I got a call yesterday from someone who wanted to license two of my instrumental tracks for a video project he was working on. OK, that’s not really true. He actually called me LAST WEEK!…and I didn’t bother to check my messages until yesterday when I called him back. I’m TERRIBLE! Sure, I was traveling, very busy, etc., but is that really an excuse?? Which reminds me–always email or twitter or facebook me if you need me…I guess I’m just an anti-social geekoid like that. I always seem to get those messages first. Human interaction scary. Machines good. Ug!
Anyway…so the guy is working with a film editor in Wilmington, NC and wants to use 8 seconds of one of my tracks and 6 seconds or so of another. I worked out a deal with him and pocketed $300…which is about $21.42 per second.
I thought I’d describe how I did this in case it helps any of you musicians out there.
It started two years ago…I submitted my music to a couple of guys in Wilmington, NC who were making an independent film called Half-Empty. I honestly can’t remember if I sought them out or they sought me out first…but I do remember getting an email from them saying they liked my music. In response to that, I sent them a couple of CDs of my songs–including instrumental versions of each track from my last album.
Apparently, those discs are still hanging around the editor’s studio…and when one of his friends came in to put together a video project for the company he worked for, he took a listen and liked a couple of the instrumental tracks for the project. He gave me a call and I agreed to the terms and to put together the licenses for him.
I think this kind of thing happens a good bit–where your music gets used a few years after you submitted it…and it gets used for something you didn’t even submit for. Here’s what I recommend for those of you who want to replicate this…or who want to get into the world of licensing:
1. Make sure you are satisfied with your songs and recordings. If you are wondering if you should replay that last bar of the solo, or re-sing that background vocal track–DO!!
2. After you are satisfied with your mixes, make sure you spend another few minutes on each track to create an instrumental mix. By this I mean just mute all the vocals and background vox and run down the mix again with the same mixer and FX settings. This will be used by directors a lot more than your vox mixes because the vox in the vox mixes tend to interfere with the dialog in a tv show or film. Even if your lyrical content happens to match the action on screen, the editor may still edit in the instrumental version when the characters are speaking to make room for the dialog.
3. Make mp3′s of your instrumental tracks, just like you do of the versions you intend to put on your CD. Emailing mp3′s is how you’ll get a lot of your gigs…and if you have them at the ready, you’re more likely to submit them–especially to those opportunities that pop up at the last minute. Also, you’ll be surprised (and horrified) by how many times they just use your low fidelity mp3 in the actual tv show!
4. Make sure you title and tag all your mp3 files. Include your name, email, and website in the tags. Include your artist/band name in the file name. This ensures that whoever ends up with your track can contact you. If you have a lot of files to tag at one time, use STAMP ID3 tag editor.
5. Do some reading to understand how licensing works. You should know what a master use license is, what a synchronization license is, what the responsibilities are of each person you may encounter are (director, editor, music supervisor).
6. Get your business self together: i.e. make a plan for what music you’re willing to give away and for how much. For example, will you allow your music to be used in commercials? Will you let an indie filmmaker use your music in a feature at film festivals for free? Will you let a political party use a song? How much will you let your best song be licensed for in a tv series? Will you let MTV use your song in a reality show for free? You don’t have to have all the answers together before you start pitching, but you need to have a basic licensing strategy that you can communicate when opportunities arrive…and you need to make sure you can talk intelligently when someone calls to work out a deal. Also, you should be prepared to educate film guys a bit about how a licensing deal works. It’s been my experience that the first opportunities you’ll run across are going to be from indie (maybe even local) filmmakers who don’t have much experience in how to legally license music. I license my songs for free via a Creative Commons license–anyone can use them for free as long as they aren’t making money on them. If they want to make money on their creation with my music in it, they need to approach me for the sync and master licenses.
Another thing you should put together is a basic sync and master use contract template. While each deal is different and you’ll definitely need a lawyer before signing a contract someone else develops, you’ll also need a couple of basic contract templates (one for master use, one for synchronization) that you can customize to handle the small deals. I got mine out of a book and tweaked it to fit my needs.
7. When someone is interested in your music, follow up with them to send them all of your tracks. Who knows, if your CD is in their studio and it’s labeled and it sounds good–it’s much more likely to be used.
That’s basically what I’d recommend to do to get prepared for tv/film licensing…of course, I didn’t describe where to look for opportunities…but you need to get the above things in place first. Maybe in an upcoming post I’ll describe where to look for licensing opportunities.
That’s all for now…email me if you have any questions.