The Fascinating Story of Production Music

According this story from Vice/Noisey, 86% of the music we hear each day is the product of anonymous producers. Production music (or “library music”) is used in all areas of the media: radio, TV, the Web, movies–even in recordings made by big-name artists. It is a HUGE business that employees thousands.

Here’s the fascinating story of an industry that began in 1927.

Beneath the unruly wilderness of popular music lies an even less orderly world, one where you’ll hardly ever hear of “artists” and where journalists dare not tread, for here there be dragons and a host of anonymous producers who write 86% of the music you come across every day. I’m talking about the music you hear in movie trailers, your favorite TV shows, and even on the radio. These are the songs born from TV producers’ thirst for cheap, accessible tunes; this is production music. Production music—otherwise known as library music—began in 1927 in England with DeWolfe Music, arising in response to the advent of sound in film and the problems with copyright that came along with the addition of sound to film. Every production music studio owns all of the copyrights for each song in its library of music, owing to the fact that nearly every composition is written on a freelance or contract basis; popular and classical music publishers, in contrast, usually own no more than 50% of the copyrights, as the rest is owned by the composer.

Of course, this presents a convenient solution for media companies: Production music studios license songs in their libraries at reasonable rates, which allows the licensee to sidestep the more exorbitant fees that composers of well-known songs charge.

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