As CD sales continue to dry up, music licensing has taken on an ever-increasing role in the independent artist’s career. In the old days, the barriers to license music were very high, and the opportunities much fewer for the musician without connections. Today’s web-based world has changed all that; more opportunities than ever exist, but the competition has increased dramatically.
There are several ways to go about finding licensing deals for your music:
1) Contact ad agencies directly
2) Seek out music supervisors (the people that select the music for film/TV)
3) Have your record label do it for you (we all have record labels, right?)
4) Use an online service that connects music buyers with music sellers
We are mostly in interested in #4: the services like Taxi, Pump Audio, Music Gorilla, Song Catalog, Sonic Bids, The Orchard, etc. that aggregate content from various artists and make it accessible in a centralized location for the ad agencies, music supervisors, and whoever else that wants to license music.
There are many permutations among the online licensing opportunities. Here are some basic questions / differences to keep in mind:
1) Do I retain control over when and where my music is licensed?
Some companies require that you agree beforehand to accept whatever deals they generate, while others will give you a choice based on the particular opportunity.
2) Is there an annual fee for participation?
Fees can range from $0-$400+ annually. Are they worth it? Sometimes…
3) Do I have to pay (additional) fees to submit to individual opportunities?
Some companies charge no fees but take a higher percentage of the licensing income. Others may charge to screen candidates and earn a little extra for themselves.
4) What rights am I ceding by using a particular service?
Most of these types of companies use non-exclusive agreements, meaning you are free to list your music with any and all of these companies at the same time. If a deal comes through and the buyer wants to have the exclusive rights to your song, then you can negotiate on a case-by-case basis.
Maximize Your Exposure and Get Better Results
While each of these companies has a slightly different model, most of them are legitimate and represent new ways for your music to get heard. Don’t just use one and expect to make millions. Your best bet is to try using as many channels as you can and thereby improve your odds. If your budget is tight, you can still submit your music to the services that don’t charge anything up front.
Go here for an overview article on licensing from Larry Mills, VP at Pump Audio.