Music libraries (sometimes referred to as production music libraries) are essentially music publishers, but instead of pitching songs to recording artists, they pitch and license songs and instrumental pieces for television shows, movies, commercials, and video games. The top music libraries have catalogs comprised of tens of thousands of songs and instrumental cues.
Some of the larger music libraries contract composers to provide large quantities of material; other companies acquire music one composition at a time. Composers who earn their living from writing instrumental cues often say that it’s “a numbers game,” and many of them have 1,000 or more different pieces placed with libraries.
When choosing a company to work with, one consideration is the length of time your song will be tied up. When you place a song with a music library, the contract will usually have a time limit—for example, two, three, or five years.
Another important consideration is whether the agreement is exclusive or nonexclusive. When you sign an exclusive agreement, you’re giving up the right to have any other company represent your song during the term of the contract.
For nonexclusive deals, the music library typically re-titles your song and registers the new title with your performing rights organization. This allows the PRO to identify the placements that the library secured—and pay them only for those.
The music library will typically keep 50% of any sync and master use licensing fees it secures, as well as the publisher’s share—50%—of any performance royalties generated as a result of their placing the song in a TV show, film, or other media.