This is certainly a topic worth exploring. I’ve been a composer for many years and most recently have been involved quite extensively with production music. Therefore I have opinions that favor both sides of this debate.
Okay, here we go. Let’s say you’ve got a budget for music. It’s not huge, but big enough to consider hiring a composer instead of licensing production music. If you know someone who is competent and gets what you’re trying to accomplish creatively, you’re in a pretty good place. You’ll need the time to develop creatively and then produce the music. Depending on the amount of music, this can take days, weeks or months. You’re going to have music that is completely written for your project and won’t exist anywhere else. This is a good reason to go with original music. If you are also a creative person, it can be great to work with a composer who can help you realize your vision, whatever it may be.
The risks of hiring a composer
What happens if you’ve committed contractually and financially to a composer and he/she turns out not to be as good as you thought they were? This can be devastating and lead you to have to cut your losses and license production music instead. What if you don’t have as much money left as you thought once you get into the post-production phase of your project?
Now, let’s say that you’ve got the same budget for music and decide to go the licensing route. There is so much production music available that you will not have a problem finding what you need. It will however take a good amount of time to search through the mountains of content and you will also need a good editor to accomplish the exact dynamics you are looking for. Taking this route will certainly be cheaper and you may have funds left over to allocate somewhere else.
The risks of production music
Licensing from a source that you are not sure will stand behind their music. Being certain that you won’t have any copyright issues is always a concern. Not finding the perfect tracks is possible, but not likely considering how much is available.
What about a combination of both? This is more common than ever. Most composers have a specific style and might not be able to deliver everything that is required. This is when you turn to production music.
To sum up
There are a lot of factors when deciding which route to take. Most times this decision is made for you based on budget, timeframe or previous experience. I know producers that would never hire a composer and I also know producers who would never want to use production music. I’m good with both sides. There are merits either way and it comes down to your own personal situation. I would say that if you end up having to use production music and you hoped you wouldn’t have to, it can easily exceed expectations. You’d probably be surprised by how many “big budget” projects now use production music exclusively.
As always, feel free to send in questions or comments.