The growing importance of production music

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The music industry is changing. On the one hand, music discovery has shifted from radio to streaming, to user-generated content (UGC) – YouTube and social media – and to TV shows, movies or games. On the other hand, faced with an increasingly fragmented audience and insufficient income from audio streaming platforms, artists are forced to seek income elsewhere. –

This brings us to the concept of production music, also known as library music. Production music is already the dominant musical form in TV shows around the world. This is true even in countries like France and Germany, where the price is the same for any music used in a TV show. Therefore, the preference for production music comes not to save money but because it is a superior option for television professionals.

According to a survey published by audio monitoring company BMAT in March last year, 43% was production music in France and 30% was commercial music. 27% remained unclassified, mostly made up of commissioned music in movies and TV series. The C8 channel led the way with the highest usage of production music, reaching 65% of all music usage.

In Germany, 45% was production music, 15% commercial music and 40% commissioned music. Channel SAT 1 broadcast the highest percentage of production music (70%), followed by VOX (61%) and RTL (48%).

The Growing Importance of UGC for Music

The growth of user-generated content creation is opening up a new opportunity for musicians. An estimated one-fifth of global consumers now create content in one form or another, and they all need music. While UGC creators have become superstars in their own right, YouTubers, social media stars and influencers have become professional producers. UGC is now such a rich source of content that it competes with traditional radio and television for audiences’ attention. The UGC market continues to grow dramatically and is expected to overtake the traditional sync market in value by 2027. To gain attention, these creators need to engage their audience with better background scores for their videos.

Simplified music licenses

But individual UGC creators have been frustrated by the traditional “analog” music licensing business of incumbents, whose pricing isn’t flexible and nimble enough to meet their needs. Thus, their demands have been met by a new generation of entrants selling ‘royalty free’ music. Largely under the radar, a global micro-licensing battle is underway between these two starkly opposed systems, the incumbent royalty system versus “royalty-free” subscription platforms.

An important new source of income for composers

India has no production music industry because the industry operated exclusively on “buyouts” and composers never received royalties. The 2012 amendments to the Copyright Act finally banned this “royalty-free” practice. Most artists discovered the power of royalties during the two COVID years they were out of work, and the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) handed out 585 crore in royalties. Internationally, songwriters, session musicians, and touring musicians use production music to add a long-term steady stream to their income.

Most copyright companies around the world have one or more production music composers among their top ten earners. It is not unusual that after 8-10 years of writing over 50 high quality tracks per year for high quality labels, a production music composer finally earns over INR 1 crore+ per year by royalty income. The beauty is that the royalties will continue to flow even after the composer has stopped working.

Several entrepreneurs have taken this opportunity to build catalogs of production music: Hoopr, Dibbl and Heard Music, to name a few.

These revenues can come from unexpected and sometimes surprising sources. For example, one of the UK’s most respected production music composers, Dan Graham, says: “For many years my highest earning track was a 5 second sonic boom buried in a daily news theme from French Polynesia while my ‘artistic’ opuses went peanuts.”

With the law on their side, a booming digital economy hungry for great music, increasingly accurate royalty tracking tools and a capable IPRS, production music is poised to become a growing new revenue stream for Indian artists.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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