Music Licensing

Future Proofing Production Music: 6 Best Practices for Staying Current & Competitive

Jonathan Parks

Tick, tick, tick. If you listen, you can almost hear the clock closing out another year, throwing us each into a time of reflection as we brace for what’s next. After all, the production industry is in a constant state of change – one giant game of musical chairs involving players, projects and processes forever keeping us on our toes.

That’s why I prefer to do another form of listening year-round, a practice I embraced well before I launched my own production music company in this space. I have been a sponge with ears, sopping up feedback in whatever form I can get it – clients, potential clients, employees, requests. What works? What doesn’t? What’s missing? What’s next? This listening has helped me future proof ALIBI, staying ahead of the trends with these 6 best practices:

1-Build a lyrical catalog with songs on the same level of Top 10 pop songs in every genre.
While library music was once known for being primarily instrumental, it is now imperative to have a diverse and expansive catalog of lyrical songs to meet the needs of producers working on trailers, commercials, television shows, promos and media projects. Fortunately, today’s technology is affordable enough that library composers and artists are working with the same setups as Top 10 artists. Yet, although the systems are available, it still takes talent and years of experience to write and produce songs that rival anything heard on the charts. This is imperative as libraries aren’t just competing for attention against other libraries but also pretty much all of the music available out in the world.

2-Form true collaborations with composers and artists.
Collaborating with top-tier talent is both a joy and a necessity to create music that evokes true emotional responses. In production music, this emotion takes shape in a track’s peaks, valleys, builds and other techniques that work for syncing a client’s on-screen projects. The best results come with true collaboration at every turn, as the composers and artists write to briefs set by the library and the catalog producers work with them to push the music that extra mile, sharing feedback on production technique, mixing and the music’s unique structure. This partnership of effort, along with the extra sets of ears on everything, makes all of the difference.

3-Put the devil in the details when it comes to data and delivery.
The next most essential part of a catalog just shy of having incredible music is having incredibly detailed and organized data. This data, of course, includes searchable terms such as genres, moods, instruments, bpm, key, lyrics and eras. But the data must also include composer names, CAE numbers, percentages, MCPS tunecodes, ISRC and ISWC codes, PRO work numbers, nesting info and alternate naming conventions.

While the first stage is – and always will be – a manual process done with trained ears to decipher the search data and organize all other imperative information correctly, you need to have systems in place that quickly and accurately deliver your data and audio files across formats (FTP, drives, uploads, API). Generally, that involves a custom build. It took ALIBI years of perfecting such tools, including a custom-built sequel database communicating with our publishing software, our website and our delivery systems, but we’re now able to deliver in any format imaginable generally with a couple of button clicks.

4-Clearly label your files.
I am still amazed that some catalogs don’t clearly identify the alt versions and stems in their file naming conventions. The labels V1-V4 are not helpful when deciphering what you’re about to listen to, but at least they are better than not being identified as different versions at all. Instead, clearly label each mix with what makes it unique. For example: “Track Title_Full Mix with Lyrical Vocals,” which clearly explains with minimal words what leads are on the full mix and not on other mixes.

Additionally, if you remove an instrument from a mix version, be careful not to include that instrument in the track title, even if you’re trying to convey its absence. For instance, a track version with the title “Sing Song (no drums)” inadvertently adds the keyword “drums” into search data, which completely botches the process when it shows up in results for drum mixes anyway.

5-Build an accessible and responsive creative services team.
Have a team readily available to field your clients’ music search requests and questions within minutes of their inquiries. Since ALIBI was just an upstart, we have always provided near-immediate assistance to creative search requests, licensing information and anything else needed. Producers, editors and music supervisors are on tight deadlines, as with most other industry professionals. Knowing that they can trust a library for being on top of things when they need it is key to building trust and a creative rapport.

6-Always be listening.
And, finally, I’ll bring this back full-circle by reiterating that listening is essential. There’s a reason that “Always be listening” is our team’s motto and often the cornerstone of my

. How you interpret the feedback you’re given and what you decide to do with it is not just a nuanced practice; it’s everything.

This article was first published by Post Magazine. See how it originally appeared


Share Article: