There is a consistently growing trend in film and TV music, which is a shift towards more library music. This means previously written tracks that are selected and licensed, as opposed to music written specifically to picture. Although many composers think that library music is evil, plain and simple, I am not one of them. I think there are many advantages to library music, it just has to be used in the proper way.
Library music is appropriate when the music is just there for the sake of being music. If you need “wallpaper” because it helps fill out the ambience of the room, a library track is a perfectly suitable option. If you have a bunch of talking heads and no real emotional arc to a scene, a library track might be all you need.
The times not to use library tracks are when the music actually needs to contribute to the story. Unless it’s a rare case where the scene was intentionally edited to a specific piece of music, a library track can never substitute for original and intentional music when it comes to carrying a scene. There are too many nuances, specific hits and moments to emphasize. A library track will blare right on through and not even consider the moment to moment implications the score can have on the way a character is perceived, the energy and pacing of action, thematic links between larger story arcs and other elements throughout the big picture, and so on.
When you just need some wallpaper and you don’t really care what shade of green it is, a library track will probably suit you just fine. But when you want the music to serve a real purpose and become an integral part of the story, don’t undervalue the power of a custom score; the quality of your project depends on it.
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