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Bye Bye Boney: Hello Moby

The Matrix

Remember when Neo and Trinity rescue Morpheus from the agents and escape in a ’copter? They look down and pow! There it is, the AWA Tower in Sydney.

Sydney’s AWA Tower

I arrive there fresh out of school. My first job, my first day. Can any 17-year-old be so lucky? Heart pounding, I enter the Tower. In the foyer next to the elevators is 2CH radio announcer Roy Hampson. He’s hosting a promotional stand. There’s a slide show and music playing.

“Good morning, I’m Stefan. It’s my first day.” “First day, pleased to meet you.” “I love the music. What is it?” “‘Canadian Caravan,’ a Chappell Mood Music record.”

Mad About Mood Music

From that day on, I consume mood music. Love it, love it, love it.

I learn by heart the whole of the Chappell library from C100 to C453. Play me any Chappell and I can tell you the track name, the composer and record number.

AWA production studio. Yep, that’s me, aged 17

Go on, try me. Easy: “The Duel,” Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, composed by Sidney Torch, C.354. The theme for The Air Adventures of Biggles. Every Monday morning, we record four 15-minute episodes of Biggles straight to 16-inch 33 1/3 rpm transcription discs. I play the mood music and sound effects from four 78 rpm turntables.

Temp Music

These days when I’m editing a documentary, I don’t start with mood music. I just want something quick and easy: The theme from Grand Theft Auto, some jazz from Boney James, a song from Jim Croce.

Then as the job nears completion, I replace the temp music with production music.

Amy Sewell, who made Mad Hot Ballroom, paid $170,000 for music clearance. Ouch! I can’t afford that.

So it’s au revoir Aretha, bye bye Boney and hello royalty-free.

Production Music Libraries

When I started, there were just two: De Wolfe Music and Chappell. Today it would be impossible to list them all. Hundreds and hundreds of mood music libraries: Killer Tracks, Omnimusic, FirstCom Music and on and on.

Tracks created for nothing in bedrooms on Apple GarageBand to recordings with the full London Symphony Orchestra on the KPM label.

There are the more expensive libraries like APM, Warner/Chappell Music, Manhattan Production Music; the mid-priced ones like Shutterstock; almost free ones like Jamendo; and (wait for it) the free one, mobygratis.


Twenty-five years later, my music and SFX library in London.

Seen Lucy Walker’s documentary Waste Land? You should, it’s brilliant, and the music: all for free.

On Moby’s blog, she says: “I love mobygratis! It provides a fantastic resource for independent and not-for-profit filmmakers. The music for a movie is the most vital, integral part of a film’s mood, emotion and impact, but a decent soundtrack can often end up being unaffordable by anyone except big budget studio films. It’s amazing that Moby has created this archive of fantastic, soundtrack-suitable music for filmmakers to use completely for free.”

Thank you, Moby. Love your music and your price. What a great idea!

If music be the food of love, another helping please.