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.