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Background music firm Epidemic Sound launches in U.S. with Maker deal

For the last several years, Swedish music company Epidemic Sound has been building a vast library of tracks for producers to use in soundtracks on television shows and online video, amassing 20,000 pieces from more than 100 composers.

Now, the company is launching in the United States through a partnership with Maker Studios, which operates some of the biggest video channels on YouTube.

“We really want to be the kings of background music," Epidemic Chief Executive Oscar Höglund said. "We’re super-nerdy about that.”   

The new agreement gives producers for Maker unlimited access to a trove of tracks and sound effects. Culver City-based Maker -- the company behind YouTube successes such as "Epic Rap Battles of History" as well as artists such as Kassem G, the Shaytards and PewDiePie -- has more than 60,000 channels and about 260 million subscribers. It recently raised a total of $62 million in series C funding.  

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It's also a big get for Epidemic.

"It’s a very big deal for us, because they have so many channels in their network," Höglund said.

Epidemic makes its music available to content creators by charging a subscription fee to companies such as Maker, and it pays its composers a fixed fee up front for each piece instead of paying out royalties over time.

Höglund says the traditional system of licensing music for content has made things difficult for creative types in a world where video is distributed across multiple platforms and viewed globally. Unlike typical production music companies, Epidemic owns all the rights to the compositions, which Höglund says makes the process much simpler for people looking for tunes to accompany their videos.

This model is ideal for much of Maker's creative community, said Maker's chief operating officer, Courtney Holt. "The idea was to come up with something that was simple and creatively viable," he said.

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Höglund, 35, co-founded Epidemic in Stockholm with a team of television and Internet entrepreneurs in 2009. The company says it's the largest supplier of production music for TV in the Nordics. It recently expanded into the U.K. through a deal with Pact, a trade group that represents independent British media companies.   

Gavin Luke was one of the first Americans to sign on as a composer for Epidemic. A musician in Minneapolis, he has written 400-500 pieces for the company, and some of his material has been used for a cooking show and the Swedish version of the reality TV series "Survivor."

While the non-royalty model may not work well for an established film composer, getting paid up front can benefit someone such as Luke or a musician using it as a stepping stone in his or her career, he said. 

“To me, the most attractive part is I get paid right away and I can start building my studio and improving my gear," Luke said. "This was money that was going into my pocket every month. It’s a good opportunity for people just getting into the game.” 

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Twitter: @rfaughnder

ryan.faughnder@latimes.com

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