What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles:
Licensing Consultant, Music Licensing Coordinator
Career Overview: Licensing Representatives pitch music in their catalog for use in film, TV, commercials, movie trailers, and video games.
Average Annual Salary: $40,000
General Salary Range: $20,000 to $60,000
Become a Licensing Representative
Licensing Representative Caitlin Veitch says her job is to be “responsible for all the creative pitches and licensing for our catalog involving advertisements, movie trailers and video games; I also head up original music with our roster, setting up co-writes between our artists and other writers from different publishers and generally anything involving creatively using our copyrights/music outside of licensing. I work with a variety of people including Music Supervisors, Artist Managers, artists, Label Reps, Producers, A&R Reps, other Music Publishers, [Film] Editors, Music Editors, Directors and agency creatives.”
Veitch works for Third Side Music, a licensing, copyright, and administration company, but Licensing Reps can also be employed by music publishing companies and record labels.
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Most Licensing Reps begin their careers as Interns or Licensing Assistants. From the role of Licensing Rep, the career trajectory would be from Director to Head of Licensing.
Education & Training
A college education is desirable for Licensing Reps because of the access to internships a degree program can provide. However, it’s not necessarily a requirement to land a job, as hands-on experience is the most important part of training for this position. Veitch says, “I’d recommend starting early if you can. Invest some time into researching the kinds of music you like, think about your current skill set and where you could improve and then reach out about internships with a variety of companies. Going to school can be great but if you can get hands on experience doing work with a Music Publisher, that’s the best. We’ve hired Interns into part-time positions, some that lead to full-time jobs, or have recommended them for other jobs.
Read some books about the music business; there are several classics out there like The Business of Music; Music, Money and Success and All You Need to Know About the Music Business.”
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Experience & Skills
“You don’t need special skills particularly, but it’s a creative position that involves a lot of sales work, being good with people, organization, time management and a love of music,” Veitch says. “The relationships are probably the most important (with your clients, artists, Managers, labels), so make sure you’re good with people. And be self-aware. Know when you leave the work talk at your desk and when it’s ok to just be a normal person and talk about Game of Thrones or whatever. If you spend a lot of time watching TV, movies, playing video games and going to concerts, buying records, reading music blogs and news, that is a good start. But you also have to be very hardworking because you end up working a lot.”
Veitch describes the work experience that led to her current position. “I’ve worked in music for about a decade,” she says. “I started as a Publicist and Indie Retail Rep at a small label and worked my way up, learning every aspect of the music business until I found out I liked music licensing the best. I worked away at that, meeting Music Supervisors when I could, trying to do as much research about the job and what it entailed on my own and then just going ahead and doing them. I got headhunted by my company, Third Side Music, five years ago and have been doing this job ever since. And then with enough experience, you can consult on a variety of things because you’ve done them before and can give advice when needed.”
What kind of personality fits best into the role of a Licensing Rep? Veitch advises “you should likely be outgoing; you have to deal with people in face-to-face situations quite a bit and you’re always interacting with folks. And always be nice. If you have a more introverted personality and find it challenging to small talk or don’t really like music all that much, or if you are prone to substance abuse, you might want to consider another field. Or [another idea might be] working in the office on the administrative side of things where you can interact with music and some elements of licensing but don’t have to go out on the town every night.
I think having a good ear (that is being able to recognize a song or pick out a note easily) and having a good memory are also key.”
Licensing Reps hold daily office hours, but going to see bands for work can lead to some late nights and deadlines can sometimes mean work on the weekends. Veitch says, “Many people assume that because I go out to shows at night, travel to other cities for work and go out to dinners and lunches, they assume it’s always super fun and easy, but being around people and being ‘on’ for more than 10 hours a day is exhausting. I work an average of 12 hours a day and often will work longer days, especially if traveling and [if I] have meetings. I’m always checking my phone and have definitely worked a late Friday night and Sunday afternoons before. I think there can be a good balance between work and personal life, but often the two blend together. The general feeling is that because it’s such a competitive industry if you don’t get your pitch in on time, someone else will. So you heighten your chances of landing a sync or getting the job if you’re on top of things at all hours.” However, she cautions, there can be an “obsession with work and how competitive people are about working non-stop. We’re all human. We can burn out.”
To land a job in licensing, Veitch recommends getting a well-rounded education in all aspects of the licensing and sync world, which can include work in A&R and publishing. She says, “If you want to work for a Publisher, learn a little bit about the role of a Publisher first. You might want to be in licensing but find that you’re better working in the administrative or legal side of things. Or A&R. Don’t worry if you don’t get a job or an internship in a position you’re most interested in right off the bat. It’s very competitive, working in music– just to get into the industry, I mean. [There’s] this attitude I’ve encountered lately of students who are twenty or twenty-one who have had no experience except in a classroom, [who] walk in and expect a job in six months. There is a sense of entitlement that I roll my eyes at. I worked for years doing merch, going on the road with bands, eating crappy food, doing the ‘boring’ jobs nobody else wanted to do because it was part of learning and they needed to get done. I think the more work you can do in music in general, the more you will learn what you want to do and what you’re good at. While you’re learning and impressing the heck out of your boss/mentor, you’ll be gaining experience, too, and will set yourself apart quickly as a hardworking, non-complainy type who is dependable, self-reliant and smart.
Also, read books and ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions!”
Licensing Reps make a comfortable living. Veitch notes “I think the general assumption is that we all make lots of money, but it’s definitely not like major label salaries or what people used to be paid in the old days.”
How income is earned “depends on who you work for and how you are paid; some companies pay you hourly, flat fees or include bonuses for finding the right song or getting a deal done. Usually people work on salary but again, this will vary on how many hours you work and what a company hires you to do, what your experience is and what the project is/how big the company is.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
“If you want to work in publishing or licensing, look up ASCAP or BMI and read through some of the info on those sites. A2IM is also really useful and Billboard puts on conferences pretty regularly that involve Music Supervisors, Publishers, labels, and Managers. I don’t personally read it, but Bob Lefsetz writes a [music industry-related site] that many people read.
Read music blogs! Watch TV and movies. Watch the ads. Take note of what kind of music is being used in what types of media.”
- “Read about publishing [editor’s note: check out Veitch’s book recommendations in the “Education and Training” section above] and get to know who publishes who. Start with the bands you like. Do some sleuthing on what companies are out there. There are also Licensing Reps at labels, so you would just have to deal with the master side of things.
- Go to conferences when you can. Learn as much as you can from hearing people who already do the job you want to do.
- Find out if any of the companies you researched earlier are taking Interns. Send a resume! See if you can get a meeting. Tell them what you can offer. Are you a good writer? What about [being] great at stacking vinyl? How are your research skills? Can you be super organized and keep an appointment book?
- Again, it’s a pretty saturated market so don’t feel discouraged or develop an attitude if you don’t get hired somewhere right away. If you don’t have enough experience for any of the jobs you see posted, take some classes. (Check your local college/paper for any classes). UCLA has some good ones.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Go into science!” she jokes.
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Probably the entitlement mistake. You haven’t earned it yet, but you will if you work hard.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“What does it pay? Oh, yeah. If you are getting into it for the money (that you personally earn), you definitely are in the wrong field.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Extra Credit: The Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Caitlin Veitch works in licensing at Third Side Music, where she specializes in advertising campaigns, film trailers and video games. Based out of Los Angeles and Montreal, Third Side is an independently owned synchronization, licensing & copyright administration company that represents artists such as Flying Lotus, Boards of Canada, Diplo and Kurt Vile. They represent the label catalogs of Warp, Ninja Tune, and Secretly Canadian, among others.