There has been a great deal of buzz about music licensing in recent years, and with good reason! Compared to other revenue streams, licensing can have potentially big payouts for indie musicians. It’s also a pretty confusing aspect of the music industry. Just how exactly do songs get on those TV shows? The conductors behind those licenses are music supervisors.
What is a Music Supervisor?
Music supervisors oversee the music-related aspects of TV, films, and video games. They are in charge of interpreting the producer’s vision, finding the right track, and negotiating the contract with the artists. Of course, there are MILLIONS of songs out there, so finding the right one is no easy task. On top of that, licensing for use in visual mediums is a juggling act, with as many as eight separate deals depending on how many parties are involved (songwriter, recording artist, record label, publishing company, etc.) and how the song will be used.
Despite the potential money involved, licensing is actually a pretty impartial industry in terms of the artists chosen. There are plenty of instances where independent bands have gotten huge placements. The music supervisors’ priority is getting the right song at the right time, and at the right price.
1. Define Your Style
Licensing music for film and TV is not a mass email business. It’s about taking the time to research and pinpointing specific opportunities. The first step is defining your musical style. What genre does your music best fit in? What mood do your songs tend to portray? Is your music reminiscent of songs from other bands or artists? Next, you’ll want to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the music used in commercials, movies, TV shows, and video games. Take note of any shows or brand promotions in which you think your music would work.
2. Get the Contact Information
The music supervisor is always listed in the credits for TV and movies and you can usually find a name and email online with a little research. Email is your best bet, though it wouldn’t hurt following them on Twitter as well - you might get some insights as to what they’re looking for.
3. Write the Email
When emailing music supervisors, be as short and to the point as possible. Ultimately, you really want them to be able to tell exactly how your music sounds from just the subject line. Listing a few key description terms like genre and mood is a great idea. If you can pinpoint a well-known band your music sounds like, include that as well. For example, your subject line could be “Uplifting, rock track, sounds like Foo Fighters.” Just from that short description it’s pretty easy to figure out what the track sounds like and, in turn, what placements it might fit best.
4. Build a Special Webpage
It’s best to provide a link to a place where the supervisor can listen to the track instead of attaching an mp3. There’s a couple options here. You could provide a link to a page on your website. If you don’t want this page to mess with the overall look of your site you don’t need to included it in the navigation.
You could also provide a link to an online press kit that is separate from your website. Just make sure they have a way to contact you on whatever page you are going to use. On this page, the supervisor should be able to listen to the track and download a WAV file. You should also include the instrumental version of the track. More times than not, lyrics interfere with the dialog, so an instrumental version is a must!
Don’t include all your songs, or even a full album on this page. Instead, do your research, know what the supervisor is working on, look at the music they’ve used in the past, and send them 1 song (3 songs tops) you think fits best. Doing your research and being prepared will really make you stand out from the crowd.
5. Follow Up
Do not send them hundreds of follow up emails if you don’t hear back. Remember, just because they don’t have a place for your song now doesn’t mean a spot won’t come up in the future. If it’s the right song, it doesn’t matter if it’s a few years old. Supervisors have also been known to share tracks. If they are sent something that’s perfect for another supervisor’s project, they’ll forward it.
Above all, licensing for TV, film, and games is all about forging a relationship. Approach supervisors professionally, treat them like real people, and, if you score a licensing deal, keep the connection alive. Thank them for the placement, keep up on their new projects, and send them tracks if you see an opportunity in the future. Remember, a connection with one music supervisor could open the door to a huge web of networking.
6. Be Prepared for Rejection or No Reply
I am not going to tell you this is easy or pretend that licensing your music into TV, film or commercials is a quick path to success. It is not. However, if you are laser targeted about who you approach, what you approach them with and the manner in which you (professionally) approach them, you can do this. But be prepared for rejection or no answers most of the time, and learn from whatever feedback you can get and try again. The victory prize goes to the lucky ones, and luck happens when hard work meets opportunity. Stay lucky.
Of course, in addition to these, there are more ways strategies you can use to licensing your music and ignite your songwriting career. In the New Artist Model online music business courses you’ll discover how to turn your music into a successful business - a business where you’re the CEO! You’ll create an actionable and personalized plan that will help you achieve a sustainable career in music, and you’ll be able to do it all with the resources you have available right now.
If you’d like to learn even more great strategies from the New Artist Model music business courses, download these two free ebooks. You’ll learn how to think of your music career as a business and get some great marketing, publishing, and recording strategies for free!