NOTE: We’re proud to publish this guest column from long-term ReverbNation artist Cheryl B. Engelhardt. Not only is she sharing valuable information and excerpts from her e-course, “In The Key Of Success: The Five Week Jump-Start Strategy,” she’s also offering the whole course to fellow ReverbNation musicians at deep discount. Keep reading to find out more.
So you’ve made a record. Hopefully you’re starting to look at yourself like a business with a product to sell and money to make. Taking that product and using it as your source of income is key to achieving financial stability. Make your music work for you, and look for income opportunities that will create continuous streams of money, not just single payments.
As an artist, there are several ways to make money through your music, but these are the three you should be most concerned with:
1. Distributing and selling your music (CDs and digital sales)
2. Licensing your music and collecting sync fees and royalties (TV, film, commercial, online-videos, radio, in-store, and other placements)
3. Touring and collecting ticket sales (as well as merchandise and CD sales)
Personally, I add a fourth category that not all singer/songwriters are interested in pursuing:
4. Composing music (writing music for a specific project or media outlet).
“Passive income” is the term financial coaches and other moola-savvy folks use to describe the income that grows over time or continues to come in without you having to do any additional work. Sounds good, right? Royalties from a music placement in a TV show are one example. In fact, royalties are the best source of passive income a musician can hope for. Sure, you can sell CDs and tickets to shows and get some quick cash. But making the CD work long-term is the goal of licensing and publishing. Also, co-writing with others who will be selling their music, can be a fruitful source of passive income. One co-writing session and years of radio and sync fees could be headed your way. For now though, lets focus on licensing.
Understand what it’s all about
In a nutshell, the way music licensing works is you send your music to a publishing company, music library, or film / TV show itself for consideration. Make sure that your music is copyrighted and registered with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.
It’s important to understand how you get paid from your music being placed in any form of media. From there, you can figure out which avenue you’d like to pursue. Figuring out all the different ways to get paid has taken me years. The main points to understand are:
- The difference between publisher’s share and writer’s share
- What master, mechanical, and sync licenses are referring to
- Who pays what, and how you get your cash
There’s good five pages explaining each of the above in my E-course, so you can head there (discount code at the bottom!) to dig in deeper. Once you’ve understood the ways you get paid, you can move on to taking action to start making money!
1) Shake what yo mama gave you!
The first thing you can do is to use the resources you already have. I suggest making a list of the people, things, opportunities and skills you know you have. Once you see what you’ve already got, turn those into opportunities. For example, I had ReverbNation on my list under “websites I’m on.” This one item on my list turned into several thousands of dollars almost a year later. Here’s how: I saw that ReverbNation was offering a licensing program in conjunction with APM Music*. I submitted a song for free, and it was approved and become part of APM’s music library. Within two months of submitting, I was seeing it all over the ABC Family channel. A few months later, the same song was on “So You Think You Can Dance” (video below). These are media outlets I would not have otherwise had access to and came out of making one little list with “websites I’m on.”
2) Know your audience, and create opportunities for them
Get familiar with all the media outlets that could use music like yours. Watch TV shows that place songs in your genre. Look up the music supervisor. Do a search for publishing companies in your city and try to set up a face-to-face meeting to learn more about their operations and how you can help them out. (If you found a company that needs your kind of music, you’re providing them with the content they need and you are making your music more valuable!) Make your music an opportunity for them.
3) Branch out
Look beyond TV shows and films to place your music. Develop relationships with online content creators. These folks are accessing a new niche of media that needs music. They will be the future viral video directors, TV writers, and film producers. While much of online video content production has smaller budgets and less chance of continued income, the opportunities in this arena are really limitless and may be worth your while to check out. Look into web series, viral YouTube videos, and animation sites.
Another place to look is independent films. If you are looking to break into the world of indie films, a great place to start is Craigslist. My sneaky and fun way of getting a few music placement and film composing gigs is looking up film auditions on Craigslist, going to the audition (no, I have never been cast… yet!), bringing up that I am interested in being involved with the film in their post- production process, and letting them know I can be a music resource. I usually get a call- back… and not for the part. (Note: If I ever am offered any part, I will take it. Do not waste these people’s time by showing up to an audition with no intention of taking a part. That would be super jerky of you.)
4) Get busy!
Figuring out where to send your music takes a bit of research and legwork. Get yourself organized in your research. Make a list of every TV show or film that you have seen (and ask some fans and friends to help you on this) where you have thought “Man! My song blahbitiboo would have been perfect in this.” Then look up that show on IMDB (The Internet Movie Database) or Google, and find the music producer or music supervisor. Look up their company. Their name and company and contact info goes on this list. I would contact them first to see if they accept unsolicited records. If they do, great! Head to the post office!
5) Create your mailing package
I strongly recommend sending a neat CD package of both the real CD (with all the vocal tracks) and a CD of the instrumental-only tracks. It’s been said that you increase your chance of placing your music by 50% if instrumental tracks are available. In fact, I would say that about half of my TV placements have been the music only, without the vocals. (Sometimes they may like the feel and energy of the track, but the lyrics don’t match the scene, or there may be a lot of dialogue so lyrics get in the way.)
6) Responsible follow-up
After you send the CDs, follow up within two weeks to make sure they got your package and have listened. If they think your entire record, or certain songs from your record could be a fit for their program, they will have you sign a “licensing deal.” This deal will allow them, the “Licensor” to use your music, sometimes exclusively, sometimes non-exclusively, for a period of time. This period can range from a year (with a big library like APM Music) to “in perpetuity,” a.k.a. forever (like with a publishing company such as Heavy Hitters Music). Some folks like to add a clause in the contract that if the track doesn’t make a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time, the track is yours to shop around again.
If that haven’t heard your package yet, ask them when they will be getting to it so you can follow up. Have the intention that they listen to your music. Don’t be desperate for them to want to sign you right now. Baby steps work, especially when you are committed every step of the way.
7) Submit to everything
I saw an opportunity on the ReverbNation site that called for a song for a Microsoft campaign. My first thought was “oh geez, everyone and their mother is going to submit to this, I’ll never get heard. Plus, I use a Mac.” But I submitted my tune anyway and ended up winning over $500 through the promotion. You never know what people will latch on to. (I mean, look up Boo The Dog on YouTube. Seriously?)
So that’s all for now. Take these steps and make them your own. Figure out your own systems and what works in your life. Once you’ve got your system in place, keep at it like your life depends on it. If you’re a full-time musician, it sort of does, right?
* ReverbNation and APM Music regularly invite new artists to participate in the Song Licensing Program. Invites are sent out to ReverbNation artists who are active users of the site, have complete profiles, and whose music fits what music supervisors are seeking. To learn more about the program, visit http:
//www.reverbnation.com /main /apm
Cheryl B. Engelhardt is a composer for films, ads and CollegeHumor.com, and a singer/songwriter who’s booked a bunch of tours around the USA and Europe and gotten her recorded music placed on TV shows. Her website is www.CBEmusic.com and she writes a music industry blog called Living On Gigging. You can follow her on Twitter @CBE.
She just released “In The Key Of Success: The 5 Week Jump- Start Strategy,” an E-Course for independent musicians on how to jump-start their careers to radically change the results. If you liked this article, check out the rest of Cheryl’s E-course. She guarantees you will get results that you want, or your money back. And because you are a ReverbNation artist, you get a ridiculous 70% discount off the normal selling price by typing in REVERBN8TION when you go here: http://www.cbemusic.com/ecourse.