by Jerry Vigil
The last Q It Up question dealt with production libraries for imaging production. This month the question is, what are your favorite production libraries for commercial production? Tell us which libraries you are currently using. Share any likes/dislikes about these libraries if you want. And who makes the decision on what commercial production libraries to purchase?
Kevin Charles, Production Director, Oldies 94.5, Houston, Texas: At Oldies 94.5, KLDE in Houston we are currently using TM’s Mega Music library. It's satisfactory at best. Most of it sounds like pre-fab commercial beds—too much synthesized sound...not enough real instruments being played. I think that’s what I would like to see in my studio, a library with real musical instruments being featured. I inherited the Mega Music Library from the previous Production Director and hope to replace it with something at the start of 1999. It has a lot of good rip-offs of old songs—in other words, beds that sound like a Chicago song or the Pointer Sisters or Van Halen—but the rest leaves much to be desired. I have heard all the demos, and nothing has really caught my ear, so I am open to suggestions. The final decision will be mine as long as it fits within the budget guidelines.
Jay Rose, Jay Rose’s Digital Playroom, Brookline, Massachusetts: I keep large piles of discs (at least a hundred of each) from two publishers: The APM labels (KPM, Bruton, etc.) for projects that need the absolute best sound and arrangement and can afford needle drops; and Omni—on annual blanket—for everything else. I also have some buyout discs from some of the more creative small libraries, such as Mokal, to cover gaps.
I prefer cuts where the arrangements aren’t predictable, and the music is listenable on its own. Modern workstations let you edit quickly without mangling the music—the Audicy is a dream for that—so you can get an interplay going with the announcer’s natural spoken rhythm. To my ear, at least, this is a lot better than just rolling bland music under a voice.
Likes and dislikes? I love searchable CD-ROM indexes with audio samples. They save a lot of time, particularly if the index lets you search by a lot of different criteria. I also like multiple mixouts and short segments that can be mixed or overlaid to create new custom music.
I have no use for pre-edited :60s and :30s. They never hit copy points as well as custom-edited versions of longer cuts. That’s what workstations are for. I also have no use for identical, repeated verses that exist just to make a cut look longer on the disc’s label.
I hate music that’s performed out-of-tune, but since even the marginal libraries are using samplers, this is rare. On the other hand, I also hate sampled sounds that don’t sound real because the arranger has no concept of instrumental lines. The worst offenders are string parts: Listen guys, you can’t do a convincing string section by playing block chords, no matter how good the samples are. I also hate library cuts that sound like somebody just programmed a groove and is just ad-libbing keyboard or guitar riffs over it—too much buyout music is clearly built this way.
Steve Taylor, Production Director, WJXB/WIMZ/ WNFZ, Knoxville, Tennessee: When it comes to commercial production libraries, our stations have been through a few of them. As of late, the Network Short Trax library has been the workhorse, but, alas, it’s time to freshen up, yet again! We’re going to the CPL (Custom Production Library) from FirstCom. Our stations have been clients of theirs before, as I have been in the past at other stations. Right now, I’m real impressed with the Gotham collection, and Mark Arnold is a joy to work with.
Day-to-day, the use of Short Trax does a decent job. It is, of course, very versatile, but sometimes I find that it’s a little behind the times in terms of “is it hip or not?”. For rock radio, it doesn’t quite have the sounds that I hear in my head. For Soft A/C, it works QUITE well. And there are even some, although not enough, great sounds for Alternative. Also, the original Digital Production Library from FirstCom is good ole’ stand by stuff.
In terms of who buys: as Production Director, I have the ultimate decision. It’s up to me to sample material(s) and present said material(s) to the Program Directors and GM. Our GM, Craig Jacobus, likes to make sure that we’re fresh, which makes my job a joy come time to get a new library. Normally, we get into the two-year lease deal that most places offer for their big libraries. This is fine for us, and it makes sure that we don’t overwork our material.
I’m quite ‘Old School’ in terms of the companies that I buy from. Network and FirstCom’s respective people are always ready to make sure that I’ve got what I need. Considering the amounts of cash that stations I’ve been at have spent with those companies, I pretty much can make sure that the stations get a fine deal and great service, too.
Johnny George, Imaging Director, WFMS/WGLD/WGRL, Indianapolis, Indiana: We’re using a combo of libraries for our commercial production: Select CDs from Network’s new Short Tracks series, FirstCom Sound Designer I & II, and a buyout we still have on hand from years ago, the TM Century CDLP.
Commercial Production Director, Guy Forrest, is responsible for the commercial libraries. The FirstCom libraries tend to burn much quicker due to the lack of exclusiveness since radio, TV, and production houses in our market all seem to have it. So we try hard to stay on top of new releases and trade in our older CDs to stay ahead of the pack.
We like the new Short Tracks edition of Network since they streamlined their libraries to include only the :60s and :30s of each cut and put more tracks per CD so we can enlarge our collection without having so many wasted extra versions on a single CD.
Ty Ford, Technique, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland: Promusic.
Rick Gangi, KNBR/KTCT, San Francisco, California: We use a bunch of different libraries from FirstCom to AVDeli. Seems like 90% of the FirstCom library is recycled and repackaged every couple of years and that kind of pisses us off because some of the music they throw in is from 1986. But we have a good relationship with our rep, and they take care of us when we scream. FirstCom also puts out the Chappell line, which is very good if you’re looking for good beats, electronica, and hard melodic rock. AVDeli is very good too, hip, earthy, and current but again, recyclorama. The newest library we’ve gotten recently is Bruton. Excellent selection, very versatile, but expensive. Beside that, there’s a needle drop charge for Bruton. So, if I had to recommend a library, I’d go with Chappell for value, and if you have the pockets, Bruton.
Donnie Marion, Commercial Production Director, 104 KRBE, Houston, Texas: We use libraries from two companies, Associated Production Music (APM) and FirstCom. With each, I get to choose the discs that best fit the sound we want to offer our clients. I think I have about thirty discs from APM and close to 50 from FirstCom. I just began to work with FirstCom’s One Music Library, which has something they call Liquid Trax, which means, if you’ve found a cut you like, but it has horns and you don’t want horns, they provide not only the master, but several mix-outs. If you combine the mix-outs, you’ll get the instrument tracks from that cut on your DAW. Then you can mix out the horns if you want or make them louder. It’s a cool deal, but it’s for DAWs. They even have discs of elements, but they don’t provide the mix-outs for those (I wish they would). And there are discs that don’t have mix-outs available. The One Music is the first library I’ve heard about with the mix-out available in this fashion.
Some of the discs in my APM library have cooler sounds but no mix-outs, which of course requires much looping. That could become time consuming. From time to time, we have to use playlist music, or recent playlist music, or even an oldie, and not just when we’re advertising for record stores or night clubs.
Lee Edwards, Creative Services Director, WMXS-FM, Montgomery, Alabama: Currently we are using The Production Garden music library. They have some really good sounding stuff, except on their older libraries. The 100 series sounds really dated, so we sent it back. They sent us their latest library, “Music Street”—great stuff for all formats. Their “Manchester Music Library” is hot! Kind of a techno feel to a lot of it, but a lot of variety, too. It covers everything from World Beat to Blues and Slide Guitar. We also use the “AV2000” series and “Tune Ranch” libraries from the Production Garden. The majority of it is from pretty good to really good. That’s the reason we got rid of our FirstCom stuff. A little light in the country area though. But you’ll be hard pressed to beat the “Manchester” and “Music Street” libraries.
Dave Hilton, Production Director, KLAK-FM/KMKT-FM, Denison, Texas: Not that I really like the library, but Network Music is the only production library we have had since I took over Production Director duties at KLAK-FM(AC)/KMKT-FM(Country).
THE GOOD: 1) I do like the fact that they split the music up into up-tempo, mid-tempo, low-tempo, and industrial. 2) The music fits for both stations. 3) They don’t have any clones. 4) They don’t give you more music than you can use.
THE BAD: 1) I don’t like the lack of current sounding music. 2) A lot of the beds sound like bad elevator music to me. 3) Updates are slow to arrive. 4) Not enough up-tempo tracks.
I am currently looking for a new library so we can have more current sounding tracks. Our Network Music library will have to work until that time.
Gerry O’Donnell, Tipp FM Radio, Ireland: The main ones I use are FirstCom, Who Did That Music, Chappell, Bruton, Carlin, Killer Tracks, Just Jingles by Zomba Production Music, KPM, Atmosphere, etc.. In all, I’ve about 2000 CDs in the studio to choose from. Irish commercial radio stations are registered with the copyright agencies MCPS, PPI, and IMRO. We pay a royalty fee to these agencies for the tracks we use, they then pass it onto the music publishers. In return, the production library publisher’s agents send us the latest CDs. It’s a really great system. Oh, and I still have and sometimes use a collection of old Vinyl commercial production music albums from the eighties. God bless those things. Real collectors items.
Mark Fraser, Production, Metro Radio Group, Halifax, NS, Canada: We have a couple of older libraries that we purchased on buy-out. The Air Force “New Production Library” (which was a Canadian product out of Toronto) and FirstCom’s Digital Production Library. We got these back around 1987 when it became obvious that due to copyright laws, you couldn’t continue to use intros from obscure album cuts, instrumentals, etc.. Both libraries got pretty toasty (we do a lot of local spots), but now that the cuts have been rested, a lot of the FirstCom stuff still works. For the last few years we’ve leased the Toby Arnold & Associates libraries (Visions, Attitude, Attitude II, The Ultimate, Lifestyles and Fun Radio).
The decision on what to buy is left largely in our hands in the production department. We’ll tell the PD what we want, then it goes to the GM, then it comes back to us with a message to “see if we can get a better deal,” and so it goes until the deal is done. Really, I wish we could find some hot libraries on a buyout. It’s much easier to swing a one-time expense than to have to go back to the trough every few years.
Out of all the stuff we have I’d say the favorite has to be the Lifestyles library. It has more variety and more “real” sounding music. Some of the others, especially the first Attitude library, can be musically repetitive and cold. Of course, we can never have too much to choose from, and we look forward to either adding the newest Toby Arnold libraries (Attitude III and Lifestyles II) or perhaps finding something entirely new when renewal time comes up, though it will be hard to beat what Dolly and the folks at TA&A do for us.