There’s never been a better time to become an independent musician and make money from your music.
Imagine building an automatic income stream and making money selling stock music while you sleep.
Waking up in the morning, checking your email, and seeing emails like these is the dream, right?
In one month, I once generated over $400 from a single music library. 90% of those commissions came from two Christmas public domain tracks that I recorded and jazzed up a bit.
We all know that festivities boost sales. The best part is that I recorded and uploaded those two tracks one year before. Now, imagine what happens when you register with multiple libraries.
In this article, I’ll explain how you can leverage the music industry in today’s digital world. I’ll also show you how stock music licensing works so you can start generating some sales.
Why I Started Selling Stock Music
Before selling music on royalty-free websites, I never thought I could make money as a musician on my own terms.
However, working as a professional sound engineer for almost ten years in a major dubbing studio, coupled with my classical and jazz piano journey, made it quite easy to embark on music composition for media.
As a funny fact, some friends said I should compose original music. People who know you play an instrument always encourage you to play!
I never knew why I should compose music or for what purpose. I always preferred to play and study what came to mind rather than compose.
Stock music changed that.
I finally found a purpose for writing music—and people worldwide can actually use it.
Update: I’ve stopped composing stock music as I’ve been more focused on this blog and my YouTube relaxing music channel. However, the information you find here is still relevant today.
You might also want to check out my detailed guide about royalty-free music.
What is Stock Music?
Stock music, also known as production music, is those music tracks, songs, or jingles that enhance commercials, training videos, software applications, podcast intros, YouTube videos, games, corporate videos, and many more media projects.
Most people online are more familiar with stock images and stock footage. These are all over the internet.
Websites that sell these stock items are called stock libraries. For example, if you type “happy family on the beach” on Adobe Stock, you get these results:
You see these photographs and graphics in commercials, poster advertisements, and websites.
The same applies to a stock music library or production library. Different production libraries offer different types of music.
For example, searching on Audiojungle for “energetic classic rock” gives you 2,163 tracks.
Music styles or genres vary from corporate music, classical, pop, and rock to techno, disco, lounge, ambient, and many more. We can then subdivide every single one of those genres into subgenres even further. This is also true for stock music.
I wouldn’t call stock music a genre because its purpose differs entirely from non-stock music. While non-stock music has an end on its own, stock music is composed specifically for media.
You can sit down and listen to an entirely Frank Zappa album and find a message, a meaning, a story, a beginning, and an end to it. The music speaks for itself, as he wrote it that way.
Stock music needs a vehicle to enhance its emotions (a bit like film music). It’s written not for itself but for a film, a video, a photo slideshow, a presentation, as background or ambient music.
For this reason, some “real” musicians think stock music equals low-quality music. I used to think that way, too. But just like film music, I now can see the purpose of stock music. And when you get the hang of it, it gets easier and easier to compose and record.
With time, you can even finish a track in less than a day.
Ultimately, stock music is a good way for fellow musicians to make passive income online.
The Specifics of Stock Music
If you want to sell your songs to stock music libraries, you must know the specifics of this type of music—what sets it apart.
Stock music is mainly used as background music in YouTube videos, TV and radio broadcasts, trailers, advertising, jingles, software apps, multimedia, etc.
Since musicians compose stock music specifically for media, you need to compose it in a way that can be:
This is probably a unique characteristic of stock music that sets it apart from other types.
When composing stock music, remember that a video or sound editor may slice or loop it to sync it with the video he’s working on. A good stock music track is versatile.
And since all these media outlets may have a narrator, stock music should not be distracting. It should convey an overall background ambient bed for the voice narrator.
Sometimes, people also call it background music.
Besides the main track, composers usually make alternate versions. Examples include:
- Version without drums.
- 60, 30, and 15-second edits.
- Looped version.
The edits are important, as most commercials on TV or radio are 60, 30, or 15 seconds long.
Is Stock Music the Same as Royalty-Free Music?
There have been many debates regarding this question, especially by consumers, not composers.
Stock music is also known as royalty-free music—but it doesn’t mean it’s free. It only means that you must pay a one-time fee for the track, and then you have clearance to use it indefinitely without paying any royalties.
“Royalty-free” is a type of license that royalty-free websites sell.
However, it does not mean the composer also relinquished his music’s copyright. Suppose his music ends up in a TV show or radio commercial. In that case, he may still be entitled to performance royalties paid by those broadcasting companies.
The same doesn’t happen with songs by pop artists. Here, you are granted a license to use it in a specific media outlet for a specific duration, usually one year. Besides, with the money you’d spend on such a song, you could purchase hundreds of stock music tracks and use them forever without paying additional fees.
That’s the price of using pop star’s songs.
And that’s why royalty-free music has become so popular.
Stock music is music that’s already composed and ready to license. Instead of “custom music,” where a composer makes music for a particular project, be it a commercial, film, or another type of video, stock music is already in stock.
A client browses the music library (the stock library) and looks for music that might suit their project’s needs. This is a very popular business model for agencies, as it’s cheaper than hiring a composer.
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Music Libraries
There are many stock music libraries out there, and I sell on a handful. However, I’m still only selling on non-exclusive music libraries, as I like to spread my portfolio across the internet as much as possible. The more it is out there, the more chances I have to sell.
When you begin to make stock music and are trying to find the best libraries to upload your tracks, remember these two types of libraries or contracts: exclusive and non-exclusive.
Exclusive Music Libraries
An exclusive music library is officially authorized to be the sole seller of a specific track. You can’t upload that track to another library unless you want to break the agreement and get into trouble. While it may seem unfair in case you’re not generating any sales from that track, selling your music on an exclusive library has its perks:
- You can get a higher upfront fee or a higher percentage of royalties for a single track.
- TV and movie production companies usually license music from exclusive libraries, as the tracks are typically of better quality.
- The library dedicates its efforts to promoting your tracks.
The downside is you can’t upload your exclusive tracks to any other stock music site, even if they are not selling. Also, exclusive music libraries require your track to be high quality, from composition to recording and mixing.
This is why many stock music composers start by uploading their tracks to non-exclusive music libraries. Although many decline low-quality tracks, they have a broader acceptance rate.
Non-Exclusive Music Libraries
As the name implies, non-exclusive music libraries have a non-exclusive agreement for selling your tracks. This means your tracks are not tied to a specific library. You can upload all of your tracks in as many non-exclusive libraries as you want, expanding the reach of your music and exposing it to more buyers.
Here are the benefits of selling your music on non-exclusive libraries:
- You can upload the same track to different websites.
- Choose different prices for the same track in different libraries.
- Greater flexibility in managing your portfolio.
- They expose your music tracks to more potential buyers.
- Accepts lower quality tracks.
As a downside to non-exclusive libraries, you have fewer opportunities to sell your music to TV and movie companies, and you get a lower upfront rate.
Although it seems tempting to upload your tracks to all non-exclusive music libraries (there are many!), you can spend a lot of time uploading to libraries that don’t sell, wasting your time. The uploading process of each library is different, and some require more patience than others.
If you want to get your music onto as many websites as possible and sell your stock music to make money online, stick with non-exclusive libraries at first.
Licensing Your Stock Music
Personally, I’ve known companies that were caught in the trap of buying a license for a stock music track and then getting into trouble because they used it outside the license’s scope.
There are different ways to license your music track. However, they depend on the stock music website you’re selling them. For example, Audiojungle has 5 different licenses, each one with its own price tag:
- Standard License
- Broadcast (1 Million)
- Mass Reproduction
- Broadcast (10 Million)
- Broadcast & Film
You can find tracks for $20 (Standard license) that go up to $799 or higher (Broadcast & Film). Since Audiojungle lets composers choose their prices, there are many variations here.
Some authors at Audiojungle price their tracks at $10 (or even less), but they’ll only get about $3 or $4 per sale, which is nothing, considering the time it takes to make a good quality track.
Actually, I find it an insult to composers, even to themselves. By tagging a low price, they’re killing the market and also breeding self-frustration when receiving such low commissions for their work.
Anyway, every music library website has its own licenses, and not all let you set your prices.
Some royalty-free libraries, like Motion Elements, let you offer your music for free. While you may do that to some of your tracks, it’s always good to keep them to a minimum unless you don’t want to profit from your music.
Free stock music may be enticing to new customers and content creators. However, they’ll soon discover that those tracks are being overused over the internet, making them less appealing for unique creative projects.
PRO: Performance Rights Organization
If you’re a stock music composer or a music producer and want to get an extra stream of revenue, it’s a good idea to register your tracks with a performance rights organization (PRO).
As a composer, each time a live venue, a restaurant, a TV show, or a radio commercial plays your track, you are entitled to performance royalties. These TV networks, radio stations, and venues pay royalties to PROs, who then distribute the earnings to their composers and publishers.
This means that if a marketing agency buys your track from a royalty-free music library website, they only pay once for the track. However, if, for example, they use the track in a TV commercial, the TV network has to pay performance royalties to its country’s PRO.
How are Composers Tracked?
All broadcasting stations must provide PROs with a cue sheet reporting all the music used in a specific production. This cue sheet will include your music track plus your CAE/IPI code (provided by your PRO).
Actually, on Audiojungle, you can see the invoice with the name and address of each buyer. Sometimes, you may find a TV network that bought your track. However, there’s no way to know if it will be used unless you contact them.
If you want to know if your tracks are being broadcasted, you can register with TuneSat or Soundmouse. With their audio recognition technology, these two services scan TV channels and websites around the world so you can discover where your music is being played.
Most music libraries accept music registered with PROs. However, some, like Melody Loops, only accept non-PRO music.
Perpetual and Non-Perpetual Agreements
Besides being exclusive or non-exclusive, some libraries require a perpetual commitment. This means you can upload your tracks but can’t take them down. They’ll stay there forever.
So, think twice if you want to upload one of your best tracks to such a library.
Here’s an example.
AudioSparx states in their vendor participation options:
We require a perpetual license so that we can maintain a stable and professional shopping environment for our large, professional client base where tracks don’t suddenly disappear as a result of a takedown.
Recently, they also introduced the RadioSparx-only participation option, which is non-perpetual. If you’re unwilling to commit your tracks for perpetuity, this is a great alternative, although they won’t get as exposed as if licensed through AudioSparx.
100Audio is another non-exclusive music library (with the option of exclusivity) that doesn’t allow authors to remove their tracks at will unless there’s a copyright issue. Although they don’t have a specific agreement stating the perpetuity or not of the uploaded tracks, I’ve found myself in a situation where my track couldn’t be deleted.
This information is not clear on their website. Still, by looking through 100Audio’s forum, you can see examples of authors requesting their tracks to be removed, only to discover that the library cannot accept their proposal.
Many libraries have a “delete” button to remove your track easily, but 100Audio doesn’t.
I’m not discouraging you from uploading your tracks to 100Audio because they pay well. I get an average commission of $18-$25 per sale, sometimes even going as high as $89, depending on the music license sold. Considering my experience with music libraries, these are some of the highest commissions I get.
100Audio is one of the top marketplaces in Asia, and together with VFine Music, they have the highest commissions for authors (I’m not considering high-end libraries). This is probably because they control the pricing of all tracks.
So beware if the licensing agreement of the library you’re joining is perpetual or non-perpetual, as it will dictate your relationship with it and with your tracks.
Subscription-Based Music Libraries
Besides music libraries that sell individual licenses to tracks as required, some work on a subscription basis. These libraries offer a subscription service where users can download unlimited tracks for a monthly or annual fee.
While an individual license can generate a more significant commission for the author, a subscription-based library pays out differently.
These libraries pay their artists a monthly profit share of the entire website’s revenue. In other words, you can’t set your track’s price, and you might receive a different commission for the same number of downloads, depending on the overall website revenue.
These libraries can be an extra source of income, although I wouldn’t focus on joining them initially. With libraries such as Audiojungle or Pond5 (non-subscription-based), you can get that initial satisfaction of receiving a well-deserved (and higher) commission for your music.
Registering Your Stock Music with Content ID for Extra Income
Content ID is a digital fingerprinting system that allows authors to protect and monetize their creations on social media, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
It’s one of the best ways for stock music composers to make money on YouTube.
It also allowed me to make $912 without even knowing—a really nice surprise!
Each time someone uploads a video to YouTube, the platform scans it against a gigantic database of copyrighted material, including audio and video. If any of the video’s content matches your copyrighted creation, such as your music track, it receives a Content ID claim.
You can then decide what to do with it:
- Monetize it.
- Release the claim.
- Block the video.
Every time you see information like this in a YouTube video, it means the songs included are copyrighted. YouTube automatically adds the song’s info below the video description.
Whenever someone buys your track from a music library, they get a license for that specific track. When uploading it to YouTube, they also receive a copyright claim. However, in that case, their license is sufficient to release the claim, allowing them to monetize their video.
If someone steals your music (believe me, that happens), they get a copyright claim. The claim cannot be released because they don’t have a license. You then have two options: to monetize it or to remove it.
If you choose to monetize it, ads may be displayed on the video. Your Content ID partner will then distribute the ad revenue to you, taking a small percentage of it.
Another way of releasing a copyright claim is to replace the song with free-to-use music from the YouTube Audio Library.
Remember that not all music libraries accept music registered with Content ID. Although I understand it can be a hassle to the buyer, authors have the right to protect their content.
Best Music Libraries for Beginners
Here’s a list of the best stock music libraries that, in my opinion, are best for beginners:
Here are some high-end music libraries that require better skills from the composer and better quality music:
How to Sell Stock Music: Conclusion
Selling music online has never been easier than it is today.
If you’re a composer with sound engineering skills, you should try stock music. You can start generating passive income for years to come solely from your music sales.
It can be a little overwhelming to see libraries like Audiojungle with 1,714,988 tracks and sound effects (growing every day). You might think: will my track cut through all those?
Other music libraries have much fewer tracks, as they’re more selective.
In the end, stock music is a numbers game.
The more tracks you have, the better your chances of making sales. And the more you upload, the more you stay ahead of the competition.
As time passes, you keep learning and investing in better equipment, virtual instruments, mixing, mastering, and composing skills. Finally, you can join high-end libraries, where you can get more money per track.
If you want to learn the technical side of composing, recording, and mixing stock music, I highly recommend you to follow Daniel Carrizalez on his YouTube channel and listen to his Stock Music Licensing Podcast.
Daniel is a great inspiration for anyone willing to start their stock music journey. He has many great videos, tips, and resources to make your tracks stand out, so check him out.
And since you’re thinking about composing stock music, why not start a blog or website to showcase your talent? We rely too much on music libraries that we sometimes forget we can sell our tracks on our own website.
Let me know if you found this article valuable in the comment section below. If not, let me know anyway.