One of the most important parts of finishing your film is putting the perfect music onscreen. You probably envisioned a specific soundtrack to your movie, and you no doubt wrote to the same playlist every day. But one of the biggest problems that independent filmmakers run into when they’re finalizing their movie is that they run out money and can’t afford to pay for the big song that they were hoping to put in the film’s climactic scene. Working as much as I have in the independent film world, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. Just recently, I was giving notes on the rough cut of a friend’s movie and the temp music they were using was filled with modern indie music. Songs by Tame Impala, The XX, etc, and they were married to these tracks. Obviously, once they looked into licensing fees for the songs and saw that they’d have to cough up about a hundred thousand dollars they started looking for new options. I suggested that they look into working with a song library that houses music by smaller independent artists and I think they found something even better.
I don’t know why the knowledge of music libraries isn’t more common. The only reason I know about them is because I’ve played in a few bands and have worked with multiple licensing companies. I think a lot of filmmakers are under the impression that the only options afforded to them are paying big bucks for a massive hit (or its indie equivalent), hiring their friends to write music that sounds like the music that they want, or doing it themselves. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t do something yourself. I’ve worked on projects with visionary directors who also happened to be amazing musicians and could whip up a song in the same time it takes to make a sandwich, but that’s usually the exception and not the rule. I’ve also been hired to write sound-alike songs for a couple of films and it never turns out the way anyone wants it to. It sucks for the musicians involved because they’re stuck trying to create something unoriginal that usually turns out to be garbage. And the director isn’t happy because he’d been imagining “Gimme Shelter” during the bullet filled denouement and now he has to settle for “May I Please Have a Place to Stay?”.
If the sound of elevator music fills your ears when I bring up sound libraries, never fear. A lot of real life musicians work with sound libraries and licensing companies as a way to make extra money when they’re not on tour. I don’t want to preach to you about record sales or how streaming isn’t as lucrative a business for the artist as it is the streaming companies, but as of this writing there’s not a lot of money in being a musician. Licensing your music to a sound library is one of the best ways to make a little cash on the side. So if you’re worried about the music in a sound library not being up to snuff with what you would expect from Tame Impala (or whatever band you fell in love with that’s threatening to cripple your post production budget) – get over it!
So speaking from experience (and complete annoyance that a director hated my sound-alike of a Rolling Stones tune) look into a sound library the next time you’re trying to find music to beef up your project. Not only will you find new music to fall in love with, but also the music will be at a price that won’t break your bank.