Tips on how to compose for stock music libraries
Composing for production music libraries requires a slightly different way of working than writing a track for your own pleasure.
The following are a few tips for producing stock music that will be useful to editors and so increase their chance of being regularly licensed.
Make a Plan
The first step is to decide what the track could be used for, after all if you don’t know how your finished track could be placed, how could a potential buyer?
The easiest way to get your creative juices flowing is to switch on the TV. Channel hop and listen to the music used in TV shows and on adverts. This should give you inspiration or at least the seed of a musical idea, whether it be for a movie trailer, a reality show or commercial for toothpaste!
If that doesn’t work then pick a public holiday or annual special event that needs music. Christmas being the obvious choice.
As you compose more music in different styles, it helps to save a DAW template in that genre so that you can fire it up again in the future and have all of your instruments at the ready.
Use an editable structure
When composing music for listening you’re free to take the track in all sorts of wild directions to keep the listener interested. When it comes to production music you need to keep a sense of identity throughout the track.
Often editors will chop whole sections out so that the music fits into their project, so it’s important that the various sections of the track don’t sound too different when put together.
Some general suggestions are:
- Use the same BPM through out the track.
- Keep instrumentation consistent – don’t start with acoustic guitars and switch to dubstep synth sounds half way though.
- Keep orchestration consistent – if you begin a track with ostinato strings, keep them throughout the track, or at least keep that rhythm with other instruments.
- Have defined sections – this depends on the genre, but an intro, ending and 2-3 sections in-between that build are a good guide.
- Keep the intro and ending short – you need to get straight to the point as potential purchasers will only listen to the first few seconds.
Many projects have a fixed duration, such as 60 or 30 seconds, so it’s beneficial to creating edits of these lengths.
I’d always recommend arranging a specific version of the track, rather than trying to chop up a finished audio file to fit a specific duration.
Some libraries helpfully allow you to upload several version of the same track which can be licensed as a pack or separately.
I usually create the following edits:
- Full Track
- Variation – the full track with some changes, such as the main melody being removed
- 60 Second Edit
- 30 Second Edit
- Loops – these amy be dependant on the genre
Exporting and File Formats
Each music library will usually stipulate requirements for file types, so I’ll usually export the following. Even if I don’t currently need one, it’s useful to have it there in case a library requires them in the future and means I don’t have to spend hours converting previously exported tracks.
You’ll need to do this for every edit of your track.
- WAV – 16bit – 44khz
- WAV – 24bit – 44khz
- WAV – 24bit – 48khz (usually required by the exclusive libraries for broadcast usage)
- MP3 – 96kbps
- MP3 – 128kbps
- MP3 – 320kbps
The final step in preparation for uploading is the joyous task of metadata. This includes:
Choosing a Title for your track
Try to pick a title that best represents your track but is creative in itself. If you’re having writers block, visit a website that sells books and search in the genre that is closest to your track. You’d be surprised how it helps!
Writing a great description
In your description be accurate and encourage the potential listener to want to listen to your track. Mention musical influences and instruments used.
Preparing 50 or more keywords
Libraries vary from requiring 30 keys words upwards, I find that preparing 50 keywords is usually enough. You can always add more manually if the library permits it.
The search functionality does vary dramatically between libraries, some use the keywords, some use the description and some use the title.
Unfortunately, you may find it necessary to change the title to something generic in the third instance.
Hopefully what I’ve written here will help you to compose for stock music libraries, of course everyone has a different workflow so you may find something that works better for you on the long run.