Saturday, May 20, 2006

Licensing Your Music


It's amazing how musicians overlook this way of making money with your songs. Ever hear about ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? Read here what Andre Calihanna has to say about it . . .

Music is everywhere. It's playing in just about every restaurant in every city around the world. It's in the air when you go to the mall. It's in practically every television show and movie ever made. It’s on video games and airplanes. It's pretty difficult to escape it.

Amazingly, with copyright law, all this music is protected. The copyright owner, typically the songwriter and/or composer, has to grant rights for the use of his material, be it on radio, television, in a public place, etc. The owner of the sound recording also has to grant permission for the recording to be used or broadcast.

A license grants the right to use or broadcast music. In the case of radio stations, restaurants, and bars, this is usually done with a blanket license obtained from ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, the performance rights organizations who monitor and collect money for artists.

In most venues, the songs played are hits by popular artists. But the demand for new and unheard content makes licensing a viable opportunity for independent artists.

"If you look at it, it's one of the only real ways of earning money off your music," says Eric de Fontenay, founder and publisher of MusicDish. “The music industry is changing, but the revenue channels aren't changing as quickly as the industry. Principally, artists are making their money by gigging and selling merchandise. After that, if they’re advanced enough, it’s licensing."

The opportunities available to independent musicians don't often have a lot if money attached to them. Still, Sean Cassidy, founder of independent Running Dream Records, is thrilled to have landed a track on EA Sports’ best-selling FIFA 06 video game. Selasee, the sole artist on the label’s roster, earned the distinction by beating out thousands of other indie submissions.

"Often there’s not a lot of money to be made in the licensing part," explains Cassidy. "In some situations, where there’s not much promotion for you, you have to get some kind of monetary compensation. But for something like an EA Sports video game, there’s no monetary compensation for that – if you get something it's very small – because they’re giving you this great marketing platform. Six million people get this video game. You have to recognize the benefits in that situation and not focus on the monetary aspect."

"If you’re making a film, you need music. When you say cheap, you're comparing it to what the other option is, which is major label music. With that, the most expensive part might not be the music but may be all the legal terms, conditions, negotiations, etc.

So there are a lot of independent film makers who are looking for music that does not impose the same transactional costs. The artist could still make $3,000 off the deal. Of course, the publisher might make 50%, but the artist is still making $1,500. How many CDs do you have to sell to make that? How long does it take to sell that many CDs?"

Television placement represents a large and relatively attainable avenue for licensing songs. Evan Koch, who heads Primary Voltage Records, a Boston-based indie label, landed artists on MTV responding to an online posting. He sent all the label’s CDs to MTV, and some were selected for placement.

"The bottom line is MTV has got the most hours of original programming to fill," Koch says, “and they definitely have a need to make their content to seem very up-to-date. Put that together with the small budget they've got and it screams out the need to find an indie artist. Find stuff that’s just breaking out and get it on the air."

From an economic standpoint, the artist earns money in two separate streams in a TV licensing arrangement. First, there are synchronization rights, which is basically the copyright owner granting the network the right to synchronize his music with their program.

"But for an indie artist, you’re not in a strong bargaining position," explains Koch, "so you’re basically accepting zero for that. But luckily, there’s the second piece of the puzzle. Every time your song gets played, ASCAP or BMI is tracking it and they collect money on behalf of the songwriter. So that’s a check every three months."

To read more about licensing, go to:

So there you have it folks. Your art is sacred but if you don't believe in SAS (starving artist syndrome) then licensing can be your ticket to paradise, or at least to the super-market.

Always do what you love. Peace out.


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