you to join, if you are selling the same tracks on other specific libraries, alway check the detail on this.
Some libraries will not allow you to remove your tracks once uploaded – ever! Check the small print if you’re not comfortable with this.
Decide if you want to use Content ID or not. Some libraries do not allow tracks registered with services such as AdRev.
Do you want to price your own tracks?
I hope this article has helped answer a few questions for you as you start your career composing stock music, if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.
Jonathan is a soundtrack and game music composer from London, UK. His music has been used in trailers, video games and on TV, including shows on NBC, EuroSport the BBC, Channel Four and Channel Five (UK).