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  • Writer's pictureRandy McGravey

8 Common Music Licensing Questions and Answers

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

Today we are addressing some very common questions that I see from newcomers in this business. If you are new to this business, read this carefully and you should be able to get started!

How do I get started in this business?

  1. Sign up with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO).

  2. Start recording music (spend most of your time doing this).

  3. Research libraries and find one/several that you think will be a good fit (don't spend all of your time doing this).

  4. Submit music to them based on their submission process. Make sure your music quality is up to your own standards.

  5. If you don't hear back, move on to the next library until someone accepts it.

What are the best libraries for getting placements?

There is not one library that will be best for every single person. Only you can find out through trial and error which libraries are best for you. Exclusive libraries tend to get the most TV and major placements, while non-exclusive and Royalty-Free libraries tend to have smaller clients (YouTubers, college students, wedding video editors, etc.) but potentially more frequent (small) sales.

Should you master your own tracks?

Yes! Although sometimes libraries will master tracks for you (eg compilation albums) generally the composer will master the music. The library may give parameters, but usually you can just do your thing. If you don't have any mastering software or plug-ins, make the investment.

Do composers deal with cue sheets when they get placements?

No. Networks and PROs will handle cue sheets. In fact, most PROs won't even talk to composers about that sort of thing. If time goes by and you don't get paid for a placement, your best bet is to talk to the library that placed the music rather than the PRO. FYI for the 2 big American PROs, ASCAP lets you see the cue sheets, while BMI does not.

How much does a TV placement pay?

It varies wildly. Some placements pay absolutely nothing, some pay fractions of pennies, some pay dollars, $$, $$$, etc. You won't know until you get your PRO statement. Major networks tend to pay the best (CBS, FOX, NBC) and local/smaller channels pay less. A large catalog is essential to making decent money.

Should you pay someone else to mix and master your music?

No. Learn to do this yourself or you will never make any money. If you pay someone $100 to mix your music and you only make $15 from it, you will be in the red. There are plenty of free and paid resources out there to learn audio production (YouTube, Google, books, blogs, cheat sheets). Learn by doing as well, it takes practice just like anything else.

Can you make a living just doing production music?

You can, but it takes a LONG time and you really need to be dedicated. If you record hundreds of tracks per year it will still take you 5-10+ years to make a living doing it. The business moves slow and royalties are sometimes paid years after a show airs. I would guess that less than 5% of composers are able to make a living doing this without having other types of work.

How can I be successful in this business?

Write and record lots of music regularly. Create high quality and useful recordings. Don't sign any bad deals. Be persistent, efficient and patient. Don't be afraid of exclusivity.

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