I recently had a member of TAXI’s forum ask what the difference was between a production music library and a music publisher. Great question! Here’s the answer I posted:
Production Music Libraries and Publishers are both publishers, and it’s my observation that the best music libraries get most of their best placements by doing hand to hand combat — meaning that they develop relationships and actively pitch. Another observation is that Film and TV music supervisors really don’t like to search databases for music. They’d rather email or call a human, have them cull a few tracks they think would work and pitch them, whether by email or in some cases, in person. The world’s biggest and best music libraries have sales forces all over the world.
A straight up music publisher like Warner Chappel or Universal Music Pub might have as many as 250,000 (or more) titles in their catalog (spanning decades) and a staff of creative people who act kind of like TAXI, in that they tell their writers which songs are best, give their writers some creative advice and hand-holding, sometimes in the form of pairing up co-writes, as well as pitching their songs to artists, and yes, even film and TV opportunities.
A couple of major differences are that publishers like Universal typically don’t sign single songs. Instead, they sign songwriters, give them an advance against future income, and the songwriters need to turn in a song or two per month (that meet the pub’s standards), depending on the number of co-writers they will be splitting the income with.
To get a staff songwriter deal, it typically takes having a song that’s already been cut to get the publishers interested. Once they know there’s an income stream, they’re much more interested. They often want a piece of the existing cut. Another way to get a pub deal is to get a record deal and be the songwriter in the band, or for yourself if you’re a solo artist. Once you’ve inked the record deal, a publisher will often offer you a pub deal because there is some probability that the record will generate mechanicals, and with tons of good fortune, performance income as well through airplay, etc.
A big difference with libraries is that they typically don’t give advances (unless you’re creating custom projects/CDs they commission you to create to order), and many of them offer non-exclusive contracts on single songs. I think it will be quite some time before the majors do non-exclusives, as they’re interested in building equity. Exclusive rights build equity, much like equity in stocks or real estate. Eventually, they cash in their chips and sell off the entire catalog for what is called a multiple, similar to selling a business for X times net profit.
Gotta stop now before I write a book. Hope this helps,