music libraries

3 steps to get your songs in music libraries

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For indie musicians and songwriters who don’t yet have connections in publishing and licensing, music libraries are one way you can seek music licensing opportunities.

Did you know one million streams on Spotify will get you about $3,000 in royalties? One million. If you’re an indie musician trying to make money in today’s music business, this fact does not put “streaming revenues from Spotify” on top of the list of viable revenue boosters.

By way of comparison, here are six different ways you could make $3,000 pursuing music licensing.

music libraries licensing income

That seems much more achievable, right? So let’s explore how you go about licensing your music.

And let’s get one thing out of the way: you do not need to know every single technical aspect of music licensing to start looking for opportunities. You’ll learn much more by doing music licensing than you will just reading about it. Even if you feel you’re not ready yet, the key is to start!

Step 1: Get your music ready for licensing

1) Choose three to five tracks from your catalog. Even if you’re not 100% confident in your tracks, submit them anyway! Especially as a songwriter, being a perfectionist can really hold you back. I know many musicians who work and rework and never actually release their music. With music licensing, you’ll never know what will catch unless you try.

Above all, think of this as a learning experience. Create the best quality songs you can with the tools and skills you have, submit them for opportunities, and learn from your experiences.

Before you submit your songs for any licensing opportunity you want to make sure everything is cleared, copyright protected, and registered with a PRO.

2) Export MP3 and WAV files. Quality is key in music licensing, and the absolute last thing you want is to have the perfect song for a placement only to get turned down because the audio quality isn’t up to industry standard. Always export high quality MP3s (preferably 320 kbps) and WAV files (preferably 24 bit, 48 kHz).

Here are some basic guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to audio quality:

  • 24 bit is better than 16 bit
  • 320 kbps is better than 256 kbps, which is better than 128 kbps
  • WAV and AIFF are better than MP3
  • 48 kHz is preferable to 44 kHz for any music that will be used on video (not in quality but simply because that’s the standard for TV/film)

3) Input metadata
Metadata is the information that will allow libraries, publishers, and supervisors to find and contact you should they want to use your song.

At the very least have the following information in your metadata:

  • Track name
  • Artist name
  • Album name
  • Genre
  • Recording or release date
  • Email address and website

Step 2: Research music libraries

Music libraries are just one of the many ways you can seek music licensing opportunities. They are also one of the most accessible – especially for musicians and songwriters who don’t yet have many connections in the publishing and licensing industry.

Essentially, music libraries are platforms that curate music and make it available for ad agencies, YouTubers, videographers, indie filmmakers, TV music supervisors, and others to license.

Here are a few music library examples that you can use to start your research:

  • A fairly big player that will give you a good idea of all the admin that comes with licensing, i.e. writing a description for your song, finding the right keywords to increase its chance of appearing in the search results, etc.
  • A big player: lucrative but selective.
  • This is a “race to the bottom” type of library in the sense that they sell their catalog for cheap. They’re popular, but they want exclusivity for your songs.

As you research music libraries, you should:

  • Analyze the music they already have. Is your music is an obvious fit? Is there’s a gap in their catalog you might be able to fill?
  • Find out how to submit music to them (you’ll usually find the information on the FAQ or contact pages).
  • Find out if they sign tracks on exclusive or non-exclusive music licensing deals.

1) How do you get paid?

  1. Sync fees. A synchronization fee is paid by whoever is licensing the music to the music library upfront. Depending on the terms of the license agreement you signed with the library, you’ll get a percentage of that sync fee. The standard is a 50/50 split, some libraries give you 60% or 70%, like Audiosparx.
  2. Performance royalties. If the video that used your music is played on TV (whether it’s terrestrial, cable, or online), you receive performance royalties based on the number of plays. That’s where your performance rights organization comes in. A PRO is in charge of collecting royalties for you.
  3. Ad revenue. If your music is used in a YouTube video, you could receive a share of the ad revenue. However, this side of the business gets tricky because you need your music to be part of YouTube’s ContentID program. That can create a whole host of problems for music libraries you work with. If you’re just starting out, my advice is don’t worry about this type of revenue just yet.

2) How much can you expect to make?
Music licensing fees can vary greatly depending on the production and how the song is used. But here’s some data from Songtradr to give you a big picture idea.

music libraries licensing fees

Step 3: Submit, submit, submit

There’s not much to explain here, just make sure you follow the submission guidelines. Each music library will have its own guidelines, and if you don’t take the time to follow them, they won’t take the time to check out your music.

As you go out and start submitting, remember that action will get you far in the world of music licensing. Don’t worry if you don’t have a publisher, a big catalog, or a top mastering engineer working on your tracks. You don’t need any of those things to get your music licensed. They might help, but you don’t need them.

All you need to get started is one hour every day over seven days. Commit to that and the momentum will start building.

Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model and Berklee Online. Over the years he’s worked with tens of thousands of musicians around the world across every genre imaginable and in many different markets. New Artist Model is an online music business school designed especially for indie musicians. Learn how to turn your music into a career, understand the business, and start thinking like a musical entrepreneur.

How to Make More Money With Music, the Complete Guide

About Dave Kusek

23 thoughts on “3 steps to get your songs in music libraries

  1. Some great tips here. There are some fantastic libraries out there and with the right agreement, music licensing is a great way to have multiple streams of income from your music.

    You may want to keep a selection of your music for exclusive licensing and some for non-exclusive but most importantly, make sure you have control of your music. Some libraries have non-removal clauses in their agreement and I would definitely steer well away from that!

    Also, don’t forget to check out boutique and independent libraries too. Production music libraries like offer non-exclusive agreements to their artists and are more artist focused. We also curate all our content by hand to ensure that all the music we provide is high quality and suitable for use in media production.

    The real key though is to keep writing and get your music out there. You never know who may need your music!

    1. Although Content ID is one great to way earn some revenue with my music, it can create some problems with new libraries that I try to join, since some don’t accept music registered with Content ID. Besides, once it is registered with Content ID, there’s no way of unregistering. it. So think about it thoroughly.

      However, because of Content ID, I’m earning hundreds of dollars every trimester, which I great.

      Great concise article!

  2. Hello, I just want to say, this article is really motivational and helpful for musician. This article collecting my thoughts on how to approach this type of usage of my music, and I appreciate this tips . Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  3. Good Article however Railroad Trax aren’t accepting submissions at the moment – kinda puts you off when they talk big and then down the bottom basically say ‘sorry but…’

  4. This is a great article for musicians!

    I’d love to add Music Gateway to the list as we are a commercial music library that works with the likes of Netflix, NBC Universal, YouTube (originals) and many more. We also love to listen to new music so happy for artists to get involved.

    Our aim is to empower creatives so we work together with them, they choose if they prefer exclusive or non-exclusive, we don’t take backend royalties and only a small commission compared to others.

    Let me know if you’d like more info 🙂

    1. Checked out Music Gateway and sounded ok until I tried to create an account – keeps coming up with ‘there was an error creating the your account’ after third time whom makes you wonder if you just want userid email and password

    2. I would like to send you some of my music, I have a few song placements already through another publisher , what kind of songs do you need and what is your preference for submission

    3. I’m not sure how old this post is, but I would love more info about your company. I’m an old dog learning new tricks and love to make ANY money doing something I love to do.

    4. Hi Mary, thank you for taking the time to share some info about Music Gateway! I’m looking for a library to submit my compositions to and will definitely check this out!

  5. Pingback: Music Metadata Can Get You Discovered in Music Libraries | Disc Makers Blog
  6. Your article is great, can I send my MP3s in a bulk ? or, individually?
    I’m joining ASCAP, as soon as I get my songs in, I’ll start with Music Libraries

  7. Pingback: Mailbox Money | Your Songs' Money-Making Potential | Disc Makers Blog
  8. I think this information is valuable for someone who wants to get their material out there,i plan on following up on this info.

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