10 Ways To Make Money Writing Instrumental Background Music

how to make money writing music

It's all about the background music, baby! That's right. Instrumental songs are the kings of publishing income for composers all over the world. No matter where you live or what kind of tunes you write, there are plenty of markets to sell your music.

Online royalty free sites are popping up at dizzying speed. It's no surprise considering all the modern forms of media being created and the new outlets being used to distribute content. Everything is on the internet and music buyers are looking for instrumental songs. Selling beats to rock and roll has never been easier.

Sure, people still like a good lyric, but vocals distract from dialogue. Singing steals the spotlight. This is why instrumental cues are so popular. A client typically wants a song to reflect their product or brand. Instrumental music offers ideal mood-setting background to underscore content.

Here are 10 ways to put your songs to work:

Production Music

Production music refers to recorded music for use in TV, film, radio, and basically any media. Writing and selling instrumental songs (often called "Cues") is how many songwriters and composers make a living today.

The background music of every reality TV show is production music.  A drum beat thumping under dialogue of housewives talking trash, or orchestral percussion underscoring an alligator wrestling match is typically sourced from production music composers and libraries.

submit to production music library

The easiest way to get your music on TV is by submitting songs to a production music library. The library basically collects songs under an exclusive or non-exclusive agreement. It then imports your songs into a collection (library) of cues that is distributed to production companies for licensing.

If your cue gets a placement on TV or film, your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) will pay you royalties depending on how, when, and where the music was used.

Royalty Free Music

Royalty free music library sites are the little cousins of production music libraries. They share the approach of collecting music from composers to sell for use in various forms media.

make money writing royalty free music

Their business plan differs with the targeted music buyer and the payment to songwriters. Unlike a production music placement on TV, most Royalty Free sales will earn the composer a flat sync fee. It is a one time payment and no future public performance royalties will be paid to the writer by their performance rights organization.

Branded Content

Branded content is entertainment created by an advertiser for the purpose of promoting brand awareness. Companies use this form of marketing for connecting with consumers on an emotional level. Instrumental music is perfect for underscoring this form of media, because it evokes a connection with viewers.

branded content music composer

Social media is a branded content playground. Companies often post videos to earn followers and draw attention to their product. Facebook and YouTube are filled with businesses looking to attract customers.

Ever wonder why pet food, energy drinks, and magazines post so many videos that have little to with their brand at first glance? In reality, they want your demographic to connect and engage. Once viewers tune in, they can set their hook and sell you goods. Modern marketing 101.

Next time you watch a  branded content video on social media, take note of the company who funded it. Search for their contact and email or Tweet at them. Let them know why your music might appeal to their targeted audience, then gently suggest they visit your link to some song examples.

This email will often be passed along to music supervisors and editors. Fingers crossed...they might dig your music and you will have steady work writing branded content instrumental background music.

Video Games

Video game music is a popular way for composers to earn money. The market has extended to online browser-based games, software, and apps. This means smaller developers are looking for songs and beats to underscore their video game.

become video game music composer

Composing music for video games is no longer restricted to 8-bit Chiptune music. Synthesizers are still popular, but there are more underscoring opportunities for modern music makers.

A bit of Google research will lead you to designers who you can submit music to. If they appreciate the sounds you are making, they might keep you in mind for making future video game music.

YouTube Video Background Music

YouTube video creators need background music that fits their brand. They typically seek free music to underscore their content, but eventually realize that you get what you pay for.

get your music on youtube videos

If you write music that fits a YouTube channel, reach out to the company or person making the videos. Offer a link to your songs and provide reasons why your compositions are perfect for their original media.

Many composers make a living writing for one popular company. If your songs become part of their identity, you become a valuable part of their brand. You will typically earn sync fees as part of your licensing agreement. If their revenue goes up, they will purchase more music -- giving you more opportunities to submit music and make money writing music.

Elevator Hold Music

A popular production music library once called Yahoo to seek music placement opportunities. They noticed the hold music was terrible, and were turned down once their call was accepted.

submit instrumental hold music

The crafty CEO decided there was a way to convince them his music library could create custom music to help their business. He wrote a catchy song about hold music, hired a popular rapper from the 90s, and recorded a goofy spoof song to submit to Yahoo.

It worked. Yahoo's CEO noticed the song and it brought awareness to a weak point in their company. The music library was then hired to provide music and license songs to Yahoo.

There are millions of companies who need music. They just don't know they need YOUR MUSIC yet!

Source Music

what is source music

The movie cuts to a radio dial turning. Your song starts playing while the lead character sits back and enjoys the open road. That's Source Music in a nutshell.

The best place to find music libraries that specialize in Source Music is Songwriter's Market.

corporate videos

Snooze-fest. Corporate business videos, slideshows, and presentations are boring. Still, even a dull Power-Point presentation needs some background music to liven things up.

corporate music composer career

Businesses typically seek out royalty free music libraries to buy music online. Music composers can find placement opportunities by finding these companies first and pitching their song catalog.

Seriously, there are countless music needs in the business world. You can provide the soundtrack for the next major corporation's "Rules Of The Workplace" video. Exciting!

If you are particularly good at sounding like Coldplay, U2, or a teenage ukulele/glockenspiel player, then you might have a nice career of making corporate music ahead of you.

Independent Films

score indie movie soundtrack

There is someone editing an independent film this very moment. You can write music for their movie if you submit to the right companies and creators.

While the initial pay may be lower than more established movie studio budgets allow, indie films can get picked up and shown around the world. If this happens and your music is in it, you will collect back end royalties from your PRO.

Don't get suckered into giving away your music for charity though. Many independent films still have a budget, and music should be a part of it. It's common for composers to hear the excuse, "We have no money, but will take care of you if it gets picked up." The truth is that songwriters and music producers often get screwed when music business deals are made on a loose handshake agreement.


Everyone from your local pool company to Coca Cola needs music for commercials and advertising. Even real estate agents add music to the background of property slideshows, so potential buyers can emotionally connect with the video.

contact advertisemet music supervisors

Google "Video Production Agency" or "Commercial Advertising Company" and start researching their work. If you think your music might be a valuable asset to their creations, reach out and let them know in a polite email. You might be shocked at how many responses you get.

If you'd prefer not to do the legwork and research, you can always join Music Library Report -- where you can find a list of libraries that currently accept music submissions for pitching potential clients and seeking placement opportunities.


* Think we missed anything, or do you have a personal tale to tell about your experiences as a songwriter, composer, or producer? Please comment below!