Get a License to Drive (your music)

not this kind of license

not this kind of license

Word on the street is that the labels have no money.  Shouldn’t be exactly shocking to anyone.  No one has any money right now, just ask Washington Mutual or Lehman Brothers (R.I.P.)  The majors are not immue to the troubling economy.  While the government is discussing bailing out Wall Street, chances are that Sony, Universal, and EMI are not going to qualify for any of the $700 Billion in economic aid.

Sorry to be a Debby Downer, but it isn’t looking great out there for anyone trying to get signed by a “major”.  BUT, do not fear, all is not lost!  There are still ways to get your music out there and even make some scratch at the same time.  A crappy economy and a dying industry is the perfect time for the do-it-yourself/self-sufficient musician.

Artists who have crafted their music into a ready to release format are perfect candidates for license deals.  Whether it is a one song license deal to a corporate giant like Budweiser (e.g. Santogold) or a complete album license deal with an independent record label with a distribution chain set up, licensing cuts down on the costs for everyone involved and allows your music to get to the public in a more time and cost efficient manner.

Typical label recording deals tend to tie the artist down with heavy recording costs, mixing and mastering fees as well as graphic and design costs.  Trust me, it is going to be cheaper for your band to go to a friend or a colleague who has a studio and is capable of mixing and mastering than to wait for the label to pick one out and charge industry prices.  Yes you may have some up front production costs, but they will pale in comparison to the fees that show up on your accounting statement from the label. 

Same goes for your artwork.  Maybe you have a graphic artist band member or groupie or something.  Tap all your resources to get your music in a ready to release format. 

Advances are typically lower on license deals, but, again, this is not a bad thing.  Advances are just loans.  The less you have to pay back the sooner you will see a profit.  Use the advance to finalize your project.  Hire that one percussionist you really wanted, clear a sample, trademark your logo, etc.  Just don’t rely on a license deal advance to buy that new Ferrari you have been eyeing. 

Finding a license deal is not always the easiest thing to do (not that anything is easy in this business).  Yet, you may be surprised by the number of opportunities that are presented to bands that have followed this type of model.  Record your music, tour and grow your network.  Create the buzz and the opportunities will follow.

Time for another shameless plug.  Check out this wicked cool video.  Hey Champ will rock you.  Mark my blog!



  1. lawyer4musicians

    Licensing websites can be helpful, but you have to be ok with losing all control of your music. Meaning your music may be on the next McDonald’s commercial or it may end up as background music to a Skinamax soft core adult program. While the license is non-exclusive, you don’t get to decide who licenses it. Most licensing websites (including the ones you listed) do a decent job categorizing and presenting different types of music. They tend to not do quite as good of a job getting back to the artist with feedback, progress and license fees. My personal opinion is that licensing sites are a better fit for instrumental/background music.

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