An introduction to Production Music

shesaid.so teamed up with Universal Production Music in their mission to find womxn-identifying composers and artists to feature on their upcoming album, 100% Her. We’re now thrilled to announce the 10 winners who will have their tracks featured on the album — stay tuned for an album teaser coming soon! Congratulations to:

Elizabeth Charlotte Massey ‘Luna’ (UK)

Bryn Boyce Bliska ‘Open Ocean’ (USA)

Charley M van Veldhoven ‘M&M’ (Netherlands)

Emily Marie Richou ‘Fields of Glee’ (UK)

Jennifer Miller ‘Jazz In The Park W/Tea’ (USA)

Kate Elizabeth Lloyd ‘Solitude’ (UK)

Mona Khoshoi ‘Jhene’ (Sweden)

Marilyn Deang ‘94’ (USA)

Sarah May Playford ‘Altitude’ (UK)

Sine Buyuka ‘Fall’ (Turkey)

10 tracks were selected out of a whopping 470 submissions from women across the globe — from France to Turkey, Australia to Sweden! Thanks to everyone who submitted their tracks, it’s been amazing to see (and hear) such a great response to this initiative. You’ll be able to listen to the album on Friday 6th March, just in time for International Women’s Day.

Ahead of the album release in March, Charlie Croft (International Marketing Executive at Universal Production Music) gives us an introduction to the growing market of production music.

Production Music is everywhere; in our living rooms whilst watching TV, in shopping malls whilst searching for gifts, in cinemas whilst watching films or trailers of the next big blockbuster, and even on the commute whilst listening to podcasts. Composed specifically for Film, TV, Advertising or other media, many of us consume production music daily without even realising; it’s the soundtrack to our lives. Production Music lives within the seams of the music industry — it might be hidden but it still plays an integral part.

A common misjudgement of Production Music is that it’s tantamount to “jingle music”, an opinion perhaps driven by the anonymity of the music, with no profile to latch onto. This outlook has been changing in recent years, as library music is getting a new lease of life through the Artist and Composers production teams who work with clients around the world, with the resulting music spanning a vast array of genres and moods, tapping into sounds of the now, but also nodding to the classics as well.

“Production music has changed and evolved considerably since I became involved in the industry”, says self-taught Composer and Producer, Louise Dowd, who was introduced to the Universal Production Music library in 2005. “The quality of music was always good but now it’s competing with major artist and film composer releases, in production value and authenticity.” When Louise started out in the industry, she says “it wasn’t such a popular avenue for writers and composers to pursue but now there are many more brilliant composers involved, writing in all genres”.

“I get to write a lot more different types of music and songs now”, explains Louise. “I have been involved in several Cinematic Song projects in recent years with UPPM. These tracks and albums were not requested when I started writing production music and it’s really inspiring to hear that music used on popular TV promos, films and shows.”

Production Music has trickled through to the commercial realm, with crate diggers flicking through production music archives, handpicking tracks for sampling. Some great examples can be heard in Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’, Nas’ ‘Back When’, KAYTRANADA’s ‘Drive Me Crazy’ and Beck’s ‘Walls’. This helps to change the notion of anonymity within production music at it creates a bond with commercial artists. The Horrors’ Tom Furse delved into the Bruton Vaults Anthologies to handpick a selection of Exotica tracks for the album, Tom Furse Digs. Furse later went on to release his debut solo EP ‘Child of a Shooting Star’ which was inspired by the Bruton Vaults release. In a statement, Furse said: “Oh the curious world of library music […] there are gems here to be found; shining and unique oddities”.

Curious it may be, but if music makers are looking for rare snippets to embed into their body of work, they’re bound to find something no one has heard before and reinvigorate the original in the process. Sampling took centre stage at WhoSampled’s Samplethon event which gave a group of ‘renowned UK diggers, producers and beatmakers’ access to the Bruton Vaults archives and challenged them to create a track in a day using the Bruton Vaults archive samples.The album,Samplethon — Digging The Bruton Vaults,was the finished product, proving again just how these hidden production music tracks can be given a new and relevant spin (literally as it even had a limited-edition vinyl release, as well as digital).

This invested interest in the archives of hidden treasure tracks has also seen more commercial artists taking to the studio to record library music. With the likes of Maxïmo Park, Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke and Julia Michaels producing albums, this strengthens the synergy between the commercial and library music world even more. The quality of production is just as important as the Artist and Composer roster, with some albums being recorded in iconic spaces such as Abbey Road Studios and Capitol Studios, following in the footsteps of music greats: The Beach Boys, Amy Winehouse and The Beatles to name but a few.

Working within product management, Universal Production Music’s Cara Kemlo has seen the evolution of sourcing and distributing production music first-hand: “When I first started in 2003, all production music was released physically, so we would have to press up to 10,000 units of each album and distribute these internationally to representatives in over 25 countries, as well as mailouts to thousands of clients in the UK.”

It’s no surprise that the introduction of digital technology transformed this way of working, and websites are obviously nowthe main platform for delivering music today. “Moving from physical to digital delivery has made the turnaround of content much faster, and subsequently reduced the environmental impact by the decrease in manufacturing and distribution.”

The recent resurgence of vinyl has been the catalyst for some production music albums being pressed to plastic. In 2016, Friendly Fires frontman Ed Macfarlane released a compilation album filled with 80s synth soundscapes and ethereal effects to boot. The album, Glistens, received mentions in well-renowned music publications and was released on vinyl. Not only does it bring a tangible element to the release, but it brings it back full circle to when vinyl was the main distribution format for the industry.

“We still package our digital releases as albums online” continues Cara, “so it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves over the next few years. I imagine a lot of the people working in our office today might find it hard to believe that if a client requested a track back then, it would be packed up and posted out to them.”

Production music continues to evolve, and with the emergence of technology ever-growing, it won’t be long until the way we discover this music will change again. Hosting playlists on streaming services such as Spotify offers an alternative route for users to access production music within digital domains, bridging the gap between commercial and library music once more. In fact, the aforementioned samples of Gnarls Barkley etc, can be found in a Spotify playlist, ‘Sample Sounds’ , curated by the UK Music Supervision and Production team.

Library music can fit into any scenario and more artists are submitting their work to slot into TV dramas, or motivating promos by the minute, putting another spin on the music, which can evoke just as much emotion or reaction as commercial tracks. So, next time you catch some trailers at the cinema, or are channel hopping through adverts, open your ears to the music being used — you never know, this unassuming track could be written, sung, or recorded by one of your favourite artists.

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