Production music forms an integral part of the vast global media landscape and sits at the intersection of several booming industries, from advertising and film to TV, UGC content, and video games.
Taking a macro view of the lucrative entertainment and ads sectors, it’s clear to see that there’s a massive global opportunity for companies specializing in providing music for audio-visual content.
According to a report from the Motion Picture Association of America for example, with pay TV included, the combined global theatrical and home/mobile entertainment market was worth $328.2 billion in 2021, a 6% YoY increase.
Media owners’ advertising revenues, meanwhile, are predicted by MAGNA, a ‘global media investment, and intelligence company,’ to grow 9% in 2022 to $816 billion.
Amongst the firms vying to get their music and sounds used in various forms of media include the likes of the major music companies, royalty-free music firms such as $1.4 billion-valued Epidemic Sound and KKR-backed Artlist, and independent production music houses.
West One Music Group is one of the most prominent players in the independent production music space, housing over 1,500 artists and composers, and a catalog featuring over 80,000 tracks.
Co-founded by Global CEO Edwin Cox, along with Tony Prior and film composer Richard Harvey, West One Music has been thriving in the production music business for the past 20 years. Founded in 2002, the company says that over 40,000 minutes of music from its catalog now appear on TV every day.
Cox tells MBW that when the company launched 20 years ago, the production music business “was still very much behind the scenes – an unknown and mysterious world”.
“It certainly wasn’t in the public eye or on boardroom agendas as it is today,” he adds. “That said, it was a buzzing community. London, especially Soho, has a strong history of library music and therefore some of the biggest players are still based there today.
“There was huge competition to any new companies launching at the time in London. We were told on numerous occasions that it wouldn’t work and that there were already too many catalogues in the market.”
Cox says that the production music space is still “hugely competitive”. Today, West One Music’s own global footprint includes offices and production studios in 15 countries, a team of over 70 people, and a custom music division spearheaded by the firm’s team in Los Angeles. Cox also notes that West One Music is eyeing an expansion into India.
The company offers production music via 13 dedicated labels, ranging from retro 60s and 70s recordings to EDM. In 2020, West One Music expanded in Latin America with the creation of SOMOS, a “dedicated and locally produced Latin American label” featuring Grammy award-winning producers, composers, artists and emerging talent from the wider Latin America region.
Via its custom music division, West One Music works on tailored music projects for everything from film trailers and theme songs, to sonic branding and TV shows. Some of the firm’s recent clients include the likes of Lego, BBC, Disney, BBC, A&E Networks, Netflix, WarnerMedia, VIACOM CBS, Telefonica, SVT, Apple TV, Jameson, Hulu, FX, Samsung and Citroen.
“Often it’s the same writers, artists, producers working on production music and commercial music.”
West One Music also says that it makes it a priority to showcase the artists, musicians, producers and composers behind the music.
Cox explains that there’s been a “positive shift” over the years from the “earlier days of more anonymous production music” to clients now wanting to know who the artists and composers behind the music are. This shift, explains Cox, has “impacted the reputation of production music globally”.
“It’s now a much more diverse and dynamic industry with music that can stand up to anything in the traditional charts,” he says. “Often it’s the same writers, artists, producers working on production music and commercial music.”
Here, West One Music’s Global CEO Edwin Cox tells us more about the firm’s origins, the evolution of the production music space, and how the globalisation of media has changed the way the company licenses its music…
How did West One Music Group’s co-founders come together to launch the company in 2002?
The origin of West One Music goes back several decades. In the 80s and 90s our two founders, Tony Prior and Richard Harvey produced music for the EMI catalogue, KPM. This proved to be an extremely successful relationship which saw the release of over 120 albums from some of the best composers in TV and Film of the time. As they reached the start of the 2000s, it became clear that having direct relationships with the end users of the music was really the next step for the development of the business and their musical aspirations.
At the time I was a Music Producer at Boosey & Hawkes and together we set about creating a new company and catalogue, West One Music Group.
The real focus when we started, which is still the case today, was always to make the best and most relevant music possible and to always remain a music-first company.
What state was the production music landscape in back then, and how much has it evolved since?
Musically, there was a much greater focus on background and supportive music, and certainly much less of a need for songs. In the early days, I remember being told that a great production music track was one that didn’t get in the way or stand out.
Today we’re much more focused on music that makes an impact, that’s also what our clients want now too. The driver for us is to bring something unique to our clients to help their production standout.
Obviously, the globalisation of media has changed the way we license music, too. No longer is it territory-by-territory or media-by-media, it’s more joined up as we seek to mirror how the entertainment industry has expanded around the world.
West One Music Group has remained independent all this time. Tell us about the significance of this for the company, for your clients and the talent you work with?
The independent mindset of West One Music is vital to us. It keeps us energized and motivated as the underdog to always do better and provide an amazing experience for our composers, artists and clients. It means that we retain our creative freedom across the catalogues and that we can always remain true to our ethos and goals.
It also enables us to be in touch with our community and take much bigger risks creatively. This helps us to evolve the business and always explore new creative ideas and ways of working. Our independent spirit is what drove us to open that first office outside of the UK in Germany!
What do you think the biggest challenges in the wider media industry are, and how are those challenges impacting companies like West One Music Group?
There are still very large ripples created by COVID, lockdowns, cost of living, the list goes on! Much of this is impacting consumer spending patterns, which is impacting our larger clients most specifically. We can see that they’re flexing their business models and merging to get as big as possible! More global consolidation means less competition and more buying power, so I would say the biggest challenge remains upholding the value of music.
However, despite our clients’ challenges, our mission remains the same and we are continually adjusting our catalogue and licensing solutions to best fit where the media industry is heading. More content is made today than ever before, and that trend is set to continue. It might just be that the volume is in slightly cheaper and more efficient productions than it was in recent years.
How competitive is the production music landscape currently?
There are now many more business models being offered to clients around the world be it royalty-free, subscription-based, or PRO-free, alongside the more traditional majors and indies — the list is never-ending. This makes it a competitive space, and this continues to keep us on our toes. That’s a good thing, in my book!
There is always more to learn and new ways of doing things. We’re always exploring several disruptive initiatives to keep us moving forward and I don’t think that will ever stop. But the competitive nature of the market is a helpful driver for us all!
What trends are you seeing in the market that we should know about?
Musically, as I mentioned before, there has been a shift in recent years to songs and artists-led music, particularly driven by the wave of new TV production but we’re seeing it across the board in movie trailers (including cover songs), TV promos and commercials too.
“There has been a shift in recent years to songs and artists-led music, particularly driven by the wave of new TV production.”
A hugely positive part of this trend is that our clients also want to understand the background and experiences of the talent involved in creating the music, it isn’t just about music.
This enables us to showcase and celebrate the hugely varied talent from all over the world that we have the pleasure to work with every day. This is the wonderful thing about production music, there are really no limits on the opportunities we can bring underrepresented or emerging talent. We can share their music with our clients all around the world.
West One Music has a large global presence. In which markets/territories are you seeing an increase in demand for your services?
Relatively speaking, we are still new players in some of the key global markets, particularly North America and Australia/New Zealand. We launched our own offices in both regions in the past decade, so there is still so much opportunity for growth. We’re continuing to see increased demand and usage as clients discover West One Music for the first time.
Are you planning further global expansion and if so, where are you looking to grow your presence?
We talk about this internally, but we’ve just established the foundations of the business over these first 20 years. With offices all around the world and handling all the administration internally through our own network, we’re now at the point where we can focus on growing within the existing footprint we have. With that said, that independent spirit is always there, so we’re working on our next steps into India as one example. Watch this space!
What are the biggest challenges in the global production music space and what is West One Music Group doing to overcome those challenges?
I would say the biggest challenge in the indie production music space is the globalisation of client agreements. It’s becoming more and more challenging for an indie to operate in a single market with the needs of many clients being either multi-territory or global.
We’ve already addressed this core challenge by establishing a standalone global network and by not representing music that we don’t have the rights to globally.
For us though, I would say the biggest challenge is to continue creating efficiencies across the business. As a relatively small indie with a large global footprint, dealing with huge volumes of data is the main challenge. Our continued investment is in creating system efficiencies and easier ways of working, which are vital for a healthy business and to enable us to continue focusing on the main event: the music.
There are currently reports of a potential advertising recession next year – what impact might this have on the production music market?
If our media clients generate less money from advertising, then that will have an impact on royalties in specific markets. But that’s only if those predictions come true! Less money in the TV market from advertising isn’t ideal but given the SVOD markets attention on ad-funded models, I really can’t see the number of commercials declining. It might be that advertising productions need to be more cost-efficient but that’s not a negative for us. Production music is often the perfect solution in a cost-conscious market.
Is the rise of AI-generated music an opportunity or a threat for the production music space?
I don’t think it’s a threat at all. There are many ways in which AI can help us. For example: accurate tagging of metadata, creating automated playlists, or helping our clients find the right music.
These are all opportunities where we are starting to use AI to create a better client experience. Musiio recently announced a partnership with us where we’ve started using their technology to support some of these areas to improve our search and browse experience online.
I’m sure AI music will find a place, but for us that’s the old world of library music. Our focus is on uniqueness and individuality, which you just don’t get from a computer.
West One Music Group is home to 1,500 artists and composers, why would artists and composers want to work with the company?
We hope that artists and composers want to work with us because we provide an amazing platform for their music to be heard around the world. We also respect and celebrate the amazing creativity they bring both to our catalogue and to our clients.
We’re a relatively small group, but the production team are very hands-on with the creative process, providing orchestras, musicians, arrangers, engineers and more. Anything we need to do to support the artists and composers in creating the best music, we are more than happy to provide.
What have been some of the biggest highlights this year across your custom and production music offerings, in terms of projects/success stories/clients?
In the past year, we’ve had an album nominated for a Latin Grammy, which is by an amazing Colombian artist named Diana Burco. We’ve been working and producing music across central and South America for about 10 years now, so this was a huge milestone for us and shows the continued growth of production music into simply music.
We’ve expanded partnerships with some of our key clients including Netflix, Paramount, A&E Networks and WarnerMedia and have licensed music into commercials by the likes of Samsung, Walmart, LEGO, Jameson, Spotify. We’re in campaigns for a huge number of movies and in shows including everything from Home and Away to Ms. Marvel to Love Island and even the last season of Better Call Saul.
From your experience over the past 20 years of West One Music Group, if you could change one thing about the music business, what would it be and why?
If I could change just one, I would certainly have ‘transparency of royalty flow’ in the list. Even where we are today, with all the tools and technology available, it continues to be a mystical science to ensure that royalties due to our composers’ and artists’ music are processed through the often complex and opaque global network.
“This lack of transparency means that we need to continue to fight for the value of music even within our own music industry.”
This lack of transparency means that we need to continue to fight for the value of music even within our own music industry. Music Business Worldwide