Prepare Your Music For Licensing
Music For Licensing
More than likely, you’ve read blogs about music licensing that touch upon the importance of what to include in your email pitch, how to find who to contact about a project, and even how to position your music for greater success in the world of licensing.
What often goes unsaid, however, are the small, yet important, details (known as micro-tasks) that make the difference between a migraine-inducing process and a money-generating one.
When submitting music for licensing, be prepared and treat each submission as if it’s already been chosen. Below are eight things you can do to organize your files and data to lock down potential deals. make the process a breeze rather than a tornado.
1. MAKE SURE YOUR MUSIC ACTUALLY SOUNDS GOOD
What the heck qualifies music as sounding good? This has absolutely nothing to do with subjective tastes in music. We mean that in the most general sense, the music must be well-produced. We’re talking music with high-quality instruments (whether acoustic or electronic) and high-quality sound design.
Heads up: Not all music is licensing-friendly. Music that gets licensed for the medium & large tier opportunities hits mainstream audiences. Music that hits mainstream audiences is well-produced, well-mixed, and well-mastered.
If a song can sound expensive, it should sound expensive. If it SOUNDS like you made it with kids toys at home, no one will give it the time of day. Licensing professionals will listen to the first 10 seconds of your song and if it doesn’t SOUND good right off the bat, they ditch it.
So take a listen to your song. Ask yourself: Does the keyboard in my intro sound like a fake cheap instrument? Obviously, a lot of instruments are electronic and from instrument packs these days. But there are some that just sound cheap, fake and awful. It’s hard to be honest with yourself about the songs you consider your babies, so have a third party be fully honest with you.
2. EMBED ALL TRACKS WITH COMPLETE METADATA
Upon mastering your tracks, make sure each file is complete with the correct metadata. This includes the track’s credits, as anyone licensing your song(s) will need this for their records. It’s also helpful to have this metadata available in a text file to include in an email or a required form.
Metadata is important for licensing so that licensees can get in touch with you. Supervisors need to ensure they have everyone’s permission to use the song and draw up proper agreements. It includes:
- the album title
- the title of the track
- the genre
- the authors/composers
- the year it was recorded
- the sample rate
- the duration of the track
- relevant contact info (including your full name and email)
3. KNOW WHO OWNS THE RIGHTS TO YOUR MUSIC
In the licensing world, people who want to use music with visual media – the music supervisors, licensing houses, production companies, TV networks, etc. – need to know who the owners of the song are. They want to know who the owners are because those music supervisors need to gain approval from ALL owners of a given song in order to use that song in their project.
They want to know and will ask:
1) Who owns the masters / sound recording?
2) Who owns the underlying composition/publishing?
You must have the answers to these questions at all times. And your licensing agents/representatives pitching your music on your behalf will need the detailed answers to these questions. Before we submit tracks to a Music Supervisor, we have the record labels & artists tell us songwriters’ full names, their % split ownership of the song, and their PRO.
Why? Because in order to place your music for licensing, these professionals need: 1) A master use license to have the right to use the master/sound recording in the visual media, and 2) A synchronization license to have the right to synchronize the underlying composition with the visual media.
4. GET YOUR PUBLISHING IN LINE. AND EDUCATE YOURSELF
Music For Licensing :: Make sure all songwriters involved in the songs are registered in a PRO (Performing Rights Organization) and that the songs themselves are registered. If you aren’t already a member of the PRO in your country, register yourself. If your song gets placed in an Apple commercial that airs on TVs worldwide, you will be earning substantial performance royalties from your PRO. Set yourself up for big money.
If you aren’t familiar with the lingo, vocabulary, and structure of the publishing world, educate yourself. Read Songtrust Publishing Guide.
5. CREATE A MASTER SPREADSHEET FOR ALL SONG METADATA
With deals moving as quickly as they sometimes can, it’s important to have your entire catalog’s metadata available at your fingertips. It’s best to keep a spreadsheet with every song’s title, genre, copyright info including all author(s) contact information, and the copyright registration number(s) in one place should you need to reference any piece of information during the licensing process.
6. HAVE STEMS AND INSTRUMENTAL VERSIONS OF EVERY SONG
You heard us. When you finish a song, you should make an instrumental version and keep those stems on file. A video game wanting to license your song might need stems because they need to dissect the song and sync up lazers and gun sounds with a particular sound in your dubstep track. And most often, it is extremely customary for music supervisors to need instrumental versions of songs.
Why? In the film/TV/trailer/advertising world, your music is serving the creative purpose of the visual media with which it’s synched.
It doesn’t stand alone; it’s subservient to the visual media.
If characters in a commercial are talking, they obviously want those characters to be heard. And if your song works perfectly to set the tone for this commercial but has a singer that is belting out lyrics that just don’t coincide with what’s going on in the scene, the music supervisor will ask you for an instrumental version.
If you don’t have an instrumental version, you just lost out on a deal. And money. Invest the extra time in getting these materials together. Take the following advice from James Warburton who is a music supervisor at Lime Pictures:
Because of the large amount of dialogue in our programs, we have to be very careful when placing music to ensure that characters can still be heard clearly. There’s been many times when we’ve loved the sound of a song but have been unable to use it because of a dominant vocal sound or a lyric that doesn’t make sense in the context of a scene. Creating an instrumental version almost doubles your chances of being used on TV because it opens up your track to so many different possible uses.
7. VISUALIZE WHERE YOU COULD HEAR YOUR MUSIC
It’s helpful, especially if you have a significant number of songs in your arsenal, to have certain information available at a glance when preparing to submit to certain opportunities. Using that same master spreadsheet, include a column for “sounds like” or “recommended if you like” (e.g. RIYL) to elaborate on the genre and notable instrumentation, as that will usually be what people will include in their requests (i.e., “RIYL: Bruno Mars with significant horns”).
Additionally, having a column for “perfect for” with notes on the type of media for which you would consider the song an ideal match (i.e., horror film, car commercial, etc.) will allow you to quickly scan which songs might be right for a project.
8. MAKE SURE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES ARE CONSISTENT AND PROFESSIONAL
You should have heard this one before! When music supervisors find a song they like, they might look up the artist/ band online to check them out and see whom exactly they’re dealing with…who might be representing their brand.
If you have misspellings and poor grammar galore on your Facebook “About” section, this could easily turn people off. Give yourself a concise, professional bio, and only post absolutely knockout, professionally-done photographs of yourself or your band.
Always remember at the end of the day this is a business. Having this information organized and readily available will make the process of pitching your songs easier. It will also show that you’re a true professional and ready to deliver whatever it is they may need. This will ensure future work and a sustainable career in the industry.