Commercial Productions/ Library Music/ Library Music History
In the 70s and 80s I began getting calls to play on recording sessions for a form of music which at first I didn’t understand: library music. The composers would be players I already knew from regular sessions, musicians such as Alan Hawkshaw, Alan Parker, and Ray Russell. It was a friendly set-up and the producers encouraged me to write.
Library music (also known as production music) is the name given to recorded music that can be licensed to customers for use in film, television, radio and other media. It’s ready to wear music.
The logic behind it was that — for a reasonable fee — you could use the music on a production with the rights already ‘cleared’ worldwide. And as the composer gave their consent for any use of the music, it was always a surprise to see where a composition would later appear. A famous example of this was a piece — written by the late Stanley Meyers — that was eventually used as the theme in the famous film The Deer Hunter.
The various television and advertising agencies required the music to be recorded in specific lengths but in the days before the ease and sophistication of ProTools most edits were performed directly on the tape with a razor blade. The engineer needed to have a steady hand.
Often the composer would make life easier for everyone by writing each piece in readily useable lengths such as 59” and 29”
My first commission in 1983 was for Weinberger, now known as JW Media Music. The album — in vinyl format only — was called Bass Response.
Lansdowne studio was hired and I was able to bring in the best musicians: Tony Hymas on piano, Frank Ricotti on percussion, Mark Isham on Prophet V synthesiser, Ray Russell on guitar, and Harold Fisher on drums.
The music was performed live with no overdubs.
There was no sequencing in those days so I was required to write out full charts for each of the various pieces from which individual parts were then copied for each of the musicians. They had to be good readers.
Since that day I have composed and recorded a wide range of library music.
Most of these titles are still available. To hear any of the tracks go to the library company’s website at the top of each column on the library album page.
My most recent recording on Made Up Music is Unplugged (MUM 185), a delightful collection of simple acoustic tracks featuring mandolins, fiddles, guitars, and percussion: English and American flavoured folk, country, and bluegrass.