Can You Really Make a Living Licensing Music?

I would challenge anyone to watch TV, go to the movies, listen to any type of radio show, cable channel or even go into your local grocery store and not hear some form of background music being played. Sometimes we recognize this music because it’s from a commercial artist but many times we do not. If you are watching a TV show most of the time you have no idea where the background music came from. Most media producers do not have the money to hire a composer to score custom music. An affordable alternative is the production music library. Music Libraries license pre- cleared music for almost any media project.So, can you make a living off licensing music? The short answer is yes. Working with music libraries is much easier and quicker than trying to get a major label record deal. All libraries are different and many have different standards for submission. Some will want you to mail a Demo CD and you have to wait for approval while others will let you upload music to their website and start selling right away. Most Libraries offer a 50 /50 split with composers. However, this is the easy part. Once your music is uploaded how does it get noticed by producers of media so that they can license it?

There are several things you need to remember when you are trying to license music. The first is to be patients. Remember this is a business that takes time to get off the ground so don’t give up if you don’t have success right away. The second is to be consistent, keep composing music no matter what. Third, focus on quality and quantity and fourth, know your clients. If you look at any music library they may have over 100 genres. You should focus on what you do best and not try to please everyone. Find out what areas are lacking and the area that you are best in. Maybe you are great at action trailers or dramatic backgrounds whiles others might be great at 30 second ads. A good rule of thumb is that you will need about 1000 total tracks distributed to 20 or 25 libraries before you can actually make a living. Don’t freak out. 1000 tracks includes all of your edits. Each track should have a full track, 30 second edit, 60 second edit plus several loops and stingers. So you may only need about 200 to 300 high quality full tracks.

So this is the first step in making a living off of music licensing but it is by far not the only steps a composer must take. In future articles we will discuss more specific steps on how to get started and how to promote and market your music and your brand.