An affordable way to fill you music and sound effects needs

Sound libraries: an affordable way to fill you music and sound effects needs

Edmond M. Rosenthal

The fast-food approach to music and sound effects requirements increasingly is taking hold as producers’ budgets rule out custom sound. Many are finding that it’s not that much of a sacrifice when they acquire their sounds on a needledrop, blanket licensing or, in particular, buyout basis. “Library music is generally one-third or one-fourth the cost of custom music,” estimates Randy Wachtler, president of 615 Music Library ( in Nashville “It’s even less if you’re dealing with just one cut of music. It can be as little as $200, compared with about $10,000, for a national commercial.” Onesign of the current trend is that 615’s library business is up about 30 percent over a year ago, while its custom music business has been flat.

Many users of library music consider buyout the least expensive way to go. Involved in sound design, digital recording and sound and music editing, Badabing Badaboom Productions ( in Burbank, CA, has found that buyout libraries fulfill a need. President Michael Geisler says this is the case when programs don’t have the budgets to allow even licensing.

“Buyout is much simpler to deal with,” he adds,” but you can’t always get everything you need from a buyout library. There is less of a selection because they don’t seem to grow as fast as needle-drop collections.”

Wachtler’s operation offers blanket licensing on a year-to-year besis, as well as needle-drop. He holds,”Buyout, or royalty-free, is a misnomer. Ninety percent of those who say they are in this category maintain their copyrights and register their titles with ASCAP,BMI and SEASAC. In some cases, the user must have allicense from one of these organizations.” He sees no need to move into the buyout realm, stating that acharges for licensed and royalty-free music are nearly the same.

The buyout trend has not affected Omni-music ( in Port Washington, NY, according to president Doug Wood Most of those taking buyout want a fixed rate that they can budget for,” he contends, “They can achieve the same thing with us by taking an unlimited blanket license.”

Involved only in buyout, Point One Sound, Toronto ( will continue in that direction as it expands its 5.1 sound effects library. Partner Gary Vaughan asserts, “Buyout is the best way because there isn’t as much paperwork involved.”

Michael Nurko, president of TRF Production Music Libraries ( in Chestnut Ridge, NY is staying with needle-drop and annual blanket licensing. He points out that more TV programs are using production music in place of original music. He reports, “Many started to use it when money was tight and stayed with it afterward. They find they’re getting the same quality, but it’s just not exclusive.” As for buyout. he says, “Our composers would never sell us their music on that basis.”

He notes that licensing to TV programs is not at the level it reached a year ago, but is starting to edge back While the market in TV and radio commercials is down, he says, there is considerable new volume with Web sites, cable networks, local cable and interactive training programs.

In the past year. TRF has been introducing a new library, called Kool Kat It focuses heavily on techno, dance, hip-hop and other contemporary styles, but also includes the likes of ragtime and country, In this library, the company recently finished recording its fourth set of 10 CDs.

Nurko feels competitive edge is in having 12 libraries, while most competitors have only one or two. It takes into consideration that most clients use only about 10 percent of a given library So, what most clients do is license a given number of discs across all of TRF’s libraries. Often, he says, the cost is less than licensing a single library.


One trend that was surfacing at the NAB exhibition was the increased use of the Internet for auditioning and beyond. Launched there was, of which 615 Music Library is one of the five co-owners. The others are Megatrax, Manhattan Production Music, Omnimusic and VideoHelper. The combined site offers about 700 CDs that can be searched, streamed, auditioned and digitally downloaded, LA’s Fresh Ground Software designed, built and maintains the site.

Wachtler points out that the five libraries complement one another, each having its own niche. For 615, the niche is real instruments. “We continue to use acoustic live instruments as much as possible,” he reports.

Wood of Omnimusic expected to to see greater use of the Internet by clients last year but had to change plans and go back to CDs. He notes that this was a time in which corporate America was putting projects on hold. Having detected a recent pickup in interest, the company is finally offering music for downloading at its new site, It clients, mostly in audio post, can search the site for music and share it with their own clients in audition form. After approval, it can be downloaded into their desktop systems and moved, for exampIe, to a digital audio workstation.

“A lot of our clients are producing more for the Internet,” Wood adds. Addressing all media, he asserts, “Producers who understand how to use music can use the right music to set up their audience. If you use the right music and the right picture, you don’t need any voiceover.”

“The Internet is having an impact on how people get information and content,” observes Vaughan of Point One Sound. “To a certain extent, we saw a trend at NAB — certainly on the auditioning side. Downloading of sound is becoming more of a reality as people get high-speed connections and now that compression is available.”

He says his client base is expanding as DVD editing and mastering systems become readily available, using multichannel technology. He notes that the 5.1 surround sound effects that his company creates can be used as a six-channel element or can be used individually.

“Traditionally,” Vaughan points out, “this technology was only available for professional audio users. Now, with programs like [Apple] Final Cut Pro, any user can take multi-channel sound elements and make a DVD,” This extends his service to corporate programmers and others who create DVDs for multimedia, film and TV.

“Our Web site ( is expanding daily,” he reports. “We’ll be offering special packages of sounds that are custom tailored for the client after auditioning. As our site grows, we’ll offer tips on how to use sound and where to buy hardware. We’re looking toward making that site a one-stop source.”

While Point One has found a niche in discrete, six-track multichannel sound, it also plans to release a music library in the future. It will also be a buyout product.


In finding appropriate library music, the mood is the message. And for Burbank’s Badabing Badaboom Productions the light mood of cartoons is often what’s being sought.

“In animation, you want a cartoony feel,” explains president Michael Geisler. “The music has to be cut to a score that you can make follow the animation and hit where the action is. Also, in the cartoon mode, you’re spooling something. Certain libraries follow that cartoon mode.”

Badabing had a composer’s score going into an editing job for Cartoon Network Europe — a series called Cramptwins. But the show had been reworked and there were some cues that the facility didn’t have in its library. So Badabing turned to Sound Ideas, finding in its collection of symphonic cues some darker strings in a fantasy-horror theme to sweeten the score.

The facility used Associated Production Music for a cartoon called Dirdy Birdie, directed by John P. Dilworth. Noting a positive development among libraries, Geisler observes, “We’re starting to see more complex drum collections for people who are doing re-mix of compositions.

RELATED ARTICLE: Search and download made simpler

For major users of production music and sound effects, search and retrieval is becoming an easier process, thanks to some new systems. Systems include one for music and sound effects, from mSoft ( in Woodland Hills, CA, and a sound effects location system from Sonomic ( in New York.

At NAB, mSoft demo’d MusiCue, which president Amnon Sarig says is supplied by all the major music libraries and many smaller ones, adding up to about 9,000 CDs. These have been put on RAID 5 hard drives, with everything mastered at 48 KHz as MPEG 320-bit compressed files.

So far, local area networks with this capability have been installed at 20 facilities, including Turner Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox, Discovery Channel and CBS, LA. Sarig notes that, at CBS, all producers of promotions and other on-air material have simultaneous access over a Gigabit Ethernet network installed there.

After producers audition music or sound effects, with one click, their choices are dropped into a basket that belongs to a specific program. The sound editor on a digital audio or video workstation gets the entire basket of sound chosen by the producer in 48 KHz sound. Only the editors have access to full quality sound, Sarig says, because CBS is concerned about copyright issues. The entire sound basket for a show is converted to a cue sheet for reporting to the music societies and library publishers, for royalty purposes.

Sarig notes, “We have two modules of delivery. One is for large users with a minimum of 2TB, costing about $40,000. For smaller facilities with as few as 100 GB, we have one for $15,000.”

There is also an offering for “mom and pop shops,” an arrangement with several music libraries to deliver hard drives through FireWire for Macs or USB for PCs, with the music premastered on them. Not requiring a LAN setup, this service is searchable through the Internet.

Search and download

Libraries supplying the mSoft services can take advantage of a mechanism that automatically expires their libraries for specific users at a given date, unless the blanket licensing agreement is renewed.

Sonomic has two products built around the Sonomic Sound Engine, according to CEO Adam Strauss. Both can perform rapid searches for sound effects, using standard keyword search, category search and advanced combinations of the two.

The server-based Sonomic Total Library Server is aimed at high-end studios that already have large sound libraries. CBS Television, NYC, is one of these clients that had all of its CDs categorized, , digitized and placed on a server, allowing it to quickly search, audition ion import tracks.

“Instead of spending hours listening to CDs,” Strauss says, “they can search the server and get instantaneous results. Then they import the sounds to their [Digidesign] Pro Tools.”

If the user does not have a certain sound in its library, a in le mouse-click searches the Sonomic Online Library and then downloads CD quality files in AIFF or WAV. Sound effects come from about 20 sound libraries and total more than 200,000 sound pliers include Valentino Sound Effects, Sound Ideas, Zero-G and Clack Sound Library.

Payments to the online library are made by secure credit card transaction. Clients can pay by the sound, but unlimited access to all the sound effects libraries.

Opus 1 is on television

STUDIO CITY, CA — Opus 1 ( has been contributing music tracks to a number of TV programs recently. The library, which also offers clients the choice of custom-scored tracks, recently completed work on three music cues for use on The West Wing. According to VP of film & TV music Marrsha Sill, Opus I was called on to create original music cues, including an orchestral version of the anthem “0 Canada.”

The facility spent approximately 15 hours creating the three tracks, which were used to support a 10-piece band that appears on camera. The show aired the same week the cues were created.

Opus I also recently created a hard rock-inspired track for the VH1 special The Def Leppard Story. For the price of a library cue, says Sill, the studio was able to quickly create a raunchy rock track — complete with lyrics — that played in one of the program’s hotel room scenes.

Sill explains that Opus I often scores custom tracks for clients and then adds the musical pieces to its own production music library. This keep costs down for clients, while at the same time gives them exactly what they want. In addition, the tracks add value and diversity to Opus l’s own collection.

Marc Loftus

LA’s Counterpoint Systems, Inc. ( has released the Fresh Ground MusicCart, a solution for the digital download of audio files. The Fresh Ground MusicCart uses compressed files stored on a server that are downloaded and expanded to .WAV or AIFF files by a proprietary plug-in on the local user’s hard drive or network. The rights owner of the audio file can control access to these downloads and monitor usage by Web site visitors. The system is a business-to-business application that can be used in the production music library world with either blanket or needledrop users. Music libraries using the system are VideoHelper, Omnimusic, Megatrax, 615 Music and Manhattan Music Library, all of which are members of


“Too many editors do the selection and editing entirely on their own. If they ask their resources specific questions, they’ll get some good ideas on what to use.”

— Michael Nurko, president, TRF Production Music Libraries

“Use online search tools to narrow your search quickly. Let the libraries’ search engines do the work for you.”

— Randy Wachtler, president, 615 Music Library

“Don’t try to make your product seem more important than it is by overpowering your audience. If you use The 1812 Overture to introduce a bathroom cleaner, people will laugh.”

— Doug Wood, owner, Omni-music

“Using the Internet is an extremely good way to audition a wide variety of sound, especially if you can work on an a la carte basis.”

— Gary Vaughan, partner, Point One sound

“A lot of creative sound designers will take a sound and use it for a less obvious purpose. Layering and signal processing make anything possible.”

— Adam Strauss, CEO, Sonomic

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