The following is an excerpt from my 17 page guide, The Music Licensing Manifesto. Available in both PDF and video format.
One of the most important things you should be doing, on your music licensing journey, is to focus on creating an amazing catalog of music. How many songs do you need? Great question. I don’t have a precise answer, but think about it this way, the income you make will more than likely, be directly proportionate to the size of your catalog. The more songs you make, the more songs you’ll be able to license. The more topics and moods your songs address, the more potential scenes and uses your music will be a good fit for. The more songs you license, the more money you’ll make.
Your ongoing mission should be to create a diverse, vibrant catalog of amazing music that will meet the needs of the licensing community you’ll be serving. Of course, you don’t need hundreds of songs to get started, but your goal should always be to create more songs that will work for more productions, shows, films, ads and so on. At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about; making music.
The money you invest initially should be on tools and resources to help you get to a place where you can consistently create high quality music on an ongoing basis that is “on target” for licensing. If you’re going to be producing your own tracks, then obviously you need to invest in things like instruments, recording equipment, your DAW, microphones and so on. If you’re going to be working with other producers, then you’ll need to have some sort of budget for your recording projects that you can afford on a regular basis as you’re building your catalog and creating music for projects you pitch to.
Where will you get the money for all of this? Well, unfortunately, I don’t have any top-secret sources of money to tell you about. Licensing music isn’t a get rick quick scheme. It’s a business and like any other business, it’s going to take time and money to build and turn into something profitable. The most likely solution is that in the beginning, you’ll probably need to have some sort of day job that will allow you to sustain yourself and invest into your licensing business as you’re getting started. I was a guitar teacher when I got started and did that for seven years until I was making enough money from all my side projects to stop doing that. Bottom line: everyone’s situation is different. Do whatever it takes.
The New Music Licensing Paradigm
Back in the day, there was this model that bands and artists seemed to follow, that went something like this:
1) Record and release an “album” of ten to twelve tracks
2) Tour for two years or so to promote the album
That was the model that worked for recording/touring artists for many years. I think that a lot of artists my age are sort of stuck in that paradigm. They’re still looking at the music industry through the lens of the old model. They’re not adapting to the new music industry.
The old model worked when people were buying millions of albums and it probably still works for a few elite bands and artists. But the above model doesn’t really apply to licensing at all. If you’re only creating ten tracks every couple years, it’s going to be really hard to turn that into a full time revenue stream. Of course, there are always exceptions and I know a couple artists that do pretty well with small, niche catalogs. But for most artists, you’re going to need volume to create a significant revenue stream. You’re going to need to create a lot of music if you’re hoping to make a lot of money. Remember, more music = more money.
And if you think about, this is good news! You went into this because you love making music, right? Yeah? Well, great, you’re going to get to make a lot of it as you build your licensing catalog.
And here’s the really cool thing: This all might seem a little daunting in the beginning. But in my experience, when you get into a flow of writing a lot of music and creating music more frequently, more and more songs and ideas come! When you get into the habit of writing music on a daily basis, it starts to feel as if you’re priming your musical pump, and the songs and inspiration just keep coming. These days, I never run out of song ideas or feel I lack inspiration. In fact, my biggest problem these days is trying to keep up with all my song ideas and get them recorded and produced quickly enough. I have a backlog of like 20 songs right now, that are all in various stages of production and I’ve written three new songs in the last week or so. When you really get into this, you can get into a rhythm and flow with songwriting and composing that is truly amazing. The more music you compose and create, the easier it gets.
Bottom line: Work towards creating a large, diverse catalog of music. More music = more money. (Of course, it goes without saying, the music you create needs to be of high quality.)
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