Music licensing has grown in popularity with independent musicians over the past few years to gain more traction with their music. The digital age we live in allows musicians to create and release music entirely by their own means, so the need for a record label is a thing of the past. Having your music available for licensing with an agency allows other creatives like producers and music supervisors to find your track and pay you a fee for use.
A music license is a contract that explicitly grants someone other than you, the artist, the right to use a recording of your song. For example, if a commercial wants to put your song in their advertisement, they need to license it to gain your permission. The process of licensing your music independently (also called “DIY”) has become more optimized and streamlined through the utilization of music licensing agencies.
Many complexities go into submitting your music for a license with an agency, even with the ease of submission. Let us break down what a music license is, the types of available permits, and what else you need to know before moving forward with music licensing.
WHAT IS A MUSIC LICENSE?
If you consider licensing your music for someone else to use, you need to know that you are actually giving them two licenses when granting the permission. Every time a song is written and recorded, there are two copyrights created:
- The Composition – the composition is the lyrics and tune that make up the song.
- The Recording – the recording is also known as the “master,” which is the actual final mix of the musical track.
Anyone that wants to license has to license both things, the composition and the master. Granting both licenses goes even if you own both things because the rights to them are awarded separately. Musicians should own both copyrights to allow for the use of music with a license.
If you are unclear how to gain your copyrights with a copyright office or want to know more about the actual licensing contracts, it can be helpful to consult with a music-focused lawyer for insight. The more you know regarding the ins and outs of licensing can only help you make the best decisions for your music career.
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF MUSIC LICENSES
There are different kinds of music licenses besides composition and recording licenses, but those two are the main ones that every musician will use. However, there are other kinds of licenses it wouldn’t hurt to know about. You should familiarize yourself with at least these main three types:
- Synchronization License: Known more commonly in the music world as a “sync” license, this is for any music producer or supervisor out there where you would grant permission for them to use the composition of your music track in a media format.
- Master License: The master license goes with the sync license, and this one permits the use of the musical recording. If, for instance, the musical track is a cover of another song, the new master license will be licensing about the song’s new recording instead of the original version.
- Mechanical License: You, the musician, will need this if you want to record someone else’s music so that the songwriters and composers receive their fee if you decide to sell your version of their composition.
STEPS TO PREPARE YOUR MUSIC FOR LICENSING
Once you know how the copyrights and licensing work, your next step should be registering your song with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) as a composer. These PROs are there to act on behalf of you, the artist, to collect and distribute royalty payments for the use of your music. The two main places that you can register are with BMI or ASCAP.
The next step to making sure your music is ready is optimizing your recognition, which is where metadata comes in. Metadata is a summary of your music information. It is how you categorize, organize and use specific keywords to name your music tracks so that people can find your content when they search the licensing libraries. It is broken down most commonly in this fashion:
- Musical Track Name (Title)
- Artist (musician)
- Musical genre (and possibly also the subgenre)
- Composer/Publisher (if different than the artist)
- Year created or released
- Indicators like having explicit lyrics or additional contributors to the track (studios, sound engineers, etc.)
Metadata information is also how almost all licensing agencies, such as the reputable music licensing agency, Marmoset, keeps their tracks together. So it is a good idea to be sure you keep a solid collection of all of your music information for that purpose.
OTHER IMPORTANT MUSIC LICENSING TIPS
With copyrights established, registration, and metadata organized, you are now ready to submit your music tracks to the licensing agency. There are a few other essential things that you should keep in mind when it comes to licensing your music.
- Samples are not permitted with licensing. You have to have mixed and mastered the whole track for commercial use when you submit.
- Do not use snippets or borrow lyrics or speeches from other artists to include in your mixes. With additional lyrics and speeches that are copyrighted, it will cause you more issues to try and use other artists’ work in this manner. You need to do your research here to avoid any possibility of music infringement or cause yourself to be sued.
- Ensure you own all rights to your tracks or have been given permission by other composers or publishers for music before submitting. It is worth re-iterating this.
- The final master recording should be a high-quality MP3 or WAV file (320kbps). Check with the licensing agency guidelines for more specifics, but this is the most typical format for your music.
- Keep your own spreadsheet of your music cataloged somewhere. This spreadsheet or list will help when you input your metadata and help keep you organized so you know where and when you submitted certain tracks as you continue to add to the music library.
Now, you are ready to submit and promote your music. It can be helpful to use your own channels within social media and email to alert your fanbase where they can find your music to license since music is a foundation for so many of us and consumers are listening to new music every day. Post lots of release information and create hype around all of your released music.
Most music licensing agencies like Marmoset will have their own network of frequent licensees who utilize their library to find music. When your track is the next that is chosen for a project, you can establish a relationship with the producers or supervisors in charge to hopefully continue to use your talents for future projects in the making.