Inside Royalty Free Music - Part 2

Producer Pierre Langer on composing royalty free music.      14/10/08

Inside Royalty Free Music - Part 2

Buying Choices
Last week we spoke to Bjorn Lynne about the day to day management of his royalty free music portal Shockwave-Sound.This week it's the turn of the music producer in this interview with royalty free composer Pierre Langer.

Often combining live orchestras with contemporary sounds, the Dynamedion team of composers have racked up over 120 soundtracks for the German games market.
As a founder and part of the team, Pierre Langer also composes royalty free music for a number of sites worldwide.

What types of music do you specialize in?

Working as a team we basically specialize in all styles that we are writing as work for hire composer anyway. Our main focus has certainly been orchestral music but in the meantime we do a big variety of styles with all the different composers that work in the team.

How does 'gaming' composition differ from others?

This is like working in the movies only with a bit more restrictions: you have cut scenes that can be scored like a short picture sequence, then you have all the in-game music. Action, suspense, background, etc. This needs to be done in accordance to the story, the overall feeling + the technical restrictions that you have in a game.

How do you go about conceptualizing music for a game?

Before even starting composing, our team meets with customers to discuss their requirements. Atmospheres, style of music, that sort of thing. The findings are used to sketch out the central theme, or leitmotif, of the soundtrack. All discussions are put down in a design document which we refer to when we begin composing.

Is your gaming music separate from your library music?

We do both – a lot of tracks we put into libraries are taken from our video game soundtracks. We wait until the game has been released and then we have the option to license them out to various libraries. If we write new music specifically for a library we usually set up some sort of virtual album (like: Halloween, Christmas, etc.) and then write 10 tracks that fit in the style.

How (and when) did you first become aware of the Royalty Free Music market?

We started in this market in 2004. It was still very small by then (or so it seemed) and there wasn't too much really good music around. I think that a lot of experienced composers were not aware of this new way of selling music at that time.

How did you break into the RFM market?

We simply looked for sites selling RFM and offered them our services. We are doing this continuously – in them meantime we have something like 40 clients that run such a library. It pays to go for variety, as some libraries have a better performance than other. Over time you get a feeling for this and know what styles work best in which library. So it is as simply as it sounds: write good music and then spread the word – there are enough people who will want to market it.

Do you enter into a contract with the guys at the website? If so, what sort of contractual obligations are there?

Either they pay us a one time fee to get our tracks and that's it – nothing more to pay, or we get a share of their sales. We do not have a lot of restrictions other than not selling our tracks under a certain price.

Is there very ridged rules musically for producing RFM?

Not at all – you just need to know how to write music for the media. Usually a 2 minute track works best – no vocals and no frequencies that get in the way of voice overs too much. Simply write nice music that is not too agitated.

Who uses your music and for what purpose?

All sorts: internet, short movies, clips, TV, games, anything your can imagine really.

Does the amount of income you may receive effect the time and expense that you give over to producing Royalty Free tracks?

It pays out over the years if you have the right contacts to the right libraries and if you really look after getting your performances registered. This is a long term thing – we think that good tracks will keep on earning money for more than 10 years .. so it pays out eventually.

How does the RFM system compare to more traditional methods of royalty collection? What is your preference?

Most of the music that is said to be royalty free still earns performance money, so there is not such a bit difference from our point of view. Those sites that offer music where there are no performance rights involved either are ok also.

How do you think the collection agencies view Royalty Free Music?

I assume you are referring to the sites that offer music without any performance royalties. Well, the agencies will of course not like this I suppose – but from my point of view it is 100% ok to offer this. Every composer can decide if he wants to do this or not.

Do you think there is enough editorial control in royalty free music?

Yes there is – control gets harder and harder, but that's just the way it goes.

Are perhaps too many poor compositions and productions harming the reputation of royalty free music?

There were – I think the whole thing has really gotten out of the dirtbox of music. There is a lot of good music around .. but you are right: there is still a lot of trash out there.

With so much Royalty Free Music available will the "traditional" composer and publisher survive in the future?

Things aren't changing that fast and good composers will always keep on writing good music. So if they are open minded enough to go with the times, everyone should be fine. I am not too sure about the traditional publishers though – they will be having a much more difficult time I think.

What will happen in the future and what is the next step for Royalty Free Music?

The good stuff will become more expensive I think and the licenses will become more punctuated and focussed on what the usage is really about in order to get more money out of each track.

Pierre's music can be found at and on a number of royalty free music websites.

Simon Power


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