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NPL Mixtapes: Library Music

June 25, 2018

Chances are good that you’ve heard library music at some point in your life and not known it.

And no, library music isn’t the sound of studious readers softly turning book pages in a cavernous room, punctuated occasionally by a cough. This fascinating genre, also called production music, is designed specifically for use in commercial media, and differs from standard soundtrack work in that the pieces are usually short, intended to elicit a particular mood or vibe, and allow the production companies to maintain full control over the copyright and usage of the composition.

One of the great things about library music is that there’s so much of it. Numerous music production companies have existed since the advent of the concept in the 1920’s, and while present-day operations have their own 21st century versions of licensing models and stylistic choices, much of the vintage output can be found online in various locations. Many labels were small and might have operated for only a short time, but some of the bigger players - De Wolfe, Bruton, KPM - were highly prolific, with the occasional stalwart still around today.

Every possible mood can be found amongst these tracks, which can range from lightly impressionistic tone poems to highly efficient delivery systems for simple, catchy melodies. For the easy-listening-averse, there is definitely some crossover with what is generally thought of as ‘muzak’, but there’s also plenty to enjoy beyond the elevator vibe, including whacked-out synthesizers from the future and Italian crime jazz. The particular seven tracks below are all from the KPM label, since that is what can be found on Freegal. Over on Hoopla, be sure to check out the handful of Bruton albums they currently offer, and remember that much, much more can be found online, usually in video form. Be forewarned: if you take a liking to this brand of auditory pleasure, it’s very easy to quickly slip into a blackhole of endless exploration...

1. "Our Special Guest Tonight" by Brian Bennett on KPM 1000

2. "Downtown Streets" by Keith Mansfield on KPM 1000

3. "Image" by Brian Bennett on KPM 1000 Series: Image

4. "Fire Me Up" by Alan Parker on KPM 1000

5. "Big Feature" by Keith Mansfield on KPM 1000 Series: Impact

6. "Dangerous Divergence" by John Cameron on KPM 1000

7. "Sidetrack" by Brian Bennett on KPM 1000 Series: Amusement


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