Are you in a music supervisor’s jukebox?

Wired and some other publications are getting around to covering a trend we’ve known about for years. Companies like Pump Audio make blanket licensing deals with independent musicians, then including pre-licensed works in a catalog for use by directors and editors — usually on reality shows and other projects that don’t have the budget for a full-time music supervisor.

Since an entire library of over ten thousand songs is on a hard drive or an iPod, it’s easy for editors to quickly find something that fits the mood of the scene, without the worry of having to license the track later. As an artist, if your song gets picked up by a show, you’ll get a little slice of the revenue.

Because the songs are usually in the background or clipped down, it’s very hard to covert new audience members from these appearances. (Very few folks that hear your song on an MTV reality show will pause the tape and ask, “who was that?”) But there’s certainly an opportunity to get some extra passive income and some potential licensing connections from these stock music libraries.

Some tips to keep in mind when licensing your work to Pump Audio or other reputable companies:

  • Avoid licensing recordings that appear on your own albums — there are some major long-term ramifications to that. Instead, license your alternate takes or your outtakes. Some folks recommend a gray hat strategy of registering your songs under alternate names with BMI — I’d prefer you just buckle down and get really prolific with melodies and quick recordings.
  • Ask for references. Like rogue booking agencies, song-shark licensing consultants are popping out of the woodwork. Pump Audio has built a great reputation because they’re open and clear about what they do. If you can’t find some legit references to an agency that’s pitching you, don’t feel tempted to be the guinea pig.
  • Avoid fees and exclusivity. Stock music libraries make their money from industry-standard placement fees, not from nickel-and-diming musicians. Steer clear of folks that demand a placement fee or a marketing fee. Likewise, avoid exclusive deals that would cause you to pay a commission for any placement you get, especially when you broker a deal yourself.

Track these topics: ,

2 responses

  1. Joe,

    Thanks for the great post. We appreciate the mention. I just wanted to clarify one thing, however.

    I disagree with the idea that artists ought to submit only their B-grade material. We strongly recommend that artists submit their very best material to us, as that’s likely the material that will get licensed the most.

    Most of us being former artists, we’ve worked to build a system that doesn’t tie artists in, allowing them to submit their very best songs without long-term ramifications. I can’t speak for other licensing agreements, but we allow our artists to get out of our contract after one year (or two years if they’re on the PumpBox, which is our hard drive that goes out to networks, ad agencies, etc.) After that, any of our artists can get out of their agreement within 60 days by writing to us.

    Now, the reason for these terms is that it allows us to approach clients with the lead-time we need to ensure that they’ll be able to license the songs we provide.

    Out of the thousands of artists we represent, only two have ever asked to get out of their agreement with us, and we’ve done so immediately. It’s never something that’s been a problem. Again, we’re looking to work with our artists, not tie them in to anything they’re unhappy with. When our artists feel they have control over their own music and the freedom to pursue any other opportunities that come along, that’s a great thing for us.

    In any case, I thought the rest of the post was right on, and we do appreciate the mention. I’d be happy to answer any further questions anyone might have.

  2. […] launched, Pump Audio looked dangerously like one of the song sharks we often write about here. But they reached out to the independent music community and did a great job building relationships with established music supervisors and video production professionals. By providing a well-curated […]