I’m not a major blog or article writer, but I was recently asked about my experience of submitting music for placement in a commercial environment, whether it be films television or computer/console games.
When it comes to placement in films, I have never tried as I’m not an orchestral writer, however submission of music and songs for music libraries. I have submitted to many of them with varying degrees of success.
My first submission attempts got me a deal with an online recording and publishing company. I simply provided the recorded and mastered album. They promoted it for me. The result was I got lots of radio coverage and sales of songs via my own website and via theirs. I also sold my album at my own live gigs. To have a deal of any kind gives you an element of kudos. However it is not the be all and end all. My album was dropped in favour of newer more marketable artists after a year.
Since that time I still submit to the occasional listing, but it can be a costly endeavour. So make your submissions wisely
First of all though I’ll give a brief explanation of what a music library actually is and does.
Music libraries, or to coin the professional term. Production music libraries offer music for commercial use to interested parties.
It works thus, the composer writes specifically for, or submits music to the music library.
The music library offers a licensing agreement on which the composer gets paid, if the music is used. In many cases the copyright passes over to the music library as they will want the exclusive rights to market and license the music in whatever way they deem suitable.
Income generated from music libraries is based on two methods
License or synchronization fees
These are the fees paid upfront to the library for permission to use or synchronize its music to a piece of film, video or audio. These fees can range from a few pounds up to thousands of pounds subject to the usage. The library receives the the fee and pays the composer
his/her percentage of the fee.
In some cases the library will employ and pay the composer directly to produce music.
This is more commonly known as a work-for-hire fee. In scenario copyright of the music passes to the music library. The composer will only receive the initial payment and credits as the composer.
Performance income (or performance royalties)
Performances income is generated when music is publicly performed ie television or radio. The users the music do not pay these fees. Instead, they are paid annually by broadcasters (such as television networks and radio stations) to performing rights organizations such as ASAP and BMI in the US and the PRS in the UK.
These agencies then distribute those royalties amongst their members. Once again, there will be a percentage split on the royalty between the library and the composer. To ensure accurate distribution. Broadcasters are required to keep records of the music they have used, when and length of time. This data is used by the performing rights organizations to allocate the royalties accordingly.
Royalty Free Libraries
These libraries do not charge their customers for licensing the music. Instead, the customers purchase a CD or for a fee, access to a music database . The content of which is licensed for them to use as often they wish. These libraries depend mainly on performance royalties for their income (with a small amount of income from sales of physical CD's or online track downloads).
Royalty-free music is not registered with any performance rights organizations or royalty collection agencies. Libraries which specialize in this type of music license it to their customers on a non-exclusive basis where it can be used as often, and for as long as required. The music is licensed by the customers according to a specific license agreement, they cannot sell it or license it to others. It enables independent musicians to sell and license their own music, and is the method I use in the sale of my own music via this site.
Non exclusive Libraries
These allow the composer to license their composition to multiple user at the same time. The non-exclusive library doesn't own the music rights outside of the licenses that are made by that library. The library does not pay for the piece, and the artist doesn't get any payment until the piece is licensed at which point the library and the artist split the license fee equally.
This method uses music written for specific use, along with music taken from a library catalogue. The project producer defines the areas where the music written specifically for the project is to be used, and where the alternate music from the library will also be used. In this scenario, the music is usually provided by one composer. All the music is then licensed together under single agreement.
Specific Licensing types
These are taken from the source I use for the licenses applied to my music and are as follows
Creative Commons license
With a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright, but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit -- and only on the conditions specified. Which are as follows
1 Allow commercial uses of this song: The licensor permits others to copy, distribute and transmit the work. In return, licensees may not use the work for commercial purposes — unless they get the licensor's permission
2 Allow modifications of this song: The licensor permits others to copy, distribute and transmit only unaltered copies of the work — not derivative works based on it.
These licenses are free, so you don't get paid for them.
Paid Licenses: These give buyers or other artists the option to use your song.
Leasing: This allows for the use of the song under specific conditions.
Exclusive: This in effect licenses the music as a work for hire: Thus allowing the unrestricted use of the song in any way the Licensee feels fit. The composer receives no royalties outside of the license. And can no longer lease or sell the song elsewhere.
But must receive credit for the original composition.
These then are a brief outline of music libraries and how they function. Licensing is a very much site specific. As a general rule. I use a paid license. I use the leasing option as I still retain control over my music. I also sell the songs an an mp3 download.
Music libraries provide music for commercial use, they therefore exercise extreme quality control over submissions. The music has to be top quality and relevant to their requirements.
Which brings me to the final part of this article. The listing requirements.
When a music site or library requests for music submissions, they will usually provide a brief giving information on the kind of music they are looking for to fill the listing.
The following are a list of criteria I have found useful when making submissions
Give the submission a relevant title
Your song title should only be the song name and should not include
additional information. As an example
Fading Sunlight, River Ride are ok . Titles such as fadsunmix 4 or rrtake 35 mix 1 are not. Leaving extra information in the title may lead music users to
believe the song is a work in progress.
Represent your song. as accurately as possible
Submitting to Wanted Listings
Before sending your music for the submission, it’s a good idea to research the brief thoroughly. There may be mention of a TV show, film, advertisement or project. That may have music which is relevant to the listing requirements. On numerous occasions I have seen requests for music in a similar style to a specific song. Being accurate with your Wanted submissions will help position your music in a good light.
Applying to listings which fit songs in your catalog this will allow you to use material you already have and save on stress when creating to a deadline. It will increase the chances of being noticed and perhaps licensed. Above all be selective in your submissions and work to your strengths as a composer.
I hope this article answers some of these questions
All the best