Non-Exclusive Vs. Exclusive Contracts, Part 2

Andy Lykens is a music branding and marketing specialist for Imagem Music, the world’s largest independent music publisher. Follow him here.

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Read part 1 here.

Last week we discussed some of the pros and cons of signing onto a music placement service offering non-exclusive contracts. It’s definitely an interesting option and can provide a lot of opportunity, but before you go uploading your music to a Pump Audio, why not consider all options?

Always consider all sides of the story...
Exclusive deals can be very rewarding experiences not just from a monetary stand point, but also from an artistic one. However, they’re definitely not as easy to come by and there can be other drawbacks to signing on with a major publisher or label (or both). Let’s check out a few pros and cons from each:


  • Perceived Value is Higher
  • Retain Greater Performance Royalties
  • Better Synch Fees
  • Better Percentages
  • Creative Control

Starting with perceived value is great because it drives some of the other categories. When pitching music for ads at a music library, it was usually a struggle to get someone to listen and VERY difficult to get them to consider a song versus a commercial track. In most cases I got the phone call when the budget was low and not before.

Was the music THAT much different? In some cases a superstar band definitely brings its own associations to the brand, but in many cases you could easily send a library track and commercial track, and save for the name attached to it have no idea which was which. That’s the power of perceived value; to get into the big money opportunities in the first place.

Let’s lump the next few together because they all have to do with the contract you sign. The number 1 fantastic thing about an exclusive deal is your artist, publisher, synch, and even advance are all negotiable. It doesn’t matter if you’re huge or tiny, you CAN negotiate to some point (and I’ll talk about how to do that as a little guy in a future ad). The bottom line is: any additional percentage you can get, take. And with those percentages chunking out of better fees due to prime opportunities, you’re doing pretty great.

Finally we come to creative control which is something you may or may not care about. For the most part music doesn’t get pitched for political or religious advertisements just out of principle. However, how stoked would you be if your song got placed in an ad for a discount furniture store? If your answer is “ehhh,” then there’s your answer about which contract to pursue. Think of all the products you see at your local drug store and if any of those (like adult diapers or prescription drugs) are not something you’d want to attach your music to, then creative control is an important thing for you. You also get the opportunity to turn down jobs that don’t pay enough.

Looking at the list initially it may seem like a no-brainer – hit the pavement and get after trying to get yourself signed. But hold on, there are some cons to consider before you go burning CDs or duping USB drives.


  • Difficult to Secure
  • Adrift in a Sea of Music
  • Possibly Reactive
  • Possibly Disorganized

First, I don’t want to overlook how difficult it can be to land one of these deals. It can take years. In fact, they can just not happen at all. However they DO still happen and they are out there. More on landing this type of opportunity later on from some friends of mine who are experts. For now, just know that it is tough work!

Major labels and publishers have some pretty amazing music to tout when it comes to placing music in film, TV, and advertising. On top of that, they also have a ton of other music. For that reason its possible you’ll get lost among the other artists in the catalog. Now, you might make the same case for non-exclusive style companies, but keep reading as the next two items are what REALLY separates the wheat from the chaff.

First, publishers and labels can be highly reactive. Many companies are changing, particularly new ones, but still far too many more wait for the phone to ring or depend on clients to reach out to them. So sure, they may get a call when someone has $200K to spend on a Super Bowl spot, but guess what the agency wants for that spot? Superstar. So if you’re not as superstar, you need to MAKE SURE the company you’re signing with is abreast of as many opportunities, large and small, as possible.

Don't let your publisher or label be lazy!

The other bad habit of current majors and indies is disorganization. They’re not sure who wrote what, they don’t have useful systems in place to help them find the right music, and maybe they don’t even know who represents the other side of the synch placement. Yikes. This means you could miss an opportunity simply because the company doesn’t know some critical facet pertaining to landing a license for you.

In the end, whichever route you decide to go just be aware of the potential caveats. Now there are more and more people offering services and opportunities to up-and-coming writers. If you do your homework, chances are you can land somewhere that will be a great fit!

As always please let me know any questions you have via email, twitter, or on my blog. I’m always looking for ideas about future articles and always happy to help!


Speaking of publishing contracts, don’t miss out on this! Enter The Pub Deal Contest presented by Martin Guitar and American Songspace, for a chance to win an exclusive songwriting agreement with HoriPro and other perks.

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