There has been a lot of buzz about music licensing in the music industry in recent years, and with good reason! Compared to other revenue streams, like streaming, licensing can have potentially big payouts for indie musicians. It’s also a pretty confusing aspect of the music industry. Just how exactly do songs get on those TV shows? The conductors behind these licenses are music supervisors.
What is a Music Supervisor?
Music supervisors oversee the music-related aspects of TV, films, and video games. It’s actually a much trickier job than you may think. They are in charge of interpreting the producer’s vision (which can be rather abstract), finding the right track, and negotiating the contract with the artists. Of course, there are MILLIONS of songs out there, so finding the right one is no easy task. On top of that, licensing for use in visual mediums is a juggling act, with as many as eight separate deals depending on how many parties are involved (songwriter, recording artist, record label, publishing company, etc.) and how the song will be used.
Despite the potential money involved, licensing is actually a pretty impartial industry in terms of the artists chosen. Music supervisors aren’t usually concerned with your career level. There are lots of instances where completely independent bands have gotten huge placements. Their priority is getting the right song, not plugging big-time artists. In fact, you only need 3 things to get started licensing your music for film and TV.
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Contacting Music Supervisors
Licensing music for film and TV is not a mass email business. That’s a good way to get blocked. It’s about taking the time to research and pin-pointing very specific opportunities. The first step is defining your musical style. What genre does your music best fit in? What mood do your songs tend to portray? Is your music reminiscent of songs from other bands or artists? Next, you’ll want to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the music used in commercials, movies, TV shows, and video games. Take note of any titles in which you think your music would work.
So how do you even know who to contact? The music supervisor is always listed in the credits and you can always find a name and email online with a little research. Luckily, there are also great tools like Musician’s Atlas that have already done the work for you, giving easy access to names and contact information. Email is your best bet, though it wouldn’t hurt following them on Twitter as well. You might get some insights as to what they’re looking for.
Keep it Brief
When emailing music supervisors, be as short and to the point as possible. They are busy people and the less time they have to spend digging for information, the better. Ultimately, you really want them to be able to tell exactly how your music sounds from just the subject line. Listing a few key description terms like genre and mood is a great idea. If you can pinpoint a well-known band your music sounds like, include that too. For example, your subject line could be “Uplifting, rock track, sounds like Foo Fighters.” Just from that short description it’s pretty easy to figure out what the track sounds like and, in turn, what placements it might fit best.
Music Submission Guidelines
It’s best to provide a link to a place where the supervisor can listen to the track instead of attaching an mp3. There’s a couple options here. You could provide a link to a hidden page on your website, which is pretty easy to do with all the website creation tools and services out there. You could also provide a link to an online press kit that is separate from your website. On this page, the supervisor should be able to listen to the track and download a WAV file. You should also include the instrumental version of the track. More times than not, lyrics interfere with the dialog, so an instrumental version of your song is a must!
Do NOT include all your songs, or even a full album on this page. Instead, do your research, know what the supervisor is working on, look at the music they’ve used in the past, and send them 1 song (3 songs tops) you think fits best. You’ll stand out from the crowd if you do your research and be prepared and professional.
Do not send them hundreds of emails if you don’t hear back. They are people too, and like most people, they tend to block spam. Remember, just because they don’t have a place for your song now doesn’t mean a spot won’t come up in the future. If it’s the right song, it doesn’t matter if it’s a few years old. Supervisors have also been known to share tracks. If they are sent something that’s perfect for another supervisor’s project, they’ll forward it.
Above all, licensing for TV, film, and games is all about forging a relationship. Approach supervisors professionally, treat them like real people, and, if you score a licensing deal, keep the connection alive. Thank them for the placement, keep up on their new projects, and send them tracks if you see an opportunity in the future. Remember, a connection with one music supervisor could open the door to a huge web of networking.