Music Licensing and Brand Marketing: Rumblefish

Rumblefish is a web-based company that connects artists and labels to companies looking to license music. Last week I had a great conversation with Paul Anthony, CEO of Rumblefish. Today and tomorrow we are covering the company and sharing Paul’s tips for licensing success.

Rumblefish Licensing Contract Details

  • All licenses are non-exclusive
  • By submitting music you are agreeing to a 1-year term
  • There are no submission or membership fees
  • You retain 100% ownership of your rights
  • You retain 100% of back-end performance royalties
  • You receive 50% of net licensing fees
  • They pay out quarterly

How Artists License Music with Rumblefish

  1. You submit music to Rumblefish with a completed application and tax forms
  2. Your music is approved (hopefully)
  3. Your music is added to the Rumblefish catalog
  4. People and companies that need music find your tracks on Rumblefish and pay a licensing fee based on what they’re going to use it for
  5. Rumblefish splits the licensing fee with you
  6. You move out of your cardboard box and onto a friend’s couch
  7. Repeat these steps, until you own your own couch

Who Licenses Music from Rumblefish?

Rumblefish sells music to all types of clients. These include the standard high profile targets, which are TV shows, films and video games. But they also focus on “sonic branding”, or creating music personalities for corporations.

Sonic Branding

There are tons of businesses that use music to enhance their customer experiences, such as banks, waiting rooms and restaurants. The amount of music required for the most mundane of things is massive. Rumblefish works with businesses to act as their go-to source for audio. Instead of streaming muzak, companies are finding that licensing real music and using it in interesting ways can enhance their corporate brand identity.

For example, Rumblefish worked with Umpqua Bank to launch a Discover Local Music Project, which licensed the music of many local artists to create an ongoing music experience for bank customers. The project resulted in a 20% increase in bank deposits. While this might not inspire musicians out there, what it means is that more companies will see value in music, and thus be willing to pay us for our labors. (Which is ironic, because consumers and technology are simultaneously reducing the cost of personal music consumption to zero).

Things I Like About Rumblefish

They don’t charge you anything upfront. As Barry Coffing of says, “If a company doesn’t make money from licensing your music, then that’s not their business.” Instead of charging a fee up front, Rumblefish splits the licensing fee with you 50/50, which I think is very fair. You create the beautiful music. They market and sell it. Everyone wins.

They are targeting not just the TV and film industry, but a whole range of industries that need music. This should translate into more opportunities for musicians to get heard and to support themselves. While being background music in a retail store might not be as glamorous as a movie soundtrack placement, my credit card companies never ask where the money comes from.

Transparency is integral to the artist experience. Rumblefish gives quarterly reports on where your music was place and how much you earned from each placement, and they frequently list their latest placements on their blog. In 2009 they will be launching a dashboard for artists where you can see all of the music you’ve submitted, where it’s been used, and how much you’ve earned from each placement.

They don’t take back-end publishing fees. They seem like good people with a win-win attitude towards their artists and clients. And their CEO Paul claims to write a personal note with every check that Rumblefish mails out. (I’m taking his word for it. Hopefully I will experience this firsthand before not too long).

Some Possible Downsides to the Rumblefish Model

You aren’t asked to approve individual placements. Once you submit your music, you are consenting to it being licensed by anyone that wants it. I suppose you could end up selling cigarette to children or abortions in third-world countries, but I’m guessing it’s unlikely.

Your music is pre-priced and the licensing is automated
. Some people really value the “human” aspect of business and enjoy a negotiation based on the specific qualities and intended usage of a song. Rumblefish has prices for different licensing situations, which allows supervisors and other clients to skip the time-consuming negotiation process. They can find music quickly, pay for it immediately, and move on. This works great for some, but may ruffle someone’s ego…


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Part II of Music Licensing with Rumblefish, where we will share CEO Paul Anthony’s insights into the licensing biz and his tips for maximizing your licensing success

Other Rumblefish Sources:
You may also want to read about Rumblefish’s involvement in the 48-Hour Film Project

Or listen to a radio interview with their Director of A&R and Licensing at Well Rounded Radio

8 thoughts on “Music Licensing and Brand Marketing: Rumblefish”

  1. One other downside to these automated licensing sites is that if you compose loop-based electronic tracks, the licensee can’t get professional custom arranging. My “final” tracks are usually just rough arrangements, because the application really dictates the structure and length. I shudder at the thought of some inexperienced person hacking up my tracks in Wavelab to fit the project, when it would be so simple to do in the DAW.

  2. I can’t believe it. My music was rejected by Rumblefish. Listen, I’m no slouch as a musician, I have over 20 year professional experience and have had my stuff licensed for film, TV and more.
    So what the hell gives?!

  3. I am new to this,glad I saw your address.Just recorded my first cd.I am glad there are watchers like you out there.I do not know what I am going to do with my cd,but this sounds good to try.Nothing to lose.Thanks for the info.

  4. Thank you so much, I have been searching for how often Rublefish payout for at least 2 months now, so now I know I should get my second CD baby payout next month, thank you.

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