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A Cut Above the Rest: Stock20Clever, well-recorded stock music for video and commercial spot producers
It's rare that I'll review a stock music library, and even more rare that I'd have great things to say about stock music. In fact, this is the first time I've ever wanted to say anything good about cheap stock music at all.
With composers salivating at opportunities to do low budget projects, plus tools like Sony Cinescore, Sony ACID, Cakewalk SONAR, Apple GarageBand, Apple Soundtrack, and SonicfirePro, stock music libraries seem less necessary overall. Especially to a musician like myself. That said, not everyone in the video-editing or spot production world is interested in spending time putting together music or figuring out what part goes with what other part.
Much of the stock library music I've heard over the years sounds the same; like bad 70's porn music. Some isn't so bad, and the expensive libraries are simply great, but they cost a lot, well over 500.00 per song for a specified use value. This quality is out of the reach of most desktop production companies, simply because of project revenue and cost of the music. This is where the low-cost stock music library comes into play.
And that's where Stock20 is truly unique.
|Stock20 has packaged 37 songs with 311 varied mixes into a single library collection at a ridiculously low cost. Load these up into a USB library changer and you're completely rigged to go!|
At the WEVA convention in Las Vegas, I picked up a copy of the Stock20 Library 001, and they had a special running, so what the heck, I picked up the special discs too. It's a total of 50 songs on a nine-disc set. 50 songs on nine discs doesn't seem like a lot of songs, but this library is different; there are several variations of each song. Songs range in length from 3 minutes plus, to 30 second spots. Additionally, there are a few short cues for intros and endings. All in all, it's just slightly under 400 songs on the nine discs. So, this is the first place this stock music company is a bit different than the others. Each mix in varied length isn't the same as the longer mixes in a shortened version as you'll find in most stock libraries. Each version is distinctively different than its longer or shorter counterpart. The editor in me loved cutting them up and "creating" my own mixes. The musician in me appreciated other aspects of the libraries.
The songs are clever. A couple of them are seriously commercial in terms of being comparable to what one hears on the radio today. Some of the wedding compositions are emotive, yet a couple of them are a bit trite and similar to some of the piano music you'd expect to hear. The songs themselves are fresh, and the mixes are overall excellent, I'm just not a big fan of piano-driven music outside of certain artists. That said, if you're editing a wedding video, you'll probably appreciate these songs and the way they build. Songs like "Daddy's Girl" have a special quality to them. The songs are quite melodic in most instances, but they're not melodies that stick in your head and leave you wishing you could shake them loose. Catchy, non-repetitive, and generally smooth, leaving the music breathing space, perfect for most video editors.
Music in these sorts of libraries is often exceptionally busy, as though the musician recording them misses the vocals so much that they fill in the song with lots of ear candy. That irritates the video editor in me. For most video work, I want music that doesn't take away from my visual elements, but rather supports them. This library is much more sparse of little distractions, having very few. One of the best parts of this library is that the musicians aren't afraid to take it to the mattresses. Some songs are out and out punchy and in your face which is quite rare for most stock libraries. If I could encourage the musicians at Stock20 to do anything more with their current offerings, it would be to serve up more of their punchy-fun, high tempo pieces as they're perfect for that sports video, of which we do quite a few. I suspect even many of todays wedding projects demand music that moves along a bit.
The library discs are fairly evenly divided between tempos. About half the library is uptempo, with the other half being a mix of romance, playful/gentle, smooth jazz, piano, and world beat. I particularly liked "Urbanix" and "Metallicated" in the upbeat choices. "Perfect Moments," and "Sunday Morning" are both very evocative pieces of work that with some massaging and vocals could quite easily be Adult Contemporary radio cuts.
Instruments on the discs run the gamut. No cheesy electric piano in these mixes, these are either very tricked out piano samples such as the Holy Grail library (famous among piano players) or a real grand with sweet room acoustics. Acoustic guitars and electric guitars are noticeably real. While the library demonstrates solid musicianship, there are no "grandstanding" moments where the guitar player seems to want to fill in the space at every turnaround and that is tremendously appreciated. I was struggling to decide about the violins in the "Summer Dream" cut, as they sound like a blend of real and synth'd violins, which means in any case, they sound very good.
Stock20 has a different business model than any I've seen before. Users can buy entire libraries and use them as I have, or editors/producers can go to the Stock20 website and purchase individual songs.
For only $7.00 each.
When I heard this as I was passing by at the convention, I had to lean back into the booth and say "huh? $7.00? Per song? Unlimited use? What's the catch?"
Yes, just 7.00 gets a song for your next video production, and you get to hear it in all it's variations before buying. With unlimited use. No limits on how many copies, or whether your work is for a local couple getting married or for the next Superbowl commercial. No limits. In other words, no per-use licenses, statements, or registrations. Stock20 charges you the $7.00 and asks that you submit a cue sheet (if your work is aired) and that costs you nothing. It just means that the performance royalty pie is sliced slightly differently, allocating a few cents to Stock20's musicians, rather than handing (insert favorite big name artist here) their usual large cut as a result of screen play. Fair enough. Their library also suggests you join ASCAP or BMI if you do a lot of broadcast which is refreshing to read, particularly coming from a small company and their liner notes. That's the only catch.
"Small company" seems to define these guys. It's clear they're hungry. They're making lots of great music, and charging a ridiculously low price for the quality one gets. And doing it smartly, creating cuts that editors can actually use instead of the common timewaste of an editor listening to 5 seconds and moving to the next cut, hoping for a song that even marginally fits the video or client request. At $7.00 per song, and unlimited use, I'm glad I'm not competing with these guys. I don't quite see how they're paying the electric bills to keep those keyboards and computers going at that rate. But...that's their business, and I hope they're around for a long while.
Now for the less than perfect parts of their libraries.
First, the naming conventions appear to be from a batch render; the first characters in the library names are senseless numbers that make it hard to understand what you're looking at. The second half of the library file indicates the length of the song and the song title. I'd recommend that Stock20 reverse this; put the length first, title second, and your catalog number last in the name characters. In the case of my Explorer window, I couldn't display the full name of the title in my "Open" dialog, so this was a bit irritating after the third or fourth disc.
Additionally, the liner notes describe the songs fairly well, but don't explain the variations. I didn't see any additional information on the Stock20.com website either.
Finally, I had a hard time understanding some of the unique lengths of the songs. Some songs have lengths of :55 and 1:06, while others had far more disparate lengths. The reason for the slightly disparate lengths is a good one; Some songs have fast fades, others have slow fades, and the producers at Stock20 wanted their clients to have the ability to manage those fade types rather than Stock20 making those decisions for them. I do very much appreciate the various lengths are actual various mixes, easily matched to other lengths, or edited to make a more unique arrangement of the song.
|The naming convention of the libraries is somewhat confusing; the catalog dates at the beginning of the file names could be moved to the end of the file for better file comprehension.|
Speaking of arrangements, today's editors are likely familiar with looping and have applications like ACID, GarageBand, or SONAR. Even Sony Vegas reads looping and key metadata, so putting that information in the file would make a lot of sense, and strengthen the libraries overall. This would allow editors to easily punch up the libraries further, and even the most non-musical editor can read the key signature and match it up in Apple Soundtrack or Sony ACID. Maybe that's just the musician in me wanting "more." No stock library has ever quite gone so far, so perhaps that's a less-than-necessary point, but one worth exploring.
To sum up, Stock20 is a hungry, new company in the realm of stock music creation for video and commercial spot producers. They're creating clever, well-recorded stock music for that market, and doing an awesome job with this first library of 61 song sets and nearly 500 cuts. Time will tell if they can keep their sound fresh and unique while continuing a stream of quality output that fills the demands of their clientele. They offer exceptionally fair pricing for the quality of cut they have to present, and easily fit within the budget no matter how small it might be. It seems that's what they're gambling the success of their company upon; that folks that find them will hear the music, recognize the quality, and know a great deal when they see/hear it. And maybe they're right in this gamble. After all, they first showed their new products at WEVA in Las Vegas.
DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE, Managing Producer Douglas Spotted Eagle is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy Award winning productions.
Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others.
Douglas is an accomplished aerial photographer who thrives in the adrenaline-filled world of fast-action videography. He remains active as a multimedia producer, trainer, and presenter, utilizing the latest technology as part of his workflow.
Related Keywords:Stock20, stock music, video editing,