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How to License Your Music

1,000,000 streams on Spotify will get you approximately $3,000 in royalties.

1 MILLION!

Can you even hit that target in a whole year?

I’m not even sure I could make it in TEN years!

Here are 6 different ways you could make $3,000 with music licensing. It might take you a whole year when you’re first starting out but it certainly won’t take you 10 years to get there!

How to license your music income potential

Now doesn’t that seem much more achievable than 1 MILLION streams on Spotify?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to licensing music.

They are many other projects that could use your music PLUS the sales prices above are fairly conservative (you’ll see that with Songtradr’s own pricing tool featured later in this post).

This is WHY you need to look into music licensing.

Now let me show you HOW to license your music.

The first thing I want to tell you is that you don’t need to know every single technical aspect of music licensing to start looking for music licensing opportunities.

In the rest of this post, I will explain the essentials (exclusive versus non-exclusive deals, synch fees versus performance royalties, the role of music libraries, etc.) BUT I want to focus my attention on getting you to actually start DOING something!

Trust me, you’ll learn much more by “doing” music licensing than you will ever learn just reading about it. Even if you feel you’re not “ready” yet, the key is to start!


If you want more guidance on how to license your music, check out this online training program called Get Your Music Licensed.


So here it goes… 

How to License Your Music

Step 1: Get Your Music Ready for Licensing

Pick 3 to 5 Tracks From Your Catalogue

If you’re not sure they’re good enough, try anyway. You’ll soon find out. There’s nothing that kills the musician’s ambitions quite like perfectionism.

Still, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind for successfully licensing music.

  • Songs and/or instrumentals are fine. Explicit lyrics very rarely are.
  • No samples! Apple loops and such are fine. Samples from other artists’ work or copyrighted speeches are not.
  • You should own the rights to the tracks you’re submitting. In case of co-authors, make sure you’re all on the same page and ok to seek out licensing opportunities.
  • Check with your publisher and/or label (if you have one) before you doing anything with your music, including look for licensing opportunities.

Export MP3 and WAV Files

Export high quality MP3s (preferably 320kbps) and WAV files (preferably 24bit, 48kHz).

Note that I wrote “preferably.” Again, if for whatever reason you can’t export your songs in those formats, just pick the next best option available!

For example, an MP3 256kbps or a WAV 16bit, 44kHz).

Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to audio quality:

  • 24 bit > 16 bit
  • 320 kbps > 256 kbps > 128 kbps
  • WAV = AIFF > MP3
  • 48kHz > 44kHz for any music that will be used on video (not in quality but simply because that’s the standard for TV/film)

Input Metadata

Make sure your audio files (MP3s and WAV) have the proper metadata attached to them.

This means that if you double click on the audio file and it starts playing in iTunes or whatever app you use to listen to your music, the following information will appear clearly and accurately:

  • Track name
  • Artist name
  • Album name
  • Genre
  • Recording or release date

If possible, add your email address in the “comments” or “additional information” section.

If you don’t know how to do this, I suggest researching “how to add metadata in iTunes” (or whatever system you’re using) in Youtube.

Audacity is a free tool you might also want to explore.

Create a Catalogue Spreadsheet

Take the time to create a spreadsheet or Word doc to track your catalogue.

Here is what it could look like:

How to license your music Licensing Spreadsheet

Include the name of the song, the description and a bunch of keywords that will come in handy when you upload them onto music libraries. Assign each licensing opportunity it’s own column to keep track of where songs are placed.

For now, all you need is the column with the track titles really but you might want to anticipate and start thinking about descriptions and keywords.

Step 2: Register your songs with a PRO

Always register songs you plan on licensing with a Performance Rights Organisation (PRO).

If you already know what a PRO is and have already registered your songs with yours, move on to step 3!

PROs are the organisations that ensure that you get paid royalties when one of your tunes is performed on radio, TV, etc.

In the US, that could be ASCAP or BMI. In the UK it’s PRS. SACEM is the one in France.

You only need to register with one. PROs around the world collaborate with each other to collect royalties in their territory and coordinate with other PROs to get the composers paid.

There’s no need to be fancy about it. Just register with the PRO of your choice.

Check out this list of PROs to find out the options in your part of the world and how to license your music there.

Step 3: Research Music Libraries

There are many other opportunities in the music licensing world but they require more time, organizational skills and energy.

For now let’s focus on production music libraries.

They have their flaws but are great to start learning how to licensing your music, understanding how much admin work is needed in the background (it’s not all music making heaven if you want to get paid!), and figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t.

So….

What Are Music Libraries?

They are platforms that curate music and make it available to license.

Their role is not to promote your music to venues or potential fans. They don’t really focus on that, it’s not their business.

The focus of music libraries is to make your tracks available for licensing to potential customers like ad agencies, YouTubers, videographers, indie filmmakers, music supervisors on TV shows (a LOT of reality TV shows out there! :p ), etc.

Here’s an example so you can see how libraries are being used:

An indie filmmaker is looking for a really cool tune for her new western. She can’t really afford to hire someone like Ennio Morricone so she checks out if her favorite music library has anything in a similar vein.

She’s happy because she finds a really nice, low key tune that will fit her project perfectly.

She giddily adds that tune to her cart, pays her license and gets a link to download the audio files.

When someone licenses a song, they are paying for the right to use that song in their project.

How Do YOU Get Paid?

  1. Sync Fees – A “synchronisation fee” is paid to the music library upfront. Depending on the terms of the license agreement you signed with the library, you’ll get a percentage of that sync fee (the standard is a 50/50 split, some libraries give you 60% or 70% like Audiosparx).
  2. Performance Royalties – If the video that used your music is played on TV (whether it’s terrestrial, cable or online), you receive performance royalties calculated based on the number of plays. That’s where your PRO comes in. They’re in charge of collecting the royalties for you.
  3. Ad revenue – If your music is used in a YouTube video, you could receive a share of the ad revenue. However, this side of the business gets tricky because you need your music to be part of the YouTube’s ContentID program. That can create a whole host of problems for music libraries you work with. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about this type of revenue just yet.

How Much Can You Expect to Make Licensing Music?

These are the figures from the Songtradr pricing tool I was telling you about:

how to license your music Music Licensing Deals

If you’re a little geek who likes playing with figures like me, you can go ahead and register to Songtradr for free and have some fun with their pricing tool!

As you can see, the music licensing fees vary a lot depending on the project the tune will be used in.

For example:

A big budget film wants to use your song. They had loads of money to pay the cast, film on location and put together a huge promotional tour. It’s only fair that those who contribute to the soundtrack get their share of the pie.

A teacher would love to use your song in a video she made to tell her classroom about the importance of being polite. If you’ve made your song available for free to non-profit projects, she won’t have to pay a dime. However, if she decides to upload her video on Youtube and starts making money from advertising, you should earn your share of performance royalties.

When you’re just starting out, you should experiment and reach out to as many varied music licensing opportunities as possible.

In time, you’ll learn what you enjoy working on and what is a good fit for you.

For example, I tried to make happy commercial music for a while because advertising pays well. After a while, I realized it didn’t make much sense for me to focus on this because a) I didn’t enjoy it and b) it’s not my style, others are much better at it and I’m much better writing epic orchestral tunes.

How Do You Know Which Music Libraries Are The Right Fit?

Well, you don’t right from the get go.

It’s important that you research the music libraries you’re thinking of submitting to.

Why?

Because different libraries offer different things:

  • Opportunities (TV, video games, wedding videos)
  • Licensing deals (exclusive, non-exclusive)
  • Genres of music (happy pop, trailer music, children’s music)

Here are a few examples that are all different that will hopefully give you a better idea of what I’m talking about 😀

  1. Audiosparx.com (a fairly big player that will give you a good idea of all the admin that comes with licensing, i.e. writing a description for your song, finding the right keywords to increase its chance of appearing in the search results, etc.)
  2. Jinglepunks.com (big player, lucrative but selective)
  3. Premiumbeat.com (“race to the bottom” type of library in the sense that they really sell their catalogue for cheap… they’re popular BUT they want exclusivity for your songs)
  4. Railroadtrax.com (small boutique library, competent & super friendly; standard 50/50 non-exclusive deal)

How Do You Research Music Libraries?

Take a couple of hours to identify 6-8 production music libraries, visit their website and do your research.

That means:

  • Analyze the music they already have. Is your music is an obvious fit? Is there’s a gap in their catalogue you might be able to fill?
  • Find out how to submit music to them (you’ll usually find the information on the FAQ or contact pages).
  • Find out if they sign tracks on exclusive or non-exclusive music licensing deals. If it’s obvious from their website that they’ll want exclusivity of the songs they accept, I would skip it. Unless you’re already experienced in music licensing and know the risks and rewards of exclusive deals.

While you’re doing your research, there are a couple of things I want you do to:

  1. Write down on a piece of paper the name of the music libraries that you want to send your music to; and
  2. Create a “Music libraries” folder in your browser’s favourites and add the submissions/FAQ page of every library you’ve selected.

IMPORTANT

If you’re just starting out with music licensing, I suggest you stick with non-exclusive deals.

Why?

When you sign a song to an exclusive deal, the library you sign the deal with is the only one authorised to license that song. That means if they forget about you or don’t care (which can definitely happen!), you won’t be making any licensing money from that song.

There may come a time when you’re more familiar with the licensing ecosystem when you might want to research and test out exclusive deals but for now, I highly recommend forgetting about them.

Step 4: Submit, Submit, Submit

There’s not much to explain here.

Just PLEASE make sure you follow the submission guidelines detailed on each music library’s website. They took the time to write them, you should take the time to read and follow them.

That means if they ask for a minimum of 4 tracks and you only have 3, wait until you have another tune to offer. If they ask for streaming links of individual tracks, don’t send them attachments or links to a playlist.

I know, I know, that’s just common sense. And yet, scores of musicians don’t put in the time or effort to actually follow the simple guidelines of music libraries. Don’t be that person.

Try to keep these few things in mind:

  • Don’t let the production quality of your tracks stop you (within reason of course: don’t go sending obviously flawed mixes). What I mean is don’t procrastinate with the excuse of being a perfectionist 😉 If you’re not sure, send them anyway.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have a professional looking email address. A gmail address has never stopped anyone from doing business!
  • NO, your music doesn’t need to be on Spotify, Pandora, etc. to be considered for music licensing opportunities.

Basically stop making excuses and working under silly assumptions like you need a website, a strong social media presence, an album, a big catalogue, an agent, a professional mastering engineer, etc.

You don’t need ANY of those things to get your music licensed. They might help but you don’t need them.

Focus on the music and you’ll be fine. You’ll build those other things up over time. 

Conclusion – How to License Your Music

Now you have a super simple roadmap that will get you started in no time.

You can easily do it by committing to work on it for 1 hour every day over 7 days.

If you want more to learn how to license your music with more comprehensive licensing guidance, check out our online training program called Get Your Music Licensed.

The class is part of the online music business training offered at New Artist Model.

If you are interested in promoting your music, check out the Music Business Accelerator program (MBA).

Joyce Kettering (creativeandproductive.com) is a songwriter, composer, music licensing expert, and teacher of the Get Your Music Licensed! program. The music licensing methods she teaches has allowed her to quit her day job at a Fortune 500 company and be successful on licensing alone. 

 

Photo credit: Kris Kesiak http://bit.ly/1oUdYvY

Photo credit: Kris Kesiak http://bit.ly/1oUdYvY

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.


If you want more guidance on how to license your music, check out this online training program called Get Your Music Licensed.

OR

You can get started for free with this ebook: Everything You Need to Know About Licensing & Publishing Your Music. Click here to download the ebook for free.


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.

Following Up

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.

Stay Connected!

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.

 

MusiciansAtlas_music-supervisor

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Many musicians dream of their songs appearing on TV or in a film. Just wanting your music on TV isn’t enough! The chance that someone will come out of the blue and hand you money to use your song is very slim. You need to be out there promoting your own music and networking with people involved in the film and TV industries. Start small and work your way up from there! It will be hard to score a place on a hit TV show if you’ve never licensed any of your music before.

Sarah Sharp is one songwriter who has gotten a strong understanding of the publishing industry. Her songs have appeared in ads for Chanel, Dell, Macy’s, and ABC’s “Revenge.” In this article that originally appeared on Hypebot, she shares 7 tips she’s learned about getting licensed.

1. Go to film festivals. Make friends with filmmakers at every level of production & success.

I particularly get excited when I meet editors. Editors will often choose from their personal music library for temp music in their rough edits and often, everyone becomes accustomed to the temp music & it stays. Take a genuine interest in what people are trying to write or get made and help each other on the way up.

I have read my friends’ scripts and given feedback and made them mix tapes of indie artists years before the film finally gets made. The 1st film I music supervised was a Jason Lee, Crispin Glover film called “Drop Dead Sexy”. I probably earned $1/hr by the time it was all said and done for the time I put in, but one of my songs ended up in the film and I have made several thousand dollars in royalties from that one placement. BIG PICTURE.

2. Get a final mix of your entire album with no vocal.

There are a lot of places where the instrumental version of your song can be used. Also, it’s often helpful to be able to comp together both versions around the dialogue. This promo for ABC TV’s “Revenge” used our Kaliyo song “Deep Girl.” It barely resembles the full song, but they made great use of it by weaving both the instrumental and vocal version in and around the voice over.

3. Don’t be a pain in the ass and get out of your own way.

Sometimes people get a little whiff of success and they get so caught up in the idea of what could be or worrying about not “getting screwed”, that they blow the whole thing. If someone wants to use your song and you have never placed anything before, just say “YES & THANK YOU.” Reply immediately. Be the easiest, most reliable person to work with on the planet. Have a lawyer read your contract and then just say yes. A really smart and as yet still accessible/affordable music lawyer is Amy Mitchell. Tell her I sent you.

4. If you have a great cover version of a really well-known song, try to get it to the publisher of that song.

Often their hands are tied because they own the song, but the record label owns the really famous master. Some publishers would love to know about a fantastic version of their song that they can actually clear.

To see the other 3 tips, check out the full article on Hypebot.

Have you ever had your music licensed for TV or film? What are some things you’ve learned from your experiences? Share your own tips and thoughts in the comment section below!

Alicen Catron Schneider is Vice President of Music Creative Services for NBC Universal and a music supervisor. Alicen is responsible for music supervision for hit TV shows including Heroes, Lipstick Jungle, Crossing Jordan, House, Monk, Surface, Eureka, LAX, Critical Assembly, Leap of Faith, ED, The Pretender, Tucker, Sunday Night Football and the Winter Olympics.