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How to Make Money Licensing Your Music: Get Placements in Film, TV, Ads

Are you a musician looking to monetize your talent? Licensing your music for film, TV, and ads can be a lucrative way to generate income. By understanding the concept of music licensing and following a few key steps, you can increase the chances of getting your music placed and maximizing your royalties. In this article, we will explore the world of music licensing and provide tips on how to make money in the entertainment industry. 

Getting your music placed in film, TV shows, commercials, and other media can be an extremely lucrative way to earn royalties as a musician. If you write and produce quality instrumental tracks, you can license them out to be synced in videos, shows, ads, games, and more. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about music licensing and placement for different types of media.

What is Music Licensing?

Music licensing refers to the negotiated permission to use a music track or recording in some type of media like a film, TV show, advertisement, video game, or app.

The creator of the music grants sync rights and licenses the use of their composition in the visual media. In return, they receive royalty payments each time their music is used. Rates are based on the type of project and scope of use.

Music licensing provides an ongoing passive income stream because your tracks continue generating royalties when they’re used and re-used in media. You license the music on a non-exclusive basis, so you’re free to license out the same tracks for many different projects.

This serves as a way for musicians to monetize their work by getting placements in popular media that has widespread visibility.

What is music licensing and how can it help you make money?

Understanding the concept of music licensing

Music licensing refers to the process of granting permission to others to use your music in various forms of media. When your music is licensed, you retain the rights to the composition, but you allow others to use it in their projects in exchange for compensation. This can include films, TV shows, commercials, and more.

How can licensing your music generate income?

When your music is licensed for use in film, TV, and ads, you can earn royalties from the placements. Royalties are payments made to the songwriter or composer for the use of their music. These can come in the form of performance royalties, which are earned when the music is performed publicly, or synchronization (sync) fees, which are earned when the music is used in conjunction with visual media.

Exploring different types of music licenses

There are different types of music licenses that you can obtain to allow your music to be used in various projects. Sync licenses grant the right to use your music in synchronization with visual media, such as a TV show or film. Mechanical licenses, on the other hand, are required for the reproduction and distribution of your music. Understanding the different types of licenses and when they are needed is crucial in the licensing process.

How to get your music licensed for film, TV, and ads?

Understanding the role of music supervisors

Music supervisors play a vital role in the licensing process. They are responsible for selecting and placing music in films, TV shows, and ads. Building relationships with music supervisors can increase your chances of getting your music noticed and placed in various projects. Networking within the music industry and attending industry events are great ways to connect with music supervisors.

Submitting your music to licensing opportunities

There are many licensing companies, music libraries, and online platforms that connect musicians with licensing opportunities. It is essential to research and submit your music to these platforms to increase your chances of getting your music licensed. Be sure to follow submission guidelines and showcase your best work to stand out among the competition.

Pitching your music for sync placements

When pitching your music for sync placements, it is crucial to tailor your compositions to resonate with specific media contexts. Understanding the mood, genre, and style of the project you are pitching to can significantly increase your chances of success. Additionally, utilizing the power of visual narratives in your music can make it more appealing to music supervisors and increase your chances of getting your music placed.

Key steps to success in the music licensing industry

Becoming familiar with the music industry

To succeed in the music licensing industry, it is essential to become familiar with the workings of the music industry as a whole. Understanding how music publishing works, the importance of licensing agreements, and the different types of royalties can help you navigate the licensing process more effectively.

Taking your music career to the next level

Licensing your music can open doors to new opportunities and take your music career to the next level. By getting your music placed in films, TV shows, and ads, you can gain exposure to wider audiences and attract the attention of industry professionals. It is essential to continue honing your craft and staying up-to-date with industry trends to maximize your chances of success.

Understanding the importance of licensing agreements

When licensing your music, it is crucial to have proper licensing agreements in place. These agreements outline the terms and conditions of how your music can be used and ensure that you receive proper compensation. Consulting with an entertainment lawyer or music industry professional can help you create and negotiate licensing agreements that protect your rights as a musician.

Maximizing royalties and income from music placements

Exploring different sources of income from music placements

Music placements can generate income from various sources. In addition to performance royalties and sync fees, you can also earn revenue from licensing your music for commercial use, such as in online ads or promotional videos. Exploring these different income streams can help you maximize your royalties and overall income.

Registering with performing rights organizations

To ensure that you receive the royalties you are owed, it is crucial to register your music with performing rights organizations (PROs). PROs collect and distribute performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and composers. By registering your music with a PRO, you can track and collect the royalties earned from your music placements.

Monetizing your musical talents through background music

Another way to monetize your musical talents is by creating background music for film, TV, and ads. Background music, also known as cues or underscores, is used to enhance the mood and atmosphere of a scene without overpowering the dialogue or action. Creating high-quality background music that is versatile and can be easily licensed can open up new revenue streams for your music career.

Tips and strategies to make your music stand out for licensing

Creating compositions that resonate with media contexts

When creating music for licensing, it is essential to consider the specific media contexts in which your music might be used. Understanding the mood, genre, and style of the project you are targeting can help you create compositions that resonate with the intended audience and increase your chances of getting your music selected.

Building relationships with music supervisors

Building relationships with music supervisors is crucial when it comes to getting your music noticed and placed. Networking, attending industry events, and reaching out to music supervisors directly can help establish connections and increase your chances of getting your music licensed. Building trust and rapport with music supervisors can lead to long-term opportunities and collaborations.

Utilizing the power of visual narratives in your music

Incorporating visual narratives into your music can make it more attractive to music supervisors. By evoking emotions and telling a story through your compositions, you can create a powerful connection with audiences and increase the suitability of your music for film, TV, and ads. Consider the visual elements that your music complements and make sure your music enhances the overall audio-visual experience.

Why Get Your Music Licensed?

Here are some of the top benefits of licensing your music compositions:

Recurring Passive Income

The biggest incentive is earning ongoing royalties every time your track gets used and re-used in media. The music continues generating sync fees over months or years.

Widespread Exposure

Getting placements in shows, ads or games exposes your music to massive new audiences of millions of viewers/listeners. This mass exposure also builds valuable credibility.

Retain Ownership

When you license music, you retain full ownership. You’re only granting sync rights for limited use of the recording, not the underlying composition.

Pays Well for Quality Music

Strong instrumental compositions that sync well with visuals can command high licensing fees, especially for commercials, trailers, games, etc. Quality over quantity.

Opens Doors

Success with licensing deals can lead to more work composing for media projects down the road. Placements get your music in front of music supervisors.

Satisfaction of Exposure

It’s deeply gratifying for musicians to hear their music used in popular shows and media. Placements also look great on your resume.

In summary, licensing brings expanding passive income, exposure, credibility, and creative satisfaction. Let’s look at how to capitalize on these opportunities.

How Music Licensing Works

Before diving into specifics, let’s look at a high level overview of how music licensing deals work:

  • Musician/Composer – Writes and records high-quality, commercially viable instrumental music
  • Music Publisher – Distributes the music and pitches to music supervisors/editors
  • Music Supervisor – Searches for music on behalf of and coordinates with producers
  • Producer – Determines music needs for the project like a film, show, or ad
  • License Agreement – Contract detailing negotiated sync fee rate, terms of use, etc.
  • Royalties – Publisher collects fees and pays the composer their share of royalties
  • Placement – Music track gets synced into the film, show or other media

By teaming up with publishers, your music can get in front of music supervisors searching for the perfect match for their projects. Patience and persistence lead to placements.

How To Get Your Music Licensed

If you want to start licensing your music compositions, here are the key steps:

1. Write Great Instrumental Music

This is the foundation. Spend time honing your ability to compose quality instrumental music that sounds professional. Avoid lyrics, which limits licensing opportunities.

2. Build a Versatile Catalog

Compose a diverse collection of tracks in different genres, moods, tempos, instruments, etc. Variety gives supervisors more options to find that ideal sync.

3. Record Professionally

Invest in professional recording, production and mastering for broadcast-ready quality. Strong audio production really matters.

4. Register Copyrights

Register your finished recordings with your national copyright office and a performance rights organization (PRO) like ASCAP or BMI.

5. Produce Metadata

Prepare metadata like cue sheets detailing each composition’s publisher info, duration, instrumentation, mood, keywords, etc.

6. Partner With a Publisher

Find publishers who can pitch your tracks. They have existing relationships with music supervisors.

7. Pitch Your Music Proactively

In addition to publishers, also pitch your music personally to music supervisors when you see relevant project opportunities.

8. Negotiate License Agreements

When interest is shown, negotiate affordable sync fees and usage terms. Non-exclusive deals provide more opportunities.

9. Collect Royalties

When your track gets used, collect royalties directly or via your publisher. Get all details spelled out contractually.

With this foundation, you’ll be ready to start seeing your first music placements. Now let’s look at the types of projects you can target.

Types of Music Placements

There are several major media categories that frequently license and sync music into their productions.

TV & Online Shows

From network television to streaming and web series, shows use music to set moods for scenes and segments. Target scripted dramas, comedies, documentaries, competition shows, news programs and more.

Films & Trailers

Movies and movie trailers often seek instrumental tracks to heighten the mood and emotion. Especially look for indie films with smaller budgets.

Commercials & Ads

TV and online advertisements frequently sync energetic music behind their messages. Especially seek out music licensing opportunities from smaller boutique ad agencies producing local and regional commercials.

Video Games

Game developers license music to enhance immersion and enjoyment. All types of games from console to mobile use background soundtracks and stings.

Branded Content

Many companies produce branded videos, explainers, tutorials and more that require background music.

Apps & Software

Music, sounds and UI effects are needed in all types of mobile and web apps.

Promotional Media

Music helps engage audiences for sales videos, Kickstarter campaigns, events, trade show booths, corporate videos, book/music trailers, YouTube promotions and similar media.

Podcasts & Radio

Podcasts frequently use background music along with show themes and transition stings. Traditional radio also uses plenty of production music.

Online Video

YouTubers, influencers, course creators, and more license music as background soundtracks for vlogs, tutorials, lessons and other online videos.

There are tons of opportunities across these different categories. Pursue placements related to your music style and strengths.

Sync Licensing Rates

Licensing fees vary substantially based on the type of project, scope of use, duration, audience size, your experience level and more. Here are typical sync license rate ranges:

  • YouTube Video – $20 – $500+
  • Web Series Episode – $100 – $1,000
  • Mobile Game – $200 – $5,000
  • Online Ad – $300 – $10,000
  • Documentary Film – $500 – $5,000+
  • TV Show Segment – $1000 – $10,000
  • Brand Video – $2,000 – $25,000
  • National TV Commercial – $10,000 – $250,000+

Higher six and seven figure deals are possible for placements in global brand campaigns, Hollywood films, hit television shows, big video games, etc.

Rates are very negotiable and vary widely. Be willing to start affordably when you’re breaking in. Building experience and credits leads to higher payouts over time.

Finding Music Licensing Opportunities

The keys to success are persistence and having your music in front of the right people. Here are strategies to find more licensing opportunities:

  • Research recent projects – Find producers working on relevant upcoming projects that may need music. Search film project databases, playlists of supervisors, ads of major brands, trailers, etc. to identify opportunities.
  • Network personally – Attend industry events to connect directly with music supervisors, ad agency producers, filmmakers, game developers and podcast producers. Nurture relationships.
  • Pitch music libraries – Reach out to libraries that specialize in licensing music to productions. They pitch their catalogs to supervisors.
  • Submit to opportunities – Keep an eye out for requests for music submissions for upcoming projects. Reply promptly to relevant project leads.
  • Browse production music sites – Keep tabs on sites like Pond5, MusicBed, AudioJungle, Soundstripe and others that license music to productions and custom postings.
  • Propose ideas – Come up with music proposals tailored to specific brands/shows and pitch them proactively based on their likely needs.
  • Offer custom scoring – Offer to compose original music tailored specifically to a project as well.
  • Advertise your music – Promote your catalog to supervisors through your website, social media profiles, and direct emails. Share samples.
  • Hire a publisher – Work with a publisher who can tap their insider connections and pair your music with ideal projects.

With persistence and an ever-growing quality music catalog, placements become much easier over time.

Optimizing Your Music For Licensing

Not all music works well for sync licensing. To improve your odds, optimize compositions specifically for use in visual media:

Length

  • Shoot for :60 to 2:00 minute track lengths. Avoid songs over 3 minutes unless extended background scoring. Short hooks also work well.

Instrumentation

  • Most visually engaging mixes use a combo of drums, bass, guitar, piano, strings, horns, and synthesizers. Avoid busy/lyrical vocals.

Energy

  • Medium to uptempo energetic tracks grab attention best in ads, trailers, games, etc. Slower emotional pieces work for poignant film/TV scenes.

Structure

  • Intros, builds, transitions, endings. Syncs need dynamic arrangements that evolve over time and lead in/out well.

Mix

  • Clear polished mix with space for dialogue. Stems allow for custom mixing per placement. Avoid excessive compression.

Metadata

  • Provide cue sheets with publisher details, mood keywords, BPM, instruments, etc. to pitch tracks effectively.

Optimizing compositions specifically for sync will improve music supervisors’ ability to imagine placements.

Growing Your Licensing Career

Lastly, a few tips to build your licensing success over the long-term:

  • Start affordable – Accept lower fees in the beginning to build experience and credits. Rates climb over time.
  • Deliver reliably – Build a reputation for prompt professional service and delivering as promised.
  • Retain rights – Never fully sign away rights. Non-exclusive deals maintain opportunities.
  • Compose a lot – Have hundreds of tracks for pitching maximum opportunities. But focus on effective pitches over spamming.
  • Publish opportunities – Leverage blogs, newsletters, social media etc. to promote your music searchable for supervisors.
  • Network authentically – Nurture sincere relationships in your niche. Avoid overly salesy outreach.
  • Track diligently – Closely monitor where your music gets used and when payment is owed to stay on top of royalties.
  • Keep improving – Continually evolve your production skills and catalog. Expand into different genres and styles.
  • Have patience – Music licensing involves a long game of persistence. Placements come with consistent passion and dedication over time.

Sync licensing can provide musicians with a steady second income stream while also gaining tremendous exposure. By mastering production and pitching, your music can potentially be heard by millions in popular shows, films and media. Get your music out there!

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By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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