How to License Your Music: A Simple Guide For Beginners
My guest post today is from Charles Vallena, who wrote for me before (check out a list of important music terms here). I’m excited to have him back!
Have you ever wondered how you can make money with your music?
If getting the right compensation for your musical work has ever crossed your mind, you may want to get to know more about music licensing. The permission to have your music published makes it more rewarding on your part. And a license agreement makes everything clearer in terms of how your music will be used.
Music licensing can get complicated if you have no one to consult in the music industry. However, in the digital age, it can be a bit easier. Here’s a guide on music licensing to help you get started.
Why do you need to license your music?
There are several reasons why you need to have a license on your music. For starters, licensing your music gives you proper legal compensation of your own music. Since music is highly tangible, having the rights to it gives you the superiority to use your own music to your own advantage.
The Kind of Music License
Licensing your music can be tricky, so to prepare you for the terms in music licensing, it is important to know that there are different music license types. You need to be fully aware what these licenses are to be on the page with the company you are dealing with.
A master license is simply the agreement of who has the rights of the master recording, commonly known as the “master”. The rights holder can be the record company and / or the artist, depending on the deal. If you have a master license, you have the right to use the master for visual art, music compilation, etc. Limitations on how far you can use it is also covered in the agreement.
The synchronization license is also known as the “sync license” where it gives you the permission to use the master, a re-recorded version, or a cover of the song you have rights to. This license is usually acquired for video purposes or for any other visual art.
This kind of license is something that you will need if you want to have music on a reproduced item, like a CD. If you want to have a record and release an album for mass distribution or selling, you will need a mechanical license.
Public Performance License
A public performance license is needed for an artist to have a performance of a song. This license also covers for the song to be played in public places like in conferences, restaurants, and retail stores among others. This license is commonly issued by performing rights organizations.
If you want to reproduce an artist’s music in the form of a music sheet, you will need a print license. These sheets commonly include the chords, notes, and lyrics among others.
This kind of license in the music industry is very specific for theatrical use. If you plan to put up a production and will use a certain music for your performance, a theatrical license is needed to do so.
How to License Your Music
Having the rights to your music can give you royalties every time it is used for years. Your music is your intellectual property, and you deserve every right whenever it is used. Here’s a quick guide on how to have your music properly licensed in the industry.
Step 1: Organize and choose your songs
Exposing your music for the world to hear is a big step for every musician. It is best to choose at least 3 to 5 tracks and have it properly licensed. Guidelines on a successful music licensing covers the basics, including:
- Limited use of explicit lyrics
- Samples are prohibited (including sample music or speech from other artists)
- You should own the tracks (make sure you have a mutual decision with the other co-writers of the music)
- Check your publisher or label before licensing your music
Step 2: Have the proper metadata
A metadata has a critical role for every music that is released. It impacts how your music is stored, and it ensures that your music is ready for release and distribution. The following information will accurately appear as part of your metadata (although additional information may also be provided):
- Track name
- Album name
- Artist name
- Recording date
- Release date
Step 3: You catalogue spreadsheet
Organize your music and have a catalogue spreadsheet. This will make your life easier because it usually contains the song, a description, and a few keywords that relate to the song. You can also place a column for a licensing opportunity for that song, but for beginners, a track title and a short description will do.
Step 4: Register with a PRO
The last step involves getting your song licensed with a reputable performing rights organization. This is a crucial step so you can have the right monetary compensation every time your song is played publicly. Getting your music out there is a huge step, and PROs assure that you are on the right track to have your royalties every time your song gets public attention.
You only need to register your music to one PRO, so if you have registered your music with a reputable PRO before, you may skip this step. Here’s a concise list and guide on PROs where you can sign up your music with.
Beginners can be tricked easily to have their music up for public consumption without the proper license. This can lead to a slow career growth for promising artists. Having no license to your music can lead you to financial losses and can let other artists take advantage of your own work.
Music licensing can also make you shell out money. But this investment can lead you to more royalties if your music gets global attention. The importance of a license depends on the artist, and being aware of what a license can benefit you for years is only the beginning of your career in the music industry.
About the Author
Charles Vallena is the author, and editor-in-chief of TheGuitarJunky.com, an online music site dedicated in helping aspiring musicians become real musicians. He provides expert insights, guides, lessons, and reviews on electric guitars, digital piano, drums, and other music instruments. Follow Guitar Junky on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.