Are you an artist looking for sync opportunities? Do you want your music in front of music supervisors, record labels, publishers and more? Want to make the best of what you’ve got but have no idea where to start? Not to worry! Indaba Music’s Licensing program is here to get the job done and we’ve pulled some helpful tips from Disc Makers and American Songwriter to help you get started. Take notes!
Get the levels and format right.
“It’s very important to get your tracks mastered,” says Lindsay Fellows, music supervisor for movies like The Avengers, Bridge to Terabithia, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. “It’s a good spend. You end up with a volume level that is going to be competitive with major label commercial releases. A lot of indie stuff I get is 30 decibels lower than major releases. It’s flat and it doesn’t pop, which isn’t good.”
When it comes to file format, diversity is key. “MP3s are usually fine to start off with,” says music supervisor Gary Calamar, who has worked on shows like Weeds, True Blood, and Men of a Certain Age. “If we end up using the song in production, I will need a higher quality WAV or AIFF.” Make sure that you have both the low-rez MP3 and higher rez WAV or AIFF files ready to go.
Choose your very best music.
“Focus on your strongest material,” says Fellows. “Either tag your physical CD with standout tracks or, if you’re sending MP3s, send your three best songs.”
But how do you know which tunes are your most powerful? “Choose the ones that work best live, the ones that your friends say are great,” advises Fellows.
“Music supervisors look for a mood,” adds Cheryl B. Engelhardt, an indie singer and songwriter who has had music placed in shows like The Real World and All My Children. “If a song doesn’t evoke a lot of emotion, it won’t do anything on screen. When I was choosing which songs to push for placement, I asked a lot of people. And even though I took everyone’s advice with a grain of salt, it turned out that my favorite songs to play live are also the most licensable. It just kind of works that way.”
Choosing your best songs also means choosing your best recordings – and the vast majority of the time, that means nothing that isn’t the finished, polished master track. “I do want the final version of the song,” said Calamar. “Sending me an unfinished demo to check out is generally a waste of my time.”
Include everything music supervisors need to know.
“Whether you’re sending a hard CD or digital files, make sure all of the info is there,” says Fellows. “Publishers, writers, track names, contact info, label – everything should be there, easily accessible.” If you’re sending a physical CD, that could mean a sticker or insert in the album casing, or text printed directly on the CD – just make sure it’s readable, easy to find, and hard to misplace. If you’re submitting digital files, make sure that your metadata and ID3 tags (a.k.a. the identifying digital information that comes attached to music files) contain all the above-mentioned info that music supervisors may need. And regardless of whether you’re going physical or virtual with your song submissions, make sure that your album is entered into the Gracenote database. “You wouldn’t believe how many songs I get that come up listed as ’unknown’ or ’Track 1’ when I load them into iTunes,” continues Fellows. “I delete them immediately. I just don’t have time.”
Make sure your songs are easy to license.
Now more than ever, music supervisors and directors are generally more welcoming of independent artists and writers because they don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to obtain licenses for their songs. The one-stop-shop approach is what is working most effectively. Don’t pitch songs that you know a co-writer (or co-writer’s publisher, especially if it is a major label publisher) won’t sign off on, for whatever reason. Anything that could stand in the way of a song successfully being licensed should be considered BEFORE pitching it. Deal-breaker situations reflect poorly on the song’s promoter and can lead to the aforementioned blackball list.
Filing away instrumental tracks is essential.
Have all of your instrumental tracks available and on hand for quick turnaround if and when they are needed for a placement project. Not having them is a good way to lose a great opportunity.