7 Tips to Help You License Your Music
1) Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) – You must be set up with a PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC in the US) before you even begin discussing the subject of music licensing. All the US PROs are either free to join or require a small one-time application fee. None of them have annual dues, so if you're not currently a member, join right now!
2) Input – Once registered with a PRO, you should go to their website and input all of the information for the tracks you're interested in licensing (or may be interested in licensing in the future). The online system will allow you to enter your writer info, publisher info, alternate titles, co-writers, etc.
3) Publishing – It’s important to note that when you write a song, you own the publishing by default unless you give it away for some reason. This is true even if you haven't set up a separate publishing entity with your PRO. Publishing is one of the most important and misunderstood elements of the music business in my opinion, so do your research on this subject before you blindly sign it away. For example, here’s something to consider: If you don't own 100% of your publishing, you will not be able to place your music without permission. This means that you won't even (legally) be able to post a YouTube video featuring your song(s) without consent from the publisher (or co-publisher). Don't get me wrong, there are situations where you must give your publishing away, but always do your research first and obviously try to hold on to your publishing if possible.
4) Be a Critic – Does your music sound as good as your favorite band, composer or album? In today’s cutthroat environment, your music must compete on every level or it will be lost in the bottom of the pile. Demos containing rough ideas won't cut it anymore and your music must be mixed professionally, be loud enough, be polished (mastered), etc. In a recent masterclass video I filmed with composer Ron Jones (Family Guy, American Dad, etc.), he suggested making a playlist in iTunes with all of your best music mixed in with your musical heroes. Then play the tracks at random and make a detailed list of notes comparing your music with the other selections. Is your bass mixed too loud compared to the professional tracks? How about the panning, sounds and the overall level? These are just a handful of examples, but essentially you must figure out the differences and fix your tracks, so that they are equally as good. And if you're having trouble hearing the differences, ask someone who does know. This is very important work!
5) Understand the Format – Television/Film music has specific considerations due to how it’s used. For example, fade outs are usually frowned upon because music supervisors often like to cut to a strong ending before a scene change. Also, if your music is very busy or mixed too densely, it might not work well under dialogue. These are just 2 examples of many and I suggest really analyzing some music from your favorite shows or films (especially if you are going to be pitching to these people). If you really understand what music is being placed, you can provide something that music supervisors actually want to receive, which will increase your success rate enormously.
6) Do Your Research – OK, now I'm going to assume that you have some awesome sounding music and you're ready to start reaching out to music supervisors, music departments, etc. But before you buy one of those music industry directories, it’s super important to do your research! You must only pitch your music to shows or films that use your genre/style, or you will burn bridges that may be beyond repair. This is because you are wasting the time of the person accepting music (since they are on a deadline and have very specific needs) and they may hold a grudge…seriously this happens! So, what do you do? Find shows and films with music like yours…easy, right?
7) Don't be Pushy – When you've finally found the perfect opportunity for your music and you get in touch with the person in charge, don't be too aggressive. Be polite and tell him or her that you are familiar with the show/film they are working on as well as the music that they usually place. Keep the email short, sweet and be respectful of their time. Remember, no matter how good your music is, it won't be right for every project so don't act entitled or pushy. You must approach these people with humility and respect or you won't last long in this business!