Library music is far from new. Indeed, APM Music says it holds library recordings that date back to the 1940s. But how library music is perceived, how it is used and how it is processed have all charged forward significantly since the millennium.
In Synchtank’s latest report, Communication Breakdown: Complexities and Solutions in Music Rights Clearance, we note that the production music market has experienced “particularly concentrated growth” over the past decade.
“[This] has been fueled by the explosion in professional production volume as channels and platforms have proliferated; by the emergence of social media and user-generated content; and also by the challenges that music users face when trying to license commercial music for any of this.”
Tracking the value growth curve
“Production library revenue growth is outpacing growth of the overall sync market, thanks to drivers such as the rise of content creators, improved production music quality, artists seeking post-DSP income, and the growing independent sector,” notes MIDiA Research in its latest report on the sync business.
MIDiA stated that the production music sector (both recorded music and publishing) was worth $907m in 2021 and forecasts that this will top $1bn in 2022.
A recent study by music data company BMAT (albeit commissioned by the Production Music Association, so do keep that in mind) found that 46% of music played on American broadcast and cable TV in March and April 2022 was production music.
BMAT also found that 37% of music usage on TV in the UK was production music (and as much as 46% for BBC Two’s output specifically). The situation on TV in France (43% of music used was production music) and Germany (45%) was edging towards the same level it is in the US. On C8 in France, production music accounted for 66% while on Sat.1 in Germany it was a staggering 70%.
This boom in library music is down to several factors, notably an industry and cultural shift around the perceived quality of library music as well as technological and licensing developments that make using such music more seamless and commercially competitive.
An additional factor here is that there is greater demand across a variety of platforms for music. As a result, library music is proving its worth in meeting that demand across traditional media, streaming media and social media.
“We are in the golden age of production today, with more videos being produced today than ever,” says Adam Taylor, President of APM Music and Chairman of the Production Music Association.
“I think also people have begun to realize how good library music is,” he adds. “Today there’s just so much good material out there and so many writers want to write in the library space. It is the confluence of those things: the creative aspect of music writing and production, coupled with the explosion in productions that need music.”
Ease of licensing is a huge factor here in the sector’s growth, especially for TV, film and ad clients looking to clear music swiftly and within (increasingly squeezed) budgets.
Taylor notes that tracks using samples as well as compositions that sit across multiple publishers makes this all a fraught licensing process for many; therefore the idea of a one-stop licensing solution (essentially rolling master and publishing rights into one deal and one fee) becomes increasingly attractive.
“It’s part of the reason that library music got created in the first place,” he says, “because licensing commercial music was so difficult.”
In his dissection of the global value of music copyrights in 2021, economist Will Page has a section dedicated specifically to royalty-free music, noting how “new entrants like Epidemic Sounds have dynamised the business” by shifting from a buy-out model to a subscription-based model for the use of library/production music.
“The resulting trickle-down economics is impressive,” says Page, as “an average individual creator is reported to make $50,000 a year on Epidemic Sounds.”
As rights clearances become more protracted and expensive, so library music will become a more attractive solution for some in the sector.
Tech-powered filtering solutions
With a booming market comes new entrants and the sector is now busier than it ever has been, with more writers writing for library services and more library services entering the market.
As is the case in the wider sync and licensing worlds, wading through the music on offer is becoming incrementally harder.
AI and MIR (music information retrieval, a subset of AI) are being deftly deployed to help licensing partners quickly find the right music for their needs.
“The technology of the discovery of music is very sophisticated in the library world – I would say it’s more sophisticated than on the commercial side.”
– Adam Taylor, APM Music
“The technology of the discovery of music is very sophisticated in the library world – I would say it’s more sophisticated than on the commercial side,” says Taylor. “The search engines, the algorithms, the metadata, the taxonomies, the ontologies, the work that goes into the presentation and discovery of library music and figuring out how to get somebody to the right track is pretty sophisticated on the library side. We spend a great deal of time and effort and money on that. We have over 310,000 original compositions and over a million recordings. It doesn’t matter how many you have, if you can’t get somebody to the one track they need when they need it. It’s as critical as getting music in.”
MIR in particular is offering next-generation solutions that include analyzing large catalogs and generating metadata around them at a level far beyond what humans can do. Companies such as Musiio, MyPart, AIMS API, Cyanite and FeedForward are all pushing the boundaries here.
“Music searches can be done in 90% less time,” says AIMS co-founder Martin Nedved of what his company and its tools can do here. “AI Similarity Search allows users to paste a link (from video/music streaming platforms) or upload a music file into the search bar of a music platform instead of typing in keywords. Results are then generated from the music available on their platform based on AI analysis of the track.”
Advances in audio separation technology, as seen in the work of companies such as Audioshake and Stemit, mean that isolated instruments and vocals (i.e. stems) can be taken out of tracks without having to go back to their original masters. This means that the music being used becomes more adaptable and elastic.
On top of this, companies like Boomy and Splash are enabling non-musicians to generate loops/beats and full tracks for use in different contexts. Endel, meanwhile, leans on AI to construct generative “soundscapes” that can respond to different listening contexts.
What music is and how it can be used has progressed forward phenomenally in recent years. This has enormous ramifications for sync.
Another way technology is improving efficiencies in this area is by streamlining the exchange of assets and data between buyers and sellers.
For example, Synchtank’s own Ingestion module allows buyers like broadcasters and production companies to manage all of the third-party libraries they work with in one aggregated, searchable library, automating the exchange of assets and data and updating the system as those libraries add new tracks and rights information.
“Our Ingestion module is designed to save both buyers and sellers time, effort, and costs by leveraging the extensive Synchtank platform infrastructure,” says Rory Bernard, CEO of Synchtank. “Production teams are under pressure to be able to turn around new content more quickly than ever – and ensuring nothing gets in the way is a priority. Synchtank enables production teams access to libraries on the platform quickly and can onboard custom libraries using a range of web-based systems on a self-service basis reacting quickly to urgent content build requirements.”
“Our Ingestion module is designed to save both buyers and sellers time, effort, and costs by leveraging the extensive Synchtank platform infrastructure.”
– Rory Bernard, Synchtank
For libraries wanting to provide the best service possible to buyers, this provides an easy way to deliver content with very little effort and ongoing maintenance.
“Our systems allow sellers to very quickly connect with buyers using our ingest systems to deliver their catalogs with little or no technical integration or work,” says Bernard. “Permissioned access can be set up for different clients and the same library can be routed to multiple endpoints with no further work. Updates can be pushed through quickly, ensuring that customers always get the latest content and rights, minimizing maintenance and liability.”
The Synchtank system then leverages AI and machine-learning solutions so that buyers can easily search a single, aggregated library to find the right track.
“Our suite of AI and machine-learning tools adds an extra dimension to discoverability of content allowing customers to find what they need quickly and easily resulting in more licenses and higher satisfaction,” adds Bernard.
New uses and new models
Taylor pinpoints podcasting and NFTs as interesting and exciting areas for music licensing, two sectors he believes that can give library music a critical competitive advantage because of the (relative) licensing simplicity here.
“We license music to a lot of podcasts – it’s music for storytelling,” he says. “And when you don’t have a visual component, assuming it’s an audio podcast, then it’s even more important that, when you are using music in your production, it’s the right music. So I think that music in podcasts always has a place.”
He also says his company is experimenting more with NFTs, having partnered with TuneGO (who, in turn, have a partnership with Dapper Labs), creating some free NFT releases for Halloween and Thanksgiving this year to test the market. He adds that the company has also created the KPM Music Genesis Collection of NFTs. Limited to 1,000 copies (costing $33 each), the series has already sold out.
There is also the ongoing grey area of user-generated content, especially on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram which foster a culture of user creativity. As our report notes, this is “area where technology has evolved faster than licensing can match it”.
Another area where licensing terms need to be clarified to cover how music is being used in wholly new ways is in the metaverse.
“How do you create future-proof licenses for an environment like the metaverse?” asks our report. “Either by asking for future-proof terms, or if that’s not possible then by keeping a very close eye on all deal terms to ensure they don’t overstep what’s been agreed. For a company making content for multiple platforms, this is a challenge, explains one senior music supervisor.”
Library music’s early harnessing of the potential of podcasting is something that the wider rights industry needs to take on board and strive to develop easier (and more affordable) licensing options for podcasters. If they do not, library music will effectively own this important growth area.
“If commercial music wants to win back attention that’s been lost to long-form podcasts, it needs to give up on bringing a horse to water (expecting podcasters to adapt to current licensing complexity) and develop solutions that bring water to the horse (or ‘fight complexity with simplicity,’ to quote Epidemic Sounds),” argues Will Page. “That way, music can compete for scarce attention that might otherwise go elsewhere.”
This is not going to be an either/or situation for music sync – where library music (or even AI-powered library music) eats everyone else’s lunch. Commercial music and library music can easily co-exist and, collectively, they can grow the market far beyond the $1bn MIDiA says the sector will be worth this year.
But (and it’s an important but) commercial music must learn from the rise of library music and respond to it. That does not mean dropping its prices and throwing licensing terms/restrictions on the scrapheap; but it does mean allowing for greater flexibility.
“One obvious way to simplify clearance, reduce budgets and make life easier is to turn to one-stop shop production music companies,” notes our Communication Breakdown: Complexities and Solutions in Music Rights Clearance report.
It adds, “[B]y offering the smallest number of uses, commercial music rights holders may suddenly find that they fall below more flexible rivals and production music libraries in the pecking order for the faster, more painless licensing that’s needed by the music users.”
The learning here is this: libraries are supposed to be silent spaces, but the excited chatteraround library music is getting louder by the day.
Download our new report, Complexities and Solutions in Music Rights Clearance, which explores the challenges associated with clearing, tracking, and reporting on music rights, and identifies the solutions available to improve efficiencies.