The music industry is undergoing a profound change. On the one hand, music discovery has shifted from radio to streaming, user-generated content (UGC) — YouTube and social media — and TV shows, movies, or games. On the other hand, confronted with an increasingly fragmented listenership and insufficient income from audio streaming platforms, artists are forced to seek revenue elsewhere. –
This brings us to the concept of Production music, also known as Library Music. Production music is already the dominant form of music in TV broadcasts worldwide. This is true even in countries such as France and Germany, where the price is the same for any music used in a TV broadcast. Therefore, the preference for production music comes not from saving money but because it’s a superior option for TV 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, mainly consisting of commissioned music in movies and TV series. Channel C8 led the way with the highest use of production music, as high as 65% of all music usage.
In Germany, 45% was production music, 15% was commercial music, while 40% was commissioned music. Channel SAT 1 broadcast the highest percentage of production music (70%), followed by VOX (61%) and RTL (48%).
The rising importance of UGC for music
The growth of user-generated content creation opens a new opportunity for musicians. An estimated one-fifth of global consumers now create content in some form, and they all need music. As UGC creators have turned into superstars in their own right, YouTubers, social media stars, and influencers have become professional producers. UGC is now such a rich content source that it competes with traditional radio and television for public attention. The UGC market continues to grow dramatically and is expected to overtake the traditional sync market in value by 2027. To win the attention battle, these creators must engage their audience with better background scores for their videos.
Music licensing made simple
But individual UGC creators have been frustrated by the traditional ‘analog’ music licensing business from the incumbents, whose tariffs are not flexible and agile enough to respond to their needs. So their requirements have been fulfilled by a new breed of entrants that sell ‘royalty-free’ music. Largely under the radar, a global battle for micro-licensing is on between these two radically opposed systems, the incumbent royalty system vs. the ‘royalty-free’ subscription platforms.
An important new source of income for composers
India doesn’t have a production music industry because the industry was operating exclusively on ‘buy-outs,’ and composers were never paid royalties. The 2012 Amendments to the Copyright Act finally outlawed this ‘royalty-free’ practice. Most artists discovered the power of royalties during the two COVID years when they were out of work, and the Indian Performing Right Society (IPRS) distributed 585 crores in royalties. Internationally, composers, session musicians, and touring musicians use production music to add a stable long-term stream to their income.
Most copyright societies worldwide have one or more production music composers among their Top Ten earners. It is not unusual that after 8-10 years of writing 50+ high-quality tracks per year for high-quality labels, a production music composer eventually earns over INR 1 crore+ per year in royalty income. The beauty is that royalties will keep flowing even after the composer stops working.
Several entrepreneurs have seized this opportunity to build production music catalogs: Hoopr, Dibbl, and Heard Music, to name a few.
This income can be 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 boom sound buried in a French Polynesian daily news theme while my ‘artistic’ opuses made peanuts.”
With the law on their side, a booming digital economy hungry for good music, increasingly accurate royalty tracking tools, and a well-performing IPRS, production music is poised to become a rising new income stream for Indian artists.
Views expressed are personal.