What is Production Music?

an image of a small television set with a close up open mouth on screen

A guide to production music

Imagine a horror film with the sound off. It’s less scary, isn’t it? Music is responsible for guiding and driving so much of the emotion you feel when you’re watching a film or TV programme, an advert or a video game. It can tell you who’s the hero or the villainess – and give depth to both. You can even use it to misdirect the audience. Your hero? Actually, he’s been the villain pulling the strings from the start… However, not all the music that is being used has necessarily been composed specifically for the film or programme that you’re watching.

What is production music?

Production music (aka library or stock music) has been specifically composed for synch, but not for a specific production – it can be used anywhere from TV to ads, films or for video content. Production music libraries create, own and license their music, retaining all the copyright, whereas most pop or classical publishers only own around 50% of it.


a cartoon strip for the TV production Grange Hill


(Image via)

Why use production music?

There are many advantages to using production music, including:

  • It’s all cleared; there’s no need to get further copyright permissions
  • Straightforward licensing costs make budgeting easier
  • It’s a simple, quick and cost-effective way of securing original, high-quality music
  • The music is available in a variety of moods, lengths and mixes

How do you choose the best production music?

Production music is a convenient resource, as most libraries offer a broad range of musical styles and genres. It can be challenging to know where to start, though, and choosing your music has the potential to be an enormously time-consuming process. So here are our top tips:

1. What mood or emotion are you looking to create?

Planet Earth II’s astonishing ‘Iguana vs Snakes’ sequence is brilliantly shot and edited. But would we have had our hearts in our mouths, and been on the edge of our seats, willing a lizard to run for its life and escape that mass of snakes without its expertly-selected and crafted soundtrack? It’s a story of tension – stay stock still or run, literally for your life – and repeated peril for the iguana, and triumph then failure for the snakes. The music creates the atmosphere, and helps to tell the story, whilst ramping up the viewer’s emotion.

The production music you choose doesn’t only enhance the viewer’s feelings. It can also be used to indicate tone and speed up, or slow down a scene. As a first step, you need to define the genre, feeling or atmosphere that you’re looking to create, and the pace. This will cut down the amount of time you spend trawling through endless tracks on music libraries.

2. What are the keywords that will give you the best search results?

Do you want your audience to feel scared or sombre? Joyful or giddy with love? When you’ve decided on the feeling or tone – action, creeping dread, nostalgia, romance, yearning – draw up a list of keywords to help you to narrow down your search. Write down as many as you can think of off the top of your head, and then refine them.

Searching for action? That’s easy on Audio Network – look under the ‘Production Genre’ tab, and it’s right at the top. Then you could also put in search terms such as ‘exhilarating’, ‘heroic’ and ‘energy’. Or, you can search via particular musical genres, instruments, or bpm.  

Visit our Search Tips page for help choosing the perfect track for your production. 

Audio Network music search functionality - search by mood or instrumentation

3. Create a playlist

When you’ve nailed your search terms and are ready to dive in, create a playlist. This will enable you to compare and contrast – and also allows you to see which particular genres or instruments speak to you. Is it the dramatic drums that will ramp up the tension? Or, should you look for some more haunting strings for that nostalgic sequence?

You could create a collection of go-to playlists for a variety of projects. Perhaps one for epic trailer music, or nature documentaries? Happy, celebratory music for wedding videos, or tracks rooted in emotion?

Explore our Projects page to find out the easy ways you can store and shortlist selected tracks. 

With your Audio Network subscription, a curated playlist can be easily shared with your clients, to get their input.

Audio Network Share project functionality

If you want to test out putting together a playlist, then you can download ten tracks from our catalogue for free right now.

4. Make sure you’ve got the rights to your chosen music

Despite the plethora of music you can download for free on Spotify, you can’t just put any music into your production – you can find yourself in hot water, legally. So, your options are to hire a composer or musician, or find music that you can license. Yes, there are plenty of royalty-free sites available, but your project is unique and your music should be too.

Audio Network has a catalogue of over 175,000 tracks, which are ideal for film or video productions, and a team of music specialists on hand to advise you. Our licences start from as little as £69 per track and make licensing music ‘one-click simple’. Every track has a variety of cut-downs and mixes, making it easy to find exactly the right piece, at the right length. We work with over 1,000 composers, artists and musicians and record in the world’s most renowned studios, including Abbey Road.

Production Music Types

Whether you’re creating a documentary, short feature or blockbuster trailer, choosing the correct production music for your piece is crucial. Here we’ve broken down some of the most common queries and searches for production music types.

1. Orchestral Production Music

What’s unique about Audio Network’s Classical Collection? We’ve arranged, recorded and edited all the pieces of music specifically for media use. The iconic compositions tell universal, timeless stories of romance, yearning, celebration, war, temptation, lust, wrath, death and grief. Even humour features in Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals.

Each collection of tracks includes a huge variety of edits and cut-downs. Want an aria without the vocal? Done. Need to heighten emotion? There’ll be a version which ramps up the harmonies, strings or percussion. We’ve looked at the classical canon through an editor’s eye, to make it easier than ever to incorporate fantastic classical production music to tell your story.


2. Production Music for Trailers

Successful trailer music delivers an intense emotional backdrop, grabbing the audience’s attention. It can evoke an ominous sense of expectation, or deliver an assault on the senses.  Working with world-renowned composers to produce music of the highest level, our Maximum Impact collection spans all genres from stirring emotional drama, through to blistering apocalyptic action and everything in-between.

The collection is music composed, recorded and produced specifically for trailers. Showcasing epic emotion, it is designed to create unrivalled reaction for blockbuster movies and television.

Our diverse roster of award-winning composers, including Mark Petrie (Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Endgame), Luke Richards (Transformers: The Last Knight and videogame Call of Duty) and Mark Denis (X-Men: Apocalypse and Zero Dark Thirty), are at the top of their field. They are experts in creating music to drive powerful emotions and know how to maximise intensity to thrill an audience.

3. Corporate production music

Looking for music to motivate, inspire and engage your audience? Whether it’s for explainer videos or brand presentations, or a soundtrack to your annual conference sizzle reel, we have a mass of pumping, powerful, uplifting tracks. 

4. Cartoon production music

For cartoon capers, we have everything from crazy free form jazz to comedy chases and, if you want something vintage, even a melodramatic steam train getaway.

Audio Network Share project functionality

5. American production music

The US is home to a huge range of music styles, from the Blues to Nashville-based, pedal steel-infused Country Rock. Go back to the dawn of rock and roll to sample some Rockabilly, or jump on your Harley and embrace your inner rebel with our Rock list.

6. Hip hop production music

The Beat Series is your go-to source for the ultimate collection of hip hop – from the East Coast to the West Coast, trap to UK grime.

Divided into six different playlists, the series expertly covers production types such as ‘Sports’ and ‘Party’, together with staples from sub-genres including UK hip hop and grime, trap and classic sounds.

7. Indie production music

From indie rock to indie reggae, fresh cuts to old favourites, catchy hooks, guitars and vocals all feature on this eclectic playlist.

8. Seasonal production music

Summer production music

Looking for a track to create that Route 66 road trip vibe? Or the ideal backdrop to a poolside scene? Or maybe to give the stifling feel of summer in the city or the dry heat of the desert. Check out our hand-picked playlist of sun-drenched sounds.

Christmas production music

Bring festive cheer to your projects with our Christmas collections. Innocent nostalgia, heartwarming big band, stunning orchestral arrangements of traditional classics, rock & roll to RnB, traditional and contemporary. Our Christmas catalogue has a full spectrum of sounds and songs for the holiday period.

9. Different eras

50s production music

The 1950s encompass everything from the early Rockabilly days to full-throttle Rock and Roll. Or you could return to the classic days of cool jazz and big band, or some boogie-woogie swing.

70s production music

Travel back to the era of flares and the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War and women’s rights with retro rock, glam and funky floor fillers. We have everything you need to set the soundtrack for the 70s.

80s production music

The 80s were synonymous with synths – take your pick from uplifting to dark and mysterious.


This page was updated on 21/01/2020
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