From TV commercials to feature films, radio jingles to websites, production music is everywhere these days. And it’s no wonder that it’s gaining in popularity: bundled together in easy-to-license libraries, production music can offer a simple solution for all types of projects in need of music. In 1997, the leaders of eight production music houses banded together to form the Production Music Association (PMA), an organization dedicated to promoting the interests of this specialized community. Today, the PMA’s member libraries employ thousands of composers and songwriters a year. Some of them have earned Emmys and other top industry awards for their work. Many of them build their livelihoods from writing music for PMA libraries. We caught up with Randy Wachtler, President of the PMA, to get his perspective on the state of the production music industry and find out where it’s headed.
Who does the PMA represent?
The PMA is a publisher-focused non-profit organization dedicated to educating and promoting the interests of the production music library industry. Currently the PMA represents over 400 libraries and it has become the world’s premiere industry trade organization for production music. The largest and most successful libraries in the U.S. are members and include Universal Music’s Killer Tracks and FirstCom, EMI’s and Universal’s APM Music, Warner/Chappell’s 615 Music and Non-Stop, Imagem’s 5 Alarm, ole’s MusicBox and independents such as Megatrax, VideoHelper, Manhattan and Immediate Music. The PMA also represents small boutique libraries such as Brand X, RipTide and X-Ray Dog.
What does the PMA do on behalf of its members?
We are committed to enhancing the value of music in general and production music specifically through research, education and public relations. We are committed to working closely with the three US-based performing rights organizations and we hold four open meetings a year including our annual meeting in Las Vegas during the NAB convention. The other three open meetings are held in Los Angeles, New York and Nashville. The PMA’s website (www.pmamusic.com) includes our mission statement and our Principles and Core Values document, each of which helps to guide our industry and educate new members.
Is it more common for production music libraries to license readymade catalogs from signed writers/composers? Or do they usually commission new works depending on their needs?
The PMA libraries do sign readymade catalogs as well as commission new works for catalogs they own. The PMA libraries make their own deals based on their unique market needs.
In general, how do the deals structured between music libraries and their writers differ from traditional publishing or licensing deals?
Traditional publishing deals pay a songwriter an advance then recoup that advance from future royalties. Production music agreements vary dramatically from company to company and each should be consulted directly regarding their own agreements. The PMA is a trade organization supporting the industry as a whole and does not promote or advocate individual libraries or composer business models.
What types of clients most commonly use music libraries? Has that changed at all over the years?
Broadcast networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX as well as cable TV channels such as MTV, ESPN, TNT, etc., advertising agencies, radio, corporate, government agencies, production companies, recording studios, film studios, educational, post houses, web developers and many more. Additionally, a growing number of online users are now licensing PMA libraries for web-only use.
What are the biggest challenges that production music libraries face today, and how are libraries adapting their practices to face these challenges?
The biggest challenge libraries face today is an increase in the supply of new music, not only from competing libraries but from other sources such as traditional music publishing companies, independent artists, on-line retitled libraries, independent record companies, TV production companies and more. Additionally, libraries face the problem of new competitors and composers who enter the industry without the knowledge to effectively build and maintain a successful business model for them and their composers, which ultimately may end up devaluing music in the marketplace.
This is why the PMA’s mission to enhance the value of production music through continuous education is so important. The PMA has developed a popular educational series called “What’s the Value of Music?” that features top panelists on both the client side as well as composers, publishers and legal professionals. The initial event held in LA was so popular that we’ve extended that series to NY and Nashville in 2012. All of our “live” events have been well attended with standing room only crowds.
Another issue that PMA members have had to deal with recently is direct and/or source licensing. Of course every member has to make his/her own decision about whether to license their performing rights directly or through the performing rights societies, and the PMA does not advise members on these issues. The PMA believes licensing performing rights through the performing rights societies is the preferred method and that direct and/or source licensing is generally harmful to the production library industry in the long term.
We hear a lot that the huge number of independent songwriters and publishers competing for a limited number of syncs yields smaller sync and master licenses. Has this trend also affected the production music world?
It’s true the Internet has affected the library industry in that new composers and songwriters can offer their music easier than ever. More competition generally translates into more competitive pricing and that trend has continued in the library business.
How important is public performance income to the business model of a music library?
It’s very important. Composers and publishers see the PRO performance income as a vital piece of their revenue stream.
Does the PMA have any advocacy or education programs? If so, what issues do you focus on?
Along with our live events and website, we continually work on behalf of the PMA members on current issues. Recently the PMA has addressed the pitfalls of retitling, the proper formats and uses of metadata, how to work with the PROs and sustainable business practices. The PMA (in conjunction with the three American PROs) developed and introduced the world’s first ever Metadata standard for production music. This standard is posted on the PMA website and is available to anyone who visits the site. We also introduced the first-ever library prefix database to aid libraries in naming their libraries to help reduce the number of duplicate prefixes.