We frequently get asked about how much money can be made from licensing music? This is a tough one to answer, because of the number of variables related to the musician – the type of music, the quality of the song, the lyrics, the voice, the harmonies, etc. Also, is the music in demand? Is it recorded professionally?
We know musicians that make a nice full time income from licensing their music. We also know many musicians that make good part time income from music licensing which allows them to compliment their regular income.
More and more labels are vanishing, and the way things are going with the internet, musicians have an easier time making new fans online so as an indie musician it’s becoming easier to get your music out there and make a living from it too.
This means it’s not always necessary to involve a record label to make money from your music anymore. We’re not suggesting it’s quick or easy, but it’s actually very doable. And we know musicians who have taken the licensing game into their own hands and are making a complete full time business out of it and making a living from it. We deal with these musicians and know what they are doing to achieve their successes.
We think licensing your music should be a big part of every musician’s overall music career action plan. If you are not making your music available for licensing into film, TV, games and commercials an important part of your game plan then you are missing out on an important revenue stream. Spending an hour to two a day focusing on music licensing should be a key part of any musician’s 8 hour day. Pursue as many licensing opportunities as possible. Maybe sign up with several music licensing companies. Participate by submitting tracks for any “calls for music” you hear about.
If you’re just starting out getting your music licensed, then it will take some time to get to a place that becomes routine and manageable. Over time, things should become easier for you to manage, and along the way you can be proud of the licenses you get from your own efforts. Everything takes time, but once you’re organized and have a routine, then you will have time to focus on other parts of your music career.
For more information about Music Licensing and other good information about making money with your music, check out our book, Music Licensing Insiders Guide that connects you with industry folks who can help place your music in TV and films, commercials and video games. Start earning big money licensing your music now. Also included are directories for all the major PROs worldwide.
Curious about how to get paid when licensing your music?
Television and film licenses come in two flavors: the license fee and performance royalties. The money the client allocates for the music budget (for the license of the track) is usually all most musician know about, but there’s another part that can bring in more, over time. It depends on how much the production is used and for how long, but it’s a good thing to know about in the early stages of the negotiation.
Generally there are set budgets for each song or track being licensed in any production, but it varies depending on the use, which can be anything from background music in a scene in a restaurant, for example, or a placement in a TV series where the song is prominently featured. It really depends on the production. Usually these days for smaller indie artists there’s no real room for negotiating. Most of the time it’s best to take what is being offering. Otherwise clients can go elsewhere. That’s the truth. There’s so much music out there so think twice about what’s being offered, before turning it down. The so called “back end” is part two of the story and offers musicians the ability to earn more money as the production airs. Sometimes, the back end is more lucrative than the original license.
This second tier of income potential is generated from PROs, or Performance Royalty Organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC if you are in the USA. (There are more outside the US, but that’s another story.) Naturally you’ll need to be registered with one or more of the organizations, but it might be best to stick with one, so you don’t get confused about which song is listed where. You can join all the organizations you choose, but you can’t register the same track with more than one.
These PROs track song usage and collect fees from radio television (broadcast and cable) stations, who pay for the rights to use music. That money goes into a pool and whenever a musician, or registered owner of a track reports the usage to the organization, they will verify the usage and send the musician a check for that usage.
Payment amounts depend on how many viewers watch the movie (only movies broadcast on TV or cable) or TV show. Musicians can make a few hundred dollars or thousands from one broadcast, and that’s only for one track. If there are several songs from the artist in the show, then it can be even more. Also, re-runs also count and produce income and if something goes into syndication, the money can really add up. Cable runs aren’t as profitable, but sometimes it’s run numerous times and on multiple channels, so it all adds up and can easily exceed the amount of the original license.
Music licensed into a theatrical film won’t contain any performance royalties for the theatrical run but once it’s running on television or cable, the PROs will have money waiting for the registered owner of the tracks used, but each musician must report the usage to make sure they get paid.
So it’s very important to try and get your music licensed into TV shows and films so that you can earn back-end money and have checks come in while you focus on making more licensable music.
For more details about this and other good information about making money with your music, check out our book, Music Licensing Insiders Guide that connects you with industry folks who can help place your music in TV and films. Start earning big money licensing your music now. Also included are directories for all the major PROs worldwide.
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.