Get SuccessWill Manning - Professional Composer with Stock Music Licensing

Do you compose music, and want to make money from your tracks? Well then stock music licensing might be a great opportunity for you! Are you ready to learn more? 😎

In this article/interview Will Manning has gracefully shared his story, experience and practical tips for you to learn from and be inspired by for your own composer career.

1 – What’s your story on how you became a composer on Audiojungle, and how has it shaped your music career?

I suppose it started when I began writing with my partner, Avery, around 2014. Around that time I had gotten into music production to save money, because it was costing me hundreds of dollars to produce demos of my songs with local engineers. At that point, I was still writing my songs in a midi program called tab-it. I knew that the sound it gave was unprofessional, so I needed to create “real” versions of my tracks.

When I got Cubase 7 in 2014, everything changed. Within a few days I was able to produce decent sounding demos of my ideas. I sent one of these ideas to Avery for mix help, who was at that point grinding as a solo artist. I knew he had some of the best mixes around, so I wanted him to be critiquing my stuff. He immediately called me and said something like “Hey, this song is literally perfect for a commercial. Come over soon and let’s have a writing session”

We instantly hit it off, and spent the next 9 months writing songs for commercial use. We probably wrote 20 tracks together, which was a lot for both of us back then. The problem ended up being that we didn’t know what to do with them. We had no libraries, connection building was slow (especially over the internet) and we weren’t landing the few opportunities we did get. It was pretty disheartening.

Then, in March of 2015, one of Avery’s friends suggested we check out a royalty free library called AudioJungle. We didn’t need any connections to get in, and all we had to do was make it past their quality check when we submitted. We thought of it as a great “temporary home” for our tracks while we found the “big opportunity” To us, it was better to have them somewhere where they could be earning, instead of collecting digital dust on our hard drives. So, we pulled the trigger on it. 

I was sitting in college a week or two later when the track went live, and the sales just started rolling in. I saw the notifications on my phone. I was blown away. I had never made money from my music before, so needless to say I was pretty hyped.

After that point, we just kept pushing forward and writing material constantly.  Our first month we made a few hundred bucks. The next, we made a thousand. Eventually we were making enough to pay both of our living expenses. It’s still like that, almost 5 years later. We ended up writing one of the more successful rock tracks on the site, and that still bring in sales to this day. 

Audiojungle completely reshaped my thoughts about royalty free music libraries and opportunity, and because of that my whole career. Audiojungle has remained a focus for me for half a decade now. Until very recently, I’ve uploaded at least a few tracks every single month. It’s also acted as a fantastic stepping stone into other opportunity as well.

It’s taught me that sometimes you just have to go for things and not listen to what people say. I constantly see people talking bad about royalty free libraries. How they “don’t work.” How they would never “stop so low” to sell their music for 25 bucks. How they don’t have any “long term potential.” I think that can be a shallow, short sighted way to look at things, and if I had listened to those people back in 2015, I never would have taken the chance I did to make a money from an online music portfolio. Who knows where me or my music would be.

2 – Can you share your Top 3 Tips on becoming successful in the music licensing industry?

Absolutely I’d be happy to give some advice.

1. Be as consistent as possible

If you really want to make it in this industry, you can’t just expect it to happen over night. It really is a numbers game. I try to write at least two tracks a week for a library like audio jungle. That’s one day for writing, one day for mixing and polish, and one day for packaging up and submitting. Do that twice a week. That leaves a day for relaxing. That would be a minimum in my opinion. If you’re just getting started though, one track a week can be a good goal. You should be able to accomplish that with a few hours each night.

And, while I’m on it, Avery once wrote 5 songs in a day by using the same sounds, and the same arrangement style inside a template. It was genius. That’s workflow. That’s the kind of output you should be aiming for. Less time invested with more tracks to upload is always the goal for me.

It may sound unobtainable or insane to shoot for something like 2 or 3 tracks a week, but if you stay consistent and really dial in a work flow, it’s doable. The more tracks you make, the more chances you have of creating something that media professionals want to use. Think of each track as another lottery ticket. The more tickets, the higher your chances of success.

2. Don’t be afraid of rejection

Rejection is going to happen whether you want it to or not. J.K Rowling was rejected over 10 times before Harry Potter got a publishing deal. Oprah was fired from her news anchor job and told she wasn’t right for TV. Lady GAGA got dropped 3 months after getting signed to a major label. If they can bounce back, so can you.

Just because someone tells you “No” doesn’t mean your song is bad or you are incapable. It doesn’t mean anything besides the fact that your song wasn’t selected this time, and that could be over something as silly as tempo. I submit songs to sometimes a dozen opportunities in a single day and get told “no” on all of them, haha. It comes with the territory when you’re putting yourself out there. Take it as a sign that you’re doing something right if you’re getting rejected, because 60% of people probably wont even make it to that point because they’re scared.

Getting selected is always more fun, but let your ego go and take the chances and the risks. Eventually, with hard work and consistency, the “No” will become a “Yes.”

3. Take the time to connect with the people who work in your library and the media industry

This one is often overlooked and really can make a huge difference in your career’s trajectory. Connections aren’t something you NEED in order to make it, but it’s something that I wish I had stressed more when I got started a few years back.

Putting in the extra effort to go meet up with the people who work at your library can really make an impact in the way they perceive you. Instead of being potentially another name in a roster of good composers, they now have a face, a connection, and a memory to go along with your name. That will help you stand out. Perhaps when the next big opportunity comes down the hatch, they will think of you and offer you a shot at something big simply because they actually know you.

Earlier this year I went down again to NYC to meet up with the owners of a music library I had just started working with. They came all the way from LA, so when I was invited out I wanted to make sure I saw them when they were here. Avery and I went down, and we all got along great. I believe I have a much greater connection with them, and them with me, because of this meeting. Bigger things are already in the works because of it. The library owners even shared with us that one of their biggest marketing strategies is having face to face connections with the businesses they work with. They’re not trying to do it all over the internet with emails and direct messages. There’s something to that.

Life is very digital these days. We are all faces and pictures on blue and white forums and websites. Anything extra you can do to help yourself stand out and bridge the gap from internet to real life connection will be worth it. It can definitely be scary and not at all easy to get myself out of the studio and go to these meetings, but once I’m there, I almost always have a good time and thank myself for doing it. Put in the extra effort here because 80% of other composers wont.



3 – Let’s talk workflow, since stock music is partly a numbers game, how are you boosting your track output (productivity)?

Ah, my favorite subject. Work flow is just all about making your life easier and being more productive. Why be less productive when you can be more productive? 

Use reference tracks of a popular commercial songs. This one feels like a no brainer, but it’s something I didn’t pay attention to for years and it really helped once I began putting in into my work flow. It will really supercharge your output if you use them properly.

Go to the top files on a library like Audio Jungle and see what’s selling. It could be rock, it could be cinematic, or it could be future bass. In fact, it’s probably all of those things that are doing well right now. Regardless of genre, listening to a reference track in a style that you want to compose in is invaluable. Since it’s living on a top file chart, you know for a fact that it’s giving the video editors and media creators what they want.

Whether it harmonic progression, arrangement, mix, sound design, effects, master volume, the reference track is going to give you a birds eye view of all of that. It’s almost like a cheat code. Even when I work with traditional royalty based libraries, they first thing they do when they reach out is shoot me a list of reference tracks to show me what styles they’re looking for. 

If you’re not doing this, you just kinda taking a stab at the air with your eyes closed and hoping to connect with something on the other side. You may naturally have a hunch of what would sound good paired up with media, but try to give yourself an edge and open your ears and see what’s already being successful. It’s successful for a reason.

Know your key commands. If you’re going up to menus and surfing through lines of text when you could just be pressing “j” or “c” or something, you’re missing out on valuable time that you wont get back. It may just take a few seconds to find that single action, but you probably need to do hundreds or thousands of actions inside your DAW in any given track. Those seconds quickly add up into minutes. Get them back and learn your key commands. Plus, it always looks really awesome and professional if you have someone in your studio or watching you work and you can fly around your DAW. Taking 10-15 seconds to quantize your midi to an 1/8th note is just not going to cut it.

Become familiar with your sounds and plugins. This one is big. When I need to EQ something, I grab FabFilter Pro Q2. When I need a compressor, I grab my Slate Bundle. When I need a synth that sounds like such and such I grab my Serum and know where the patch I need is. Nothing can kill productivity like sound searching. I’ve lost entire songs because of it. The longer you take looking for the perfect kick, the higher the chance you get frustrated and never finish the track. This doesn’t mean choose any old sound or sample. That would be bad. What I mean is that you should know your arsenal like the back of your hand. When you know where your “awesome rock drums” are you don’t lose 45 minutes to an hour searching. 

Get Tonal Balance Control really don’t like prescribing plugins, but this one really changed the game for me. The cool thing about it, is that it doesn’t do a damn thing but give you information on your track. Tonal balance control takes the EQ spectrum of your song, low to high, and compares it to thousands of other tracks EQ spectrum’s in real time right in front of you. (it can even compare it to a specific song or songs of your choice) This means that you can instantly check your songs low end, mid range, or highs compared to other songs.

This plugin has been invaluable in getting me out of the “headache” phase of mixing. You know the phase where you question your track, wonder what’s off, and listen to it on 30 devices until you hate it and can’t tell whats going on anymore? Yeah, this plugin would be the Tylenol to the headache phase. It really shows me exactly what my track needs and when its good to go. No more car tests, no more sending to people for feedback, no more going crazy and going in circles. (No they aren’t paying me to say this)

Best of all, after prolonged use, Tonal Balance Control rubs off on you and trains you to know what a song should sound like. When I started using it my tracks were usually pretty far off the mark in some areas. (usually low end, cause I can’t trust my room) Now, more often then not, it just lets me know its good to go as it is. I’ve really gotten better at judging levels because of it, and therefore finish tracks faster.

4 – What’s in the horizon for you? What’s next, any projects or goals you can share with us?

It’s hard to answer this one without saying too much, because I can get very afraid of jinxing things, but I’ll go ahead and knock on wood and talk what my 2020 is looking like.

I’ve recently started working with a royalty based library from Europe that distributes all over the world. That’s been awesome. Crazy demand, but a really great experience. The songs have all been vocal-centric, and sound more like traditional “songs” than my tracks on Audio Jungle. This has been really fun because I kind of skipped the part in my career where I worked on songs with vocals in them and went straight to the “background music.” The quality threshold is really high with this library so it’s also pushing me to be doing top notch work. Very excited to see what comes from this opportunity this upcoming year.

Also, I’ve been invited to become part of a team that’s doing some exclusive writing for a major sports network come 2020. That’s going to be very demanding as well, but extremely fun I’m sure. Tons of rock and driving guitar based work. That’s my specialty. This is probably what I’m most excited for next year.

As far as near future goals, they’re really quite simple:

I just want to make the libraries I’m currently working with happy and give them the best content I can, that way we can all mutually benefit. It would also be great to link up with even more libraries in the future and just continue to diversify.

Speaking of friends, I also want to find out a way in 2020 to connect with more like minded musicians that are doing, or interested in doing music licensing. They’re few and far between where I live but the ones I’ve met have been really talented. Creating a system to help them get started and see some success would be awesome. Even just finding ways to partner up and create a team or collective would be a step in the right direction. There’s power in numbers. If you are interested, feel free to contact me! I’m always looking for talented people to work with.

And, of course, the big fish, Film Scoring. It’s pretty much the reason I got into music. Fully scoring a film or show would be an absolute pleasure. It’s not something I actively pursue due to my schedule with Music Licensing, but once Music Licensing is more on autopilot it would be great to take scoring on, even if it’s just for fun.

5 – Any final advice & inspiration you want to share with the composer community?

Don’t listen to the nay-sayers on facebook and other social media sites. If you never take the chance and put your music out there it will never earn for you. It won’t do a thing for you sitting on your hard drive. The song that has earned me the most was written in a single afternoon and the guitar was out of tune in the recording. We put it up on Audio Jungle anyway. Don’t strive for perfection, strive for consistency. Visualize the type of media you’re writing for and know your audience. Make creative decisions in your tracks with intention. Take on every opportunity you can when you’re getting started. Finish as many songs as you begin, and, most importantly, don’t let rejection knock you down. 

I’d also just like to throw it out there that I would be happy to help anyone out, explain anything, or give lessons to people who specifically need help with music production and music licensing. It can be a really confusing world and I enjoy teaching others about it. Send me an email at will@elevate-audio.com and I’ll get back to you on we can set up a time to discuss music licensing.

6 – Thank you so much Will, for sharing your story and wisdom. Please share links to your AJ portfolio, website etc.

Thanks for having me Mikael. I hope to hear from you soon and I will be watching your website closely in the future! 


My name is Mikael “Mike” Baggström, and I am a composer, sound designer, artist, video creator, coffee lover, and true nerd…

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