From recording to licensing: How to prepare your music for submission to a library

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Submitting your music to a library is a crucial step towards getting it licensed for use in any kind of productions. But before you hit submit, it's important to properly prepare your music to increase your chances of success. In this article, we'll share four essential tips to help you get your music library-ready.

I. How to research music libraries and submit music that fits their criteria

It’s important to pay attention to the specific music library you’re submitting your music to. Each library has its own unique requirements and preferences for the music they want, so understanding these differences is a key part of preparing your music for submission. This involves listening to the music they already have in their catalog, reviewing their submission guidelines, and considering their target audience.
When looking into music libraries, it’s important to know what kind of media they serve. Some may focus on supplying music for movies and TV shows, while others might cater to video games or commercials. Another important factor to consider is the genre of music the library is interested in. Some libraries may have a specific focus on a particular genre, while others may be more open to a range of styles. This way, you can choose a library that’s the right fit for your work.

Taking the time to research and understand the library you are submitting to can greatly increase your chances of getting your music licensed. By ensuring that your music fits their criteria, you are more likely to catch their attention and potentially secure a licensing deal.


II. The importance of creating edit versions

When you submit music to music libraries, they typically request different edit versions of the song, such as underscore or 30-second versions. Offering various edit versions provides music editors or supervisors more options, enhancing the likelihood of your music being use
It’s essential to recognize that every song is unique, and there are no hard and fast rules for creating edit versions. What works for one piece may not work for another, and determining which versions make sense can sometimes be challenging. The following information should be considered a basic guideline, offering an overview of common practices and possibilities rather than a definitive instruction.
Let’s take a closer look at these edit versions:

1. Full-length versions

These are adaptations made from the original, full-length version and are often used as background music in various media. They include:

a) No lead Instrument

These are full-length versions where the main melody has been muted, allowing the counterpoint instrumentation to remain. This makes them ideal for background music, where the main melody might otherwise clash with on-screen dialogue. For example:
“No Lead Instrument” Version: The original version with the lead instrument muted.
“Karaoke” Version: Ideal for songs that consist of a vocal melody.

b) Reduced instrumentation (also called “stripped-down”)

These versions reduce or mute the main melody, counterpoints, and other distracting elements, retaining only harmonic instruments like chord pads and arpeggios, offering a more subtle musical accompaniment that enhances the visual scene without distracting the viewer.


The importance of having multiple versions readily available discussed during a webinar held by the Production Music Association

2. Alternate versions

This category includes versions that have been remixed or rearranged. For example, a “Remix” version, a “Trailerized” version, or an “Acoustic” version.

a) Remixed version

A remix is a version of a song that has been reworked by a producer or remixer. The original recording is often edited, rearranged, and/or has additional elements added to it such as new instrumentation, electronic beats or effects, or vocal samples. The purpose of a remix is to give a fresh spin to the original song, and to make it more suitable for different contexts.

b) Acoustic version

An acoustic version of a song is typically a stripped-down, unplugged, or live version of the original recording. In an acoustic version, the focus is often on the song’s melody and lyrics, with minimal instrumentation, and sometimes features alternate vocal harmonies. The purpose of an acoustic version is to showcase the song’s composition in a more intimate, organic way, highlighting the songwriting and performance skills of the artist.

c) Trailerized version

A trailerized version of a song is a specific type of remix that is designed for use in movie trailers, TV spots, or video game trailers. More on “Trailerizing”.

3. Time-cuts or “cut-downs”

Time-cuts include different versions of the same piece of music edited to fit specific durations. These are crucial in media where predefined lengths of music are required.
Typical cut-down versions are 60-second, 30-second, 15-second cuts. These are primarily used for commercials, promos, or short videos, these variations meet the precise length requirements of various media platforms like TV or YouTube. The 30-second version is particularly popular for advertising and promos, streamlining the process for media producers to create compelling content.
Overall, cut-downs play an indispensable role in the production music industry, offering convenience and flexibility to media creators.

4. Sting and Link

This category consists of short elements extracted from the original piece of music. Together, Stings and Links offer valuable tools for music editors to enhance storytelling and crafting the desired mood, especially when working with the original music piece.

a) Sting

In the context of production music libraries, a sting is a short musical phrase or sound effect that is used to punctuate or emphasize a specific moment in a media production, such as a transition, a reveal, or the introduction of a new element.
A sting is typically very short, often lasting only a few seconds or less, has a buttoned ending or hit, and is designed to create a specific emotional or dramatic effect. Stings can be musical or non-musical, and may include sounds such as a drum hit, a guitar riff, or a synthesizer flourish, among others.
Production music libraries often offer multiple stings of the same song, such as a music or drum hit, to provide flexibility in editing and fitting the music to different scenes or project needs.

b) Link

Links, on the other hand, serve as connecting pieces that allow music editors to bridge different scenes seamlessly, creating a cohesive flow.
Unlike Sting versions, which have a buttoned ending, Link versions have an open ending that can create a sense of continuity and flow between different parts of a project or scene. Link versions can end on a non-tonic chord or include a different melodic ending than the full-length version.

5. Stems

Stems are individual submixes of a song’s tracks that group together related instruments or sounds. For example, drum stems may include all of the drum tracks in a song, while vocal stems may include all of the vocal tracks. In addition to drums and vocals, common stem groups include bass, guitar, keyboards, strings, horns, and percussion. Some producers may also create stems for specific effects or processing, such as reverbs or delays. The number and type of stems can vary depending on the complexity of the song and the needs of the production.
Stems are a crucial tool in post-production as they allow for greater control and flexibility in the mixing and mastering process. They can be particularly useful when certain elements in the song are in conflict frequency-wise with the dialogue or any other element in the scene, as they allow for adjustments to be made to the level and frequencies.
Additionally, stems can come in handy when a Music Supervisor or director chooses to use a song and “trailerize” it by adding cinematic elements like strings, orchestral percussions, etc. while leaving some elements of the original version out.

So what versions do I need to submit?

For an optimal selection of versions, it’s recommended to submit the “Full Version,” a “No Lead Melody” version, one or two “Underscores,” one or two 30-second versions, two to three “Stems,” and a few “Stings” and “Link versions,” typically two or three of each.
Additional versions such as “Acoustic versions” or “Remix version” or even “Trailerized version” can be considered as an added bonus.

III. The technical details you need to know

Submit your music in the correct format: The library may specify what formats they accept, but generally, you should provide high-quality audio files such as WAV or AIFF.
Let’s have a closer look on the technical requirement:

1. Bit rate and sampling frequency

In professional film post-production, the most commonly used audio format is 24-bit 48kHz WAV or AIFF. Other formats such as MP3 or AAC may be suitable for other purposes, but are generally not used in professional film post-production due to their lower quality and limited editing capabilities.

2. Clean editing; Reverb Tails

It is crucial to have all tracks and versions with clean edits and to ensure that the high-quality of the original recording is maintained. Any unwanted noise or artifacts in the recording can be very distracting and take away from the overall production value.
Additionally, abrupt cuts can also negatively affect the flow of the scene or project, and it’s important to make sure that all edits are smooth and seamless.
For example if a track ends with reverb, it’s best to leave the reverb tail and not cut it off. This is because cutting off a reverb tail can sound unnatural and abrupt. Instead, it’s best to leave the reverb tail and let the editor make the decision on how to cut it according to their specific needs.

3. Mastering or “Don’t squeeze the master”

It’s important to leave enough headroom in the final mix of a song. Especially when it’s used in post-production, as it will go through multiple stages of dynamic processing. Overly compressing or limiting the mix can cause problems for the editor or mastering engineer down the line. Therefore, avoid squeezing the master. Instead, aim for a healthy level with enough room for adjustments. This allows the editor or mastering engineer to tailor the sound to the specific needs and preferences of the project.
It is important to remember that a song can be quickly mastered and compressed, but it cannot be easily undone if it’s over-compressed.

IV. Organizing your music for submission: Tips for accurate metadata and consistency

Chapter IV focuses on the importance of organizing your music properly when submitting it to a music library. In addition to providing high-quality tracks, you will also need to ensure that all of the necessary metadata is included and accurate.

1. Copyright ownership

One key piece of information that music libraries require is copyright ownership information. This can include information about the ownership of the master recording, as well as the composition itself.
You will need to provide all relevant information regarding copyright ownership, such as the names of all writers and performers involved in the recording.

2. Additional metadata

It’s important to ensure that additional information like the track titles and artist names are consistent and accurate across all of your tracks. In addition, you may also need to provide information about the instruments used, the genre of the music, and any relevant descriptive information about the sound or style of the music.


Our article explores essential tips for preparing music submissions to a music library. In the first chapter, we discuss the importance of considering the type of library you are submitting to and tailoring your search to find the most suitable library for your music. In the second chapter, we emphasize the importance of creating edit versions of your music, such as underscore and 30-second versions, to increase the chances of your music being used or pitched. In the third chapter, we focus on the technical details, including sampling rates, mixing, and mastering requirements. Finally, in the fourth chapter we highlight the importance of properly organizing your music when submitting to a library, including accurate metadata, information about copyright ownership, and details about edit versions of the track.
By following these essential tips, you can increase your chances of success as a music library artist and increase the likelihood of your music being featured in media productions.