How to Get Started in Production Music

What Is Production Music?

Production music is everywhere! YouTube commercials, ads on the radio, TV commercials, etc.

By “production music” I mean music composed and added to online music licensing libraries, where a song can be licensed by many different clients.

I still consider a movie score production music, though it is most often written just for that particular movie.

How I Became Interested in Production Music

I’ve spent most of my musical career doing what most good shredders from the 80’s do – play in bands, gig as much as you can, record albums, and teach guitar. (Read more on my Home page.)

By 2014, I’d grown tired of the same old and was looking for another musical outlet (and, of course, hopefully a new stream of income from music).

While searching online for ideas, I came across a guy I went to college with – Andrew Oye. He was doing very well composing production music. This intrigued me!

So I looked deeper into exactly what this type of composing was all about. Would I like it? Could I do it? How and where do I get my music online?

However, as life sometimes happens without asking your permission, I got delayed in fully pursuing this until 2018. (Though between 2014 and 2018 I did have many compositions in various states of completion.)

Getting Started in Production Music

With fresh motivation and inspiration, I dove in and started composing. Short bits and ideas at first. But as I kept momentum and kept writing, I found a flow and style that worked for me. I was somewhat happy with the results.

After I had a handful of compositions done (about 5-10, though I had around 20 others on the go), I decided it was time to find online libraries worthy of my genius! Well, at least ones that would accept my attempts at production songs.

Currently, I have over 20 compositions online on 2 different libraries.

I have submitted to other libraries but am waiting for responses.

3 Tips for Getting Started in Production Music

  1. Be patient! Libraries can take weeks or months to review submissions. It all depends on the library and the number of submissions they have at any given time.
  2. Research: Figure out which libraries might be a good fit for you and your music. BUT, remember there will never be a perfect one.
  3. START: Start writing and start submitting! Keyword = “Get Started!” OK. That’s 2 words.

Tools You Need to Get Started in Production Music

“Cool, this sounds like something I want to get into!”, you say. “What do I need to get started beside a brain?”, you ask!

It’s simple:

  • a computer,
  • a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation or recording software) + interface,
  • monitors
  • sound library + MIDI controller
  • internet access, and
  • patience and persistence!

Computer

The computer… Mac OS or Windows? Are we really still debating this in 2019?

The best answer I can give: I don’t care and it doesn’t matter! Seriously, it really does not matter. I have used both. When I have my DAW open and I’m working away on a composition, I never actually think about which operating system I’m using. I’m thinking about writing the raddest tune in the world!

So, what do I use? I now use Windows. My faithful 2007 iMac had finally died last year, so I decided to build my own Windows machine for a lot less than a new iMac.

But hey! Someday maybe I will find a new shiny iMac Pro sitting on my door step and I won’t refuse it!

DAW + Interface

I personally use Pro Tools. I actually bought Studio One back in 2014. I’d been using Pro Tools LE since 2002 but thought I’d give something else a try. But I went back to Pro Tools for the editing capabilities. I still love Studio One.

In the end, choose one you like, learn it well and go for it!

Sidenote: A DAW and interface often come together.

Sound Library + MIDI Controller

Depending on your personal style of music, you may not need a huge sample library of orchestral sounds and synths, etc. If, however, you do need these because the music you want to compose requires it, I will let you in on a little secret… I do not use East West, Spitfire Audio or Omnisphere, or any other “high end” sample library or synths. I hope to someday, but right now I simply can’t justify the cost.

Sidenote: East West has a subscription-based option (which is cool) and Spitfire Audio does have their Labs version of their sample libraries.

Do not let your lack of top-of-the-line samples and synths or a $5000 PC stop you! I’ve used the included software instruments and samples in both Studio One and Pro Tools. I really like and use UVI Falcon, which comes with Pro Tools. I use Native Instruments Kontakt a bit as well. The only money I have dished out, besides paying for my DAW, is $50 for the Ether Fields expansion for Falcon. Very cool!

Monitors

Monitors, of course, are important, because if you can’t hear your music and don’t have the ability of Beethoven (the composer who composed symphonies while deaf), you won’t accomplish much.

Buy what you can afford. By that, I mean as much as you can afford. I do believe this to be one piece of gear that you get what you pay for! That doesn’t mean that if all you can buy is the lowest end monitor your local music store has you can’t create great music and mixes. You most certainly can.

I use the infamous Yamaha NS-10’s, but with a $200 power amp. A Bryston power amp would be nicer. I also use a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones. Of course, always check your mixes on other speakers to make sure it translates well. Age-old advice, but worth saying again.

Why You Should Start in Production Music

There it is! A quick overview of getting started with composing production music and making millions of dollars and retiring in Mexico sipping something cold! (Sorry. Daydreaming again.)

But that does bring up a good point. Don’t do it if you just have dollar signs in your eyes. It is hard work and can take many months or even a few years to reap the financial benefits. Do it because you love music and let the rewards come as they may!

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