How to Make Money as a Musician (Volume 2: License It)
Welcome back to my multiple part series on how to make money as a musician: Volume 2, Licensing.
No point dwelling on the past, making money selling records has gone the way of the 8 track, the ferbie and the Hummer SUV. The antiquated system of big advances and platinum record sales has died (or is at least on life support) along with the major labels. So while it is harder to make money the old fashion way, there are new and, more importantly, more ways of making money as a musician.
Performing live at concerts is still the best way to make money. It used to be that bands would perform to sell albums, now the musicians give away their music to sell concert tickets. However, not everyone can sell out stadiums, concert halls, or even high school proms. So, what is another great way for musicians to make significant income or supplement their concert income? Licensing!
Think of how many commercials you heard or saw today? Consumer Reports estimates that the average American is exposed to 247 commercial messages a day. The vast majority of the radio and television ads, as well as a growing number of internet and new media ads, are accompanied by music. Whether its Budweiser, which spends approximately $90 million a year on advertisements, playing the newest Dodo’s or Santigold (See Above) song or Apple promoting the newest IPhone with Feist, music is an integral part of advertising all over the world. Musicians can lay their claim to the billions of dollars spent on advertisements each year.
Licensing does not end with advertisements. One of the most common terms of art used in license agreements drafted by folks like me is describing the use of a song in “any medium now know or hereafter discovered”. This industry phrase means that a song can be used or synched to movies, television shows, internet programming, video games, radio programs, or any other programming or format which hasn’t even been discovered yet. Think about, when is the last time you watched a movie that didn’t have a sound track, a television show that didn’t have a theme song, or a video game that didn’t have background music? Watching old silent movies does not count.
As satellite and cable television expands and internet programming continues to grow the opportunities for music licensing grow proportionally. Budgets may vary, but mechanical royalties (the statutory rate that must be paid every time a song is broadcasted) must be paid. Licensing music can be a quick substantial pay day or a long term and consistent money maker.
The dollar figures for global music licensing are staggering. According to a 2007 report by eMarketer, the projected budget for music licensing in 2010 will reach $4.4 billion! How many artists would be happy with just a teeny tiny percentage of that huge pot?
Just knowing that the licensing money is out there does not make it a reality for most independent artists (I’m anticipating your questions). For independent artists who are not signed to a publisher, it is still difficult to get your music in front of the licensing decision makers. There are several services out there via the web which offer solutions: Pump Audio, Taxi and my favorite (bias added) Music Dealers. These sites allow artists to upload their music to catalogs with the hope that a music supervisor seeking independent music visits the site and selects their song. Some sites are non-exclusive, meaning you can upload your music to more than one, while other require exclusivity. Always read the contract (even the click through contracts)!
Other options for getting your music licensed is to attend music seminars, panels, events, conventions. Research where the industry people are going to be. Buy a badge to CMJ, SXSW, Midem, etc. Music supervisors and a&r types are always at these types of events networking and trying to find the right sound for their project. If you don’t run into the right folks there you can start networking on your own to find managers, lawyers or other independent licensing reps of music. A lot of times these types have the inside track (which is usually a coveted list of contact info for music supervisors in all types of media like movies, tv, and video games) to the decision makers. For a split on the fee, independent reps will submit your music for your. While there is no guaranty, your chances of having a supervisor actually listen to your music is much higher when it is submitted by someone like this.
Just like everything else in your career as a musician, you will only go as far as you and your talent take you. Having great music alone is not enough. You have to treat it like a business. Licensing opportunities will not just come to you. Go out there and sell it. Network, meet the right people, create a buzz and capitalize on every opportunity (no matter how small) that is presented to you.