Music Licensing – You want every chance to produce income from your music, and while mechanical royalties (for sales of actual product and digital downloads) have declined, there are more opportunities than ever to have your music heard on television and in movies. In addition to the fiscal advantage, for songwriters who are also recording artists, outstanding placements in TV shows and films can help expand your fan base, in addition to looking great on a resume.
But there are additional reasons to place songs on television and in films. In many genres, like rock, singer/songwriter, alternative rock, pop, R&B, hip-hop, instrumental, and Americana music, it’s quite tough to put “outside tunes” – songs not written or co-composed by the artist or producer. It’s also tough to place tunes that sound as though they belong in another era for 1940s swing music, Patsy Cline, example, or psychedelic rock from 1968.
Where Do the Songs Used in the Background Come From?
You might be surprised to learn that a considerable amount of the background music on your own favorite TV shows and movies is derived from songwriters’ demos and from artists ’ independent releases. I’m not referring to the instrumental music composed specifically to underscore an arena but to the vocal and instrumental pieces heard in the background on television shows and in films.
Then movies and TV shows offer an outlet for your song demos if you write songs in the hopes that they will be recorded by musicians other than you. If you’re a recording artist, together with a songwriter, we’re talking about setting recordings from your own albums including records you’ve produced independently. Composers of instrumental music can also find a market for their music on TV shows and in movies.
Here are the Tips for Licensing your Music
It Should Sound Good
What the heck qualifies music as sounding great? This has absolutely nothing to do with subjective tastes in music. We mean that in the most general sense, the music should be well-produced music with high-quality instruments (whether acoustic or electronic) and high-quality sound design.
Heads up: Not all music is licensing-friendly. Music that gets licensed for the medium & large tier chances hits mainstream audiences. Music that reaches mainstream audiences is well-produced, well-mixed, and well-mastered. It should sound expensive if a song can seem pricey. If it sounds like it was made by you in your bedroom at home, no one will give it the time of day. Licensing professionals, including our licensing department, will listen to the first 10 seconds of your song and they ditch it if it doesn’t sound good right off the bat.
So take a listen to your song. Ask yourself: Does the keyboard in my intro sound like an imitation instrument that is low-cost? Obviously, a lot of instruments are electronic and from instrument packs nowadays, but there are some that simply sound imitation, cheap and horrible. It’s tough, to be honest with yourself about the tunes you consider your kin, so have a third party man be totally honest with you.
Know who owns the rights to your music
In the licensing world, people who prefer to use music with visual media – the music supervisors, licensing houses, production companies, TV networks, etc. – need to know who the owners of the tune are. They want to understand who the owners are because those music supervisors have to acquire approval from ALL owners of a song that is given in order to use that tune in their own endeavor.
It’s their wish to know and will ask:
- Who possesses the masters/sound recording?
- Who owns the underlying composition/publishing?
You have to have the answers to these questions at all times. And your licensing agents/representatives pitching your music on your behalf will need the comprehensive replies to these questions. We’ve got the record labels & artists fill out a chart with columns telling us songwriters’ full names, their % split ownership of the song, and their PRO, to deliver to our partner Music Supervisor.
Why? Because in order to place your music, these professionals want: 1) A master use license to possess the right to utilize the master/sound recording in the visual media and 2) A synchronization permit to possess the right to synchronize the underlying composition with the visual media.
Get your publishing in line. And educate yourself.
Make sure all songwriters involved in the songs are registered in a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) and that the tunes themselves are registered. Enroll yourself, in the event that you aren’t already a member of the PRO in your nation. You’ll be making substantial performance royalties from your PRO, in case your tune gets placed in an Apple commercial that airs on TVs worldwide. Set yourself up for big money.
Get an instrumental mix
Tons of commercial, picture, or video game execs will love your sound, however, they’ll find it doesn’t mesh well after they comprise a voiceover. Or, they may only want the instrumentation to start with, so you’ll need to truly have a method to give them just the instrumentals.
This is really common! A lot of TV trailers may comprise an instrumental version of a track that occurs through the season, so it’s safe to get on hand. One of my clients was contacted to license his work for the background of a mobile game app. The developers found that the vocals were a bit too distracting, and fortunate for us, we had an instrumental version ready to go.
Consider partnering with a business
A music licensing firm holds the catalog of dozens (or hundreds) of artists, and they pitch your music to supervisors in your behalf. While this absolutely makes your life easier, the company will generally get a percentage (depending on the kind of deal).
So, much like a PR business or manager, when you can promote your work on your own, by all means, do it. If you’re able to afford it, nevertheless, find one that works with your budget. The above-mentioned steps are quite easy to allow them to integrate, so tweaking your current marketing efforts might be all you desire if you’re blessed enough to already work with your marketing team.