I have noticed a number of people on Twitter referring to royalty free music as “crappy” and “cheesy” and given Twitter’s 140 characters, it is near impossible to respond in any detail, so here is my response. I hope that you will get involved and add your point of view.
Reason #1 – More demand for music, low cost studio equipment and more websites
Once upon a time royalty free music did not exist, however, with a demand for lower cost music an industry was born. Initially, the industry was made up of a few traders who appeared in the late 90’s. Musical studio equipment was still a little costly as was web development and the barrier to entry was fairly high. Moving on 10 years, equipment is now relatively cheap and web development low cost and even free if you know where to look. This has resulted in a surge of royalty free music sites and wannabe soundtrack composers. With no regulatory body, the quality ranges from fantastic right down to ‘crappy’.
Reason #2 – User-generated content with no quality control
There is a new breed of royalty free music website that utilises user-generated content. This is content uploaded by the composer (well, hopefully it is the composer). Anyone can open an account, agree to the T&C’s and upload as many tracks as they want. Regardless of your opinion on this, I think it is fair to say that this has resulted in more royalty free music being online than ever before in history. Or should I say, more royalty free music that has not been checked for quality, and more music whose origin has not been verified. The result is that you have more music to listen to but much more substandard quality to sift through.
Reason #3 – The demand for cheap and free music devalues talent
As user-generated content does not involve large staffing costs by the website owner, the music sellers can charge much less and still make a profit. The composer is doing all of the work by uploading the music and as there is no quality control in place, it is a huge cost saving for the website owner. Professional ears cost money to have around, whereas the software that enables user-generated content works for free after the initial cost of development. The result is that these low cost websites sell music at such a low price that it is hardly worth any professional composer spending time composing brilliant sounding music for these sites. You end up with many hobbyist composers providing second rate music. There is a lot of this around… as you all keep telling me 🙂
Reason #4 – The best music does not necessarily live on page one of the search results
Now, businesses with staff and overheads who spend time quality-checking music have to charge a little bit more per license and although these types of libraries have a better stock of music they do not necessarily come out top of the search results. Unfortunately, search engine algorithms can not determine the quality of music. For this reason, with the exception of well established quality sites, some of the ‘not-so-good’ stock music websites achieve higher positions based on the pure volume of their user-generated catalogue and their efforts on search engine marketing.
Reason #5 – Users do not realise how much work goes into creating a piece of music
OK, I know some people may disagree with me here, but I don’t think that most people realise how much energy, time and commitment goes into composing and producing music. This type of real talent is more than learning the basic skills; it can be a way of life that takes years to master. Not only do composers write the music from scratch, they spend many hours recording, mixing, editing and mastering. I started out as a musician / composer and for me, a decent track could take anything form 10 days to a month to perfect.
Imagine working that hard and then receiving a small percentage of a small music license fee. The truth is that any royalty free music track needs to be sold many times before a composer even recoups the time involved in creating it.
In conclusion, if you want top quality, vetted, safe royalty free music then you need to support the composers who write good compositions and unfortunately, this often requires paying a little more for your music. Also, you need to support reputable royalty free music libraries who value their composers talents and try to get a reasonable payment for their composers music.
These composers are typically earning a living from their music and not living a luxury lifestyle. Likewise, the reputable music libraries who support their composers are often owned by composers themselves. If the trend for really low cost music continues, I fear that you will continue to spend hours and hours trawling through low quality music.
Reputable royalty free music libraries are the lifeline of the royalty free music industry and the composers it supports. If you are getting your music for free or at a very low cost, then there is a high chance that the composer is not being fairly paid. Independent composers need to be supported just like your village shops, traditional pubs, family run restaurant…you get the picture. If you don’t use them the big low cost hypermarkets will close in and unfortunately, talented independent composers will lose out.
Please support and feel good about…
- A fair price for royalty free music ($25 or more per track)
- A fair percentage to the composer (50% in our case)
- Supporting independent quality royalty free music libraries
- Being loyal to your source and spreading the message
I would like to hear your views and ideas in the comment boxes. Also, please retweet, bookmark or digg this post and let’s get a good cross section of views in the discussion. 🙂