In the new era of the music industry, one of the most lucrative revenue streams for musicians and publishers is licensing. With the ever increasing number of media outlets (television stations, websites, web radio, satellite radio etc.), there is a matching need for advertisers to discover and use music. What was once a selective club reserved for big bands and huge songs has now become a way for virtually unknown artists to make an actual living writing music. Yet to most musicians, the mechanics of licensing remains a mystery.
Music supervisors are some of the most important and influential people in the music industry (and they know it). Supervisors are hired by networks, shows, movies, production companies, ad agencies, etc. to find the perfect music for their project, and get the rights to the music that they discover. Supervisors get hit up by labels, publishers, bands, managers, guys on the subway, your mom, etc., so grabbing their attention is not exactly an easy thing. As with most things in this business, relationships are super important. If you know a supervisor, or even know someone who knows someone, you have a marginally better chance of having your music heard and possibly used for a placement.
However, because of the changing attitudes and, more significantly, the changing budgets of networks and shows, supervisors are not the only way to get your music placed. There are a ton of productions that do not use a typical supervisor in the role of finding and placing music. Independent movies, lower budget cable shows, webisodes and more will have a producer, assistant or intern try to find music to fit into their production. Of course, these productions do not have a budget to spend thousands per track so they will not be shopping for label affiliated music. While the upfront money for these placements are not huge, the exposure and long term earning potential can be significant.
Now, let’s say you were lucky enough to have your music selected, what can you expect? You probably won’t have a lot of negotiation power but you should check with an attorney or your manager to see what you can get from the license. A typical license will pay the writer and performer of a song a fee for use of the song. The sync and master fees vary depending on the type of license. For example, a license that uses a track in a tv show may be $2,000 ($1,000 for the sync and $1,000 for the master). 2k for the use of a song is not bad, but where the writer stands to make additional money is with the performance royalties that accrue every time the show is aired on television. Your ASCAP or BMI statements will definitely increase if you land one of these licenses. Oftentimes, the performance royalties will generate more income than the upfront license fees.
There are more benefits than just the money your license will generate. If you land a song on a heavily watched tv show (think Jersey Shore) the exposure can be tremendous. Millions of people that may not otherwise hear your song will have plenty of chances to hear it, as Jersey Shore seems to be on eight times a day. Additionally, if you can get your name and the name of the song on screen as well as the show’s website you can significantly increase your fan base. Song downloads, cd sales and show attendance can grow exponentially from a good tv placement.
So keep doing what you need to do to promote yourself (touring, publicity, marketing) but add licensing to your arsenal.