Music Licensing And Selling Songs

Beginner Guide to Music Licensing and Selling Songs

Looking for ways to start selling songs? You want to make money with your music, right? Most songwriters want to make money with their music, however it’s rare for a songwriter to sell a song outright. Instead, a writer will license the song to a person or entity for various uses for an agreed-upon amount of time, while still retaining ownership of the song.

This is known as music licensing, and it’s all around us. The music that we hear when we watch TV, turn on the radio, or sit down in our favourite restaurant, has all been licensed.

Copyright Creation

The process begins with copyright creation, and this occurs the moment a song is written. More precisely, a song is protected by copyright the moment it becomes fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

This means it could be recorded on a computer program, cassette tape, or even simply written down on paper. The moment you do this, copyright protection exists for your new song.

You don’t have to register a song with the Copyright Office in order to own the copyright; this is merely a formality. However, should you ever need to defend your rights in a court of law, your song must first be registered.

Opportunities for Selling Songs

Now that you have a new song and you know the copyright belongs to you, where do you send it? There are a variety of places for selling songs to; it all depends on what you want to do with them. Do you want them to be recorded by other artists? Are your recordings good enough to be included in TV shows? How about video games?

Let’s take a look at a few different places that you can send your music, and you can decide which (or all) would be the best fit for you.

Music Libraries

If you want to get your songs placed in Film and TV, a good place to start is by looking at some of the many music libraries out there.

Music libraries are companies that host your songs and make them available to clients who need music for their various projects such as movies, TV shows, documentaries, and webcasts.

The best music libraries are picky about the music they accept, so the quality of your songs and recordings has to be good. Unlike when you pitch your songs to other artists or producers, when your song is licensed from a music library it will not be re-recorded. This is one reason the libraries are so picky. Not only does your song have to be good, it must also be broadcast quality.

Music libraries fall into two basic categories: Exclusive and non-exclusive. The exclusive ones want to be the only company to administer your music, so you would sign an exclusive contract with them.

Selling songs with a non-exclusive library allows you to place your songs with other libraries and music publishers, providing they also offer non-exclusive deals. You can’t enter into an exclusive contract with one library and a non-exclusive contract with another library for the same song.

So it’s a good idea to check out what each library has to offer before you decide which way to go.

Music Publishers

Music publishers also administer your music, however are probably more proactive than most of the music libraries at getting your songs in front of potential clients. A publisher’s strength lies in his or her contacts, and relationships with them.

Music supervisors tend to do business with people they know and trust. If a publisher has provided quality music in the past, a music supervisor is likely to be receptive to what that publisher has to offer now.

When you sign a publishing deal with a music publisher you assign the copyright of your song to them. In return, the publisher will do his or her best to get the song licensed by pitching it to recording artists, and film and television music supervisors. “Selling songs” then becomes the publisher’s job so you can concentrate on yours: Writing songs.

In addition, the publisher assumes the responsibility of registering your song with the copyright office and Performing Rights Organisation, monitoring where the song is used, and collecting royalties and distributing them to you.

Any royalties generated by the licensing of the song will generally be split 50/50 between you and the publisher. When you think about the amount of work the publisher must do, and take into account the contacts and relationships they have with other music industry professionals, this is definitely a fair trade.

Record Producers

Record producers are involved in more than overseeing and managing the recording of an artist’s music; they are also often involved in screening and selecting songs for an artist’s latest project.

They are therefore always on the lookout for hot new songs to pitch to their recording artist clients. Find out who produces some of the artists that are in your particular genre, and get in touch with them.

If you have a certain artist in mind for one of your songs, let them know that. It can be difficult to get your foot in the door, however if you are courteous and respectful your persistence may pay off.

Artist Managers

Artist Managers are also on the lookout for new songs for the artists they represent. If you think you have a song that would be perfect for a specific artist and you know that artist records outside songs, find out who their management company is, contact them and ask if they are open to hearing new material for their upcoming project.

Contacts for Selling Songs

When you’re ready and you are looking for specific contacts for selling songs to, you will find all of the above and more in the annual Songwriter’s Market

It’s packed with hundreds of music licensing opportunities, including contact information for songwriting organisations, music publishers, record companies, record producers, artist managers, and song contests.

In addition, there are many informative articles related to the craft and business of songwriting in general. 

Avatar Of Paul Austin

Paul Austin

Paul is a writer living in the Great Lakes Region. He dabbles in research of historical events, places, and people on his website at Michigan4You. When he isn't under a deadline, you can find him on the beach with a good book and a cold beer.

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