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By Bryant Lloyd

The facts about music licensing every artist should know

Music licensing for the unsigned artist can be the key to start earning money from his or her work. Licensing music is, by definition, the right granted by the copyright holder or agent for the broadcast, recreation or performance of a copyrighted work. It is used to ensure that the parties responsible for the creation of musical works are compensated for the music's use in other forms of media, including movies, commercials, video games, television and even YouTube. What music licensing means for an artist is the opportunity to earn royalties and flat rate compensation for music they created without the need of a big record company.


There are several different licenses available for original musical works, but the first step in ensuring that an artist is paid and properly backed legally is for the artist to copyright their music. Technically, under international law, an original work is copyrighted when the creator writes down or records an original piece of music. However, to ensure the song is protected in a court of law, the creating party must be able to prove ownership. The simplest way to do this is to register the song with U.S. government copyright website and pay the necessary fees. Once a song is copyrighted, the artist has a couple of options available to them when it comes to actually licensing it.


One way artists may go in order to license their music is by personally contacting a music supervisor. A music supervisor is an individual tasked with placing music in TV shows and movies for the producing studio. This option will prove to be the most lucrative for the artist, as they will receive publishing royalties, as well as the already guaranteed artist royalties. However, connecting with these music supervisors can be a challenge for an unsigned and unrepresented artist, as many ignore unsolicited submissions from strangers.

The second and most recommended option for the artist is to reach out to a music publisher. A music publisher is the party responsible for connecting an artist's music with a music supervisor for licensing. Publishers make a living by building connections with supervisors to better serve artists. Though, convenient publishers typically take half of the royalties for their services. Though this may seem a steep fee for some, many artists would see zero money from their music without their publisher's contacts. Also, publishers are paid only when the artists are paid, so an artist partnered with a publisher would be able to spend less time trying to make money and more time making quality music.

The industry needs you

There are about half a billion dollars exchanged yearly in the music industry because of licensing. For an artist, getting a piece of that giant figure is up to them being proactive and vigilant. There are a surprising amount of licensing opportunities out there. For an artist, the most important thing they can do is form connections with people who truly want to help them. The industry needs creators, and artists are the ones who create. Artists should not allow themselves to be taken lightly by any professional in the industry, since it is artists that give the professionals their value.

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