Production music, royalty free music, and stock music are all thrown around pretty loosely when it comes to purchasing music for audio/video accompaniment. There’s a lot of confusion in terms of what these words mean and how they relate to each other. Here’s an attempt to draw some lines in the sand and make sense of this trivial trio of music licensing.
The general consensus is that stock music and production music are one in the same. For the sake of consistency, production music and stock music are indeed virtually interchangeable. Production music, though, literally means music used for production; whether it be video games, website videos, commercial accompaniment, etc. That music could be royalty free and that music could also be from a stock music library. It’s best to think in terms of an awkward familial relationship starting with production music as the live-in grandparent, stock music as the single mother or father, and royalty free music as the offspring. Production music can reside over all or it can stand side-by-side with stock music as one parental unit.
Royalty free music is a specific type of production or stock music in terms of the manner it is licensed, hence its low position on the licensing hierarchy. Using a service like Muserk for example, a content creator pays a flat fee for unlimited use of that music without having to go through the gamut of publishers and copyright holders. The original owner never gives up his or her rights to administer the song, the purchaser just pays to be able to use it however and whenever within a specific production; free of additional fees and clearances. Some stock/production music is royalty free and some is not.
Stock music is NOT synonymous with royalty free music, contrary to popular belief. It’s a library of production music available for licensing at a relatively affordable rate. It can be purchased royalty free (in perpetuity) or on a rights managed license basis (requires the re-upping of the license). Rights managed music is generally more expensive and is licensed for only one particular work. The producer also has to pay for all of the mediums on which the work will be released. While rights managed work may include more popular titles, royalty free music will offer quality, more cost efficient titles. By simply searching a stock music catalog like Muserk’s, you can find endless, royalty free cuts to suit just about any production need.