Sync licensing isn’t something that every musician is familiar with.
If you’ve never used someone else’s music or had someone request to use your music, there are many questions that may present themselves.
Common music licensing myths and misconceptions can prevent an artist from exploring this lucrative area of the music industry.
6 Most Common Music Licensing Myths
With that said, let’s look at some of the most common misconceptions that exist when it comes to music licensing.
“It’s for Big Time Artists Only”
Licensing isn’t just for the big time artists in the music industry. Independent and up and coming artists have plenty of opportunities available to them that simply wouldn’t make sense for the more high profile artists.
Think of those indie films with very small budgets or the YouTube Channel with only a couple thousand subscribers.
These are just two examples but there are tons of ways that you can get your foot in the door and start building upon your resume of placements.
From the business side of things, budgets are easier to adhere to when using music from an independent artist.
If you're organized and have your ducks in a row, it may be less of a headache to license music with an independent like yourself than having to deal with the red tape that comes with mainstream artists.
Don’t be naive in thinking that music licensing isn’t for you because of where you’re at currently. Get creative and put yourself out there, the rest will follow.
“You Can’t Make Money From Small Productions”
A small placement might not generate a ton of money upfront. However, there may be ongoing use of the project that will generate residual income over time.
You might not be paid thousands of dollars upfront, but reruns and replays can generate larger sums of money if you’re patient. There are some networks that run the same episodes over and over again for many months or even years.
Furthermore, some of these productions may have larger budgets than you might think. $10,000 to a major artist might seem like peanuts but this budget isn’t unrealistic for an artist working with an indie film or maybe even a lesser known TV Show.
Don’t forget about potential syndication to other countries. This may occur in a few years, but there’s still money to be generated here. Besides, even if you license your music for a mere $100 or $500, this is still a good chunk of money for an independent artist. At the end of the day every dollar counts.
“You Have No Say in How Your Music Is Used”
Music supervisors are usually the party that you’ll be dealing with when it comes to getting a placement. However, you may be dealing with a small business owner, the creator of a YouTube Channel, etc.
When you license your music to someone, this doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want with your music unless of course you don’t stipulate the guidelines pertaining to the use of your work.
You have every right to ask what your music will be used for, how it will be used, when, where etc. Never be afraid to ask the tough questions because you would hate to have your music associated with something you don’t approve of.
Think of political campaigns that you may strongly disagree with. The Rolling Stones for example just threatened to sue Donald Trump over the use of their songs at his campaign rallies.
You as the artist or owner of the copyright have the last say and don’t have to agree to how someone is proposing to use your music. Especially if they have not asked for permission and consulted with you first.
If an opportunity presents itself, there is nothing wrong with communicating your feelings and imposing certain restrictions to those who you are dealing with. This doesn’t mean you should go out of your way to be difficult but don’t be a doormat either.
It can be overwhelming when dealing with music supervisors or any other party flashing an opportunity in your face. They may have a lot of clout, but at the end of the day this is your art and music career, your opinion matters.
“The United States Is The Only Market To Think About”
Hollywood is a very well-known location in the United States when it comes to major productions. There are a lot of opportunities to be found there and even in other popular American cities.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many worldwide opportunities to consider as well. The United Kingdom and Canada for example have very busy film and television industries also. Never underestimate the power of other parts of the world as opposed to just your local environment.
We have given you ideas on where you should be looking for these opportunities but don’t limit your thinking to one geographical area. The opportunities out there are really endless if you get creative and put yourself out there.
“A Broker Is Needed for Negotiations?”
It can be helpful to have someone negotiating on your behalf, but a broker isn’t somebody that you must have on your side. They can have valuable experience or expertise that will help you reach your goals, but a lot of music supervisors are happy to deal directly with independent artists.
A caveat to this is that supervisors are will be willing to work with you if it is clear that you are organized, know who exactly owns what and can be confident that there won't be any hiccups when everything is all said and done.
It's understandable that you might be nervous to take on these types of negotiations for yourself, especially for the first time. However, as you speak to more and more music professionals, you start to learn the lingo and the right way to conduct business on your own behalf.
You can find a lot of success if you educate yourself on all of the different licenses that are out there. You should learn how they work and how to leverage negotiations in your favour. In essence, you want to take on the qualities of a broker. There are plenty of resources online that you can utilize. You can also speak to other artists that you may know who have conducted this kind of business before on their own behalf.
“Music Licensing is Complicated”
Yes music licensing isn’t the most straightforward thing to master as there are a lot of moving parts. With that being said, the most confusion or fear comes from having bad terms within your agreements and not ensuring that you're protected.
Nobody wants to get screwed over and it sucks leaving thinking that you’ve struck gold only to have something that you've agreed to bite you in the ass down the road. With that said there are services out there which we have discussed that are here to help you and simplify the process for you.
The fact is there is a ton of information available to you on the subject and a number of services to help ensure that all of your bases are covered. Like anything the more you deal with it the more confident you’ll become.
Music Licensing is no different. So with that, I urge you to fight through the stigma of thinking that music licensing is something reserved for the big shots or that it’s too much work to try and wrap your head around the concept. I say this because, the truth is, music licensing can be one of the more lucrative income streams for you and your music career.