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Your Own Music Library Can Make Dollars & Sense - by Jeffrey P. Fisher
When you really want to make good money scoring soundtracks and jingles, you need to diversify and offer a wider range of music-related products and services. The most obvious adjunct to your custom, original music services is a music library. This CD is a collection of your music that you sell repeatedly to audio-visual content providers.

If you're like me you probably have many songs, sketches, mini-scores, and more sitting on tape or disk somewhere. There is no sense letting all that music gather dust when you could turn those old tracks into cash. By simply recycling existing music tracks, you too can keep money coming in.

Many of the same people who buy custom music may also have a need for library music. These primary buyers include film, video, and multimedia production and post production houses and radio, cable, and television stations. However, let's face it, some people will never buy an original composition from you even if it makes their program better. They may buy a collection of your work though. All those prospects who never became clients can be another ideal market for your music library. Since you can't rely on prospects and clients asking you for this service, follow this five-step process.

(1) Select appropriate music from your past work All unused music tracks and original tracks where you retain the rights can put some extra money in your pocket. You need about 15-20 cuts or 60 minutes of music to make a single music library CD. The best approach is to offer a mix of the most popular music styles to give clients a wider choice. That usually translates into more sales. A CD of music in one particular style can be attractive, too. Perhaps you specialize in orchestral music or solo piano and want to sell just that music style. Make sure you understand that you may limit your potential market, though.

(2) Decide the rights issue
You make money with your music library by licensing the same music over and over to different people. Unlike a traditional music CD, buyers of your library are free to use the music in any way non-exclusively. You can set up your music library in one of two systems: per use or buyout. With per use, often called needle-drop, your client pays you only when they use a cut from your library. The per use method shifts the burden of reporting to your clients and can be difficult to administer effectively. The better choice for most of us is to offer the buyout, royalty-free music library CD. The buyout agreement lets clients pay one up front fee and then use the music however they want. Typical buyout CDs sell from $49-$199 each.

If you choose to sell a buyout music library CD, draft a royalty-free license to accompany the finished CD. This simple agreement should clearly grant buyers non-exclusive rights to the music. For example: "By purchasing this music library, Your Name Here grants you a non-exclusive, single-site, lifetime license to use any of the music on the CD within your own audio-visual productions. This music is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You are in no way permitted to reproduce, re-sell, share, or otherwise transfer the music itself to another individual or company. Any attempt to will be subject to criminal prosecution including fines, imprisonment and injunctive relief."

(3) Create a demo of the tracks
Prepare both a demo CD and on-line demos of your tracks. For the CD, select a short snippet from each track (lasting about 10-20 seconds) and weave these together into a single montage. Follow the concept of those late night TV promotions and create your own library music commercial. For the on-line demos, encode the clips to low-resolution files, such as Real Audio.

(4) Promote your library
Create a flyer to accompany the demo CD and include both with your standard promotional material. Use the flyer to highlight the music library CD, detail the music tracks, and ask for the order. When you approach a new prospect with your original composition services, you can pitch the music library as an alternative. You can focus on selling just the library, too. It will be especially attractive to companies with smaller budgets. After developing the printed promotion piece, adapt it to a Web page and post it, along with the demo clips, to your Web site. Promoting your library on the Web let's you sell your music to anyone in the world.

(5) Make and sell the library
With your tracks selected and promotional material in place, put together the final library CD. Typical tracks last between two and four minutes long. For the radio and TV commercial crowd, you can also create 59 and 29 second versions from that master track along with a short 5 second stinger. You can also provide alternative mixes of some music tracks, rhythm section only, for instance. Title each cut and write a description about the music including instrumentation, tempo, musical genre, and accurate track timings. Include this information in the CD booklet and tray card.

It really doesn't make sense to mass produce your library. With a color printer and CD burner, you can manufacture your library CDs on demand. Make a half-dozen at a time, and when you sell the fifth one, make another six. You might also consider offering your library as .wav and .aiff files. This way end-users can import the music tracks directly into their digital audio workstations.

When you sell your music library on-line, you need to accept credit card orders. CCNow ( provides a custom, secure on-line order form that your buyers access from your Web site. Your clients choose your library CD, enter their address and CC payment information, and CCNow processes the order. They send an order confirmation e-mail to the buyer and another one to you. You then ship the library CD yourself. CCNow takes 9% percent of each sale and pays you the remaining amount regularly. Make sure you carefully read and understand their agreement before signing up with the service.

See this idea in action
I followed the steps discussed in this article to create my own Melomania music library. Go to and see firsthand how you, too, can create, promote, and sell your own music library. After you've studied my example, get started yourself right away. Gather up a few tracks, create a demo, put together a promotion, master your final CD, and start making sales.

Jeffrey P. Fisher is the author of three best-selling music books: "Ruthless Self-Promotion in the Music Industry," "Profiting From Your Music and Sound Project Studio," and "How to Make Money Scoring Soundtracks and Jingles." He is currently working on a fourth title due out during 2002. Get more information on his "Moneymaking Music" Web site at

For even more profitable music industry advice, subscribe to Fisher's FREE Moneymaking Music Tip of the Week by sending an e-mail message to with "subscribe tip" in the subject or body.

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