Like most musicians, I dreamed of what it would be like for millions of people to hear the music I write. I believed, for a long time, to turn that dream into a reality would require landing a record deal, having songs on the radio, and touring the world. I spent years in bands, writing songs, tens of thousands of dollars on recordings, and trying desperately to get people to pay attention, but that major record deal just never panned out like I initially hoped it would.
Funny thing is, you may not know my name, but you’ve heard my music. I know that for a fact. Even though the path my career ended up taking didn’t involve the record deals, world tours and #1 hit songs, it’s been one of the most fulfilling paths I could have taken as an artist/writer/musician.
Why? Because I’ve been able to accomplish every dream I set out to achieve as a musician, all while writing the music that I wanted to write. It’s also allowed me the freedom to pursue other things in life that I’m passionate about, such as touring as a guitarist behind various artists, playing sessions, and traveling internationally.
A Quality Catalog Is A Magnet For Placement Opportunities
With over 2000 music placements in TV shows, Film Trailers, Video Games, and Commercials, the question I get asked by other musicians more than anything else is “How can I get my music on TV shows?” or, more specifically, “How can I do what you do?”
I believe whole heartedly that anyone can find success licensing their music. If you were born a creative individual, you were meant to create, not to suppress your gift in favor of a paycheck. For creative individuals like us, there is a path we can take to get our music heard by millions of people through the medium of television, while at the same time generating a consistent income.
So, how does one navigate this path? By following a simple 4 step formula that will dramatically increase your opportunities for placements.
The 4 Steps Plan to Licensing Success
Step 1: Build Your Catalog
In order to be successful licensing your music, you have to have a catalog. While 10 songs is a start, it’s just that… a start. Write as often and as much as you can. Write without rules. Write what fulfills you. Create freely and don’t worry about the outlet for those tracks.
Approach this just as you would any full-time job. You may not be able to commit 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, to writing music (yet), but try to dedicate a few hours each day to creating music and adding to your catalog. Don’t second guess yourself. Simply write and create as much as you can.
An example of this Step 1 in action involved the purchase I made of an old 1920’s Martin ukulele at an auction a few years ago. In order to learn how to play it, I decided to dedicate 2 to 3 hours a day, over the course of 2 weeks, to writing and recording 1 new song each day. 15 days later I had a 15-song ukulele album that, over the next year or so, generated 4 national commercials as well as multiple TV show placements. So, start building your catalog.
Step 2: Create Valuable Content
Step 2 comes into play when you’re mixing your tracks. This is where you can dramatically increase both the value of your catalog and the number opportunities for placements. If you only have 10 songs in your catalog, this step can quickly increase your catalog to 40 or 50 licensable tracks.
When you’re mixing your song, think of all the alternate mixes, or versions, that you could also burn. For example, a vocal song can instantly generate an instrumental track by muting the vocals. If you have an instrumental track, you can create a ‘No Melody’ mix by muting the melodic instruments. You can also experiment with muting the drums and other electric instruments to create an “Acoustic Mix” or a “Stripped Down Mix.”
Another great way to add value to your catalog is to create Cut Down mixes. These are 15, 30 and 60 second mixes of your track. It’s also wise to have Stem Mixes on hand in case a music editor needs to make some changes. This is a very common occurrence with commercial placements.
Examples of Stem Mixes would include Drum Stem, Bass Stem, Guitars Stem, Keys Stem, Orchestra Stem, Vocal Stem, Background Vocal Stem.
You really have to approach this step on a song by song basis since not every song will lend itself to every type of alternate mix.
Step 3: Master Metadata
Let’s say you have a song that’s just perfect for a specific placement opportunity, but if the music supervisor, or editor, can’t find your song, then you’re out of luck. Mastering metadata really is the golden ticket to your music licensing success.
In a nutshell, metadata is the information that is included with the audio file that allows it to be searchable via a set of specific keywords. In its most basic form, metadata can be input into your audio file through a program such as iTunes.
The ‘comments section’ of iTunes is an ideal place to input as many adjectives as you can think of to describe your song. In addition, include a short description of the song as well as your contact info.
Be aware, however, WAV files store very limited metadata unless you employ a 3rd party application to attach additional metadata to the audio file. AIFF files, on the other hand, are able to store a full array of metadata. That is why, in my opinion, it’s best to stick with AIFF files, unless otherwise specified in the delivery instructions from a music supervisor or music library.
Step 4: Get Your Music Heard
This 4th step is where people often have the most trouble. There’s a common fear of approaching a music supervisor, or music library, and being rejected, or never hearing back from them. When reaching out to these individuals, our goal here is to always be aware of the value you are bringing to the person you’re reaching out to. Make sure to show them the value they will get by licensing music from you, and/or absorbing your music into their catalog.
This step requires some research and due diligence on your part, but once you know who you want to contact, make sure you clearly:
- Let them know you have a quality catalog of music
(Step 1: Build Your Catalog)
- Let them know you can supply them with multiple versions and stems of each song so that the songs can be easily edited for the scene
(Step 2: Create Valuable Content)
- Let them know that your music is easily searchable and licensable
(Step 3: Master Metadata)
Remember to never attach your audio files to an initial email. Instead include a link where they can audition your music online.
When you follow these steps, 9 times out of 10, you will not only get a response, but you will get a positive response. Employing Steps 1-3 for every song in your catalog will ensure your success in Step 4.
Master These Steps
Music licensing is a subject I’m particularly passionate about because I’ve experienced first-hand how fulfilling it is to have my music constantly working for me and being heard by millions of people worldwide. I’d love for you to have that same fulfillment as well!
If learning how to successfully license your music is something that appeals to you, and you’d like to learn how to generate a consistent income with your music, download this free E-book, The 4 Step Plan to Licensing Success.