Among the many exhibitors at NAB were music libraries.
by Steve Harvey.
Production music libraries have taken on increasing importance over the last few years, offering artists an alternative to a career path that traditionally led to a record label deal and providing a secondary source of income for musicians with day jobs. Meanwhile, on the demand side of the equation, there appears to be no shortage of programming for television, cinema and a variety of other media that requires a constant supply of music.
The recent NAB Show in Las Vegas highlighted some of the differing ways in which music libraries now address the market. Pond5, for example, a company headquartered in New York City, entered the music-licensing arena late last year with a royalty-free, marketplace-like format that allows artists to upload tracks and, uniquely, set their own pricing.
Pond5 CEO Tom Bennett reports that the company launched in April 2006 with a web portal offering stock video clips uploaded and priced by creators. There are now approximately 350,000 clips available for licensing.
“We try and do as much as we can to keep the process really quick, simple and straightforward, so audio editors or anyone needing our content can find it and get back to work as quickly as possible,” Bennett explains. There are currently 4,600 music tracks, plus just over 27,000 sound effects, including catalogs by companies such as Blastwave FX. Pond5 expects to announce some music catalog partners soon, also.
The web GUI allows users to see numerous video clips at a glance, so to keep the audio workflow equally simple and quick, Pond5 posts a waveform of each track or sound effect. “It makes it a little bit quicker to figure out what something might sound like without having to listen to it,” says Bennett. Plus, he says, “You mouse over, and you get instant playback. It’s the fastest interface that I’ve come across on the web.”
Being web-based, Pond5 is able to harvest a lot of data and provide users and content providers alike with some useful information. “If there’s a track that has been listened to 20 times but nobody as purchased it, or nobody has added it to a bin or done anything with it, that tells us something about that track, Bennett points out. “Another track that has been listened to a couple times and purchased once is going to be more likely to sell in the future.”
The company does provide oversight of the upload process: “We make sure things are recorded at a high enough quality level, and to some degree make an aesthetic call,” he says. The deal is nonexclusive and offers an even split of the licensing fee. “The artist is given full control over pricing and they get a 50 percent split. Hopefully, it’s going to enable a number of them to make a good living, or something close to it, or supplement their income with what they like to do—video or audio, as the case may be.”
Pond5 reportedly hopes to introduce a multitrack audio format in the future, which would offer user’s some customization of the music. For those currently seeking custom music, SmartSound Software’s Sonicfire Pro has carved out a niche as one of the easiest to use. SmartSound’s technology allows users to custom-tailor a piece of music—recorded by real musicians—to the exact length required, adjust the instrumental balance within the music and match it to a desired mood.
At the NAB Show, SmartSound, based in Northridge, CA, rolled out its latest addition, Voxation, which brings lyric-based content to the format. Using Sonicfire Pro’s customization controls, users can manipulate the instruments and vocals in a music track to match changes in the video.
“Vocal music has been a growing demand for our customers, and we have answered with vocal music in our most versatile multi-layer format,” says Andy Muson, SmartSound’s VP of music. “Since it’s based on our patented technology, no other music company can offer this level of creativity and personalization to their music.”
SmartSound is working with a number of bands and musicians to create music for the Voxation series. Initial libraries feature singer/songwriter Brady Harris and Steep, an indie pop/rock band from Germany.
A newcomer to the NAB Show, Ricall, founded in the U.K. in 1998, essentially provides a research service through which to find and license commercially released music. The platform provides access to more than 3 million tracks from over 25,000 content owners, and includes many, many major artists.
According to Ricall’s website, “Over 50 companies register each week to use our service from across seven different sectors covering advertising, broadcasting, film, TV, games, corporate and new media. Our registered users have already transacted over 40 million in sync licenses via the platform up to June 2007, a number which continues to grow rapidly.”