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Introduction to Music Licensing and Copyrights

by Yiannis Kirimkiridis

Whether you are beginning your career as a composer or have been for years on the market it is never too late to remember the basics of Music license and Copyrights. That’s because you should know the difference when you sell your compositions to labels and record companies and when you sell them to Royalty Free Music libraries.   There are several types of licenses that will make you earn money from your music. That is, there are licenses that will grant you limited permissions to use your music.

They are:

  1. Mechanical: This is the license you give record labels and distribution companies that help you make money from track sales.
  1. Broadcast: License for replaying of pre-recorded works to multiple listeners through various media or in a ‘semi-live’ setting such as a bar or bookstore, and including radio, TV, webcasting, podcasting, etc.
  1. Performance: License for the live performance of a musical piece
  1. Sync: the licensing of musical works to be synchronized with moving pictures as background in a motion picture, television program, video, DVD, etc.

Sync licensing, or “Synchronization,” refers to the use of music in movies, television shows, commercials, video games, advertisements, presentations, and so on. Sync licensing makes you earn money from your music because every customer needs to purchase the license to use music commercially.


There are two types of Sync Licenses: Rights Managed and Royalty-Free.

Rights Managed : Sync Licenses cost the buyer depending on the medium, territory and the duration of the track usage.

Royalty Free Music refers to a type of music licensing that allows the buyer to pay for the music license only once and to use the music for as long as desired. Regardless of medium, territory and duration the composer gets paid only once. To have a better understanding on the royatly free model, you can read our article What is Royalty Free Music? A Helpful Guide to Understand What it Means & Examples.


How composers generate income from Royalty Free Libraries  

Nowadays, with the increase of visual media production in several sectors and industries, the need for music and licenses for its use has increased exponentially. Thousands of young people become filmmakers with their iPhones, Startups produce audiovisual material daily and business media projects are run every day.   These content producers are looking for music quickly and effectively.

Without having to worry about the trouble of licensing songs through labels and record companies.   The keyword “Royalty-Free Music” gets over 110,000 searches every month on Google worldwide according to Google’s Keyword planner. That is your monthly target audience and you should definitely not overlook this potential revenue stream.   The best way to sell your Royalty Free music is by joining the libraries.

They usually have a fixed customer base that constantly buys music. They are extremely effective because you can add tags, genres and even suggest the best purposes for your song. This makes it easy for buyers to find the perfect music for their projects.    


Top libraries to submit your music  

There are hundreds of libraries that you can submit your songs nowadays. It is important to read all of the license agreements that each of them offers to you composer. Some of these libraries, however, stand out for their flexibility, service and communication with partner composers and clients. Below we listed 4 of our favorites:  

The Music Case   The Music Case started in 2005 as a small website with the purpose to host 30 tracks. Today we are hosting over 90.000 tracks from composers from all around the world serving thousands of creative people and companies from over 40 countries. We carefully select every new music submission coming to us so that our clients have the maximum quality available. All tracks hosted are 100% Copyright Clear. Our mission is to create the best global music licensing marketplace connecting creative musicians with creative producers around the world. Focusing on simplicity and effectively, we work hard to provide an outrageous experience for our customers and suppliers.

Pond5   Pond5 was founded in 2006 as a way for video producers to license content to third parties. It subsequently expanded into other media types, including photos, music, sound effects, 3D models, and Adobe After Effects templates. Pond5 is a New York based online marketplace for royalty-free media. The company licenses stock footage, stock music, stock photography sound effects, after effects, images and 3-D models. Pond5 is reported to have the world’s largest collection of stock footage  

AudioJungle   AudioJungle is part of Envato Market. At AudioJungle you can buy and sell royalty-free music and sound effects that are completely Podsafe. AudioJungle has music and sound effects for projects like film, games, trailers, promotions, and podcasts. GraphicRiver has illustrations, icons, and templates for flyers, resumes, banners and presentations. AudioJungle is more than a place to sell great audio, it’s a community! You can hear from authors, ask questions in the forums, and comment on items. Contact fellow users and view their portfolios.    

Premiumbeat is a curated royalty free music website that provides exclusive, high-quality tracks and sound effects for use in new and traditional media projects, including videos, films, apps, games, and television programming.


How to write descriptions for your tracks

In addition to the high quality of the Tracks that you will send us, writing a cohesive, direct and informative description is of the utmost importance for the customers to find what they need. Often, the description of a track is what will cause the customer to hit the Play button.

In which genre or which genres does your song fit? Is it jazz, dubstap or hip hop? Start there. Mention the instruments used in the production of this particular song and tell which purposes it fits best. The more specific filters you enter, the easier it will be to sell.   An excellent example of a great track description is the song “Believe In Yourself” by Lucid Dream Music: Upbeat and Motivating corporate pop / rock track with uplifting guitars, bass, drums and orchestral strings. Positive and Happy music that will be great for commercials, movies, presentations, product promos and much more. Successful music that will inspire and guide you to success.


How to tag your tracks so that filmmakers can find your music in the international libraries  

Including tags for your tracks is of fundamental importance for your music to be found in international libraries. For this there is an excellent website called TagsGenerator.   There you can create your account, select the Music option and find hundreds of Tags that will help you describe your compositions. This site is a powerful tool so that your tracks have the necessary searchability in each library that you are going to sell your songs.   TagsGenerator is extremely intuitive and easy to use. Just browse through hundreds of tags and dozens of categories to be copied and pasted anywhere you wish. It is incredibly useful when you write your descriptions in Themusicase dashboard for example.    


How to watermark your tracks  

When you wish to publish or sell your music on the Internet, there are a few ways to add protection to it. Adding an audio watermark allows you to alter the song enough so that it cannot be used without authorization. The track can still be listened to, as preview for the original piece. The Watermark Generator software enables you to create these watermarks in an easy and intuitive way.

Author: Yiannis Kirimkiridis

Yannis is a pianist, production music composer and founder of stock music marketplace which started in 2005. As a pianist he performs next to world renowed artists such as Sokratis Sinopoulos, Eleftheria Arvanitaki and Ara Dinkjian. As a music composer he has produced over 200 cinematic scores available for licensing through music libraries. Connect with Yannis through LinkedIn.

Yann Keerim
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