Licensing your music is a great way to create a series of different streams of revenues and profits for your songs in ways well beyond just the sales of a song by download or CD. In addition, it can open up a series of connections for your music and your writing.
Some have gone on to careers where they do all their work scoring, composing or licensing older works to movie soundtracks, television shows, commercials, video games and even corporate training videos.
The information on licensing and music insertion opportunities has come a long way and just as it has created revenue for the artists, it has also created revenues for various agencies, companies and middlemen to be involved. Of course, many of these are legitimate but a great deal more are not. These scams play off the hopes and lack of understanding that many artists have about this side of the music industry.
So how does this get fixed? Well, bitching about this company or that guy isn’t going to stop them. Sharing your experiences with others is a good thing. Word of mouth will help your friends, but people put too much effort in to trying to call “Shananagins” on something and it is just that. Too much effort is placed in to calling someone or some company out and a good portion of that time could be better spent on finding a better licensing option or uploading your music somewhere else.
So don’t organize a rally, don’t spend time bashing them online everyday, don’t give it the energy that could be used better somewhere else. Put out the message, post on some scam boards, the BBB and any music legal watcher sites and then get on with your life. We have all been screwed over by something or someone. Do you really want to commit the time to make it your personal mission to shut them down? Of course, they should be, but it is not your personal responsibility and they are going to find others. Make people aware, but you have plenty of other things to be working on yourself.
Now if you can nail them on a legal issue, then go for it. But the bulk of the time, they have a basic agreement that you signed making you fully aware of what you are choosing to give up signing up for. If you signed the contract that allows them to do something shady, where they are not required to follow through, where they can get away with what they did, then in all honestly, “buck up binky, its on you.”
Now for staying away from getting screwed….
Read the sites you visit or the emails you receive carefully. Use your head and activate that thing between your ears. More mistakes are made off excitement and not thinking effectively. Most people are smart enough to realize when something is off and yet they don’t want it to be. In turn, that is where the mistakes are made.
If something seems to good to be true, it usually is, in the music business, it almost ALWAYS is.
So a couple things to keep your eye on…
The direct spam email. Red Flag One.
Sorry, that tune they heard on Myspace, Facebook, Reverbnation that they sent you a message about most times is a spam message. Yet, people get so excited. These are trolls the bulk of the time trying to get you in to something to sign up with, pay in to or by the chance they actually went to check you out, they will try to hit you with a contract so those songs can be theirs or at least the rights to them.
To prove this point, I get these emails on a daily basis. I heard your song on Myspace and think you should submit it to this licensing opportunity, it is only X amount a song or the free ones where they as to sign a “simple” terms and conditions sheet that gives them exclusive publishing rights if anything happens. But of course that is the small print that you don’t have to worry about right?
Now, I don’t have any songs up on the Myspace page, the Facebook page and my Reverbnation has a couple of my rants on Mp3s but I still get an email saying how my song sounds like something that could be in a movie? Yes, it feels good to be contacted, but check who is contacting you and inquire on the information pertaining to the bridge they are trying to sell you.
So how should you do that?
One, if they have all these amazing contacts who they claim to be able to work with and submit to all the time, check out those contacts to see if they are actually telling you the truth. Also ask about references. Find out a few clients that have worked with them. make sure they show up online and have some reference somewhere about being involved with the said licensing middleman, agency or company. Drop an email and give them a call. Its called doing research and it will save you a lot more hassle in the end. Again, make sure they are listed somewhere on the person you are contacting. Too often, people send references that are just other people involved in the scam. Don’t get nailed with that. Ask them about the process, how it worked, if they got paid and what they like or didn’t like.
Watch for fees with most of them. More Red Flags
These scams will charge per song, per full upload and even per membership. They make up some line about how they have the inside track to get you exactly to who you need to. Promising to be able to solicit to the top names at the television companies and movie studios. Now even if they have these emails, most of these people are sick of hearing from them and being constantly pitched. You know those emails you block and don’t even bother to read because you know they are spam, that is how they are being seen as well. Again, checking up is a smart move. You can contact many organizations at the ground level and ask if this person or company is involved with licensing or has a connection. Do the double checking, because if you tie yourself, your music and your name to someone in the industry that people see as a liar, a fake or a scammer, you are going to end up hurting your reputation as well.
Though some of the fee based sites are reputable such as Taxi and Sonic Bids. I know many people have issues with both, but I think that both those organizations do great things, still it is up to the individual artist to make them be as effective as possible. I have seen many people claim Taxi is a scam. It isn’t and when you look at the artist claiming it doesnt work or that it is a scam, it is usually some one with a half ass set up or half ass approach to the site. There is a lot more about what that artist is not bringing to the table as to why they are not getting opportunities with Taxi and instead of looking inward, they blame Taxi. The same thing goes for Sonic Bids. You want to set up a half ass page, not organize a promo pack beyond their simple EPK or show limited branding, marketing or promotion, then why should a festival, venue or tour choose you? Just because you pay a small fee, does not now justify clear and simple success.
Most of all, the top three things to think about……
1. Get your questions answered and make sure you understand what you are getting in to and that you have been shown that this person or company actually does what it claims.
2. Try to stay non exclusive. Do not sign in to exclusive situations where only that person is going to be pushing to license your catalog. If they end up being a scam, lazy or not knowing what they are doing, you are still signed in to an agreement with that song or those songs. Then if something happens down the road, they are getting a piece of your profits for doing nothing except talking you in to a contract.
3. Doubt, Question and raise every red flag you can. This is your art, this may lead to new avenues of revenue to support future recordings, touring and networking. Treat your music and your art with the respect it deserves. Find the sites where you can upload and post for free as well as have non exclusive binding agreements. There is a great list of sites at musiclibraryreport.com. Again, with anything, when you apply patience, a serious attention to detail and mix it with research and double checking, you will find your self getting involved with more reputable, professional and better people, organizations and companies that will have a much better chance at helping you with your career.