So many avenues for musicians to make money have all but evaporated – CD sales, road shows, concerts and more. It’s a sad state of affairs, but there are still some great ways to make money, so stay tuned. It’s not all bad news.
Music licensing has been around for a long time, but up until ten years ago, most placements were somewhat reserved for major artists and their most popular music. Why? For one, it’s more recognizable, which used to be a big plus. Often a track was used to get attention or simply help tell a story, and the story could part of a movie or about a product in a television commercial. Madonna’s song, Ray of Light was used to help sell Microsoft’s new software, Windows XP, in national television commercials, because the ad agency wanted the viewer to think of this new software as exciting, lively, futuristic, fast – like a ray of light. The song was meant to be a metaphor for XP.
Who is Richard Melville Hall? He was a fairly well known musician, but hadn’t hit it big until one album that brought him worldwide success and that album was Play, by Mr. Hall, AKA Moby. (He’s distantly related to Herman Melville, who wrote Moby). The album had moderate sales, but after he made it available for commercial licensing, every song on the album was licensed internationally to a multitude of television commercials, TV programs and films, as well as non-profit groups.
Moby was one of the first musicians to open the door for ad agencies to use somewhat undiscovered music. One track used for a cosmetics spot, put him on the radar so quickly, that other ad agencies clamored for his music and he became a huge hit. The commercials were a hit and drew attention in a new and very powerful way.
When you stop and think of how many TV stations, networks, cable channels there are worldwide and multiply the number of programs and commercials there are, the numbers are staggering. One calculation gave a very conservative number of roughly 1000 new tracks being needed every single day … for the US alone!
In addition to TV commercials, popular tracks have been, and still are used in movies and television programs, but something else has changed that landscape, in addition to the trend shifts – budgets for commercials and films have generally become smaller and money for music has been shrinking, so popular music isn’t used as much because it’s just too expensive. Box office hits still have large budgets, but consider the number of films that are being produced today, and the growing number of tracks used in a movie. Again, doing the math on a conservative basis will help point out how much opportunity there is in the world of licensing today. The point is, there’s plenty of room for more great new artists.
As with all trends, they change, and today, they change quickly. This is great news for young, undiscovered talent, because the trend in most licensing arenas now is to accomplish the same goals as before – helping to tell the story or adding impact to a scene, but now, the new direction is to use unrecognizable music. Why? Now, unknown tracks often get more attention because it’s new. Also, using expensive and difficult to clear, popular music, has become more and more difficult which make newer more hungry musician’s music far easier to secure and use. And, it’s also more hip to find something original that does the same job.
Generally, the latest direction for music licensing is to dig and dig into the newest songs available to be more hip and cool with the music choices, so the film, TV show or commercial can be responsible for “discovering” a new talent with that super-duper track.
When a TV spot, a TV show or a film is responsible for making a song or talent popular, a lot of incidental things also happen along the way.
- The people responsible for finding that new talent get credit for being on the cutting edge. This could be the music supervisor, the director, the editor, or any number of people on the production.
- People who become known for finding and creating hits, get recognition and often more money or a raise because they’re viewed as more valuable in knowing where and how to find these new songs.
- Ad agencies get more clients because all companies with an ad budget want to go with a winner. This is one reason the ad agency business is in a constant state of flux. People move around, agencies change their names, reinvent them selves, add and subtract people constantly – trying to be the most perfect, hip, cool agency that really knows how to make products fly off the shelves.
- Directors get more projects because they’re now viewed as winners.
- Editors become more valuable because they pulled the whole thing together – images, voice over and music.
- In a way, everyone wins.
One of the big reasons this happens is very basic, all the people in these arenas are working very hard at being popular, “in the know”, on the cutting edge or the best of the best. Therefore, it stands to reason that they need a constant flow of the newest music they can find.
How do they find these new artists and their latest tracks? It’s not easy for them because they have their regular duties, so music exploration needs to be a hobby they enjoy, or they may have a cadré of music people to feed him or her with a constant flow of new music. Often, an agency or production facility has a music “go to person” – someone who loves music so much, they would rather listen to music or talk about music than eat. It’s a unique addiction, but it seems that most of the big agencies and production facilities have one, and they are very valuable in many of these creative circles.
Today, the demand for new music is huge. Careers are depending on constantly finding “the next big hit”.
Where do these people get their best information?
- Music licensing companies
- Scouring the Internet
- The music “go to guy/gal”
So, what’s next? Poke around the Internet and search out things to help get up to speed:
- Use Yahoo, Google or Bing and search for things like:
- Music licensing
- Music licensing money
- Music licensing income
- Music licensing companies
- Music income from licensing
- Money from music
- Music production
- Music supervisors
- Music placement
- Sync licensing
For shortcuts, there are books, Web sites and reports on the subject of licensing music, but most have been written by attorneys, songwriters or musicians. It’s best to find one that was written by someone who is actually in the business. to take. They deal with this unique part of the music licensing business every day, and will usually have the best insights into how to make things happen for real.