Jim Hughes is a music licensing expert, music-supervisor at WAP Publishing and founder of IndependentMediaPros.com, a network of film composers, bands, sound-designers and post-production professionals. He is constantly searching for music for placements in advertisements and film, and interested artists may contact him through Music XRay.
Hi Jim. Welcome to Independent Music Promotions. Please tell us about WAP Publishing and what you do?
Hi James, thanks so much for having me.
WAP Publishing is a music publishing company that focuses on licensing music to some of the worlds leading global brands. We work directly with brands like Microsoft, GM, Sony, Unilever, Coke, Pepsi, Chevy and many others. They express their need for certain styles of music, and we connect them with the artists and songs they are looking for. We work with up-and-coming artists as well as charting “hit” artists in sourcing music for these brands, as well as using our signed artists to create custom compositions whenever the need arises. My particular job is to find new talent for our roster and to find the music that these brands are looking for. I guess you could say I am an A&R for advertising, in a sense.
Over the years, as a composer myself, I have often spent hours “googling” for different avenues to promote and offer my scoring services to the producers who are searching for music. One thing I noticed after a while is that there wasn’t really any type of “go-to” directory for film composers. There were a few directories out there, but the listings usually only consisted of a short bio and a couple of links maybe. This didn’t make any sense to me at all. If you are looking for a composer for your film, wouldn’t you want to see their film reels, listen to their music, or see what type of work they have done in the past? So I decided to build a website that would include all of that info and more. I created a network where each artist can create their own customized profile, each with a music player, video reel, artwork, bio, credits, and other searchable classifications. Over the last couple of years the site has definitely gained momentum, and I hope that one day it WILL become the website that producers use to find the music professional they need for their project.
You may have noticed, as have I, that many artists and bands seem stuck on trying to sell CD’s the traditional way but mystified as to how licensing (film, TV, games, commercials) works. Is it that complicated or are artists just not very educated in this aspect of the industry?
I don’t necessarily think that it is that complicated. I think the main obstacle is that musicians are artists, not lawyers. The world of music licensing is all about contracts, and we all know how devastating those can be, especially in this industry, where the major labels are basically the lawyers and businessmen, and the musicians are the artists and could usually care less about the paperwork until it bites them in the rear.
What advice would you give musicians who want to get started with the process of licensing their music?
The best advice I can give is to read, read, and read again. Get your hands on every music law/business journal, book, or blog that you can find and make yourself read it until you understand it. No one is going to do it for you and this is stuff that you have to know to be successful as an independent musician. Also, you MUST join a performing rights organization (PRO). If you are not a member of a PRO, you aren’t going to receive any royalties anyway, so you should do this first and foremost. If you’re looking to join a PRO outside the U.S., make sure that the rights you assign to them don’t restrict either you (The Artist) or your works, specifically the ability to self administer your performance royalties where appropriate. Also make sure you register your music with Sound Exchange. They are a non-profit organization that collects royalties for streaming services such as satellite radio, internet radio, cable TV streaming music channels and other types of streaming music platforms. If you are outside of the U.S. there are organizations there that do this as well. You can find more detailed information on these topics by reading almost any book about music law or business.
What are the biggest misconceptions artists may have when it comes to licensing?
Many artists feel that just because their music is popular and well produced, that they are automatically going to get the placement. This is definitely not the case. If working in this industry has taught me anything, it is that there is absolutely no telling what a client is going to be looking for in a song. No matter how perfectly you think a song might fit for a particular placement, the vision that the producer has in their mind could be and usually IS completely different. And most importantly, don’t let this slow you down or cause you to think your music is worthless. With the amount of media in the marketplace right now (mobile content, TV, films, websites, businesses streaming radio, and so on) I can guarantee you that there is someone out there who IS looking for your song. The key is to make sure they can find it. This is the advantage that we now have as independent musicians. We now have access to virtually unlimited free resources to promote our music. Use them! And above all, make sure that they can get in touch with you if they are interested.
The best resource you can have if you want to get into music licensing is your contact list. No so much connections with the producers, more so with other musicians. The best thing you can do is build an email database of all the musicians that you connect with on a daily basis. When someone “friends” you on a website, take the time to add their information and email address to your list. Even go so far as to set up different lists for different genres and types of music. When a producer is trying to find music for a project, it is most likely that they want to get it from one source if possible. If you can show them that not only can you produce music in your comfort genres, but that you can also easily find any other styles that they might be looking for, they are that much more likely to do business with you.
What inspires you about the music industry today? What makes you excited to get up in the morning?
My excitement definitely springs from the “uncertain” nature of the industry right now. The digital era has opened up a whole new can of worms, and we are now in the middle of a music revolution that is bigger than any before it. It is time to think outside the box and people are starting to realize that there is the now the potential to rise above the masses with new ideas and musical concepts that weren’t possible before. We are not just musicians anymore. We are now master promoters, businessmen, and networkers as well and if you’re not doing all of these, you’re not going to be able to keep up. I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds and I hope that the musicians come out on top because they deserve it more than anyone!