Are you planning on licensing a song in the near future? Here are some great tips that you will need for licensing your music.
Some songwriters can make millions from penning songs for artists, while the artists make much less without any songwriting credits. That’s why so many artists famously make more money from touring than from selling albums. One of the best ways to earn more is through licensing songs.
Decide whether you’re licensing a song for television, for movies, commercials, video games, or just so you can release it to the world.
Every media channel has its own standards and practices when it comes to money, but if someone wants your song, you could negotiate higher. That way, anytime it gets a radio play, a stream, or a single is sold, you’ll see a payment.
If you’ve been writing some great music and you’re looking to get it licensed, here are 10 things you need to know.
1. Know What Works for TV and Films
Your first step might be to grab a bowl of popcorn and find a comfortable spot on your couch. It seems counterintuitive, but the best way to know what works for film and TV is to watch some film and TV.
Put on your favorite drama or long form show and let your mind drift while you listen. See what the music on your favorite shows has that you don’t have. It could be texture, ambiance, or something much different that you can be inspired to add to your next song.
2. Know Masters from Publishing
Masters licensing is invoked when your song is reproduced. The conditions change when your song is used alongside a video. Synchronizing your song to a video falls under publishing.
Getting comfortable knowing when to invoke the different terms will make you more comfortable in negotiations. You’ll be able to walk into meetings sounding like a pro when you’re looking into licensing a song.
3. Secure Your Copyright
After you’ve written a song, you might think that it automatically belongs to you. Other artists and anyone looking to make money from your work should respect you and give you credit and what you’re owed.
Unfortunately, that’s not always how it works when licensing a song. Registering your copyright gives you documentation and the authority to prove you’re the owner of your songs.
4. Become a Member of a Publishing Group
Having a membership to ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC can bring lots of perks. You’ll be seen as a professional by your peers and be able to speak about music licensing with authority.
In many cases, you might need this membership as a prerequisite for television or film studios to work with you. Unless you’re registered with a Performance Rights Organization, you might not be able to license your music at all.
5. Make Sure It’s 100% Yours
Music with samples, audio from other sources, or interpolations of other songs might not be eligible for licensing.
If you’ve received clearance or explicit permission for each sample or interpolation, you will be able to get a license. Otherwise, you could be accused of plagiarism, or worse, sued for copyright infringement.
Studios won’t want to take the risk of being sued and will steer clear of your music.
They’ll often ask you to sign a waiver declaring that the music is 100 percent yours before they work with you. This will clear them of any liability should you fail to disclose your samples.
6. Write Great Songs
We have a special appreciation for the things we create. Whether it’s art, home repairs, or even our children, we love to see the results of our time and our efforts. But sometimes an outside opinion can reveal a lot.
Play your music to people who don’t know you personally. Find a way to get their honest feedback and consider taking it into account. Family and friends will hold back in ways that a stranger might not.
Placing songs on YouTube or SoundCloud should allow you to get some quick feedback. Consider some of the things people are saying and try to do better in your next composition.
7. Try Multiple Approaches
Placing all of your songs in one basket could set you up for disappointment. If you give everything to your publisher, you could be trying to push music through a bad publisher. Make sure your manager is savvy enough to advise you on the right direction.
Don’t be afraid to pitch some songs on your own. Give a few to a licensing company and some others to another publisher. See which channels are more lucrative and who is most interested in your work.
This can pay off by making you a better artist and making some more money.
8. Rubbing Elbows Never Hurt
Every year there are industry seminars that you can attend where you can meet knowledgeable people in person. Music supervisors can tell you what they’re looking for and can tell you how to send them music directly.
You could meet independent production companies who are looking for talent to work with on a regular basis.
Get out there, shake some hands, and don’t forget to bring some business cards.
9. Get Some Contact Lists
There are a lot of different channels for getting contact lists. While some might not seem legit, or you might be worried about getting contacts that are out of date, this won’t always be the case.
See what kinds of contacts you can get through your existing network. Compare them to one another and try to build a master contact list with everything you need.
Try buying a contact list from a legitimate retailer like The Music Business Registry. They are pretty rigorous about maintaining quality lists, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
10. Always Be Professional
Once you’ve made contacts, make sure you always show up acting and looking professional. While you might want to seem cool or down to earth, ultimately, you’re asking for time and money from people.
Show them you respect them by acting like you would in any major professional contact.
Licensing a Song Is Easy with Great Music
If you’re licensing a song for the first time, the challenges can be steep.
Building your first relationships with publishers can be difficult since you have no connections to rely on. Over time, you’ll build those relationships with great material that fits a variety of situations.
If you’re still working on making the perfect track, check out our guide to finding inspiration when you’re writing.
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