Songwriter U: What Is Music Licensing and How Can it Help Your Music Career?

Music Licensing

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Music licensing has become one of the best ways for an artist to get more exposure and more revenue for their music. In short, getting your music placed in Film, Video Games, TV, Ads, and other licensing avenues, pays you an upfront fee, and depending on where and how often the track is played, can also get you paid continued royalties—making it one of the best ways to get paid for your music in this new digital age.

How Does It Work?

Any time a song is ‘synced’ to picture, it will command a synchronization fee. The fee is determined by a number of factors, but the three main factors are:

  • Scope of Use—The media on which the sync will occur (e.g., TV, ads, video game, etc.)
  • Term—How long the sync will run (e.g., one week, one year, in perpetuity, etc.)
  • Territory—Where the sync will air (e.g., locally, nationally, worldwide)

Let’s break it down even more from there. Every time you write a song and record it, two copyrights are created:

  • The lyrics and melody that make up the song (i.e., the composition)
  • The recording of that composition (i.e., the master)

So, if your song is placed in a TV show, a license is needed for BOTH the composition and the master. Even if you own both, they need to license them BOTH separately and pay you for the rights to each. Therefore, a license is a granting of the rights for someone to use your song.

But, more than just the additional revenue upside, licensing your music can be an incredible promotional tool to help get your music heard by bigger audiences and potentially new fans.

[RELATED: Now Accepting Entries For The SONGS THAT SYNC Song Contest Promotion]

But How Do You Get Your Music Licensed?

There are music professionals whose job it is to locate and secure music for upcoming projects (e.g., sync agents, music supervisors, etc.). Developing direct relationships with these professionals can be challenging, especially if you’re just starting out, so artists should explore alternative methods to get their music heard by these types of professionals.

Things to Consider Before Connecting

Before you begin connecting with licensing and sync pros, you’ll need to get your camp organized. Here’s a quick list of items you’ll want to consider:

  • Register your songs with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO), they will help collect your royalties
  • Have your songs professionally mastered
  • Have alternate mixes of your songs on hand (i.e., instrumentals with no lyrics)
  • Have your lyrics organized and documented
  • Have a complete breakdown of ownership rights (i.e., composition vs. master)
  • Have a full disclosure of any samples, cover songs, etc. included
  • Have a bio put together to tell your story

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