Music Licensing 101 – Part 1

How I got into music licensing

Things have changed since I first started my music career. I wrote jingles and music for TV spots early on and they generated a lot of money. But, like a lot of you, I wanted to pursue the rock and roll dream. I did the tours, got trashed, got very little sleep and made it pretty far up the music biz food chain but, as happens to many people, suffered severe burn out and quit the business for a while becoming a web developer and making lots of money. The music wasn’t very far below the surface, so with all this money I was making, I started buying computers, instruments and recording gear. On nights and weekends, I started writing music and recording with my newly acquired gear.

During these working years, I met a writer/director/producer named Sean Hagan through a music tip sheet. He was looking for music for a dance scene in a crime drama he was directing. I submitted my demo CD and when he heard it, he hired me to score the entire film and be the music supervisor. I have since scored a documentary, a cable TV crime drama, one short and a couple of games. Sometimes though, you write some demo music for to try out to score a film and you don’t get hired. I tend to write a lot of music for courses I take or demos or just for for or to release in the wild. So, I have this huge catalog of music that is really not doing much of anything. That happened a lot, so when I discovered music licensing, I decided to put some of this unused music to use.

To help share my knowledge of music licensing (and I am not an expert by any means), I am going to tackle each of the steps below one a week. Here they are.

Steps to take to get into music licensing

  1. Listen
    1. Watch and pay attention to TV Ads
    2. Study TV show themes
    3. Figure out the tone and style of songs used on a TV show
  2. Write
  3. Record
  4. Mix/Master
  5. Copyright
  6. Register
  7. Research
  8. Network
  9. Build Relationships
  10. Submit
  11. Learn
  12. Re-Write
  13. Re-Submit
  14. Repeat

1. Listen

This is where you start. You need know what is being licensed and where your music fits in the scheme of that. Not all your music will be a good match for all the projects, but if you listen enough you will uncover where your music can be used. Then you can plan on either submitting an CD’s worth of tracks like that or starting a new project with 7-12 tracks that are in that genre. For example: You are watching True Blood and you notice that all the tracks used are roots country or americana and that is your thing. You can pull together your best music in that genre. Make sure it sounds amazing and is fully mixed and mastered. Do the research and find out what music supervisors are working on Trube Blood and what music publishers and libraries are providing that music and start contacting them.

I will go over the other aspects of research, writing and recording in future articles. 

For now, your assignment is to start listening and open ears to what music is being played behind TV shows, ads, video games and films. It will start driving you crazy because you will be hearing music everywhere, but it will pay off in the long run.

That’s all for now.

Happy hunting.

Keith Kehrer

P.S. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions

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