This topic has been coming up a lot lately and also I had the opportunity to hear about this from some of the bigger libraries recently and thought I’d weigh in on it.

In my experience, most non-exclusive deals are also re-titling, where the library creates a “derivative work” simply by giving your piece a different title. Now they control the publishing for that music under that title, but the exact same music can still be marketed to other libraries under a completely different title with that other library also controlling the publishing (same music, different title)!!

I’ve also seen contracts where the music is signed to be exclusive in the markets that the library competes in but the piece can still be sold by the artist on their CD (itunes, etc.). This seems OK to me as long as the artist is going to be on the ball enough to refer any requests for licensing the music (someone hears it on itunes and wants to sync it, for instance) to the library that owns the rights for synchronization.

Then there’s exclusive, which is totally fine with me. (Keep in mind that I’m an instrumental composer with an ever expanding catalog of music, not a songwriter with a much smaller catalog. I’m not going to speak to that because it’s a different kettle of fish altogether, IMO.)

With exclusivity, both the composer and the library have more skin in the game. The library is probably more picky so if you get in, you’re smarter than the average bear, and the library owner places more value on their catalog because you can’t get this stuff anywhere else. That’s good for everyone, even the clients, because they would also like to think they’re getting something special. Everyone likes to think they’re special, right? You can’t go to some online library that takes anyone and find this quality of music. That’s what makes it special. (the next level up is getting hired by a library to create a collection for them, which means they have even more motivation to push your stuff!!) Remember, a lot of these libraries have excellent relationships directly with supervisors at networks, etc. They also have a quality standard to uphold and having pieces that no one else has is a great selling point.

At the beginning of my foray into library music, I signed a few pieces with a couple of different places, but I started looking into it more and talking to composer friends and discussions here and elsewhere, and I made the decision to treat every non-exclusive deal as an exclusive deal. I intend to write several hundred pieces of music in my career so it’s more important to me to have a diversified catalog in several excellent libraries than it is to have a small number of pieces in lots of libraries at the same time.

Let’s not forget watermarking and fingerprinting technology that is right around the corner. Whatever technology gets generally adopted, it will be possible to detect any piece of music by it’s unique signature, which will obviate re-titling, because that piece of music is really just one entity, not a bunch of titles referring to the same music. Re-titling will eventually go out the window, I predict.

So what value do you place on your music? You might actually be doing yourself and your library clients a disservice by placing your pieces in several libraries at one time because it will end up competing against itself and instead of making a nice sync fee, it might lose out to itself to a lower priced library. Same piece gets lower price because it’s in more than one library? Doesn’t make good business sense to me.

Think about it.