What is Stock Music?

Stock Music

Stock Music, also known as Production Music, Library Music and Sync Music, is music composed specifically for use in media.

A track can be purchased (more accurately licensed) by anyone. From the guy making a YouTube video in his bedroom, to game developers, corporate videos, advertising agencies, right up to major TV networks and film studios.

How much the buyer pays for a license will depend on the intended end usage. The license for a web video is likely to be much cheaper than for a TV advert, even though it is exactly the same track.

Can anyone sell stock music?

Yes, as long as it is of a high enough quality, there is no barrier to entry in the market.

Despite becoming more and more crowded and competitive over recent years, there are still plenty of opportunities out there.

Anyone can produce production music, from the ‘bedroom composer’ all the way up to the top tier film composers like Hans Zimmer.

How do I sell my music?

Music is licensed (sold) through production music libraries. These are generally split into two categories, Non-Exclusive and Exclusive.

The pros and cons of both options will be debated in future articles.

  • Non-Exclusive libraries allow you to sell the same tracks in multiple libraries. They often class themselves as ‘royalty free’ (which in truth isn’t entirely accurate, but that will be discussed in later tutorials). You can freely upload as much music as you wish, often with a review process before tracks go live. Money is earned from commission through upfront license sales, rather than ongoing royalties.
  • Exclusive libraries require you to compose music for their use only. They primarily license music for use in TV and film.

Earnings customarily come from royalties rather than upfront sales, although some higher end libraries will offer both. They can be more demanding in their requirements, requesting changes, multiple versions – such as 30 second and 60 second edits – as well as ‘stems’ – your track broken down into sections, such as ‘Drums’, ‘Bass’, ‘Strings’.

Is it possible to earn a living from stock music?

With time, passion, commitment, patience and hard work, absolutely.

There are two primary income streams from production music.

  • Upfront Sales – Many of the major ‘royalty free’ stock music libraries such as Pond5 and AudioJungle, pay commission from sales monthly, or when your total earnings reach a certain threshold. It’s possible to generate earnings quite quickly from upfront sales.
  • PRO Income – if you register with your PRO (Performing Rights Organisation) you are eligible for royalty payments. These are paid out on a quarterly or biannual basis. It can take several years to build up a significant income. The mid to high end exclusive libraries will usually work on a PRO revenue basis, rather than upfront licence payments.

Many composers earn a living from a combination of both income streams.

How long does it take to build up a liveable income?

There are several factors that influence your earnings, some not necessarily in your control!

  • The cost of living in your home country – The vast majority of major music libraries will pay in USD. The exchange rate in your local currency, as well as the cost of day to day living in your area both influence your earnings potential. I’m based in the UK, and have seen a variance in earnings purely on GBP fluctuation because of political turmoil. Despite earning the same or more in USD.
  • Your living expenses – Do you have a mortgage, a car, children, or live at home with your parents?
  • Your employment situation – Are you already in a full-time or part-time job? Will you be able to compose music full-time, or will it be a case of using spare time in the evening and at weekends? Being employed gives you the added security of an existing income, but may limit the speed at which you can produce enough music to earn a living.
  • Unpredictable factors – Expect your earnings to fluctuate on a month-by-month basis. This can be due to one of your libraries not performing as well (Google updating their search algorithms can make a huge difference), or global situations such as economic downturns and elections.

From the day I began composing production music full-time (7 days a week, 52 weeks a year), it took around 12 months to begin earning enough to cover my living expenses.

Jon Wright

Jon Wright, is a composer based in London, UK. His music has featured on networks including NBC, CBS, Discovery, History, EuroSport, and the BBC.