Library Music in Audiovisual Media

Library Music in Audiovisual Media Online Conference

Conference/RMA Study Day (15-16 September 2022)

Library music (also known as “stock” or “production” music) occupies a pervasive presence in audiovisual media. Rather than hiring a composer to write a bespoke score, or working with pre-existing commercial tracks, media producers can turn to catalogues of library cues—organised by categories such as mood, genre and instrumentation—to provide sonic content for their productions (see Durand 2020; Fink 2000; Tagg 2006). In the present day, library music is deployed in a wide range of contexts, including television, film, advertising, trailer production, online content, radio and background “muzak” in commercial spaces, whilst its antecedents can be found in the collections of musical cues of the silent film era. Despite this ubiquity, the creators of library music are most often excluded from broadcast credits and thus rendered “invisible” to audiences. In addition, library music is often overlooked in academic writing, or approached with prevailing negative value judgements. However, recent work—especially in relation to television (Donnelly 2005; Fitzgerald 2009; Huelin 2022; Mandell 2002; Wissner 2015), trailer production (Deaville 2017) and labour practices (Nardi 2012)—has begun to redress this balance. Given the emergence of recent disruptive technologies and practices in the digital era (such as royalty-free licensing models), and the renewed life of “vintage” library tracks through sampling and related fandom practices, there are ample opportunities to consider library music anew.

For this conference/study day, we invite proposals relating to all aspects of library music production, dissemination and reception, situated within a diverse array of cultural, geographical and historical contexts. We seek to understand both how library music is used within particular case studies and to chart its position across media cultures more broadly, with a primary focus on digital contexts of production and reception.

We would be delighted to hear from academics, composers and industry professionals spanning a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, whose work engages with library music in any form. We welcome proposals from postgraduate and early career researchers and would be pleased to receive submissions from those working outside of traditional academic contexts.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The selection and synchronisation of library music for specific media texts (in film, television, social media, trailers, advertising etc.) and contexts (e.g. as theme tunes, underscore, sound effects etc.)

  • Library music and intertextuality (the reuse of library tracks in multiple productions; the transformation/recomposition of tracks by users; the relationship between library music and other musical types)

  • Library music production practices (industrial changes in the digital era; the role of virtual instruments and samples; the design of tracks for different media forms)

  • Library music composers (their (in)visibility and anonymity; issues of credits and royalties; working routines and practices; distinctions between amateurs and professionals; notable composers) and related production personnel (e.g. music supervisors, library directors, post-production editors etc.)

  • Stereotypes and formulae in library music catalogues (e.g. representations of race, gender or disability in textual keywords and sonic characteristics)

  • Library music and technology (digital practices of composition, dissemination and monitoring of library music; the benefits/challenges of artificial intelligence for music creation and categorisation)

  • Library music and licensing (conflicts between traditional and novel music licensing models; performing rights organisations; moral rights; copyright negotiations and infringements)

  • Library catalogues and companies (practices of metadata tagging; marketing and branding; the “shelf life” and success of particular tracks, albums and genres)

  • Library music and fan cultures (sampling in popular music; library music and hauntology; library music documentaries; album cover art; fan following of library music in online platforms)

  • Historical library music practices (silent film music anthologies and newsreels; early library music companies etc.) 

  • The use of commercial music “as library music” (practices of needledrop; the reuse of stock cues across television series/video games etc.)

Proposals can take the form of either individual 20-minute papers or themed panels comprising three papers. Please submit a 250-word abstract and a 100-word biography for each presenter to: by 30th April 2022. For panel submissions, please also include a title and brief abstract for the overall panel.

We are thrilled to announce that this conference/study day will feature a keynote address from Professor Bethany Klein (School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds), author of As Heard on TV: Popular Music in Advertising (2009) and Selling Out: Culture, Commerce and Popular Music (2020).

The event will also incorporate industry contributions from composers Jessica Dannheisser (Race for the Vaccine, Secret Safari: Into the Wild) and Paul Mottram (Audio Network), and library music director Jenny Oakes (JW Media Music).

To facilitate participation from scholars and practitioners based across the globe, the event will be held virtually via Zoom. Visit the 'Programme' page for full details.

We are grateful to the Royal Musical Association (RMA) and the University of Leeds for their support of this event.

Conference committee: James Deaville (Carleton University), Júlia Durand (CESEM – NOVA University of Lisbon), Toby Huelin (University of Leeds), Melissa Morton (University of Edinburgh).