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The Realities of Licensing Your Music

There are quite literally millions of “slots” a year for music in Film, TV, Advertising, Trailers, and Video Games. Not to mention UGC (User-generated content) like Instagram, YouTube, Tok Tok, Twitch, and several others as well. 99.9% of those songs have been licensed either through blanket licenses (meaning an agreement that pre-licenses songs in bulk), or direct licenses. License values can range from $0 (or gratis) up to 7 figures. Conservatively $100k+ for an unknown artist. Some context as we move forward. A “Licensor” is a person, party or entity that owns the copyright. A “Licensee” is a person, party, or entity wishing to acquire the rights to use a piece of music for visual media. It's called a "sync" because your music is being synchronized with picture. When you agree to license your song, effectively, you are allowing someone to “rent” your song for their purposes. They never own your music. You ALWAYS retain the ownership. This allows you to grant licenses infinitely, indefinitely and for any value you deem fit. There is a process to getting your music licensed. Here are 5 things you need to know to help you start earning that cold hard cash, make that mucho moolah, and bank those big bucks.

By: Justin Gray Founder/Chairman MDIIO 1. Production/Writing - Music supervisors move fast. There is no time to provide feedback on why a song works or not. Imagine providing feedback for the 100’s of songs submitted for a slot? Impossible. They won’t work with you to tweak a mix, improve a vocal performance, or even re-write a lyric. Most of the time, there is an absurdly short window to submit (as we have seen on MDIIO)…” Submissions close at 5 pm ET…it’s 1:30 PT…oh shit!” highlighting the importance that the production quality and the songwriting be right. Unless you are working directly with a supervisor on a specific custom brief, it’s on you to anticipate their needs. Always bounce out Main, TV, INST, Cleans (no profanity or samples), and any Alt versions you think a music supervisor might request. Have these on hand. So many syncs are lost because the licensees were not prepared. The good news is that common themes are always seriously needed and in short supply. you have the repertoire. What’s next? 2. Pitching - A supervisor will not know you unless you let them know who you are. Make sure that your songs are well-produced, and fit the brief. As we have discussed, nothing annoys a supervisor more than getting pitched “the wrong song.”…Not a bad song…a wrong song. There are differences. A bad song isn’t a fit…the wrong song is a song that does not match the brief. Even if it is amazing (but wrong), you will lose credibility. Typically any brief can receive 50+ submissions, and that is just via MDIIO alone. There is one slot and multiple options. When you submit a song through a MDIIO posted opportunity, your song gets curated by our A&R staff. Any suitable and relevant submissions will then get forwarded to our partners. The forwarded songs become part of a new bucket of all the music submitted to be reviewed by the agency, supervisor, director, or whoever else is responsible for the creative musical direction. Let’s say they LOVE your song…here comes the hard part… 3. Competition - Just because you have submitted a song, and gotten some attention to it does not mean anything. There are so many variables that ultimately determine why a song gets used…or doesn’t. Let’s say you have submitted your song and it’s been shortlisted. Congrats…you are already in the top 1% of all submissions. Seriously. Even getting to this stage is an amazing accomplishment. Here’s the thing…you won’t even know about. There is a likelihood that your song has already been edited to a picture and shared with the director, producer, music supervisor, the client, assistant director, assistant to the assistant, and their mother just for good measure. Your song could be getting tested and test-marketed as I type this. It would be nice to know these things…but you won’t. Until they come back and ask you to… 4. Quoting - Once a song is shortlisted for any project, the next phase to getting licensed is the quote. This is the offer you are willing to accept if the licensee chooses your song. It’s important to know and understand that there may be hundreds of songs submitted for this one slot. The competition is fierce. Quoting can sometimes make or break a license. Oftentimes, a licensee has indicated what they are willing to pay for fees. The same song licensed to major studio film-trailer can have a budget of 100k+, A major retail advertiser like Target can be easily in the mid 6 figures…but that same song might be licensed for a couple hundred dollars for a sports highlight package on ESPN. There is no rate card per se…there is however an unspoken expectation on what it would cost to clear certain songs for certain usages. It’s tricky to not under or overvalue yourself. If you get to this stage, you will want to seek the help of a professional attorney. As a MDIIO member, you get this service as part of your subscription…Then what? 5. Licensing - CONGRATULATIONS!!! You locked the placement. You pitched the song, got shortlisted, and made the cut. Once a song is chosen, there is a formal license that needs to get signed by all parties. This is the legal document granting the right (or license) to allow the licensee to use your song. It’s not unusual for a commercial, or usage to air before the license is signed…definitely, before it’s even paid for. Most of the time, this is not something to be concerned about. Especially with MDIIO, our partners are reputable professionals with years of experience. The signed quote is proof of the transaction. Once the license is done, you can expect it might take up to 3 months to get paid…TV sometimes up to 6 months. You’ll get paid. Don’t worry about that… The CODA: So, you have written, produced, pitched, competed, quoted, and signed a license, what happens now? Repeat step 1. See you next week, and until then, keep writing hits!!


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