Breaking Down Music Licensing: What You Need To Know If Selling Your Tracks Friday April 30 2021, 2:29 PM
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Breaking Down Music Licensing: What You Need To Know If Selling Your Tracks

Musicians who create their own music tracks have always had the option to sell them, but the music world can be a competitive place. 2020 has brought with it a digital music sales boom, and musicians can and should try to capitalize on this, especially as live performances have been restricted.

As a musician, you have to learn how to effectively optimize selling your tracks. It can be very beneficial for you to have more than one income stream. Rather than just playing live music gigs, selling your own original music is a great way to aid you in continuing to focus on doing the thing that you love.

There are certain hurdles and obstacles that can come about when you go to start selling your tracks. Knowing the differences between utilizing a streaming service vs. a distribution network, understanding if you should use a music licensing agency, and learning how to obtain royalties, are key components to doing so successfully. Finding the right avenue to get your music out there is important. Here are some great tips that musicians should keep in mind when planning to start selling their tracks.

PRICING, BUDGET, AND A PLAN

The first thing you have to do before attempting to sell any of your music - in digital form or outright - is to have a plan, and more importantly, to write it all down. People are actually more likely to reach their objectives when they write them down, so don’t skip this step. Set yourself up with an outline of how you plan to accomplish this, what your goals are (as in, how many tracks and/or albums do you hope to sell per month/quarter/year?), and how you plan to market yourself. 

Maintaining and setting a budget is equally important because, as the saying goes, it often takes money to make money. In order to sell original tracks, you need to have original recordings, which will either involve buying studio time, or buying yourself equipment if you are recording the music at home. 

When working with a music licensing agency, you also have to consider if the seller will be taking a percentage off of your own sales, and work this into your profit margins. Each track can earn you so much, but if an agency or service is taking some off of the top, you want to be sure to include those fees so that you can turn a profit from your estimated spend. 

STREAMING SERVICES AND COPYRIGHTS

There are some popular ways that you can easily stream your work to the masses. Platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and SoundCloud are all common options. These are all globally available (and sometimes even free) services that you can simply upload your tracks to for others’ listening pleasure. That is the easy part.  

The important aspect of creating your own tracks is to make sure that you can copyright them yourself so that you have the option to utilize them how you’d like. If you can record on your own or pay for a studio session, you easily obtain all of the ownership. 

In some cases, if you collaborate with other artists within the recording of tracks, you can split the ownership rights. If you utilize a studio to record your track but that studio time was coordinated through a larger company, be sure that you don’t sign anything that entitles them to your recorded tracks. 

Consider copyrighting directly through a government agency so that you can ensure the limited use of the work on your own terms, and so you are guaranteed compensation from anyone planning to use your tracks.

SELLING ON YOUR OWN

You should have your own website if you plan on selling your tracks, even if going through another agent. Having control over your own property is essential so that when your fans want to find you, they can. You can utilize as many social media platforms as you’d like, but without an actual website, you may not seem as legitimate. 

One of the more important reasons for owning your own website is having your own email list of fans to connect to. If you want long-term success, you should begin compiling an email list where you can access all of your followers in one location and that you yourself have control over - rather than just connecting with others through posts on a social media platform. When you self-publish your brand of music , you and only you are the one with the creative control. 

If you are not savvy with HTML and website code, it will benefit you to pay to utilize someone who is familiar with how to create a website, so that your site can be easily maintained. A freelance web designer can help you to look professional online, as well as set up an easy way to sell your music tracks through your site for listeners to purchase.

LICENSING YOUR MUSIC

Licensing your music is an important step to selling, and a streamlined way to do so is by working directly with a music licensing agency. You don’t want to give people the right to use your music without protecting yourself legally, and licensing your tracks does exactly that. 

Partnering with an agency can also help with marketing your music, since you will receive more exposure to the licensing agent’s platforms as well as your own. They’ll be able to connect commercial investors with your tracks, which can make a world of difference in launching your career. For example, if you license your music through Marmoset , a common licensing agent for many independent artists, your original music is placed in their library, and pitched to directors, producers, and advertisers who are seeking their perfect track for their project. 

On top of that, groups like Marmoset intentionally curate communities of bands, labels, and composers to make up their licensing library and to create commissioned, original songs. Agencies who offer custom music production utilize their artists to collaborate on brand new pieces specifically for commercial use. This gives musicians more opportunities to create new tracks and to collaborate with fellow artists with the intent of selling the final product.

ONLINE MUSIC STORES

Though streaming services allow for your tracks to be heard by anyone at no cost to the listener, you can also use online music stores to help broaden your reach as well. Free services such as Bandcamp can be helpful here, as they take control of actively finding you a fanbase, by recommending music to users through their application and their blog. They do take some of the sales percentages when you do sell your music through them (as do music licensing agencies), but it can be worth the extra cost if you’re able to release your music and reach farther and wider than you would have on your own.

Getting your music out there is definitely the easy part. Making sure that you have legal copyrights, that you obtain your royalties through proper licensing, and that you market your music in an effective way are going to be the harder obstacles you’ll face. With this guidance, you should be able to easily locate and find ways to get your tracks not only heard, but bought, so that you can start bringing in royalties!


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