So much music, so little time: why marketers need a new way to find music

A good supplier of pre-cleared music should not just offer great catalogue – it should also avoid manipulating independent musicians and ensure both the artist and the client are looked after, says The Works’ Nick Payne

As content creators we are swamped with resources for affordable music these days, be it from the traditional music library model (that began in 1927 and hasn’t changed a great deal since) through to the current trend of companies cashing in on artists’ inability to land a publishing or recording contract by offering their music to us for our next film or commercial.

Library music aside for a moment, when one delves deeper into the workings of the latter of these business models the reality is that these offerings are not about artist exposure or working in the best interest of the artist at all. In many cases, that part of the offering is a blatant lie.

Many of these companies insist on works being signed over in advance of the licences being secured, very few pay any kind of advance to the artist and almost all insist on 50% of everything generated by that particular musical work for the entire life of the copyright.

The next time you receive an email offering “a hand-picked collection of independent, up and-coming artists etc, etc now available for sync”, ask yourself this: “What is genuinely in this for the artist? And what did they have to give up in order to gain this opportunity?”. The answer is very likely going to be “far too much”, but of course the business model is never made clear to the client.

Granted, a company offering such talent to us needs a certain knack for discovering worthy artists whose work is appropriate for synchronisation, but what they take from the artists as remuneration for potential licences is, for the most part, quite unfair.

“Over 90,000 quality music tracks for TV, film, advertising and corporate video… Our catalogue of more than 125,000 titles crosses every musical genre imaginable…”

Heard it all before? The library music model is exactly the same as it has always been and yet the landscape is now very different. The traditional licensing process for the music user is still slow and cumbersome.

Yes, you can listen to 125,000 pieces of music and there are 5,000 tagged ‘positive’, ’upbeat’ and ‘quirky’, but the reality is all you really need is one. The right one. And no doubt very quickly. So you set about auditioning 100 tracks or so, but can you really be subjective after listening to the first 20, or even 10?

Your creative director wants options so you need to share those options with your team and create a shortlist for them, but how can you share all these ideas quickly? Do you book a dubbing suite and spend more budget on studio time making QuickTime files for an internal meeting than you will actually licensing the piece of music?

Next time you receive an email offering ’a hand-picked collection of up-and-coming artists’, ask yourself: “What is in this for the artist?”

Furthermore, haven’t you heard one of those tracks before somewhere? Are you about to suggest a piece of music to your client that’s been soundtracking the depression segment of ‘Lorraine’ for the past three years? Where did all this music come from? You may not care, but what if you wanted to make some changes to a piece of music? Perhaps work with the artist that created it to make it something that really worked for your project?

All of these questions (and more) lead me to believe that this area of our industry needs an overhaul. Create a place where music users can discover music of genuine quality, work with the artist if necessary and utilise the technology available to us today to streamline the search, auditioning, shortlisting and licensing processes to make the experience as convenient and creative as possible.

By combining the music library model with the tools to discover new and exciting talent, everyone could benefit – the music licensor, their client and the artist themselves.  With the right business model everyone can get a better result.

The reason so much library music sounds so mediocre and has a negative stigma attached to it is because it was commissioned largely without payment and created by someone not knowing when, or even if, they will see any return for their work.

Is this really the basis on which to create a piece of art? Of course it’s not. Creators create because they are passionate about their work, because they want the satisfaction of crafting something they feel genuinely proud of, because it is the way they express themselves. How can anyone be passionate about writing a piece of music that will become one of 90,000 other pieces of music available for licensing via a website for just £495 in perpetuity?

Doing things properly

Music libraries need to ensure both the music user and the artist will benefit from a model that offers a great collection of musical works at an affordable price. Our approach to this is hosting music non-exclusively enabling composers and artists to monetise their works and further their careers outside of the agreement with us – we only get paid if the artist gets paid and only take control of a copyright when we  secure a licence for a piece of music. That copyright agreement only lasts the duration of the licence and all the artists are free to remove their works from the system at any time, provided they are not being considered by a client for
a project or already under licence.

Hummingbird Music contains a large variety of music, from unused scores by prolific film and television composers to unreleased songs by bands and artists from around the world. It’s a treasure trove of potential soundtracks for the advertising, television and film industries – easily sourced, shared, auditioned against a film and licensed instantly through our website.

Hummingbird Music works hard to support music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins ( by donating 10% of every license fee to help fund their incredible work transforming the lives of vulnerable people with a range of disabilities through music therapy.


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