Audio On The Web

People often ask about the music and sound effects we use when designing creative for the web. It’s something we have put countless hours into and has long been an integral part of our design methodology, starting in the mock up phase. Pace, feel, tone, excitement and drama can be made or broken depending on the audio used. Often, music seems like an afterthought.

Let’s look at some of the sources for music we use, and how we look at choosing audio elements. (Of course, we are talking for the web here, so bandwidth is still an issue.) The norm for a long time was to use a six or seven second loop because longer length music, say a full length track that might be two or three minutes long must fully download before it can be played, causing long waits across dial-up lines. However, with streaming audio in Flash we have had great results offering several long form music selections, via an MP3 audio player. This allows the site visitor to have complete control with the functionality of an Ipod type player, track selection, pause, play, rewind and volume. MP3’s stream progressively meaning that it can start playing before it is fully downloaded. In the past, we often needed to use loops to keep file size manageable.
There are many sources for music for online use. The music used in any type of audio or visual product is called “Production Music” and there are two different methods of buying music. One is called “Buy-Out or Royalty Free Music” and the second is called “Needle-Drop Music Libraries” The two vary in both quality and price.

The more commonly known “Buy-Out or Royalty Free Music” allows you to purchase a single track or a collection of tracks, pay a one time fee and use it as many times you like in as many projects you like forever without incurring any other cost. This type of production music gives you the best value and ROI however it often comes at the expense of the quality of the music. You can find Royalty free music as low as $30.00 each or you could buy a whole disc with 15 to 20 tracks for about $80 to $150. This is not to say that all Buy-Out Royalty Free Music sucks and many libraries quality have greatly improved over the past 5 years buy if you want your site or production to evoke the emotion of a major motion picture and not sound like elevator music, you have to step up to a Needle-Drop music library.

The Cadillac of production music “Needle-drop libraries” is what you use when only the best and highest quality music will do. With a “needle-drop” library, you pay a fee for each composition you use, each and every time it is used in your production. There are many variables that go into pricing such as intended delivery platform of the project (i.e. a website, DVD, TV commercial, Radio Commercial), where the project will be shown (local, regionally, or nationally) and the amount of copies a non-broadcast project like a DVD will be duplicated and delivered. Individual needle-drop fees typically range from $100.00 per track, per use for a local commercial all the way up to $1500 and higher for a worldwide film trailer. Since we are talking about the internet you can expect to pay about $150 to $200 per track per year or buy what’s called a “Production Blanket” and use it perpetually for a higher cost. Basically, you get what you pay for. Most of the music that these companies compose and sell can be heard in many national, big name television commercials and tons of major motion pictures and trailers.

Some examples of Needle-drop music can be heard in a few of our recent productions. This is a good example of not just how fantastic music can make a production sound great but it also illustrates how different cuts of music can make the same voice over and project take on a whole different feeling.

Sample 1
Sample 2
Sample 3

If you Google “production music” you will get 166,000,000 results so let me save you your sanity and give you a few links to the companies that we use and feel are the best.

Royalty Free Music
These guys seem to have a good selection of royalty free music tracks and royalty free music loops that sounds really good.
Offering Broadcast quality production music available as full cuts and loops. Instant downloads with selectable file format.

Needle-drop libraries
The current focus of the catalog is advertising and promo music with a special concentration on tracks for major motion picture advertising and high energy promos. Recent Projects include X-Men 3, Monster House, Sentinel, Zathura, Spiderman, Taking Lives, Robots and Smallville.
This company is comprised of former video editors and producers from ABC News who decided to start a music production company to provide more appropriate music that producers could actually use. A tool that they offer “Look and Load” is a DVD based music browsing system that contains the entire library that features over 1000 titles and makes the phrase “we need to find a great piece of production music” less of a problem. Recent Projects include Batman Begins, Chicken Little, The DaVinci Code, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and Minority Report.

Nino Del Padre
Del Padre Digital
Helping Businesses Exceed Expectations

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