Music licensing might as well be the last bastion of the music industry, and while I think it might be going away eventually I think that for now we’re looking at a future that is going to burn bright for many bands – if only because there is a high bar of entry. Licensing is the source of some of the single largest checks that you are going to see in music. In a world where guarantees suffer and compeers drown under competition we have music licensing to help get our songs placed in films, commercials and just about everything else in order to make us at least some semblance of a few pennies in order to keep our bands going. That being said – if you can become good at it then the odds are that you are going to wind up with a solid revenue stream for your band that can keep you buying new merch to sell and funding exciting new studio adventures.
You have to remember with music licensing that the people doing these placements have a lot of money behind them. This isn’t because people making films are by default rich, but rather that film is pretty much the last place in the arts you can consistently get some solid funding. Sure some indie films won’t be able to pay much, if anything at all for the music, but most of the time it’s not unlikely to get $50 even from a quick little web placement. This is different from writing for TV too since you already have put the songs together. You don’t need to do what countless writers do and put together little thirty second ditties with names like “Winter” or “Afraid” in the hopes that some music supervisor will notice it in their apparently infinite sheet of emails and choose it to be a part of their film. That’s a totally legitimate way to make money to be sure, but that’s not really the kind of licensing I think that most folks in bands want to be doing.
The reason that not every band does this is because there is, as I previously mentioned, a high bar of entry. It’s hard to get someones attention just by sending out mass emails or phone calls for a few songs you have. As I wrote in a recent article you need someone repping you and to have someone repping you odds are your music needs to be pretty darn good or you need to be well connected (Ideally both) Think about the sheer impossible number of bands out there and then think about what that means for your income in the long run. It’s important to be working with people who have actual relationships with the music supervisors and producers who place songs because otherwise you’re just another face in the crowd. A single band is of no real interest to most production companies, it’s when you have people who know this side of the industry working with you that you are going to see yourself putting money in your pocket
This is where it’s important to remember one of the most fundamental lessons of music licensing and really the industry as a whole. Money is money. It doesn’t matter if the guy trying to place your songs is putting them in Barbie videos, or if the amount of money that they have to offer has reduced. At the end of the day assuming your agreements are non-exclusive, and they should be, then you have a world of opportunities in front of you and to say no to some quick money now would be remiss. Sure some people turn shitty and maybe pursuing a relationship isn’t worth it when you have other stuff cooking, but also remember that if you have no other choice to find money then you have no other choice to find money and that just fucking sucks. I know that it’s an unfortunate reality to be had by the balls by some production company big wig, but in a post piracy world where music is worth essentially nothing there’s not much that folks like you and me can do.
With everything that I’m saying keep in mind that all of this will probably will dry up at some point. As bitter as it sounds I feel like unless we get some serious legislation cooking then very soon a lot of these production companies are just going to start ayin that you can be in the movie for free and they are doing you a favor since they are giving you ‘exposure’. While I like to think that as a whole people are moving past this backwards way of thinking you also have to circle back to my previous point and remember that money is money and no matter what you do, money will still be money to film big wigs and that fucking sucks because they are in what is quite frankly the ideal situation to take advantage of some young bands who think that they are doing themselves a favor by giving away their music for free. As much as it sucks to come out and say, it seems to me that with more bands than ever trying to get in on he licensing game then we are all going to lose out.
Still, I strong encourage any band to engage in licensing because that’s where the money is right now and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re trying to be serious with your band and you’re not chasing the money. I know it sounds crass or facile a lot of the time but sometimes that’s what it boils down to and we need to appreciate that unfortunate reality for what it is. Music licensing can be a lot of fun, remember that, few things are cooler than hearing your own music in a commercial or TV show. It shows that no matter how hard things can be it pays off in the end and as long as we keep appreciating that and honor the weird magic of the music industry then maybe, just maybe, we will come out of this thing okay.