There are a variety of ways an artist can make a living from their music these days, so it can be overwhelming for those trying to figure out how to choose the routes that are best for them. Although it can be difficult, music licensing can provide a solid source of income. So, what exactly is music licensing, and how can artists license their music and earn income from it?
Music licensing allows for copyright owners to get compensated when their music is used for specific purposes, including on the radio, as part of advertisements, films, corporate videos and more. Since music licensing revolves around copyright law, navigating it can get a little complicated. However, music licensing presents some solid opportunities for artists to build their careers and expand their reach.
Here’s an overview of how you can get your music licensed.
Get Your Music Ready to License
Before you actually start pursuing licensing, you need to get your music ready to share. Composing pieces that you’re proud of isn’t enough. You need to also make sure that the music is produced at a high enough quality to share. You should also consider having mastered instrumentals of your music on hand because it is not uncommon to have music synched to picture with existing dialogue and vocals can potentially muddy the overall product. When you have the finished product, you’ll also want to catalog your music in a spreadsheet or database.
When cataloging your music, you should record a description of the piece, any keywords that can be used to describe the song, as well as all the places where each was submitted once you get to that stage.
Register Your Music
Once you select the songs you plan to license, you will need to upload them to a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) before you go any further. Performance Rights Organizations in the United States include ASCAP and BMI and control payments of royalties when one of your songs is used. These organizations collect the performance royalties and make sure they are paid out to the musician.
Find Licensing Opportunities
There are a lot of opportunities for licensing out there. Before you start pursuing them, you need to know where to look. One of the biggest considerations is that you want to match your music with the right licensing opportunities. There are websites that focus on licensing for different industries, such as film or radio, and not all of these will be the best fit for each piece of music. You’ll want this information ready for when you start submitting.
Submit Your Music
Once you find the licensing opportunities that you plan on pursuing, your next step is to submit your music. It is much more effective to personalize your outreach because shot-gunning music to over-stimulated music supervisors tends not to be helpful. As soon as you submit music, be sure to log everything and keep accurate records. This will help you later on as you track which music is actually selling or being streamed. This information is also valuable so that you can track your earnings and make sure you are getting paid for your efforts.
Note that as a musician, you may not feel as if all your songs are quite ready to be shared. This may be the case, but at a certain point you should pick your best ones and just start submitting to see what happens. You can always adjust your strategy as you go along based on feedback you get from initial submissions.
Here are a couple additional articles from music licensing experts.