Music licensing is a long-term game. It’s not something that most artists will jump into and see immediate success right out of the gate. There are always exceptions, but the vast majority of artists I’ve spoken to and interviewed over the years have said that it’s taken at least a couple years to really get going in the licensing business and start earning significant money.
It makes sense if you think about it. Even in the best case scenario it’s going to take time to make connections, sign deals, wait for your music to be pitched and successfully synced and then usually wait to get paid anywhere from 6 to 9 months after the fact. This is just the nature of the licensing business and the way it’s structured.
Again, this would be the best-case scenario and assuming your music is on point and ready to be licensed. This isn’t the case for most artists that are first starting out and trying to break into the business. There are usually adjustments that need to be made along the way to either the music’s production, the music itself, or both.
Most artists that try to break into licensing seem to get burnt out before they succeed because they get frustrated by their lack of initial success. I get it. It can be frustrating when you’re pitching your music over and over and not seeming to get anywhere. But once you understand the nature of the business and the obstacles you need to overcome in order to succeed, it becomes much less frustrating and you can simply focus on doing the work.
I’m a big advocate of musicians spending a lot of time networking and marketing. You have to if you want to go anywhere in the business. If you’re spending all your time making great music, but you fail to successfully connect it with the right people in the industry, you’ll probably simply be making great music for yourself and your friends. Conversely, if you spend all your time pitching your music, but the music itself isn’t great or high enough quality for licensing, your marketing efforts will fall flat.
The key is to strike a balance between these two necessary sides of the music business; making great music and successfully marketing your music. Over the years, I’ve developed a natural rhythm of shifting back and forth between these two necessary areas. I will often spend two to three months immersed in writing and recording music, where the majority of my time is spent focused on making great music. I’ll then go into music marketing mode, where I will shift my attention to focusing on networking, pitching my new music to companies I work with and also cultivating new relationships and signing new deals.
Both making music and marketing music are ongoing parts of sync licensing. You’ll never really stop doing either thing. If your marketing efforts are not fruitful, go back to focusing on the music itself. If your music is great and ready to be pitched, spend time getting it out there and don’t stop until you start to see results.
I like to think of pitching music as launching a campaign. A campaign is an organized course of action to achieve a goal and it’s helpful to think in these terms when trying to get your music licensed.
I will typically start a new licensing campaign when I have between eight and ten new songs that I’m excited about. When I reach this point, I will set about signing these new songs to either existing companies I work with or finding new companies to work with. A licensing campaign will typically consist of pitching my music to upwards of 50 new companies or more. This will usually result in three to four new deals, often with a mix of exclusive and non-exclusive companies.
For example, I recently ended a licensing campaign for ten tracks that resulted in four new contracts, one which was exclusive for three tracks with a highly reputable company, and three other non-exclusive companies, who will all pitch the remaining tracks.
As an experiment for this most recent campaign, I used the exact leads that we have listed in our premium site and saw a great return on my efforts. In fact, two of the companies I’ve signed with as a result of this campaign are two of the most established companies I’ve ever worked with and both focus on high end placements in ad campaigns and films.
Don’t give up before you get the results you want. Understand that succeeding in licensing is going to take time and that you’ll need to fluctuate between making great music and spending time focusing on getting it out there. Licensing isn’t for the faint of heart, but when you understand how the business works and simply focus on doing the work, success becomes not a matter of if but a matter of when.
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