Musical Space: Production Music

Mar 12, 2019

A lot of the music you hear comes from production music libraries. These are collections of sound cues that are licensed for use in media. It’s like using stock footage in a movie; convenient for a producer who can’t afford or be bothered to hire a composer, which is why stock music has become as universal as it is generic.

The concept of production music is as old as talkies - film studios had reels of generic music they would reuse to accompany fight scenes, love scenes, and chase scenes.

(Music: Laurie Johnson, “Happy-Go-Lively”

You’ve heard this in Ren and Stimpy and Spongebob Squarepants cartoons. Laurie Johnson also wrote the theme for “The Avengers,” among many other things.)

Companies now offer the same service to anyone making video and audio content. It’s fun to browse their catalogs-- the music is categorized by emotion, with descriptions like “Dark Tension” and “Warm Reflective Moments.”

The banal, mid-century instructional film vibe of old production music is ripe for satire. But even newer stuff has become ubiquitous. Movie trailers have to use it because the trailers come out before the soundtrack is composed. And if a trailer goes viral, there’s nothing stopping everyone else from using the same piece.

(Music: Two Steps from Hell, “Victory,”


You gotta admire the design - it goes down easy like fast food, and fulfills its purpose without drawing attention to itself; it’s functional and forgettable as the beige color schemes of cookie-cutter suburban homes. Some of it is even pretty good; it’s just kinda sad that it’s off the rack and not custom-tailored.


For KMUW, I’m Mark Foley



Listening list:

Wow, I’ve heard this one a billion times:
Yoav Goren, Jeff Fayman“Redrum,” Action & Drama 2 (Immediate Music)

How many movie trailers have you heard this in?

Zack Hemsey inception trailer “Mind Heist”:

I always thought Hans Zimmer wrote this!
(See for more examples:

Lots of works by Ronald Hanmer were used in SpongeBob, such as this:
Ronald Hanmer, “Adventure”

Ronald Hanmer, “Horror-Scope”

Ronald Hanmer, “Morning Commute,”

Ralph Dollimore, “Hit And Run,” (Ren and Stimpy Soundtrack)


Partial list of production music houses: (mostly trailers) (mostly trailers)



In the United States, KPM is represented by APM Music.