I love this post from Lindsay Zoladz about the world of music libraries. My day-job in advertising sometimes has me listening to music library tracks – and also new tracks commissioned from the composer we work with regularly. (Recent conversation: “it needs to be upbeat, but not so sparkly“). In it, she writes about the traditional divisions between art and commerce, and how they’re not always as clear-cut as you might think. She writes about music libraries and the artists who worked creating musical content for them. Muzak? Maybe. But also, oddly, a place where experimentation and creativity was possible.

Zoladz writes:

most people who want to spend their lives making music find a peculiar freedom in anonymity, and that they’d much prefer to hone their craft quietly, without the peculiar burdens of fame and superstardom.

“With library music, you can do what the hell you like,” Lee says. “You don’t have to have a fan-base, you’re not selling to a fan-base, you don’t have a career arc that people know about, nobody’s expecting your record to sound like the one you just did. You can do heavy-metal one day, hip-hop the next, and something orchestral the week after. It allows for a great deal of creative freedom from an artist.”

To me, this is the most radical aspect of library music, the way it completely confounds the things we take for granted about music and celebrity.

For me as a writer, I always dreamed about finding a little corner of the world exactly like this: a little groove you could work in, honing your craft, following your own artistic inclinations, making art, and pulling down a regular paycheck. No-one was going to know your name and you weren’t going to change the world. But you could carve out a little corner for yourself, doing exactly what you wanted to do, and still have the money to pay the rent. And the cool thing about that kind of job is that you still, hopefully, get to also make the grand statement-y things that might yet make you a household name. (I know it doesn’t always work out that way. But still.)

I also love the way Zoladz prods at her own discomfort with the idea of “selling out”, which, to be honest, I’ve never shared. The music industry is a different beast, I guess. But this piece is a fascinating spin on what art does and is for. Definitely worth checking out.