As an artist, you all want to focus entirely on your MUSIC. Your passion is in writing, recording, and performing your music and that’s what got you involved with the music industry in the first place. You must have never thought about all the “fun” business and legal aspects of building a career as an artist when you fell in love with music. These aspects, although there’s so much less fun in them, are vitally instrumental to your success in your music career.
One of the legal aspects every artist faces at some point of their music journey is the question about licensed use of copyrighted music, namely music licensing.
What does it mean to license your music? Music licensing allows the copyright music owner to collect compensation when their art work is used by others. For example, let's say your music was slotted to be used in a TV show. If your music was properly licensed, you would get a compensation for the use of your track. The purchaser, which in this case is the TV show, has limited or no rights to the use of your song without engaging in a separate agreement with you.
However, let's say the music was not properly licensed. What happens then? One of the bands registered on Show4me shared with us their poor experience. A few years ago, their song was going to be played as a fighter's walk-out song during World Series of Fighting on NBC Sports. Naturally, all band members were thrilled about the news. The song ended up playing in three separate fights. Guess how much compensation the guys have received for that? Zero dollars and zero cents. Why? The song was not properly licensed. Please, learn from their mistakes!
This article highlights 5 steps to take before licensing your music.
Step 1. Choose the right music publisher
There are two main music publishers: ASCAP and BMI.
ASCAP is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1914. It is unique since the members themselves control the organization. ASCAP represents more than 10 million art works from over 550,000 members. In 2016, ASCAP has distributed around $918 million to its members.
BMI is also a not-for-profit organization. The organization represents more songs and artists than ASCAP; 12 million tracks from over 750,000 artists. In 2016, BMI represented around $931 million in distribution. What’s more, as a songwriter your membership is free.
So here is the tip. Research both organizations and choose which one is best for your specific situation.
Step 2. Copyright your music
Copyrighting is the process that often overlooked. But copyrighting your music is absolutely essential thing to do before submitting your music for licensing. Why? No one is going to license your music, if the copyright was not done properly. Remember “the fighter's walk-out song” story I’ve told you? Do it right, or you’ll lose the compensation you deserve! Ensure that your music is copyrighted correctly before pursuing any music licensing.
Step 3. Complete metadata for your tracks
Metadata in the context of music is simply the information about your songs and albums. You want to make sure that your metadata includes items like the album title, track title, genre, the year it was recorded, sample rate, duration of the song, and any contact information such as your full name and/or email.
Why is metadata important? Simply put, this is how licensees can get in touch with you. Someone looking to license your song needs a way to contact you to negotiate the proper agreements. This is often overlooked and can play a big role in the final outcome: obtaining a licensing deal and not.
Step 4. Create a spreadsheet for song metadata
The word “spreadsheet" can sound intimidating. In the case of music licensing, spreadsheets can be extremely helpful in keeping you organized. Having a detailed spreadsheet with all the needed information mentioned in step #3 will allow you to quickly reference any important details necessary for striking a deal. Music licensing deals tend to move very quickly. Being able to access the necessary metadata fast can guarantee much smoother process.
Step 5. Choose carefully where your music can be heard
This is an important question to answer. Having a vision of where you want your music to appear will guide your response to potential opportunities coming your way. Depending on your specific sound, different songs could have different potential appearances. To help yourself stay organized in this area, you could add a "Perfect Fit On" column to your metadata master spreadsheet.
This would allow you to brainstorm any possible appearances that exist for each specific song. Doing this can allow you to pitch specific media that will correlate well with your song(s). For example, if the song would fit well in a horror movie or show, you can reach out to the specific contact points for licensing your music.
Licensing your music is definitely not the most exciting aspect of your music career, but it is potentially one of the most lucrative.
It is important that you keep in mind that music industry, like all other industries, is a business. Staying organized and taking the necessary business and legal steps for your music career is the difference between being an amateur and a music professional. Which one do you want to be?