Putting The Needle Back In Needledrop™
Believe it or not, this strange and (for decades) obscure business known as the “production music library” industry got its start during the heyday of vinyl. Publishing stalwarts such as De Wolfe, Chappell, and KPM are among the most revered names from our industry’s ancestors, and all gained credibility in ways involving vinyl and turntables that might surprise the casual commercial music user.
Yes, the industry catchphrase “needledrop” is derived from the physical act of dropping the record stylus, or needle, onto a record during video productions each time a piece of music needed to be synchronized with picture. Each drop of that needle was licensed as a separate fee, and the action was coined a needledrop for “needles” and “drops” that, at first glance, have little or nothing to do with DJ and sampling culture.
But the production music niche of our industry has been a part of vinyl junkie culture since the earliest days of crate digging and sample jacking.
Searching for those rare and long lost bits of inspiring library music groove on vinyl is a hobby best avoided by those lacking patience and perseverance—and, at times, a bank account large enough to procure such rarities—as many of the pioneers of the production music library business produced just enough copies for their (relatively) limited client bases. It’s been decades since any of the major players have prioritized releasing any new music on vinyl over the more efficient realities of digital and/or online delivery.
The rarity of such source material—combined with music geekery of the highest order—led to a renaissance for sample-based electronic and hip-hop music production long before there were hipsters buying reissued record players and the “baffling” upward trend of vinyl sales in recent years:
Some great research and writing about this peculiar slice of music history can be found all over the internet, such as Pitchfork's review of the recent re-release Music For Dancefloors: The KPM Music Library…
The initial fetishization of library music came bundled with a renewed interest in exotica and easy listening that flourished alongside Britpop in the mid 1990s. At Blow Up in London it was common to hear old library music cues being dropped by DJs such as the Karminsky Experience, Stereolab's Tim Gane, and Barry 7 from Add N to (X), while an adjoining room would blast out hits from Blur and Oasis. Fast-forward a decade, and the Ghost Box label repopularized the music. Danger Mouse, Jay-Z, DOOM, and Madlib have all sampled KPM cues.
So how are we putting the needle back in needledrop, anyway?
In keeping with one of our core tenets, Efficiency Sucks, we decided to throw caution to the wind and release some of our recent tracks on vinyl, a callback to an era when attention to detail and a passion for craftsmanship were priorities. To that end, we recalled the mixes for these tunes, remastered them specifically for the vinyl format, hand selected our lacquer cutter, and shepherded the arduous process of physical record production and packaging once again.
Of course, if you want to take a listen to this sampler online you’re welcome to do so… we went ahead and mastered alternate versions just for online/streaming delivery. We’ve posted it here at our site for clients, but it’s also available elsewhere online (including Spotify and iTunes).
We’re also figuring out which of our material might work well on vinyl each year, and making plans to include this as a portion of our ongoing creative output. The past 6 months of planning and creating this special edition has affirmed for us that the extra effort and craft is worth it, and manifests itself in ways we hadn’t anticipated during our creative process in the studio.
And, honestly, we hope that in a few decades the sampleheads and music geeks of that time will look back fondly on some of our production music being a part of their new cult favorites, much like the Benny Hill Show or Ren & Stimpy have utilized library music in their classic television programs, or like the Gnarls Barkley hit “Crazy” (which sampled the spaghetti western track “Last Man Standing”).
So if you’re interested in hearing what such attention to detail can mean for your licensed music needs, give us a shout. And if you’re a producer, DJ, artist, or songwriter interested in reviving the art of sampling directly from vinyl, know that we’re prepared to license our music and masters for anything creative and inspiring. So get in touch, as we hearken back to the beginnings of the music library industry and bring back the needledrop… for licensing, sampling, or simply being inspired by music produced on vinyl once again.