1) DAN, YOU RECENTLY WROTE A SERIES OF ARTICLES IN THE SOUND ON SOUND
MAGAZINE, ABOUT LIBRARY MUSIC. WHILE I STRONGLY URGE ALL MEMBERS TO READ THOSE ARTICLES, I NEED TO ASK YOU: WHAT ARE SOME PROS AND CONS OF BEING A LIBRARY MUSIC COMPOSER?
Positives include constantly being challenged by new album concepts – forcing you to do your research, be creative and learn new skills. The money can be very good (over $100k per year) if you write a LOT of library music (say over 500 tracks) for top quality library labels and are patient enough to keep writing while you wait for the royalties to build up (it can take 5-7 years of heavy writing before income reaches these levels).
You also have a lot of freedom and independence – if you do great tracks you usually only have the library publisher to please, not a series of film or TV producers and directors. You are free to work from home. You can be flexible with your hours. Often the deadlines are relaxed, allowing you to go at your own pace.
In terms of negatives there is a very long delay between finishing your work and royalties starting to arrive – 2 to 3 years, caused by various delays around the world including international agents being slow to release albums, clients being slow to get to know a new album, delays between a use and anyone being paid, performing rights organisations being slow to collect and pass on money. So, you need to keep writing with a lot of faith while you wait.
Also, it can be lonely and directionless if you’re not working hard to set your own targets and find people to work with and speak to. It can also feel insecure if you heavily rely on one publisher for work – the answer to that is to work for a few good publishers, or have extremely high levels of trust going on.
2) YOU ARE BOTH A COMPOSER AND MUSIC PUBLISHER. IS BEING BUSINESS SAVVY JUST AS IMPORTANT AS BEING A SOLID COMPOSER?
Yes to some extent but ‘being business savvy’ really just means a few fairly simple things like: try to track what is earning the best money and unless you really love the lower paid jobs, you might as well chase those that pay better. And, try to network and keep learning, rather than keeping quiet and resting on your laurels . Try to be polite, energetic and professional rather than rude, low-energy and unprofessional. I’m not sure you’d call all of this being business savvy, but these are the things that improve your career.
3) YOU DEVOTE A GOOD PORTION OF YOUR TIME TO PRODUCING SAMPLE LIBRARIES FOR KONTAKT. IS THIS ENDEAVOR A VALID INCOME STREAM AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE KONTAKT AS YOUR PLATFORM?
Being honest my Kontakt libraries (mainly the Dronar series from my company Gothic Instruments) are more of a labour of love than valid income stream. The money is ok but only a quarter of what I’d earn spending the same amount of time writing or publishing music. We have plans to push this to a bigger level but it will require a lot of delegation of my audio editing work for it to make sense for me. Mainly I’m doing it because I have these exciting product ideas and I just don’t feel like I can rest until they’re completed and out there. We chose Kontakt because it’s stable, popular and widely owned – therefore a ready-made platform for a new company to create a third party library. We didn’t have the resources to consider creating our own platform and Kontakt does everything we need it to do.
4) MANY FOLKS BELIEVE THAT THE MUSIC LIBRARY WORLD HAS BECOME SATURATED BEYOND RETURN. IF THAT INDEED IS THE CASE, WHAT ARE SOME WAYS TO STAY AFLOAT BOTH MUSICALLY AND BUSINESS WISE?
I can see why some people might say this – an ever-increasing number of labels and albums being released. However I’ve been hearing tales of the imminent demise of library music since I started in 2004 and I’ve only ever seen things grow from strength to strength. I don’t know if this means the library industry is healthy or it’s just that I’ve discovered a healthy corner of it by sticking to the high quality end of the industry. Reasons to be cheerful: the market for library music is constantly expanding with millions of new online video makers willing to pay for music every year, and high-end clients usually care more about finding the right music than what it costs – meaning that prices aren’t being driven down at the top.
Based on everything I’ve heard and seen in 13 years I don’t know of a more secure way to stay afloat in music than write hundreds of high-end library tracks for high-end library labels.
5) YOU ARE ACTIVE BOTH IN THE UK AND THE UNITED STATES. WOULD YOU AGREE THAT INTERNATIONAL BARRIERS ARE NOT SO MUCH OF AN OBSTRUCTION IN THE MUSIC WORLD? GO GLOBAL OR PERISH?
Being from the UK, when I first came to the US on a sales trip in 2011 I expected some strange world that I could never understand but quickly realised that it’s just exactly the same but on a bigger scale. And likewise when I developed agent agreements around the world and met all my international agents I quickly realised that the successful publishers are doing all the same things because the needs of the clients are the same everywhere.
Only 10% of my income originates in my home country, 20% is from the USA and 70% is from everywhere else, so to me library music is purely international. Place your tracks with a great label in the UK or any country and it will earn money from around the world, so it’s all to do with writing lots of great music for great companies wherever they are. Everyone speaks English so really there’s no barriers whatsoever. Your country (whatever it is) is just your local backyard and the majority of opportunities lie beyond!