How to Find Production Music for Any Project

If you are a producer, director or project coordinator for any type of film, television or video project, you know how challenging it can be to find production that encapsulates fully the important themes and the message of your project. Not only is production music and background music for film and television often incredibly expensive, but the time required to shop around to the multitude of music providers or composers is also extensive. And since musical originality is often a concern, typically producers with limited budgets that can’t afford to pay a composer to create a score of music specifically for their film, television show or video project, but can buy popular music or previously used film scores run the risk of hearing the very same production music and background music they paid so dearly for in another film weeks or months later.

Many film and television professionals that do not have multi-million dollar budgets wonder what to look for in high quality production music. Because the market for background music of all varieties, particularly those that claim to be “affordable” and “original” can be so inundated with poor-sounding, purely imitative scores and individual musical pieces, weeding through the rocks to find the gems can be a painstaking process for which no one has the time or energy.

The following are four important elements to look for when shopping for the right production music and background music for your film, television or video project:

1. Excellent sound quality. This may seem like an obvious element, because it is often the most immediately noticeable when listening to good music, but many don’t think about sound quality unless it is very bad. If you are a producer or director, you probably have an understanding of sound quality in film or television, but may be less certain of your ability to gauge it in production music and background music. If you don’t have the benefit of having a musical expert on staff, you can certainly gauge the quality of the music yourself by thinking about a few important aspects. If the music has been recorded under the best conditions, you will hear a perfect balance between bass and treble, as well as consistent sound and textures regardless of the volume at which you are listening to the music. You will be able to pick out the individual sounds of different instruments and not just a muddle of sounds, some fairly indistinguishable.

2. Vivid, true instrumentation. Some production music that claims to be “affordable” sounds more like bad elevator music or music that has been recorded in a dark room by someone’s younger brother using a cheap synthesizer from the 1980’s. Even if the music is synthesized (and as a professional with a limited budget, you should understand that sometimes it has to be in order to keep costs down), it does not have to sound fake and hollow. Synthesizers are capable of producing instrument sounds that are true-to-life, and the best production music and background music will have depth and approach if not fully embody the richness and intricacies of real violins, cellos, brass, woodwinds, electric guitars and percussion. If you can tell the instruments are merely simulated, your audience will know as well.

3. Originality. This one seems like something obvious to look for in great production music, but is actually much more complicated than at first thought. If you can’t afford popular music, or don’t want to risk hearing the music you’ve selected in other films or television programs that have nothing to do with your unique project, you want to find background music that is exciting and innovative, but also makes some musical sense and has continuity, and most importantly, fits the overall feeling of your production. First-rate production music will have technical accuracy and stylistic importance, but will be special and able to stand alone as a piece of good music. Still, as a producer, director or project coordinator you will want something original that still invokes the attitude and style of your film and perhaps even reminds audiences of the popular pieces of music you could not afford.

4. Well-written and -performed music by artists with real and verifiable credentials. Production music providers, even the smaller ones, that are legitimate and of the finest quality will provide credentials for the artists and composers they enlist, and will have full and confirmable information about all aspects of their production music. Film and television professionals should be prepared to ask specific questions of these providers if this history is not readily available, because sometimes a very new production music provider will have talented musicians involved, but not necessarily yet have the resume to prove it. If the provider’s music has been used in other films and projects, you should ask for a list and make sure the projects are similar or at least remotely relevant in style and quality to your production.

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