by MATT BACON >
So there’s a reason no one really wants to license your bands music or generally work with your group. It’s not a hard one when you really think about it but it’s one that you aren’t going to like. You’re not part of a collective. When you get to the heart of the matter you on your own are probably not important enough to merit the attention of a music supervisor, nor is your music necessarily good enough to immediately catch peoples attention and make them want to put it in a film. You need someone actively pitching your shit, but not only that you need someone to be pitching you as a part of a collective. There are a lot of lessons to pick apart here and I want to help you figure out the impact, not just of this but also how the general thought process behind being a part of a collective can make your band a lot more likely to get the sorts of placements and interest that you really want.
First of all – why is it that you need to be a part of a collective?
As I touched on in the intro – you’re only going to be helped by making yourself a part of something larger. A part of my job is pitching songs for licensing, and when I started and only had a few artists it was really hard to get any bites, merely because I wasn’t satisfying enough of a need for anyone to actually care. Sure I had one or two weird artists but it was stuff that could only be used once a year. They had no reason to have a relationship with me. Now that I have a catalog of literally thousands of songs it is far easier to establish lasting relationships with people than if I just had a few tracks. It’s the same reason that being a solo songwriter with no representation just doesn’t work. Odds are you have a style rather specific to you. You might not be able to satisfy every need of a client and if you’re not working with someone who can help satisfy those needs you’re probably going to be stuck up shit creek without a paddle.
Even if you’re the best in the world at songwriting odds are there are going to be certain projects you just can’t do, but you also can’t go out and pitch yourself to as much stuff as you would like because the odds that you find the appropriate jobs and get interest from those jobs is so small. You’re not just going to score random odd jobs, you need ongoing relationships. But you’re probably not going to be able to start ongoing relationships with he relatively limited capacities of a beginning songwriter. Do you see the catch 22 here? In the end if you want people to take you seriously you’re going to need to be a part of a collective where the other folks are taken seriously and help to lend you some legitimacy so that people know they can work with you and won’ be frustrated or embarrassed by your lack of professionalism. In other words – you need someone to vouch for your legitimacy and guide you through the struggles.
So what kind of collectives can you actively be a part of that will help get your music licensed?
There are a lot of types of them and you’ve probably engaged with more than a few. These are things like record labels, management companies and agencies. All of these things are companies that are primarily focused on helping their artists generate more income so that they can get a cut out of it. They are companies that also establish a sense of legitimacy around their artists and either have or are trying to establish relationships with other professionals in order to get gigs, placements and all that other fun stuff. In other words shit is set up for you to succeed, you just need to be able to access it because these people have far more resources. Sure you might be a face in the crowd, but with representation at least people have a reason to want to learn your name. There are some artists who eschew this model but the successful ones are in the extreme minority – don’t go thinking that they are a standard you can easily follow.
Why is getting involved in a collective of any sort so hard then?
Well for obvious reasons, they help you make money doing what you love and if you’re good they’ll just give you money up front. Think about how unrealistic and hard that is to actually expect in any other industry. Signing bonuses in other fields are largely a joke. You need to be a part of a company if you want to make any money and things are the same in the music industry with record labels, management companies and agencies. No one is going to care about you because ‘the tunes are so good’ they are going to care about the representation behind it because the representation is going to be able to help the people who need art get the best art they can and have the relationships t make it worthwhile for both parties. I know that sounds really incestuous and can be really awful, trust me I know it is, but it’s also just an unfortunate reality of life in music.
I’m not saying to give up the ghost, I’m merely saying that you need to be realistic and realize where you are at in the industry, and where you are at is in the position of being a nobody with the need to find somebody to turn you into a person who actually gets work .Yet if you’re not wiling to do your side of things by providing new content and working hard at improving your craft then the people representing you aren’t going to be interested in doing their part. But if you keep your nose to the grindstone and figure out a way forward that is productive for everybody the there definitely is money to be made. There is a reason there are rules and for better or for worse we all kind of have to play by them.