Licensing: How to Get Your Music Ready for TV and Film

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.

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90 Responses to Licensing: How to Get Your Music Ready for TV and Film

  1. monte aka dj $money man$ says:

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  2. ROY COOPER says:

    I would like to have my songs on Facebook, what is the first thing I have to do. I have them copyrighted already. I would like to sell them also. You can hear them on youtube: 4 AS 1 BAND

    Thankyou,
    Roy Cooper

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  7. L-BARZ says:

    thanks for the help

  8. sergio kastrup says:

    o listen my music

  9. DJ Fatelzo says:

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  11. J....... says:

    I’ve been wondering for quite some time now if Movie houses and big music names like Jayz and Various other artist of other genres of music, as well as major labels and their respective publishers, ever browse myspace youtube of twitter or any other of these social sights looking for new music to liscense. I wonder if they feel it’s a waiste of their time becuse there is just so much out there or they really do believe that there’s a diamond in the ruff as they say. And that they may really find something that will really turn into a viable source of revenue for them as well as the indie songwriter\Musician producer?,In one of their projects…….

  12. J....... says:

    And as for the music industry in general, I really ask at times how can one really make a living doing this?, when the whole game has changed. And CD SALES dont rule the roost anymore. “And my oh my “I don’t see anything wrong with a good amount of diversity and creativity in a lot of us musicians but like wow, there is so much competition out there and it seems like everybody and their big brother wants to be the next big star…. I see some of these artitst out there and I know that some have become wealthy by their performances actually most and some by selling clothes lines and colognes\perfumes but like how does the average starving musician even have a chance. And then you have all this downloading and no ones really buying music that much anymore. I really wonder if it’s just for those handfull of picked ones to make a living as artist and for the rest of us, a serious waste of time energy and fruitless insperation. Hey that’s just my view and yes I know it’s not so positive but its a real down to earth view of the struggling artist now adays…. it might as well just be a hobby for fun because when you still have to pay your bills at the end of the month and all that energy and time you put into makeing music that isn’t generating any income to let you concentrate on creating more insn’t there like all the big stars with the fancy cars reality sets in fast and one really begins to wonder how is that possible or is it just a pipe dream.?.

  13. Check my music out, thank you

  14. sorry thats the wrong link, different artist

  15. Kevin Zen says:

    I have a lot of sympathy for @ J…… You’ve got to keep at it though,
    letting your love for creating something from your heart push you on.
    The industry is a predatorial planet in the artist’s universe.
    As regards licensing your music there are issues that concern me.
    The hidden pitfalls of airplay and exposure seem to be questions of integrity.
    If you are going to take the corporate advertising dollar then it’s no longer about art.

    imho

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  17. Makiko Orito says:

    I am now writing a manuscript for the movie, conversations with God- love letter from my father and also making music for that film.

  18. Makiko Orito says:

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  19. Mary says:

    Hi!
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  20. paul angell says:

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  21. Pat says:

    Good article. I needed just such information, I did not realize what he said about being registered in the Gracenote database. As a matter-of-fact, I’ve never heard of the Gracenote database, but then again, I don’t down load music anyway. I prefer to buy my music, I like holding it in my hand. I’m a little old fashioned – OK, a lot old fashioned. I still think if country music is newer than 1979 it’s new country; although they have some good “new” country, I still think the old stuff is the best. As far as the article goes, it never hurts to learn a little more! Now … let’s go listen to – “I’ve Always Been Crazy” but it’s keep me from going insane. Wish I had wrote it, I’ve felt like it before!
    http://www.myspace.com/peacockmusic55

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  27. Alan says:

    Hey, could you check out my music, its very suited to movies. Here is the link http://www.myspace.com/calicoalansheppard

  28. Joe says:

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  31. Keez Mc says:

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  32. Ann Perry says:

    That’s cool chance for all, thank you! Robert E. Vazquez

  33. Bonjour je suis actuellement à la recherche d’un label et d’un producteur / Hello i am searching a label and a producer..
    I love music it’s all of my life..

    Alexis.

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