Music Licensing

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: How can I go about licensing my music libraries? I have a production music library that I am putting together and I want to know if I can do it myself, or do I need a music publisher, or agent to set up the licensing agreements for my music?

Answer: First thing you want to do is make sure you have your production music library in a sellable form. This can be in CD format, or mp3 downloads from a website. If you have a CD ready, you may want to consider selling downloads since there is no cd, or dvd duplication costs as well as zero shipping costs. This means two things: 1. Less up-front cost to you and 2. you can affoard to give a slightly lower price to the buyers of your production music library (the music licensing industry has a LOT of competition).

You must also determine if you want to "rent" out your tracks, or if you want to give the option to "buyout" the music. You can do this song by song, or by an entire library. You also have the choice to do both, depending on who is going to be using the music library.

A lot of people prefer to work with a music publisher, who's job it is to get your music placed in as many places as possible. But you can become and own your own music publishing company and affiliate with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. These organizations collect royalties for their members and have systems to keep track of how much their catalogs are being used (performing rights ... radio airplay, tv, live concerts). They then use some mathmatical formulas to figure out how much to pay the composers, songwriters and publishers. A couple of other organizations that you will want to join are the Harry Fox Agency and SoundExchange. Harry Fox is responsible for collecting mechanical royalties (cd sales) and SoundExchange collects royalties based on digital music streaming and newer online related technologies. These are all organations that can help you license your music, but you are also able to license your music by yourself, directly with the purchasor. It helps to have a music entertainment lawyer look over your agreements and other legal documents before giving out licenses.

Another common place for your music is in movies. This is called a sync license and one that the publisher, or you, is responsible for making the deal. Again, you should have your licensing deals looked over by a qualified legal expert before allowing a production company to use your music.

As time goes on, music is appearing in more and more places. Multimedia and presentations are another great place to get your music into. Even background music in theme parks is becoming a great avenue for licensing your music. Also consider licensing your music for on-hold systems. On-hold music has become a really big industry recently. Just look at every small business as a possible customer. As a side note, you may even be able to sell them on-hold equipment to incorporate into their phone and voicemail systems.

Music library licensing is extremely lucrative. As with anything else, the more you keep at it the better you'll do. It's a numbers game. The more times you can license your music production libraries to other peope, the more money you'll make!