Licensing Your Music Ain’t Easy – Be Cool

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Licensing Your Music Ain’t Easy – Be Cool

Post#1 » Thu Feb 10, 2011 9:04 am

Licensing Your Music Ain’t Easy – Be Cool ... y-be-cool/
by Scott James on January 14, 2011 · 82 comments

in Promotion

I recently had lunch with the founder and CEO of a popular website for independent artists. It was great to catch up and hear about all the exciting things going on with the site. On the other hand it was a bit of a concern hearing about some of what he and his staff have had to put up with recently in dealing with some of the more, shall we say, frustrated and/or unstable musicians that use his services.

On the site, artists can submit their music for a nominal fee to listings for licensing and other opportunities. As you can imagine, only a relatively small percentage of the music submitted can be accepted. There are high standards for anything that’s going to be used in film and TV and chances are that most of the submissions will fall short of this standard. Also, factor in that with licensing, it’s a bit of a crap shoot. You may have a better song than the next guy, but something about the other song just works better for the scene or they happen to have a lyric that fits perfectly for what they’re looking for. There’s no way around it – a lot of artists are going to end up frustrated.

The ones who ‘get it’ realize that you have to keep pushing forward and that you have to plant 1,000 seeds to grow 10 trees. The ones who don’t ‘get it’, in my experience, are poor judges of their own material and put too much importance on each submission. They also tend to underestimate how much work and perseverance it really takes to develop themselves to the point that they can produce broadcast quality music and get it placed. They fall into the trap of thinking that other people are responsible for their success or failure. Their minds play tricks on them and they imagine scenarios where the cards are stacked against them.

I remember when I first learned ProTools and started recording from home. I spent A LOT of time working at it. Before long I started to feel like the quality of my recordings were good enough to start getting placements. I signed up with some submission services in hopes to get some good breaks. I was sure that I was only a few months away from being able to make a living at it. WRONG! I was a lot further than I thought. My ears and brain just couldn’t tell what was lacking in my recordings. It all sounded great to me.

I remember the frustration well. I think one of the most difficult things for humans to deal with is when we can’t see the correlation between our actions and our results. I literally could not tell why I wasn’t getting the results I expected. A lot of explanations went through my head, but none of them gave me any peace. Eventually I ended up with a roommate who was much better at recording music than me and thankfully wasn’t afraid to call it like he heard it. It was painful to hear the truth at times, but I finally started to hear some of the things that I needed to improve. After several months of my roommate’s feedback I started to make money with my recordings.

Until you break through and have some success it can be a lot easier to blame someone else for your frustration. It requires a lot more effort to actually get the job done. Unfortunately, some people are so sure that their success is being thwarted by some evil-minded, greedy company or person that they will act like spoiled children and absolute jerks. This strategy only causes pain for all involved.

What I’d like for more people to realize is that when you submit your music for opportunities, the people who are screening your music are people who care, just like you and I. In most cases they’re musicians too. They probably understand and empathize with your frustrations more than you realize and they don’t enjoy having to deny anyone opportunities.

Even if you don’t understand why you’re not having the success that you believe you deserve I urge you to withhold judgement and to just stay at it and get as much honest, constructive feedback as you can. When your results in the outside world match your hopes and expectations then you’ve reached the point where you truly know what it takes and can judge your own work. Until then, you don’t and you can’t. If you’re not there yet then take 100% responsibility for getting yourself there, even if you don’t know how you will. If you have faith then you’ll have the strength to stay at it long enough to figure it out. In the meantime, be cool and treat people with kindness and respect.
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Tagged as: business, inspiration, licensing, marketing, production, recording, Scott James, strategy

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Licensing Your Music Ain’t Easy- Be Cool | DIY Musician
February 8, 2011 at 5:09 pm

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← Previous Comments

Tony C. February 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

This is a fantastic article. I like the themes of objectivity and personal accountability which can be found throughout. Well done.

What a waste of my time February 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I read this blog thinking that I would actually get some beneficial knowledge out of it about licensing music… not the case. This was more of a recording based post. Please people… title your articles appropriately… and don’t waste others time just to get you more hits. TIcks me off.


"Jacq-of-Motown" February 10, 2011 at 12:42 am

It was useful information if you judge it based on “philosophy”. You’ll need to consult privately with a recording engineer and/or a music librarian for details about licensing procedures. As Scott said, “Be cool”.


CarolAnn Barrows February 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Thank you, Scott, for this reminder to be 100% responsible for all of our thoughts, words and actions – and to be compassionate and generous to EVERYONE ALL THE TIME.

Craig Morrison February 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I would copyright your music and create your own sound first. Then learn about licensing. It is weird that this article doesn’t mention anything about licensing REALLY!
Maybe signing with BMI or ASCAP and Soundexchange is in the mix of the subject too!

Bruce Niemchick February 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Great article Scott. It takes thick skin sometimes to listen honestly what others have to say, but I have benefited from it.

Lonnie Dean February 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Excellent advise!


Bob Stone February 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Any licensing service that charges a fee should be regulated by the gaming commission and advertise themselves as a lottery. I now have emails from broadjam directed to my spam folder.

Dave February 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I am not sure what service Scott was using to forward his music, but I personally have used Taxi for years.
Now here is the thing for those who did not quite understand the value of this article. I have a degree in Marketing and Management and work in an industry that is not related to music, but like many of us, the real love of my life is music. This understanding of business perhaps makes it a bit easier for me to “get it”. But let’s get to my point… it is partly about what you may consider “success”. I have never had a song forwarded and I certainly would not want Taxi to forward a song that did not quite make the bar just to please me or any other member. I feel very absolute about this because i want to know that when Taxi sends a song, any song, out to a potential buyer, Taxi’s recommendation is highly regarded by the end user and my chances of actually selling a tune are highly elevated. Now here is what I consider success… When I first started writing tunes I was getting a critique with an average rating of “6″ in all categories . For those of you familiar with Taxi you know what that means. I would look forward to the critique because, even if i did not get a forward, I knew I would learn something valuable to improve my tune writing. Recently and working from the input I have received over the last few years from their reviewers, I submitted songs that received a 9 average. To me that is success, because it means I am improving and while my chances and yours of becoming the next “big thing” in the song writing world are about as good as being picked to play for the NBA, I am still having fun trying
as well as satisfying my need to be creative musically. Moral of the story… Don’t let misdirected anger prevent you from being all you can be for it is far better to have tried and not succeeded than to have anger keep you from trying at all. P.S. I don’t work for Taxi. I am just an old guy who wanted to share my thoughts with others who may be having a hard time with this.
Thank you.

Lady February 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm

“rejection sucks, but getting shot at sucks more” … nicely put Geoff! Far worse things out there.
I think what’s important here is to find your strengths and focus on whatever they are. When I found out that I am a better performing artist then recording artist, I centered my focus around performance instead. The result wasn’t a major lift-off, but it was a modest (sometimes scraping by, but never failing) living. It was, however, a departure from the grind of side-work to support my music habit though and a great boost in my musical and performance abilities.
No matter what road you take, a positive attitude and sense of personal responsibility take you farther then any complaining/blaming will. Besides, trying to place blame or complaining about anything does more to drag you down and make you hate what you are doing then it ever does to fix what is inherently wrong in any situation.
Do be honest with yourself, but also understand that just because what you re doing isn’t “selling”, it doesn’t mean that it is bad or a waste of time. At the end of the day being creative with music is one of the best outlets there is for the human soul, one of the purest forms of communicating with others, and better for your health then so many other types of pass-times you might engage in.
After 17 years in the business, I don’t think I can claim any finger on the pulse of anything and really, I don’t care anymore, I am finally able to do what I love for a living and it does make me happy. Of course the question continues to burn, “why am I in this stupid little club seeing the most amazing thing and when I turn on the radio all I hear is crap?” To this I have learned to simply be glad that that stupid little club exists within my range. Then there is that annoying phrase I am sooo tired of hearing: “well, ya know the cream always rises…” to which I gotta say “yeah well turds float too!” Just get over all of it and do your thing as best as you can; the sooner you do, the better your quality of life will be and incidentally your chance of success will increase as well.

John Anthony Martinez February 10, 2011 at 2:21 am

Great article and so good words of advice.

Donna N. February 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

Excellent. article. Thanks for posting this. It came at just the right time.


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