Getting discovered in music libraries is not a game of luck. Increasing your chances of being returned in search results comes down to defining relevant and descriptive music metadata for the songs you upload.
Music libraries can be a great music licensing opportunity for independent musicians. That said, getting discovered in a sea of thousands of licensable tracks can feel near impossible — like the proverbial needle in a haystack. How can you stand out when there are so many other great songs and tracks vying for the attention of music supervisors?
The truth is, getting discovered in music libraries is not a game of luck. There’s actually a lot you can do to increase your chances of getting towards the top of search results in music libraries and it all comes down to defining relevant and descriptive metadata for the songs and tracks you upload.
What is a music library?
Before we move on, let’s talk about what music libraries are and how they work. Music libraries are online platforms that you can use to seek out licensing opportunities. They curate music and make it available for licensing to ad agencies, YouTubers, videographers, music supervisors, and anyone else who needs music for any sort of production.
Libraries are much more accessible than other licensing methods since you don’t need any connections in the industry to get started. They’re a good platform for musicians who are looking to break into the world of music licensing or musicians with an upload-and-done mentality who want to establish more passive licensing income.
Some libraries specialize in certain genres, types of music, or types of productions. Some are large while others are more boutique. And some require exclusive deals (meaning you can’t upload tracks to other libraries) while others are non-exclusive. It’s up to you to do your research, understand the pros and cons of each library, and choose to submit to the ones that match your goals and your music.
How do music libraries work?
As a musician, you would choose a library and upload your music. If your music were accepted, it would be added to their database of songs. Music supervisors and other people seeking music to license, then search the library with keywords relating to the type of music they are looking for. When they find a track they like, they pay a synchronization fee to the library, and you, the artist, get a percentage of that fee (50/50 is a common split, but 60/40 or 70/30 are also used).
Some higher-end libraries will have higher sync fees (and will net you more revenue on the front end) while other “race-to-the-bottom” libraries will license tracks for as low as $1. I’d advise you avoid libraries with very low sync fees.
Regardless of what type of library you choose, if your music gets licensed, you will also make back-end royalties, like performance royalties (paid to you via your PRO), and potential ad revenue if your track is synced to a YouTube video.
How to get discovered in music libraries using music metadata
Okay, now that we know what music libraries are, let’s move on to the key part of licensing with libraries: getting heard. After all, you won’t make a dime from music libraries unless your music is actually discovered.
As mentioned, music libraries are searchable. Music supervisors can type keywords into a search bar to narrow in on something that matches what they’re looking for. Search terms can include genre (rock, pop, country), instrumentation (instrumental, orchestral, female vocalist, etc.), mood (foreboding, light, happy, suspenseful), and the type of production the song would be suited for (documentary, action/adventure, mystery).
They may even search for “sound-alikes” by inputting search terms like “Hans Zimmer” or “Foo Fighters” when they’re looking for tracks that have a similar feel to a popular artist (without the big artist price tag).
When you upload your music to music libraries, you will have the opportunity to define music metadata, or keywords tied to your track that describe it so you can show up in these searches.
Many artists will pick a few of the most relevant keywords, somewhere in the range of five to ten. But, if you want your songs to be found, it makes sense to be as detailed as possible with your metadata, right?
So let’s look at an example so you can see what I mean. Let’s say you have an orchestral track with a darker vibe. A few obvious keywords would be “mysterious, soundtrack, dark, and adventure.”
But if we get a little creative and think about other descriptive words and possible uses for the track, we can come up with a lot more metadata to help drive your search results. Check it out:
Moods: adventurous, alluring, anticipating, anxious, apprehensive, building, careful, cautious, climactic, confused, creepy, curious, dangerous, dark, deep, determined, dramatic, edgy, eerie, elegant, emotional, escalating, ethereal, fiery, flowing, foreboding, grand, haunting, hypnotic, inquisitive, lost, magical, menacing, mischievous, mystical, nervous, ominous, sinister, smoky, solemn, somber, spacious, strange, subtle, suspenseful, tension, thrilling
Styles: action adventure, action thriller, backwoods, Disney magic, dramatic soundtrack, espionage, fantasy, film noir, gothic, history, macabre, mystery, pirates, rich, luxurious, romantic, sci-fi, mythological, psychological, silent film, sorrow, documentary, film theme song, credits, opening, video game
I’m sure you could come up with even more keywords than this with a little more thought. Having rich music metadata like this attached to your individual tracks will create a lot more opportunities to show up in a search.
The key with music metadata is to keep it relevant. Don’t just throw in random keywords to meet some quota. Instead, take the time to think about your track and brainstorm keywords. Tools like thesaurus.com will help you come up with ideas, and you can even use Google’s search recommendations.
Taking the extra time to brainstorm a bunch of keywords when you are submitting your tracks to music libraries will end up benefiting you in the long run.
If you want some help with licensing your music via music libraries, check out this free guide to music licensing.
If you want more tips and tricks on music licensing, we’d like to invite you to join a free music licensing webinar: A Surefire Method to License Your Music (there are multiple dates and times available). In the webinar, we’ll take a look at exactly how you can get started in music licensing, share more tips on getting your music in libraries, and take you inside the “Get Your Music Licensed” course.
If you’re interested in music licensing, check out the “Get Your Music Licensed” course. The program walks you through a very practical approach to getting your music licensed. You’ll learn how to prepare your songs and tracks, how to submit to libraries and music supervisors, how to network in the industry, and how to keep yourself motivated. AND you’ll get 100+ licensing leads to get started.
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.
3 steps to get your songs in music libraries
The ABCs of music libraries
Landing a cut can jump-start your music career
5 things you should do before you seek a music licensing deal
Five things to do before pitching your music to Spotify playlists