5 Best Music Licensing Companies & How to Pitch Your Songs - Careers in Music
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Music licensing is a hard market to get into, but if you make the right kind of music, you can do really well.

Some artists even make a living solely from licensing songs.

One of the biggest hurdles is getting your foot in the door. If you don’t know someone in this niche — a Music Supervisor, Licensing Agent, or a Secretary at a music licensing company — you’ll have to rely on cold emails.

Here are 5 of the music licensing companies we recommend indie musicians check out:

  • Crucial Music
  • AudioSocket
  • Music2Licensing
  • Songtradr
  • Pond5

What Is a Music Licensing Company?

Music licensing is when music is used for commercial purposes, like in a TV ad, show, a film, or a video game. A licensing agreement makes sure the copyright holder of the song gets paid for the use of the song.

So anytime you hear music in a commercial, that tells you an artist signed a music licensing deal and made money — sometimes a lot of money.

Music licensing companies takes you on as a client, then helps you get music placement deals. In short, when your song gets heard, you get paid.

In the music licensing contract, it would state how much the licensing company gets and how much the artist gets. It’s often 50-50.

Music Licensing Companies to Check Out

I’m not saying these are the “best” companies out there (that’s subjective), but here are a few to get you started:

Slide Do You *Really Have What it Takes? Do You *Really
Have What it Takes?
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How Do I Get My Music Licensed?

Instead of taking the shotgun approach and sending your music to every music licensing company you can find, take the sniper approach. Figure out which companies are perfect for your specific type of music and send them specific songs that would fit.

You’ll have a much better success rate this way.

So, as you research music licensing companies, here are some things to consider that will help you know who’s a good fit.

Here are 5 steps you should follow as you’re looking for the right music licensing company to represent you and your tunes.

1. Check Out Their Website

If a licensing company’s website is ugly and hard to navigate, that’s not good.

And here’s why you should care: if it’s hard for you to navigate their website, chances are that it will be difficult for people who want to license your music.

So if you visit a music licensing company and your first thought is “ew” or “ugh,” steer clear of them.

Also, you’ll want to look at their website traffic. More traffic means more chances that your music will be licensed. You can use free tools like Similar Web or Alexa’s traffic tool to check the stats.

2. Research Their Current Artists

What’s the quality of the licensing company’s current artist catalog? Is it on par with the music your making? Or is your music on par with theirs?

Also, remember that if you get accepted to a music library, your music will be associated with all of those other artists. So you’ll have to be comfortable with your tunes sitting next to all the other musicians’ tunes.

3. Find Out If They Respect Their Artists

The clearest way to tell if a music licensing company respects the artists is by how much they pay. Make sure you look at their price structure — how much you’re paid per license versus how much the company is paid.

Like I mentioned above, a 50/50 pay split is pretty typical. So if a company takes much more than that, then they may not be a good option unless they believe they can get you huge deals (think Apple, Starbucks, and Toyota). However, determining what’s “fair” is up to you.

Unfortunately, to find out the pay split, you may have to wait until they’re interested in working with you. Most companies don’t list typical contract deals on their website because they can vary from artist to artist and from deal to deal.

4. Learn What Their Current Artists Think

The best way to learn about a music licensing company or library is to hear from those who have gone before you.

You just don’t want to waste time reaching out, uploading your music, and going through the legal procedures only to realize they’re a terrible company to work with.

Here are some ways you can hear from artists already working with a company:

Contact the artists directly

If the company has a page on their site that lists some of the artists they work with, Google their names, find their website and contact info, and shoot them an email.

Join a FaceBook group or subreddit

You can join a FaceBook group like Sync Lounge (which is all about sync licensing) or post in relevant subreddits.

Join MusicLibraryReport

MusicLibraryReport is a website specifically for artists to share their experiences with different music licensing companies (but it requires a membership fee).

5. Make Your List and Perfect Your Pitch

The most important thing is to make great music. The music also has to be perfect for whatever the commercial or show is, so make a list of likely markets for your method. A note: if you’re submitting directly to Music Supervisors, make sure you’re submitting music only for the Supervisor’s current project (just check IMDB) and make note of it.

The next thing is to build relationships, whether you’re in talks with a music licensing company or a Music Supervisor directly.

So, to get you started, below is an example of what your email should look like (feel free to copy and paste). The subject line should read “Sounds like [popular artist name / the name of an artist in their catalog].”

Hi [name of music licensing company / Licensing Agent],
I’m a [type of musician/Producer you are] looking around for the right sync licensing company to work with. And I’d love to talk about working together.

Here are a couple of my best songs. I was hoping you could listen to them.

– [Name of song #1]: [link to stream/download]
– Instrumental version: [link to stream/download]
– [Insert a few words that describe the feel of your song]
– Standout lyric: [insert most catchy lyric, usually from the chorus]
– [Name of song #2]: [link to stream/download]
– Instrumental version: [link to stream/download]
– [Insert a few words that describe the feel of your song]
– Standout lyric: [insert most catchy lyric, usually from the chorus]
– [Name of song #3]: [link to stream/download]
– Instrumental version: [link to stream/download]
– [Insert a few words that describe the feel of your song]
– Standout lyric: [insert most catchy lyric, usually from the chorus]


Thanks! I look forward to hearing from you!

 Take care,
[Your name]

The Worst-Case Scenario

The last thing to consider is the worst-case scenario: you pitch yourself to a company, end up signing a contract with them, but they’re never able to land you a licensing deal. Would you be okay with that?

This is also why you shouldn’t sign an exclusive deal, which means you’re not allowed to work with any other licensing company or library. Almost always, you’ll want to sign a non-exclusive deal so you can diversify your portfolio among multiple companies.

The Pros and Cons of the DIY Approach

Some artists try to represent themselves so they can keep 100% of the profit. But, although it can pay off, going that route is not as easy.

This typically looks like reaching out to Music Supervisors directly. These are the folks who work for a film company to pick the music for an ad, TV show, or film.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of taking the DIY approach — foregoing the use of a music licensing company.

Pros:

  • You’re in control, meaning you can work with whatever Music Supervisor you want, accepting or rejecting a job depending on if you want to be associated with the project.
  • You keep 100% of the earnings.
  • It’s more rewarding when you’re able to pull this off on your own.

Cons:

  • It takes a ton of work and time.
  • You usually have to know the right people who know the right people — it’s unlikely (but not impossible) that cold emails will get you anywhere.
  • You may not know how to negotiate as good of compensation that a music licensing company could.

Some General Rules for Pitching Music for Licensing

Now let’s run through a few more general rules for pitching your music to a music licensing company:

  • Add metadata to every song: your contact info, the feel/vibe of the song, and that you own 200% of the song).
  • Send streaming/download links to MP3s.
  • Don’t pitch what you want to be paid.
  • Be polite and charming.
  • If you haven’t gotten a response after two months, send a follow-up email with new music.
  • Just because you haven’t gotten a response doesn’t mean that somebody didn’t listen and enjoy.
  • Make sure you understand the contract before signing anything.
  • Be patient and persistent.
  • Network in-person any chance you get.
  • Listen to and study the music in commercials, TV shows, films, and video games, then make music in that style (while still staying true to your brand).

Staying Authentic

Whatever kind of music you make, there’s a type of visual media it can be paired with in an impactful and money-making way.

Do you make chill acoustic music? Indie films love that genre.

EDM? Look at car commercials.

Death metal? There’s surely a show that needs a bit of that.

The point is, keep making the music that’s authentic to you, that you are excited about, and it will find its place in the sync licensing world. Because if you’re excited about it, chances are other people — like Music Licensing Agents — will be too.

That way, your music will basically pitch itself to music licensing companies.

FAQ

How can I publish my own music?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Publishing your music can seem complicated but there are really only two things you have to do:

  1. Register your songs with the Library of Congress
  2. Join a PRO (performing rights organization) such as BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC that will collect royalties from your music sales.

Should I publish my own music?

Alison Stolpa (Careers in Music Staff)

Publishing your own music means a lot more work than leaving it to a traditional publishing company. You’ll definitely have to handle more of the day-to-day administrative/business duties and put more effort into promoting your music. However, you’ll retain creative control, as well as a larger percentage of profits from your music sales.

So the question is: are you super busy and need someone else to get you leads on music sales and handle the behind-the-scenes operations? Or are you looking to save money and retain more of your rights as a music creator?

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