December 10, 2010

5 Q&A Questions About The Production Music Industry

1. What would you say is the current "leading edge" technologically speaking in the production library industry today?

I think the next wave of technology in the library business is going to be centered around what has been termed “music recognition”. Not music watermarking which requires the encryption of an inaudible identifier within a tune but rather software that can actually recognize the uniqueness of a discrete sound recording. One music recognition software developer claims that their monitoring system is so sophisticated it can recognize a tune being played on a stadium public address system, picked up by broadcast announce microphones along with background crowd noise, and do so with 95% accuracy. Another company is developing software that recognizes music compositions themselves along with key music identifiers allowing for high speed comparison of millions of tunes using a user generated set of music characteristics. The industry is just beginning to see the possibilities, from copyright infringement detection and search systems to performance tracking. There are problems of course but it’s a brave new world and a brave new technology.

2. There's a lot of buzz about the use of re-titled tunes or tunes submitted to multiple libraries but marketed under different names.
Some say it's a big deal about nothing, others say it's a copyright bomb that may go off.

How serious a problem this is is being actively debated and no consensus has been reached. But with multiple companies adding the same tune to their catalogs under different titles, it is only a matter of time before we start hearing about instances of multiple copyright claims. This will be messy and confusing at best and sadly in addition to possible legal ramifications, the end user may lose faith in the integrity of the industry which is generally very high. The music recognition technology mentioned earlier makes this problem even more likely.

3. Many are confused about what is often called "licensed music". How is this different from "royalty free music"? What are the benefits of this kind of music.

The simple truth is there is no difference and no benefit. It is a bit of “audio snobbery” on the part of needle drop (aka production blanket or annual blanket) libraries. An attempt if you will to differentiate themselves from life-time blanket (aka royalty free or buy out) music libraries. The legal theory is the same, both are licensed. The only real difference is the length of the term. In fairness, however, there still remains on average a gap in quality between needle drop and life-time blanket libraries. This gap, however, due to technological advances in music creation is very small and in many cases has been totally erased. The question then for the end user becomes “is a theoretical quality gap worth the difference in price?”

4. What are music cue sheets and why is it necessary to fill them out?

Music Cue sheets are chronological listings of all music used in a given production with basic information like production company name, production title, episode title or number, production length, total music used, cue title, writer, writer society, publisher, publisher society, use (e.g. “background”), etc. Without cue sheets being accurately filled out and submitted to the performance rights societies, the likelihood of writers and publishers receiving vital revenue from ASCAP, BMI, SOCAN, etc. is drastically reduced. It is easy to forget cue sheets in the heat of battle but it is good to remember that unless you are a broadcaster licensee, you don’t pay for the public performance of your productions. Pure and simple, copyright holders are entitled to be paid for public performance of their music under the copyright act. Yes, it is clearly a matter of fairness and law but it is also a matter of contract since most libraries require cue sheet submission in their license agreements.

5. Are CDs dead?

As a door nail. Well almost. We still have demand for CDs and other physical music delivery products but the fact is that it’s a download world because the end user is empowered. Who wants to buy a disc with maybe 1 or 2 good cuts when you can go on a web site or web sites and download exactly and precisely what you or the client needs or demands. CDs properly displayed,however, do often impress a client. And custom CD-Rs are still in demand but only because once again the end user is empowered.