A Quick Guide on Licensing Your Music

Andrea, founder of Castle Peak Music, recently stopped by Balanced Breakfast San Francisco to shed some light on the process of music placement and licensing. Here are the finer points of what she covered.
To start, there are two types of licensing:

  1. Mechanical licensing grants the right to release a modified version of a song not usually available for public use. This license applies to sampling or making cover songs.
  2. Synchronization licensing grants the right to sync your song to a visual medium.

Ways to get your songs licensed:

  1. Work with a licensing representative to pitch your song to a music supervisor.
    • Licensing reps like Andrea find the artists and songs that fit the style and demands of music supervisors.
  2. Get a music publishing/record label deal.
  3. Submit directly to music supervisors. Use Music Business Registry to find upcoming projects and contact professionals that may be looking for your style of music.
    • FYI: They get a LOT of emails.
  4. Attend and/or perform at music conferences.

What licensing reps and music supes are looking for:

  1. A range of musical styles. Songs are pitched according to a show or network’s signature sound (e.g. ABC vs AMC vs TNT), so it would be wise to study and identify which network’s music reflects yours. Tunefind is a great resource for this.
    • Generally speaking, there are differences in the types of songs placed in ads vs. promos/trailers vs. movies/shows.
      • Ads/commercials generally like upbeat and fun songs.
      • Promos and trailers like songs with a crescendo.
      • Movies and shows have all of the above.
  2. High quality production and vocals. This is a key factor. Your music has to be radio ready if you want it to have any chance being placed.
  3. Universal lyrics. Songs about having a good time, a love lost/found, a beautiful day, let’s celebrate, we can do it, togetherness, breakups all work well, especially for TV and movies.
  4. Cover songs. These are proven hits, immediately familiar, but freshly portrayed. Make sure to check that the song your covering is available for licensing. Some songwriters/publishers do not license their songs for film and TV (Arcade Fire, Prince, etc.).
  5. Brand new, previously unreleased songs with a fresh, youthful sound. Licensing reps and music supes are always looking to be the first to introduce a song or artist out there.

Tips on Business Matters:

  1. Record covers and post them on YouTube. Make sure they’re full, high quality recordings.
  2. Make instrumentals of everything, especially for TV placement. Sometimes they don’t want vocals in background.
  3. Make “clean” edits of songs with explicit language (for obvious reasons).
  4. Invest in a printer/scanner or PDF conversion software for paperwork. This makes the back and forth a lot easier.
  5. Avoid giving your music to a production for free. Most productions have a budget, spend all their money on producing, and THEN look for songs. Unless you’re getting amazing publicity from the production, stick up for your music.

CDs or digital copies? Easy answer, have both.

  1. Some music supes still like CDs. Make sure they have artwork and if possible, lyrics. NO home made “burned” copies.
  2. If submitting songs digitally, make sure your contact information is in the metadata, along with lyrics, songwriters, song titles.
  3. Make sure songs can be streamed and downloaded. Some good sites for this: Box.net and Soundcloud.
  4. DO NOT attach mp3s to your submission emails.

Licensing success comes down to:

  1. Great music. Quality of music truly matters.
  2. Good relationships: with reps, supes, friends, and other creatives.
  3. Timing.

Co-written with Jared Swanson

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