Written by Kent Carter.
Say the words “music licensing” to an independent content creator, and you’re likely to get a cringe in response.
After all, finding music to support your projects can be a daunting proposition, and there’s a lot of fear surrounding the process.
At one end of the spectrum, you could hire a professional composer, but that’s likely beyond the budget for most burgeoning indie storytellers, YouTubers, and livestreamers. At the other end are the stock music sites offering free music licensing. While you may find a hidden gem here and there, you’re largely sacrificing quality, selection, and track structure with such options. And because this music is available to everyone for free, who wants stuff that’s overused and sounds like everyone else’s?
In between are the production music sites offering track-by-track licensing, which is fine when you need a piece of music once in a while, but can be quite laborious when your content requires music more often. Of course, then you have to factor in the navigation of music rights, allowlisting (formerly whitelisting), and royalties, and the fear is real.
But it doesn’t have to be.
The subscription model is taking over in many different industries, and production music is no different. With monthly plans that are tiered based on the type of user and where the content will be shown, independent content creators can get unlimited access to the same extensive, professionally composed music libraries used by major Hollywood studios, television networks, and consumer brands.
For a very reasonable price, they can make their work shine with higher quality music, whether producing a YouTube show, streaming commentary, or podcast, to name a few. This also extends to wedding videographers, photographers, and even local real estate companies, though they are typically charged a little more per month. It’s still way cheaper than individually licensing tracks, and also great knowing you can just use anything you want instead of going through a laborious checkout process each time.
In my opinion, these are the five reasons independent creators should get a production music subscription.
Reason #1 – Access to robust content makes finding the perfect track much simpler
For a reasonable monthly subscription, you can access, search, and license the whole production music library without any price considerations. Libraries are constantly adding content, so you have first-in-line access to the freshest tracks.
This also includes alt mixes, stems, and loops for those libraries that offer extensive track variations (shameless plug alert: read ALIBI). Additionally, many libraries have a plugin extension for Adobe Premiere Pro, so if you use that as your editing tool, it’ll put you that much closer to the music.
Reason #2 – Subscriptions simplify the licensing process
Having a production music subscription as an independent creator or small business is like getting your own personal blanket license—in other words, the same freedom and flexibility once reserved for major Hollywood studios, TV networks, and advertisers.
And, no, you don’t have to learn the ins and outs of licensing. Just check to see what’s covered in your subscription. As long as you’re using the music per its terms, you just download, place, and go.
Reason #3 – You get real peace of mind
Once a track is placed while under the subscription, you won’t have to worry about it ever again. In ALIBI’s case, the license for use of our music in videos created during the term of your subscription is in perpetuity (forever) and worldwide. All videos published during an active subscription will be cleared forever, and you will never need to pay anything else for that placement.
Reason #4 – Subscriptions include allowlisting
As I mentioned in an article for Talking Influence, streaming services have algorithms set up to identify and match copyrighted music, which is then flagged if it’s being used illegally. YouTube’s Content ID, for example, generates a copyright claim that allows the infringed music’s rights holder to block and/or demonetize content.
Production music libraries offering subscriptions allow you to submit your YouTube channels for allowlisting, so you don’t get flagged.
Reason #5 – You are supporting composers
As creators, we’re all in this together, so why wouldn’t we support each other? Composers typically (and really should) get a cut of each subscription. At ALIBI, for instance, composers get 50% of all subscriptions processed—a split amongst them depending on their contributions to the library. This allows them to continue making a living creating the wonderful music they share with the world.
What to look for
If you’re an independent creator or small business owner ready to consider a subscription, congratulations! You’re one step closer to making your life a whole lot easier as you find great music for your content. Before you jump in, however, here are some recommendations.
Look beyond the credits. A production music library’s credits and work examples may be nice, but make sure you can access the entire catalog, and make sure they have plenty of options for the kinds of music you need.
Look for versatility. Clearly labeled alt mixes, stems, and loops are a huge bonus in giving you creative flexibility with how music works in your videos.
Listen to the quality. Your video will only be as good as it sounds, so make sure you are getting the best-sounding music. Premium libraries are typically more expensive, but in production music, you almost always get what you ask for.