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Is Music Your Day Job or Your Nighttime Dream?

When I think about the professional musician, I like to break down opportunity into day job and night job.  The night job is the dream – rock and roll stardom, touring, selling records, award shows, bodyguards, fawning fans, public meltdowns, etc. 

Being more pragmatic as a person – I have spent much of my career on the day job part of this industry (and that’s not just you giving guitar lessons).

Music Publishing to me is the day job part of the business – regardless of your status as a performer.  Even the big folks love the mailbox money of publishing.  As an independent artist, I think it’s even more important.

Publishing, with all it’s complexities, still has the opportunity to create income streams for artists at all levels – especially if you are up for creating alternate types of content.  All music shown on television and the web around the world earns public performance income.

The companies who create this type of content use known music in some cases (opening theme song, key scene) and then they use other background music for the rest of the show/commercial/movie/web series.

What used to be a closed service of creating this type of content is now a competitive open playground for creative independent artists – through independent production libraries.  

What is great about these services is the way that :15, :30 and :60 second cuts of instrumental theme or genre based music can create thousands of dollars of recurring revenue for the independent artist.

Here is how these companies work – independent artists submit their music to these companies.  If accepted, they put your songs into a library that music supervisors/content creators can skim through to find what they need.  Once they select your song – you will get paid a percentage of the licensing fee – and then when publicly performed – you will participate as a songwriter and publisher (if you own your own publishing).

One thing to look out for is what is called ‘retitling’ which is a common way for these companies to re-register your song with the PRO’s with them as co-owners from a publishing perspective.  

This is done for 2 reasons:

1) For these companies to make more money by participating in the PRO income. 

2) For these companies to be able to track their usage vs other’s usage. 

I personally don’t have a problem with this practice – although some do.  My feeling is that if the production library gets you the placement, then they should participate in all revenue.  Some will say that you are losing out on future revenue streams by giving up some of your publishing.

I see both sides, but I think since the deals are non-exclusive, and they only participate in revenue that they created, then they have every right to participate.  If you don’t like this practice – then don’t submit your music to their service.

If it were me – I would submit music to all of them.  There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of tracks out there earning, and why shouldn’t yours?  

Especially – if it’s your day job.


This article was written by Larry Mills of We Are The Hits (@WeAreTheHits), an on-line video network that allows musicians to create, syndicate and monetize cover songs – legally.

Reader Comments (1)

Thank you for this post. Do you have any recommendations of particular services, or how to go about selecting a publisher?

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterSasha

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