Did a great interview with a duo called Computer vs. Banjo yesterday. Before coming together to form this group, these guys had great success in a couple of other bands. Both were signed to record deals and were on the road about 200 dates per year.
One was on a major label and did opening slots on arena tours, performing with established acts like Dave Matthews Band and Counting Crows. His group sold over 100,000 units.
The other was signed to a large independent label, with major distribution, and was making roughly $350,000/year as a touring act.
So why did they decide NOT to tour, or even play live, when forming their new act? And why did they decide not to pursue a record deal?
Because you can make more money licensing music to film and television than you can touring or selling records.
You've probably never heard of Computers vs. Banjo, but if you've seen any of the following shows, you've probably heard their music...
- Sex with Mom and Dad (currently on MTV with Dr. Drew Pinsky)
- Real World
- The Hills
- Keeping Up with the Kardashians
- Living with Lohan
- Parental Control
Their music has been used for advertising, too. Advertising clients include:
- Kenneth Cole
Here are some tips from these guys, which you can use to start your own music licensing business...
1. Be quick. Television production schedules can change almost instantly...and change again just as quick. The quicker you are at producing new music, the more likely you'll be able to get the contract.
These guys told me a great story of getting a call from a production company working on a show for MTV. They were on a tight deadline and needed the song in four hours. Even though one of the guys was in California and the other in Nashville, they were able to write, record, and submit the material within that time, thanks to the power of the Internet.
You may not be able to compete with some of the "big boys" when it comes to studio gear or even musical talent, but something that will take you a long way is the ability to create something quickly. Get this down and you'll be ahead of 90% of your competition.
2. Have songs/content you can repurpose. Record everything because you never know when that riff or chorus you never turned into a full song will be the "spark" that helps fulfill exactly what the music supervisor or production company is looking for.
Even better, perhaps you have a full song, already in the can, which will work. You never know.
Bottom line-- the more stuff you have written and recorded, the better off you'll be. Create a "swipe file" of material you can use to help you develop exactly what is needed.
3. Learn to talk to non-musicians. If you want to get into the big money with music licensing, you'll want get involved with advertising. Unfortunately, advertising executives don't always know how to explain exactly what it is that they're looking for.
It's not uncommon to get a request for music that is "happy" or "intense." What does this stuff mean?
And what do these words mean?
- suspense building
- tension building
Obviously, this stuff means different things to different people, but learn to communicate with the person you're dealing with and you'll have an advantage over your competition. How do you do it? Listen, play/send an example of what you think the request if for, and listen to the reaction.
4. Be flexible. A song which is exactly what the music supervisor or advertising agency wants can easily make you five or six figures. However, a song that is "almost there" will probably make you nothing.
"Almost there" doesn't sell. "Almost there" doesn't make good scenes.
If you've got something that is close, be willing to change it up. Change up the lyrics, the instrumentation, the tempo, or whatever you can to make it right.
5. Do a little bit extra. This may sound obvious to some, but it's important enough that it's worth mentioning... If you really want to play the big game, you need to be willing to do a bit more than more. Not a lot, although you can...just enough to separate yourself from the next guy in line.
This joke explains it all...
Two campers are walking through the forest when they suddenly encounter a grizzly bear.
The bear rears up on his hind legs and lets out a terrifying roar.
Both campers are frozen in their tracks.
The first camper whispers, "I'm sure glad I wore my running shoes today."
"It doesn't matter what kind of shoes you're wearing, you're not gonna outrun that bear," replies the second.
"I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun YOU," he answers.
Just a bit extra can mean the difference between "life and death" in this business. This means following the advise above...being quicker, being more flexible, being a better communicator, etc.
The good news is that this stuff is easy and anybody can do it, even if you don't have a ton of money to buy the best instruments or recording equipment.
That's it for today. More music licensing tips are coming soon though. To make sure you get everything, I need you to do two things:
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