Getting Your Music Licensed Today

Getting Your Music Licensed Today

Tanvi Patel is a music licensing executive and President/CEO of Crucial Music, a one-stop agency for licensing independent music to films, TV shows, and commercials. Crucial has placed songs in Academy Award-winning films like Brokeback Mountain and A Beautiful Mind and Emmy-winning TV shows like Six Feet Under, The Office, Vampire Diaries and Boardwalk Empire. She has also worked on music in national commercials for Toyota, DKNY Pure, Royal Caribbean and Jaguar.

 

 

Tanvi was one of the first music industry professionals I interviewed for this blog, and I have reposted her initial interview about music licensing many times. Recently, I got to catch up with her again and discuss how music licensing has changed in the past few years, and what artists need to know about getting their music placed in film and television.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me again, Tanvi. What has changed in the music placement business in the last couple years?

 

TP:

 

In the music placement business, there have been numerous new licensing companies launched over the last couple of years. Everyone seems to think they can set up a music licensing business because the barrier to entry in regards to collecting and creating a catalog is a lot lower now. But I don’t know whether those services that are popping up are actually making money for anybody much less for themselves.

 

I’ve seen so many new services out there. It’s a good thing, but it’s also a bad thing. A lot of people don’t know what they’re doing. And that doesn’t benefit the artist at all, even though it gives the artist more access to licensing services – and in this market, it’s all about volume and getting a lot of music out there. But I don’t know if that actually benefits them when there are services that A) don’t have the contacts and B) don’t know what they’re doing…and their contracts may not be as comprehensive or legally sound as with some of the companies that have been around for a while. There’s more room for error.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

It’s funny you mention how many licensing businesses have popped up, because I’ve seen this happening in all areas of the music business. I do a lot of marketing and coaching, and I feel like over the last few years, anyone who was ever peripherally associated with the music business – right down to someone that might have been standing next to the guy from T-Rex at a show – now feels qualified to tell people how to make it in the music industry; everyone is coming out of the woodwork with some kind of opportunity for musicians. And a lot of these services can be somewhat predatory.

 

TP:

 

Exactly. I think it’s really important for an artist to do research and talk to other artists that have been with the service they’re interested in. Fortunately for us, even if we haven’t made a placement for someone, that person can log into our site and see where their stuff has been pitched. We’re not the kind of company that has blanket deals, wallpaper music with MTV or E! Entertainment – all these shows where they’re making pennies but getting placements. We’re just not that kind of service. But at least the artist can talk to other artists and that say, “Yes, I’m getting my stuff pitched. Hopefully something will land soon.” Even that is enough reassurance I think for an artist.

 

And an artist looking into a service should also talk to the other artists that have gotten placements with that service to find out how the payments are, how it was dealing with the company on a customer service level, etc.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I came across a great resource. I interviewed a guy named Art Munson, who was the original guitar player for Dick Dale. He runs MusicLibraryReport.com

 

TP:

 

I’m very familiar with Music Library Report. They are a good service in that composers can go there and get some sort of an idea of some of the players. We were rated decently on it. When they were just an open forum, I saw some sour grapes, but there were also a lot of people who were willing to defend our licensing service. It’s like anything – like going to Yelp. There are people who have bad experiences and people who have great experiences. You have to take everything with a grain of salt.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

What do you recommend for musicians that want to sign up for multiple services? Is there a way to tell given the kind of music you’re generating as an artist whether or not you should have certain music with one service and other music with another service? Does it get messy when too many people are pitching the same batch of songs?

 

TP:

 

It has, and it does. That’s another thing that has occurred over the past few years:  Nobody anticipated the nonexclusive model to explode as it has. I think if I were a musician, this is what I would do:  I would find out what each service is really good at. So, if you’re looking to get good coverage, then you choose the ones that are getting the placements in various markets. For example, if one company does really well in advertising, then do a non-exclusive with that company for the advertising market. If another company like ours does really well in prime-time television and film placements, then you do a deal for that. And then if you’re looking to get music on MTV, you can do a deal with Pump Audio. If you approached it this way, you’d pretty much be covered in all areas, but it wouldn’t seem like each service was competing against each other for the same placements.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Are there legitimate circles like that? Is there enough of a distinction between a company that does what you referred to as the wallpaper coverage for networks like Viacomm and people who do just TV placement or people who do more commercial advertising placement?

 

TP:

 

The ones that are really good at what they’re doing, yes, they become specialized in what they’re doing. For example, Rumblefish has really focused on going after the micro-sync market – the social networking music uses on YouTube video and Facebook video etc. That’s fantastic, and they’re covering a market that not many companies are covering. And we’ve recognized this and have actually done a deal with Rumblefish to distribute our catalog for the micro-sync market.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I didn’t realize people were doing that legally often enough for that to be a viable market.

 

TP:

 

It’s huge. And they’ve placed millions of micro-syncs. Through their service they work directly with YouTube. For example, if you go into the YouTube AudioSwap program, one of the providers of that program is Rumblefish. It’s very rudimentary in terms of how it integrates music into your video; you basically choose a piece of music, and it starts at the beginning and cuts it off when your video ends. It’s by no means a high-quality editing system. But you can use a piece of music from the AudioSwap program, and you get a valid license. YouTube pays Rumblefish, and Rumblefish pays the artist.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I certainly knew that kind of thing happened. But I really thought that illegal usage dwarfed that so much that it wouldn’t be a viable income stream. That’s good to know.

 

TP:

 

It’s a low-dollar, high-volume model. It really works for someone that has a high volume of material. And what it does for an artist that has ten songs – it gets them promotion. All of a sudden, their song could be on somebody’s video that gets 50 million hits. It may not be a lot of dollars on the one song, but it would be a lot of promotion.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Well, exposure is exposure.

 

How has your business model changed as your catalog has expanded? Your submission process is not an easy one; you don’t accept everything. Pump Audio and some of the other ones are a little more accepting.  Have you found it harder or easier for you to function as a company as you have more and more rights?

 

TP:

 

It’s easier because we’ve gotten higher quality songs as time has gone on. The number of songs that come through that are really high quality is surprising. As an example, the strangest thing happened to us early on. We took a band on called The Elliots. They’re an amazing Swedish band from Gothenberg. We got them a few high-profile placements in some prime time shows. And they were pretty good at press. So, they managed to get a big article in the Gothenberg newspaper. And as a result of that, we get approached by a ton of Swedish bands. It’s amazing over the years how many Swedish bands we have because of the article that ran about that band in that territory.

 

So, people hear about us all over the world because the bands are receiving placements and then doing their own press. It’s become easy in that sense. But it’s also become harder, because we have to listen to more music. Our submission rates have increased. But the even harder part is that we can also afford to be a little bit pickier when we’re deciding which songs to take in. We have the luxury to say, “That lyric is really bad,” or “That lyric is really great, and we want to take it.” We have the opportunity to choose the A tracks.

 

Somebody just starting out as a licensing company might not be able to just take the A tracks; they want to build their catalog, and they want to build it fast. That’s never been a priority for us. Our priority has always been quality over quantity. It’s like when you were talking earlier about building something organically. Building organically has always been our #1 priority:  the quality of the songs. That’s what will make music supervisors continue to come back to us.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Sure. That’s what will make them keep taking your calls.

 

I don’t mean to offend anyone that fits into this category, but I feel like four guys in flannel shirts playing middle-of-the-road rock are kind of overlooked when it comes to sync. Lately, it seems like what’s getting placed is very strange, textural music – music that doesn’t fall under the radio pop song category. Sometimes it seems like if you have strange lyrics and textures over 30 seconds, you have a better chance of making a living than if you just generated songs that sounded right for the radio. Has that been your experience lately?

 

TP:

 

Yes, like Foster the People or Sleigh Bells – things that are to the left of center. Foster the People has become a little bit more mainstream, but I’ve seen a lot of things like Sleigh Bells, or folk pop like Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. It’s opened the door for less pop radio-type bands. Even on a show like Vampire Diaries, for a bar source, they’re going to choose something that’s really cool as opposed to something straight-ahead pop rock that would be playing at a normal bar.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

A lot of groups get placements, and then from there, they mess it up. I tell every band I talk to, “If you’re lucky enough to get a placement, make sure everyone you know can find you online.” And still, a lot of bands don’t have a website or just can’t be found online. What should bands do to promote themselves once they get a placement?

 

TP:

 

Certainly, having a website is useful. And having the song that got placed available and on your website is important. A lot of times we get songs that are so new, they haven’t even been put up on a band’s website yet. I can’t always let an artist know more than a week in advance that their song is going to air. So, it’s more important for them that the instant they start distributing the track, they have it on iTunes or on their website. Because, they’re not always going to have enough time to get it up everywhere after they’ve been informed of a placement. And a lot of services won’t even let an artist know that a placement has occurred. It’s the quarter after, when they get a royalty statement, that they find out they’ve had something placed. It’s better to be proactive; as soon as you know your music is being pitched for placement, you should get it up.

 

The other thing is, if you know beforehand that your music is going to air, immediately get an email out to your fan base. I’m sure if you have a website, you have a mailing list. Get an email out so fans can tune into the show, or go see the feature film your music is in.

 

And afterwards, it’s great to contact your local press. I mean, who would’ve thought The Elliots would get that kind of local press coverage that helped other artists as well? You can get local coverage. And then your fan base and other people can hear about you.

 

And there are also some resources you can useful to an artist. When a show uses a piece of music, a lot of networks will put links to the artist’s web page or the iTunes page. But, there are services, like Tunefind.com where viewers can find out what songs were used in their favorite shows.  It’s a little service that lists all the shows and the music they use. And I think anyone can contribute. So, if you know your song was used in a show, and it’s not listed or the music supervisor didn’t provide a list of the tracks, you can submit to them and say, “My track was used, and here’s the information.” And I think you can listen to the track from that site and link it to iTunes. That’s one service that does that.

 

A lot of it is being proactive. But I don’t know one thing artists have done specifically that has really worked across the board, other than what I just mentioned. Because once I get an artist a placement, that’s the end of the line for me. I’m back to pitching.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Do you have any parting words of advice for artists when it comes to music licensing and getting their songs placed?

 

TP:

 

Be as knowledgeable as you can about music licensing. A lot of times we’ll find the artist doesn’t even know what they’re signing. And it’s because they don’t understand the language and what’s the difference between a master right and a composition right, or what we call in the industry a synchronization right. On our website, you can come in as an artist, and there’s a Music 101 page that gives you answers to a lot of the major questions:  What’s a derivative copyright? What’s a public domain track? What are licenses? What’s a master and what’s synchronization?

 

As an artist, you need to educate yourself. It’s not just as easy as, “I’m going to submit my music for film and TV licensing.” Just because there are all these services and opportunities, that doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. You really need to understand what you’re getting yourself into. The only way to do that is taking seminars, going to conventions, reading up on this kind of stuff – there are tons of books and websites that offer information.

 

To learn more about Tanvi Patel and the work she does, and to learn how to submit music as an artist, visit the Crucial Music website. Also, check out The Elliots, a Swedish band that has worked with Crucial and has had music placed in shows like Melrose Place, Moonlight, Kyle XY, Close to Home and Vampire Diaries.