About Production Music

Music can take many different forms, and each carry different opportunities.

“Commercial” music is what you’re probably most familiar with. These are the songs created by artists and bands that you hear on the radio, stream online, and that are included in the albums you buy on CD.

But there’s a very large but very overlooked (and misunderstood) type of music called “Production” music. This refers to music created not as songs to play on the radio, but as background or transition music you hear during shows and commercials on TV or the radio.

They’re rarely full-length “songs” with the typical verse-chorus-bridge structure you’d hear on the radio. More likely they are short snippets or ditties that sometimes border on the classification of sound effects. You can’t turn on the TV for more than 30 seconds and without hearing some sort of production music. Perhaps the most recognizable is the theme for Monday Night Football, but in many cases you’ve heard production music and don’t even remember it afterwards.

But like any other type of recorded music, production music carry licenses and royalties, which can be leveraged to great effect. Production music has two basic revenue streams:

Sync Licensing

These are the fees that TV or ad producers pay for the right to embed production music into their film, video, or audio. Read more about sync licensing in our comprehensive guide.

Performance Royalties

This is what broadcasters pay to Performing Rights Organizations when music is performed on TV or radio, not the producer paying the sync license above. Read more about performance royalties in our Music Royalties Overview.

While it’s possible to license “Commercial” music for these same production purposes, it is more expensive to use, and takes time to get the necessary approvals for use. Also, many artists won’t license their music for such use for fear of being seen as a “sellout.”

But production music has a very standard, easy licensing process that allows for high volume transactions and fast royalty distribution to all parties. Production music libraries affiliated with the major publishing groups of the world actively work to include their music in as many placements as possible in order to make back the money they spent acquiring their catalog. When they make money, the whoever owns writer’s share earns money too without having to actually do anything.

And there’s always a need for production music. There’s no betting on a one-hit wonder to attract legions of music fans. Production music is not only often repeated every time a show using it airs, but multiple shows often use the same production track for different reasons. We recently had an auction for a catalog of production music that scored 750 TV show placements over three years.

What’s more, the demand for music in TV shows, films, commercials, and so on is at an all time high. Over the last six years, global TV production activity has doubled, not to mention the explosion of online social video marketing and advertising.  

So to meet their music needs for all these uses, brands and production houses are turning to production music libraries to find music more efficiently and cheaper than licensing commercial music.

Production music may not be as immediately recognizable as its commercial music counterparts, but it meets a very definite need in the industry that is often misunderstood. The result is a consistent revenue stream unaffected by the musical whims of popular culture.


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