Although a college education with coursework in composition, performance and recording technology will give you the foundational skills to compose for a production music library, it’s equally important to be passionate about music and possess an understanding of musical genres.
In regards to training, Munson says, “It all helps but you will find there are Composers with and without formal music education and varying degrees of skill and experience. In my years as a musician, Studio Player, Producer, and Engineer, I’ve worked in many genres so that helps tremendously.
[My wife] Robin comes from a whole different background, so together we can cover many musical bases. I know a lot of folks suggest sticking with what you know but, personally, I like challenging myself with different genres. We have some Latin tracks that have done quite well for us, but I have never played in a Latin band.
There is another track that is sort old school hip-hop that gets used constantly on TV and sells consistently on royalty-free sites. We’ve done some very retro early ‘50s, big band, rock, country — you name it they all make money.”
Jacobsen adds, “Good, experienced, well-rounded musicians generally makes the best Writers/Producers, in my experience.
For example, there are a lot of guys who listen to a lot of rap and they know what it sounds like and know that genre; they’ve never been to school but they’re very good at doing what they do. Most of the time good musicians have played in bands and have spent countless hours practicing their instruments, copying their favorite artists, playing those artists’ solos. They know song form and musical technology, which is not necessary but it’s very helpful if I say I want a four-on-the-floor bass drum disco beat.”
Jacobsen says this demonstrable knowledge of music is integral to getting accepted into his library. “The number one thing I look for if I do anything else with a song, is does the song do what it’s supposed to do?
In other words, I can put out a request for a rock song that sounds like whatever artist. If I ask for a minimal new age song do they send me that and have a handle on that? Is the song really strong, strong enough to beat out other songs in its class? I’ll get a request for a soundalike so it needs to sound like say, Kanye.
They’ll have a Kanye song in the rough draft of the show and they want to replace it, so if I send this out there and you send me something that sounds like somebody else, no. It has to be able to stand on its own.
The next thing is does the production sound professional? Are the instruments in tune? Is it mixed properly? Are the cymbals too loud and sticking out, or are the vocals too loud in the mix?
The last thing is, does the Writer or Producer understand that genre? I’ll get calls for bossa nova. Do you have the bossa nova sound?”