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All About Library Music: Part 3

The Composer
Published July 2017
By Dan Graham

After three days agonising over whether the first note should be notated as a D sharp or an E flat, Harry was beginning to wonder if library music was the ideal career for him.After three days agonising over whether the first note should be notated as a D sharp or an E flat, Harry was beginning to wonder if library music was the ideal career for him.

Successful library music writers are efficient, productive and reliable as well as musical — all skills you can develop too.

So far in this series, we have looked at how to get started in library music, how it can provide a great full or part-time career, and how different business models work around the world. This month, we’ll talk about how to be a good library music writer: someone who does his or her job well, by making a lot of good music that video editors use, and keeps publishers coming back for more by being good and nice to work with. Those who do their job well have long, successful careers and make a good income, while those who do it badly get spat out of the system by publishers who don’t want them back, so if you want to succeed in the library world, you’ll need to figure out how to be good at it.

Having spent roughly half my 13-year library music career as a writer and the other half as a publisher, I’ve learned a lot along the way from both perspectives, and as well as my own advice, I’ve also sounded out a selection of other established writers and publishers. These tips for being better, more productive and professional apply well beyond library music, so read on for some useful inspiration even if you’ll never take the library route.

How To Be Good

So what does it mean to be a good library music writer? Well, it’s important to market yourself well to the right companies, but this has been discussed in the first two articles. This month, we are looking at how you can be so good at library writing that you’ll be guaranteed success in the years ahead. In a nutshell, to achieve this, your challenge is to write a lot of good, usable music, and be professional.

Writing a lot means aiming for around one track per week — 52 per year — without cutting corners or burning out, by being disciplined and efficient, with healthy work habits. Good music is music that is well produced and well performed (if it is performed); it elicits the right emotional effect, sounds authentic, employs good sounds, is well arranged and well mixed. Usable music is music that is suitable for end use on TV promos, dramas, documentaries, movie trailers and advertising because it is in the right style, captures a mood well, and is in a popular genre. Being professional means being positive, eager, honest, following instructions, doing your research, taking criticism well and sticking to deadlines.

It should be obvious enough that exemplifying the opposite of all these good qualities — writing a small amount of bad music in unsuitable styles while being a liar who ignores instructions, gets defensive at criticism and hands everything in late — won’t...

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Published July 2017