This is a guest post. Vincent Clarke is a singer/songwriter and Content Marketing Specialist for USB Memory Direct.
Granting a licence for the use of your music to media outlets is a great way to generate significant revenue and help give your career a boost.
Films, TV shows, video games and advertisement agencies are always looking for new music to use throughout their content.
They need the perfect tune to set the mood for their piece, and since buying songs from famous pop stars like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga would cost a fortune, it’s often a far better idea for them to reach out to indie or even DIY artists and to small indie labels in the search for the music they need.
Contrary to what you might think, a LOT of music used in major movies, TV shows and commercials comes from musicians you’ve never heard of – and those fees and that bit of recognition can make a whole heap of difference to their career.
Licensing your music and selling it to interested parties takes a lot of work and a ton of small details. Luckily, if you put in the effort and have something truly original to offer, it will all pay off for you in the long run. Here we’ll guide you through the basics of music licensing and show you how to build a strong prospect list of music supervisors to go through when you’re ready to begin marketing.
Although you can easily promote your music on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms, featuring your content on a notable media outlet will not only immensely help your brand, but also help earn you some extra cash as well.
Copyrights and Licences
Before we get to the ‘how to’, let’s talk a little about copyright and how some agencies that look after the interests of copyright owners in music have a role to play in music licensing for movies and TV.
Copyrights are the bread and butter behind how musicians really make their money.
Still, there are thousands of bands, composers, and singers that really have no idea what copyright is or how it applies to the music industry. Many think that it’s simply legal documentation put in place to prevent other musicians from plagiarising their work. But, that’s not really the case.
Copyrights exist in order to prevent your music from being featured anywhere without your consent and proper compensation. Coypright exists in both your songs (compositions) and your recordings and when you come to license a piece of music for a movie or TV use you will grant a licence for each. To learn a bit more about the copyrights in music check out our article on sample clearance which explains it a little more.
For more information, check out the Copyright Alliance – a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about copyrights laws and protections. Their website features a ton of great content that includes editorials, news, and legal reviews. Make sure to check out their FAQ as well.
When a media outlet wants to use your music they will need to obtain a synchronisation licence for both the recording and publishing copyrights (we’ll assume that you, as a DIY or indie musician, will generally control both of these but you might have a deal with a label for recordings and with a publisher for songs – in which case they would own your copyright and grant the licences).
A synchronization licence allows you as a copyright holder to grant synchronisation rights to TV shows, movies, commercials and other media. Basically, you are allowing them to “sync” your music with their visual content. Don’t confuse this with a mechanical licence, however, which is normally issued for sales of digital downloads, vinyl records, and CDs.
This sort of arrangement is usually set up privately between the copyright owner (you) and the potential licensee (the movie/TV/Ad company), and when dealing with a DIY musician they will usually have a short form agreement that they can supply.
It’s worth noting that, in some countries such as theUK, agencies that represent songwriters and recording rights holders (e.g. MCPS and PPL) have ‘blanket licences’ which allow many broadcaster TV networks to use any music they represent and account back for a fee without asking specific permission first – but that topic is for another day!
Performance Rights Organisations
Performance rights organizations (PRO) like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc (BMI) in theUS and the Performing Rights Society (PRS) in theUK exist to protect song copyrights filed by their members. They do this by diligently monitoring public performances of their music (on radio, TV and at live venues) and making sure that they are compensated accordingly through collection of royalties. Think of them as an intermediary between copyright holders and media outlets.
Joining a PRO is generally very easy. For examplke, ASCAP just ask for a small membership fee and then you register your songs with them on an individual basis. PROs are not publishers, so you don’t have to worry about losing any publishing rights by signing up with them. Rather they represent the public performance right in your songs and collect royalties on your behalf for airplay, including when your music is used in a commercial, movie, or TV show.
The only reason why you’re going to have to deal with them is so that they can collect airplay royalties for the song that you have ‘synced’ into a movie, TV show or commercial. In some cases, and in some countries, you may need to have joined a PRO before the film company or Ad agency will license from you as they need to know that the public performance right is covered, but this is not usually a pre-condition. Finally, in some countries, the PROs also have blanket licences in force with some broadcasters as mentioned above.
Getting Your Music Sold
Having your music featured in a high profile media production is one of the best ways to get exposure for your brand and make a living as an artist. Given that our guide has given you the basics of what actually happens when someone wants to license your music for a film or show, you’ll want to know the way to get these people to want to do just that. How do you get media outlets to notice you and decide to work with your music?
There are plenty of agencies that claim will they help you do just that for a “small” fee, but I’d much rather show you how easily you can do this on your own. Keep in mind, this process demands a lot of dedication and a burning desire for organisation, so get ready.
Confessions from a Professional Marketer – A Pro Research Strategy
My job is to get leads. Find interesting new clients and send them towards my company. I always think of my process like a scavenger hunt. And you can apply the methods I use to find people who will want your music. There’s a whole world out there of music supervisors that are ready to feature your song. Yes, your song.
You just have to find them.
Easier said than done right?
Let’s start with some simple Google search tips. Your main keyword focus here should be “music supervisors.” These are the individuals who are in charge of deciding what sort of musical content will ultimately get published on their content.
More importantly, they’re also in charge of negotiating the financial terms between copyright holders and production studios, so you’ll definitely want to strike up a good working relationship with these individuals. There are several variations of this position’s title, but for now let’s just stick with the most popular version.
The following are a list of Google query tools (‘search operators’ as they are called) that allow you to narrow down your search into something particularly relevant to your interests:
- Site: domain.com
This will restrict your search to the pages of a specific domain. Make sure to switch “domain” with whatever site you’d like to find content from.
Similar to the previous tool, this search function is designed to look for results from a specific URL address instead of an entire domain.
Quotations will tell Google to search for the exact phrase, instead of each individual word separately. So for something like “music supervisor,” the Google query would search for the terms “music” and “supervisor” separately. The quotations will make sure that you’re specifically looking at pages with the term phrased the way you want it to be phrased.
Using Google Chrome as you web browser, next you want to install the Scraper extension. This is a simple data mining tool that basically allows you to transcribe data onto a spreadsheet format. You’ll see in a second why this is going to be extremely useful to you.
Ok now that we have our Google search tools down and our extension installed, let’s go to Google. Search for the following query:
- inurl:imdb.com/name/ “music supervisor” 2013
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) features a ton of professional contacts working on every movie basically known to mankind. I used the quotations to make sure I’m searching specifically for music supervisors in my search and then added 2013 to make sure they were working on something current. You’ll be getting about 300,000 search results.
But before you go clicking away, select the button with a gear icon near the top right corner of the page. Then select search settings. Google instantly shows you only the first ten search results per page. This is put in place to make general search faster and therefore more engaging for users.
What we want to do here is collect a significantly large amount of data per page using our scraper extension, so we’re going to change the number of search results per page. To do so, go to the Google Instant Predications setting and select “Never show Instant results.” From there, change the results per page setting from 10 to 100 and save your changes.
Back on the results page, you should now see 100 different potential contacts. In order to organize them into a usable format, we will use our scraper tool. Highlight the first name and IMDB link. Right click the highlighted text and choose “Scrape similar” Anything on the page that’s similar to this will be rendered in a table that you can then export into Google Docs. Repeat this step for the next 2-3 pages so that you have a pretty large list of potential music supervisors.
In Google Docs, add the following columns:
- Contact information
- Outreach date
- Outreach method
- Follow up
The outreach date refers to the whenever you first reach out to the individual. This could be through an email, a phone call, or a business meeting in person. The outreach method is exactly that. Following up is also very important, but we’ll talk about that a little later.
First, you need to go through the links you’ve compiled and start doing some hardcore research. Visit the company website, and see if you can find their email or phone number this way. If you absolutely can’t find any info on a particular music supervisor, then that person isn’t doing their job right! Scrap the contact from your list and move on to the next. The Guild of Music Supervisors has a website that you might be able to glean some detail from as well.
During your research, try to see some of the previous work that the music supervisors worked with. In IMDB’s case, it’s movies obviously. Take a look at some of the title and get a feel for the type of media they usually put out. Do they regularly feature your kind of music? If they do, you know you have a high priority lead. Contact them above all others.
Also place a keen eye on anyone who’s working on something that is currently in production. These people are looking for music right now, so you’re email/phone call could be a godsend for them.
Don’t forget about engaging through Social Media!
Odds are that the music supervisors you’re trying to connect with participate actively on Twitter, Facebook and possibly LinkedIn. Use these platforms to your advantage and engage in conversation with them. Don’t stalk and don’t just hawk your wares right away, but do jump into a conversation that they are having if you can contribute a useful comment. If that goes well, you can possibly hint at a future collaboration.
At the very minimum just express your interest to work with them in the future. It’s a good lead up to a pitch and shows them you’re genuinely interested in building a working relationship and not just sending a blind email pitch offhand.
Also keep in mind that although many music supervisors go through tons of material when picking out a new song for their media content, they’ll often put the work of people they know or have heard of at all first. It’s just the way things work.
Like everything else in the music business, it’s all about putting yourself out there and making it on your own. Sure this type of research is going to take a lot out of your day and possibly some time out of your creative sessions, but it’s all going to be worth it in the end. New doors always open whenever you meet new people.
Pitching and Following Up
It’s all in the details.
First, you want to always, always, always send a link to a streaming copy of your music. No-one wants to receive huge files in an email. Music supervisors do, however, need to be able to get hold of the original audio files (generally as WAV’s) so sending a link to a digital copy of your music in that email can also be a good idea (a download page on your site or a wetransfer / yousendit link are great options).
The streaming link could be in a downloadable format or hosted on a third party website like SoundCloud. The point is to make access to your music as simple and fast as possible. SoundCloud in particular is especially popular for its quick loading times and public access. It’s free, and can easily be embedded across social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. If you’re feeling particularly daring, go ahead and share a song or two that you hosted on SoundCloud in a Twitter conversation with a music supervisor.
The point is to keep it digital. There’s just so much work involved in sending a physical copy to them that it just isn’t worth it considering its minimal success rate.
Feel free to add a digital booklet to your pitch alongside your music. This gives you the chance to add all that precious album cover artwork you’re dying for them to see without shipping them a vinyl copy. (Yes people have actually shipped vinyl records of their music for consideration in the 2010s!).
Also keep in mind that music supervisors rarely have any time to listen to an entire album. They’ll usually just sample a couple of your tracks and base your entire music library off of that. But of course, you’re obviously not going to group the songs on your album based on the particular order that a potential music supervisor listens to your music. So, you just need to highlight some stuff for them in your pitch. Note a couple of tracks in particular that you find the music supervisor would particularly like with direct links or attachments of those songs. Also add a link however to your entire album so they could listen to more if they (hopefully) love your work.
From there, also talk about how these songs could work for a project that the music supervisor is working on right now. This is what they’re thinking when you send them a pitch, so make sure you give them some suggestions. Just like you should customize your resume for the particular company you’re applying for, you should also prepare a specific pitch customized to the music supervisor you’re dealing with.
What company do they work for? What sort of music do you assume they’re looking for in their next movie or commercial? A movie about fast cars and lots of action would obviously need something a little more up-tempo while a commercial for a law firm might need something a little more reserved. Remember, the pitch to the music supervisor is not based on the quality of your music, but on how well it could potentially pair up with their work.
One thing you can do is build an area on your website that is dedicated to music supervisors. You can group your music into genres and moods. Also, make it clear (if you have no record deal or publisher) that you can offer a ‘one-stop’ deal – which means that you can clear all rights for the synchronisation licence. This makes you an attractive option as a music supervisor can come to you at the last minute and they can get a definite yes or no from you rather than having to refer to a label and publisher (or multiples thereof).
It also makes sense to make it clear that you have instrumentals of all your music available as well as ‘stems’ and parts so that an editor could actually rework your track to fit.
This all makes you an attractive option to work with.
I’d suggest waiting for at least a week for a response. Sometimes media companies will have a secretary respond with a short reply. But don’t treat this as a final and full response. Most of the time this is either automated or a default template that they send to everyone. A real response is concrete and you’ll know it when you see it.
After a week or two, send a follow up email detailing your information again with perhaps a few different selections from your library. This is also a good time to again try to contact these individuals through their social media accounts. Just let them know you sent a request and that you’re really excited for them to hear it. Keep it simple. Keep it civil. And don’t go overboard either. It takes time to look through everyone’s content and this isn’t the only thing the music supervisor does throughout their day. Use the down time to contact the other individuals on your prospect list and come around to follow ups only when necessary.
The bottom line is that if you build a target list for possible music placements and follow up strongly, and if your music has the qualities that a music supervisor is looking for, then your efforts as set out in this article have a high chance of success. Good luck.
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