Like most musicians, I am constantly creating new ideas. I keep a database of literally thousands of musical ideas, from short rough sketches to fully completed pieces – all categorised for easy access.

For many years, that database just lay there getting bigger, as I added new music to it daily. Five years ago, I decided to do something about it.

Library music (or production music) is licensed for use in TV, film, radio, documentaries, adverts etc. It is essentially “off the shelf” music that can be used quickly and easily.

The user (say, a producer of a TV programme), will look for a certain type of music in an online music library. When they find the one they like, they licence the music from the library. The composers are paid when the music is licenced, and also paid by PRS when it is broadcast.

This was an exciting prospect to me, so I started approaching libraries in 2019. I did a ton of research (including this great book by Dan Graham), making notes, completing tracks, and working out which libraries to approach.

There are two ways of working with music libraries. You can either create a concept for an album to pitch to labels (a couple of mine are an album of heartbreaking solo piano, and sports guitar rock tracks). If you have an album that is cohesive, complete and ready to go, a library is more likely to take it on.

The other way is to compose to briefs that libraries send out. They’ll say something like “We want epic guitar tracks with a nineties feel, 2-3 mins long, two tracks per composer please.” And you submit tracks within that brief.

I managed to get into libraries pretty easily and started working with most of them throughout 2019.

One thing I would advise to anyone looking into doing library music – you don’t really get paid for the first couple of years. The journey between submitting your album and seeing a return is a long and arduous one; labels might take ages to publish your work, then clients have to find it and use it, then the money has to make its way back to the publisher in time for one of their bi-annual payment schedules, and the broadcast money will be even further behind.

So, although my music was being used almost immediately, I didn’t make a single penny in 2019. In 2020, I made a few hundred pounds. In 2021 and 2022 things have started looking up and I now make 50% of my income through library music.

I love doing it. It feels very freeing being able to do pretty much any style of music as someone, somewhere would probably have a need for it. Some of my music (indie guitar, surprise surprise) is more successful than others (breakbeat) but I love doing it all.

It’s amazing to see where tracks end up, and I’ve created a chart that shows how each track is performing.

I’ll leave you with my favourite album that I’ve worked on; it’s called Alone (published by the huge German publisher Sonoton) and is relatively new. Sparse, late night, eerie and mildly jazzy vibes.

This time last year, I wrote a blog that included my hopes for 2021.  Part of that was a lot of non-musical stuff, such as going for some walks in the Peak District, seeing more friends, living a little more.  

This year, I’ve managed to do that!

You see, when working in a studio, on your own, in a home environment, it’s very easy to become a hermit of sorts.  I’ve always felt that the career in music that I worked so hard for could be taken away at any point if I don’t keep going. 

And so over the years I did just that – lots of working and less time for socialising, fun stuff and exercise.  I’m ashamed to say that I’ve put on over two stone since I started doing this full-time, ten years ago.

So, what changed?  The first lockdown in March 2020 made me realise how valuable being sociable is.  I missed pubs, gigs and walks.  As I mentioned in the blog, I made a massive list of things I wanted to do when restrictions were lifted.  But at the same time, I kept working frantically as I was certain that my work would dry up at any time.

Kinder Scout in June.

My wife pointed out that I wasn’t really taking much time off, usually two weeks a year; a week for a holiday in summer and a week for Christmas.  And I’d invariably get sick at those times!

So this year I gave myself more time, no matter what the financial cost.  In fact, I actually had the month June off and took some time to do lots of walks, see friends, do things with family and just relax.  It was incredible, and easily one of the best things I’ve ever done! 

But even better than that is the fact that my work has improved.  I feel like I’m making better decisions and creating better sounds with a much clearer head.  I’ll ensure I do the same in 2022.

There have been a few other changes this year – I got air conditioning installed in my studio, which has been a game-changer and made a lot more sessions possible.  I recently re-arranged the studio to give me more space, and I bought a standing desk to go with my sitting desk.

I’ve had plenty of people in the studio this year, recording all kinds of things.  I’ve stopped blogging about things I’ve produced, for a number of reasons too boring to go into here – but I have another new idea; I’m hopefully going to do some audio podcast interviews with people I’ve worked with.  Watch this space!  

And finally, this year I have spent a lot of time creating library music.  I started in 2019 with the aim of creating 100 pieces of library music a year.  As it stands at the end on 2021 I have 277 tracks and they have started generating income.  I’ll write more about this in my next blog.

In the meantime, happy new year and here’s to 2022!

The only decent photo of me taken in the past ten years
– taken by my eight-year-old son…

This is the final instalment in my blog series about how to become a music producer (here are parts 1, 2, 3 and 4). This one goes into the qualities and skills you need.

The skillset for a music producer is a very varied one. Some people think you just need to know the technical side of how to work a compressor or place a microphone, but honestly, that’s just a small per centage of the job requirements.

On a day-to-day basis, I am all of these things:

* a producer
* a composer
* a recording engineer
* a session musician
* a programmer
* a multi-instrumentalist
* a mixing engineer
* a songwriter
* an arranger
* a fresh pair of ears
* a friend
* an ideas person
* a problem solver
* a very tactful person
* a motivator
* a soundboard
* a safe space
* a communications expert
* a therapist
* a hub
* a man in the know
* an organiser of ideas
* a very very quick thinker
* my own accounts manager
* my own secretary
* my own marketing manager
* my own social media manager
* my own website updater
* and…er….a blog writer.

Each one of these things is kind of essential. For example, if you’re great at the technology side of it but not an approachable, friendly person, it won’t work. Or if you are great at the music side of things but don’t have a can-do attitude it won’t work.

Finally, here are some tips I’ve learnt over the past ten years:

Be Reliable
In an industry where people are anything but reliable, make sure you stand out by delivering what you promise, in good time. If people know they can trust you, they will come back, I promise.

Be Honest
Again, there are a lot of bullshitters out there and I pride myself on not being one of them. I don’t claim to have worked with a loads of famous artists and I won’t promise that your song will appear on the next Beyonce album, but I will promise that I will deliver what I say I will, and do the best work I possibly can. People appreciate that.

Be Communicative
Never go quiet on a client. Answer their messages promptly and let them know what you’re up to if you’re working away in the background. If there is any problem with meeting a deadline or you’re struggling with a particular project, let the client know. They will appreciate your honesty.

Be Available
If someone calls you and asks you to do a job with an ultra-quick turnaround, say yes. If you’re too busy – make time by cutting further into your evenings. If you’re worried that they’ll think you’re not busy enough because you’ve made yourself available at short notice, get over yourself; you’re just doing yourself out of work.

The client isn’t bothered about whether you have other work on or whether you’ve got a date on Thursday or whether you have evenings off. They just want you to do the job, and if you can take it on without fuss and deliver on time, that’s a happy client who will most likely come back to you again. Everyone wins (apart from your date).

Be a Perfectionist, Every Time.
Whatever I’m working on, I want it to be amazing. I have never, ever said “that’ll do” to something I’m working on. It’s got to be brilliant.

…But Not Too Much!
Know when to stop. The problem with music production, especially in this day and age, is that there are infinite possibilities and options, and you can get bogged down with the minutiae of a track that, honestly, no one will hear or care about. I often imagine it like Google Maps – sometimes, you have to zoom out and see the bigger picture.

I remember a few years ago I was sweating over whether I was using the right compressor on a snare. When I gradually zoomed out, the process was like this:

“No one listening to the song will care whether the LA2A compressor that you use on the snare is the silver edition, the grey edition or the standard edition; because no one cares if it’s an LA2A compressor; because no one cares if there is a compressor; because no one cares about the snare; because no one cares about the drums; because no one is listening to the instrumentation; because they’re too busy listening TO THE SONG.”

Be prepared to work very, very hard
At any given time, you’ll find me either in the studio or spending valuable time with my wife and two kids. I don’t have a great social life. I am often seen working 12-14 hour days – extremely early mornings, very late nights, the lot.

This kind of insane commitment is necessary to get and retain jobs, keep artists/clients happy and also to get your work perfect. You need that work ethic. I consider myself always open and can be found taking calls at 11am at night and then jumping out of bed at 5am to working on a last-minute project that needs to be finished for 9am.

Specialise
Know what you’re good at and do it. People will come to you for that thing. I’m good at guitar-based music and that’s what most people come to me for. If someone asks you for something you don’t think you can deliver, then say so. Don’t just take the money and deliver substandard sounds. I get asked if I can do Dubstep, EDM, hip hop etc and I’m sure I could have a stab at it but I know guys that do them brilliantly so I pass that work onto them and they pass any pop/rock/acoustic/indie/ambient onto me. The client gets what they want, and the musician you’ve passed the job onto owes you one. Simple.

Having said that, be adaptable
R&B is not a style of music I know a lot about and some R&B/rap artists have worked with me simply because they wanted a different approach and a different sound. And it can be quite refreshing working in fields you’re not “qualified” to do – it means that you take risks and could come up with something original.

One of my favourite projects was working on a breakbeat album. The music library said they had faith that I’d come up with some good stuff and I had a lot of fun making it by warping the guitars and drums I usually work with.

Charge for your Work
I did this from the very start, when I started producing tracks by my friends. It felt very awkward, but I wanted to think with the mindset of a business from the word go, and I think my friends felt there was more value in the music when it had been paid for.

When you start out, there will be dozens of people that offer you soundtrack work right, left and centre and they’ll say it’s great promotion for you and you’ll get full credit for it and it will look great on your CV and there’ll definitely be future opportunities – AMAZING! But it’s unpaid. Give them a polite, but firm, thank you but no.

I also get a large number of artists approaching me and asking me to produce their tracks for free in return for 1% of their royalties when they’re famous. Again, thank you for considering but I need to make a living.

Value your work and other will also value it.

Stand Out From The Crowd
What are you up against? Well, recording technology has got a whole lot cheaper, easier to use and more accessible in the last 15 years which means that a lot of bands and artists now produce themselves, to varying degrees of quality. So, you’re also up against a thousand “bedroom producers” – hobbyists who will work for cheap or even free. Stand out from the crowd by looking professional. I got a good logo and website and advertised myself as the real thing rather than a hobbyist. Doing great work helps, too!

Don’t Wait For It To Happen, Just Do It
I dropped my job and went full-time in music during a recession, at a time when more and more artists were self-producing and video production companies were cutting costs on music by using cheap library music. I had no contacts in the industry. I was awarded no funding by the local council. I was (and still am) based in Derby, which is two hours from the hub of London. My only option was to start from the ground, make my own contacts, deliver great quality work time and again and work as hard as I could.

Thanks for reading this series of blogs; I hope it helps anyone thinking of getting into music production. If you have any further questions, just give me a shout!

In my previous blog, I talked about how I got my first work; in this one, I talk about what that work was like.

This tiny room was my first pro studio!

At the time, my studio was basically my loft. It was a poky little room with a height restriction (anyone over 6’1” had to stoop). I was kind of embarrassed about recording in there so I actually recorded my first few clients in my living room. There was a dining room chair to them to sit on, a microphone and a laptop. It was a hopelessly amateur, but my skills as a producer were there and it always sounded good.

I would then take the recordings and edit them and add extra instruments in my studio after they’d gone.

Word spread pretty quickly about my production work. Word of mouth is a brilliant thing and at one point there was a trail of eight artists that I worked with after one had recommended me to the next.

Within a year, I was working with about a dozen artists on various different projects.

As I worked with singer-songwriters I honed my working methods. I started to realise that music production is not just the musical or technical side of things, but there is also a huge personal and psychological aspect to my job as well. I had to be a problem solver, a motivator, an advisor, a counsellor, and many other things.

As well as this, there was the business side. It took me forever to work out a way of charging that worked for me and the artist. My current tier system is working pretty well.

Meanwhile, my first few composition jobs were corporate/explainer videos, where people wanted the music to precisely match the video content. One company called me, as their regular composer let them down and asked if I could have something for them by the next day. I delivered, and they used me from then on.

Another client asked me if I could do sound effects. I took a look at the video, decided I could do that and now sound effects is another string to my bow.

The thing I probably least expected, but has worked well for me, was voiceovers. Again, a client asked me if I knew of any voiceover artists, I put an advert out on social media and got a few replies, built a database of voiceover artists and now I am the go-to person for voiceover artists for a lot of clients, in the East Midlands and beyond. It was something that I never expected to end up doing, but you go where the work is, and I’m very happy to help people with their voiceovers!

Recently, I’ve got heavily into library music; but that’s a blog for another time.

Like any job, it’s been difficult at times. I’ve had tricky clients who don’t know what they want, I’ve had people trying to rip me off and most alarmingly, I’ve had days when my muse simply isn’t there.

I have one more blog to go – and that is a large list of pointers and advice to anyone thinking about going into this for a living.

Here’s Part 5

I was massively saddened to hear about the passing of Greg Gilbert of Delays yesterday.

A year or two ago, there was a thing going round on Facebook where people nominated each other to post their ten favourite albums.

I couldn’t narrow it down to ten so I broke the rules and posted 34. And one of them was Faded Seaside Glamour by Delays which, to be fair, would probably have made my top ten on any given day.

It’s an album of immense beauty. It sounds like a hazy, halcyon summer. The songs are incredible. Greg Gilbert’s ethereal falsetto is not of this Earth.

It’s an album that should have been absolutely huge but, for some weird reason, remains a kind of cult classic. A band that didn’t fit into any of the pigeon-holes of the mid-naughties, as there didn’t seem to be a category called Life-Affirming Transcendent Pop Beauty at the time.

I could go though all of its 12 tracks and say something wonderful about each one.

The graceful pop of their best known song Long Time Coming, the divine chorus to Nearer Than Heaven, the heart-breaking feel of Satellites Lost, sublime three-part vocals on the bridge of Stay Where You Are…

And finally, You Wear The Sun is in the running for my favourite song, EVER. Only 100,000 streams on Spotify and I swear half of those are from me.

Summer may be over, but blast this album out and it will feel like it’s still here.

In the third part of this series about how to become a music producer (here’s part 1 and part 2), I talk about how I found work in the first few months.

I was now in a position where I had finished my job – it felt very weird when the 27th of the month came and went and no one paid me.  Things got real; it was all down to me from here!

I spent those first six months working ludicrous hours to get my name out there and ensure that people heard of me.  Here’s what I did in those months:

A screenshot of my first website.

Firstly, I wanted to look professional and stand out so the first thing I did was to get a website and logo.  I sweated for ages over a name for my business until my website developers just suggested I just call it Haynes Music Productions.  I didn’t like the name (still don’t) but I loved the logo, and I think it’s added a touch of extra professionalism to what I do.

I also went on an equally invaluable SEO course that gave me a few tips on how to do well on Google.  I implemented the tips, zoomed to the top of Google within weeks and have stayed on the first page for people looking for music producers ever since.

Secondly, my local university offered a course for new creative businesses called Making Creativity Pay.  I can’t express how valuable this was to me.  It delved into all the aspects of business that creative people are a bit crap at – pricing your work, copyright, invoicing, planning etc.  As well as this, it was a great source of networking and I got my first few composition jobs from it.

The local paper chose to do a feature on me after a networking event. I cringe when I see this, but it all helped!

Speaking of networking, I had decided to spread the word and went to networking events all around the East Midlands.  Some of the more creative-based events were great, but I do remember finding myself in a room with accountants and executives, smirking as I introduced myself as a music producer.  But I gave out the business cards anyway and sod it, I got a free breakfast.

I’d turn up at open mic nights, film festivals, animation groups, anything where there was people that might need to hire a jobbing musician. And let me tell you, I HATE networking. I don’t have a natural ability to chat and sell myself, but it did the trick in those early days, and got me known.

At one point, I found myself doing a display at an exhibition for creative businesses.  The guy exhibiting next to me turned out to be a man called Paul Cummings who had made dozens of ceramic poppies.  Cynically, I asked myself how ceramic poppies could ever take off.  A few years later I got the answer to that question when nearly a million of them were commissioned as a war memorial around the tower of London, and then sold for £25 each!

I also got some posters made up advertising my services and put them into every music shop in the East Midlands.

And finally, I was working on a gigantic list of about 1,000 video production companies, animation companies and creative agencies in the East Midlands.  I emailed each one of them individually to advertise my services as a composer.  I remember thinking that even if just five of them got back to me it would be a good start.  Indeed, five of them did get back to me, and I was cooking on gas!

At the same time, I’d built my website to appeal to singer/songwriters and I was starting to get a lot of work through in that area.  It built up organically:

The first job I got was from an acquaintance.

The second was from someone I didn’t know in Derby.

The third was from someone further out in the East Midlands.

The fourth was from someone in a complete different part of the UK.

The fifth was from someone in the USA.

The sixth was from someone on Saturn.

Okay, that last one wasn’t strictly true. But I was surprised that I was starting to get work from around the UK and beyond; I had assumed that I’d just be working with local artists. The promotion that I’d put in place opened up a whole new market, and one that I’m still delighted to be working today.

Now people knew who I was and what I did, the hard work was about to start…

Go to part 4