You Must Do These 5 Things Before Licensing Your Music

[Editors Note: This was written by Suzanne Paulinski and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]


You often read blogs about music licensing that touch upon the importance of what to include in your email pitch, how to find who to contact about a project, and even how to position your music for greater success in the world of licensing.

What often goes unsaid, however, are the small, yet important, details (known as micro-tasks) that make the difference between a migraine-inducing process and a money-generating one.

When submitting music for licensing, be prepared and treat each submission as if it’s already been chosen. Below are five things you can do to organize your files and data to not only lock down potential deals but also make the process of submitting your songs a breeze rather than a tornado.

1. Embed all tracks with complete metadata

Upon mastering your tracks, make sure each file is complete with the correct metadata, which includes the track’s credits, as anyone licensing your song(s) will need this for his or her records. It’s also helpful to have this metadata available in a text file should you need to include it in an email or on a required form.

Metadata is important for licensing so that licensees can get in touch with you, ensure they have everyone’s permission to use the song, and draw up the proper agreements. It includes:

  • the album title
  • the title of the track
  • the genre
  • the authors/composers
  • the year it was recorded
  • the sample rate
  • the duration of the track
  • relevant contact info (including your full name and email)

2. Copyright your music before you submit

Avoid submitting anything with an uncleared sample to ensure you don’t screw up a potential deal. It’s also important to realize no one will agree to license your original music if it is not properly copyrighted. Deals can often happen very quickly, and you don’t want to hold things up by waiting for the copyright office to review and file your application.

3. Create a master spreadsheet for all song metadata

With deals moving as quickly as they sometimes can, it’s important to have your entire catalog’s metadata available at your fingertips. It’s best to keep a spreadsheet with every song’s title, genre, copyright info including all author(s) contact information, and the copyright registration number(s) in one place should you need to reference any piece of information during the licensing process.

4. Visualize where you could hear your music

It’s helpful, especially if you have a significant number of songs in your arsenal, to have certain information available at a glance when preparing to submit to certain opportunities. Using that same master spreadsheet, include a column for “sounds like” to elaborate on the genre and notable instrumentation, as that will usually be what people will include in their requests (i.e., “sounds like Bruno Mars with significant horns”).

Additionally, having a column for “perfect for” with notes on the type of media for which you would consider the song an ideal match (i.e., horror film, car commercial, etc.) will allow you to quickly scan which songs might be right for a project.

5. Keep a master contact list of people to whom you’ve submitted

Much like the master list of song metadata, having a growing list of music supervisors or licensing agents you’ve reached out to is just as useful.

Creating columns for their contact info, the date you first reached out, the status on your follow ups, what songs you’ve sent, any feedback they’ve provided, as well as a fact or two about them and what they’re currently working on will help you track your progress, set reminders for future follow ups, and strengthen your relationships by being able to reference where you left off when you next reach out to them.

Always remember at the end of the day this is a business. Having this information organized and readily available will not only make the process of pitching your songs easier but also show anybody who chooses to work with you that you’re a true professional and ready to deliver whatever it is they may need, which is the best way to ensure future work and a sustainable career in the industry.

TuneCore Sync Placements Q3 in 2016

We’re extremely proud to be able to help our TuneCore Artists get their music out to the world in the form of synchronization licensing. From TV shows and movies to video games and advertisements, sync placements are one of the most sought-after successes among independent artists.

In an effort to celebrate and showcase these licenses, we’re continuing to share highlights from each quarter here on the TuneCore Blog! If you’ve been interested in TuneCore’s Music Publishing Administration, peruse through these placements to see just some of what our publishing team has been up to:


The Girl on the Train (trailer)
Song Title: “Classical Piano Music For Baby Sleep”
Writer: Jeffrey Deary
Artist: Einstein Baby Lullaby Academy


Atlanta (promos)
Song Title: No Hook
Writer: Otis WIlliams
Artist: OJ Da Juiceman


So You Think You Can Dance, Season 13
Song Title: TRNDSTTR (Lucian Remix) (ft. M. Maggie)
Writer: Mary Miller
Artist: Black Coast


Vice Principals
Song Title: Sunset Blood
Writer: Georgios Smaragdis
Artist: Starcadian


Forza Horizon 3 (video game)
Song Title: The Wild Life
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight


Legends Rising (series title track)
Song Title: Chinatown
Writer: Georgios Smaragdis
Artist: Starcadian

TuneCore Sync Placements Q2 in 2016

We’re extremely proud to be able to help our TuneCore Artists get their music out to the world in the form of synchronization licensing. From TV shows and movies to video games and advertisements, sync placements are one of the most sought-after successes among independent artists.

In an effort to celebrate and showcase these licenses, we’re continuing to share highlights from each quarter here on the TuneCore Blog! If you’ve been interested in TuneCore’s Music Publishing Administration, peruse through these placements to see just some of what our publishing team has been up to:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Song Title: “Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

Song Title: “The Uprising”
Writer: Dominic Lalli
Artist: Big Gigantic

USGA-FOX-SportsFox Sports – US Open
Song Title: “Legends”
Writers: Eric Michels, Steve Michels, Seth Dunshee, and Jonathan Tanner
Artist: Foreign Figures

wildlifetrailerThe Wild Life (trailer)
Song Title: “Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

fido1Fido LG G5 (product video)
Song Title: “Don’t Give a Damn”
Writer: Yonas Mellesse
Artist: Yonas

dwts-logo-1Dancing With the Stars
Song Title: “300 Violin Orchestra”
Writer: Jorge Quintero
Artist: Jorge Quintero

hugo-boss-logoHugo Boss (promos)
Song Title: “Through the Fire”
Writer: Jasper Wijnands
Artist: Shook

Interview: The Sweeplings and the Art of Songwriter Collaboration

We never get sick of hearing about the interesting ways that artists get together to begin making music independently. While there’s always something to be said about, say, a brother and sister taking their childhood collaborative hobby on the road, or three friends who have been playing in the garage since seventh grade, we’re living in an age in which creators can connect digitally and embark down wonderful paths together.

Whitney Dean was hanging at his Hunstville, Alabama home when his wife Beth directed his attention to a performer that was live on that week’s episode of America’s Got Talent: Cami Bradley. When Whitney’s wife began reaching out to Cami on his behalf online, she insisted that they get together and write music. While Cami was hesitant at first, the communication led to Cami and Whitney’s meeting all the way north west in the former’s hometown of Spokane, Washington.

With their ability to create thoughtful acoustic music that has drawn comparisons to former TuneCore duo the Civil Wars, Cami and Whitney would go on to release their debut self-titled EP as The Sweeplings in 2014, and their full length Rise & Fall the following year. The two songwriters are releasing a 5-song covers EP this summer while they continue to work on their follow-up album. Cami and Whitney shared with us their modern beginnings as a pair, how they have learned from each other as musicians, and more in an interview below:

How quickly did you two connect online after America’s Got Talent, and how would you describe the interaction/reaction overall? 

Cami: Whitney’s wife Bethany actually Facebooked me during the finale week of America’s Got Talent. She gave me a brief overview of the project Whitney was working on and how she thought we’d be a perfect fit to finish it together. I politely declined (due to the uncertainty and busy-ness of that week), but a few months later (after a couple more emails) we got on the phone.

One brief phone call and I knew these people were not only wonderful, but legit and worth listening to. So we planned for Whit to come stay with my husband and I for a few days in Spokane and that was that!

Was there instant songwriting chemistry between you two, or did the process take time?

Cami: There was an instant musical chemistry from the first two songs we wrote together (“Across The Sea” & “Drop by Drop”). Both of which are on our EP. By the end of two days of writing together we had seven songs completely finished. Three to four completely finished songs a day, (with, essentially, a stranger), was the definition of musical chemistry for us.
Whitney: It was like finding a missing part of myself musically. Cami seems to know what my inclinations or sensibilities are and can not only beat me to it, but help me grow my thoughts. It’s seriously like I found a cure for something with Cami and our music; truly something special that needed to be shared with the world.
The Sweeplings - Press image 1

In what ways do you both complement each other as songwriters?

Whitney: It’s a great partnership musically. We both will come to each other with half written songs or ideas and most times we are able to finish each others thought and make it a final product pretty quickly. It’s like we just seem to have the answer for each other. Cami is blessed not only with a phenomenal voice but an amazing sense of melody and how lyrics work within that.
Cami: Songwriting can be such a difficult task for some. We are blessed to have a pretty painless process when it comes to writing. It’s very rare that we get really stuck or disagree on where the other wants to go. We are lucky to complement each other when it comes to ideas and ways to move forward.

Where do you feel you’ve been able to learn from one another?

Whitney: I’ve been so blessed to meet Cami and the opportunity to learn from her and work with her. The biggest thing I’ve been able to take away from our time together is attention to detail and that the little things matter. From consistent and beautiful melody lines, and crafting lyrics that suit the way you say them in the melody. It’s not just singing words. It’s creating a melody and lyric that compliment and intensify each other. She also could find a way to sing a newspaper article and make you cry.
Cami: Whitney is a much better lyricist than I and they seem to come to him effortlessly and quickly. I could take two days to put together one of our songs in order to feel great about the content and flow of the lyrics. He can spit out twelve different ways of saying something on the spot. It’s a great partnership because sometimes we have time to mull over lyrics and sometimes we don’t. He spits them out, I rearrange them, or make them “singable” within the melody, and poof – song finished.

Similarly, do you two have a lot in common in terms of what kind of influences you draw from?

Whitney: Our starting points and backgrounds are very similar, but our influences vary quite a bit. I grow up with a mom that taught piano and voice lessons from home, and I would listen and learn from what she would tell her students. I also grew up playing and singing in church which was a huge part of musical growth. Most of my influences actually come from my years in college in the Shoals (Florence, AL) listening to anything from bands like Incubus, Silverchair, Derek Webb, and of course loads of great local and regional artist I met along my way.
Cami: I also grew up in a highly musical family and singing at my church completely shaped who I am today as a singer and pianist. My musical influences when I was in junior high ranged massively from Natalie Cole to Christina Aguilera to Disney soundtracks. Throw a dash of jazz, pop, Christian and Disney music together and I guess you get me! As I reached high school it broadened even more. I was surrounded by so many talented musicians at my church that I soaked up everything I could by watching, playing alongside them and asking as many questions as I could.

What led to the decision to release a covers EP this summer?

Whitney: We had arranged a few covers for our licensing company and developed others to play at shows while we toured this year. We had such a great response to them that we thought putting them down and sharing them with the world would be a great way to keep fans engaged.
Cami: I personally LOVE re-arranging other people’s already amazing music and drawing inspiration from it to create something that molds what we do with their art. This seemed like second nature and the right thing for us to do! It also helps us draw in friends and fans while we record our follow up album this year.

What do you consider to be some of the benefits of releasing cover songs for independent artists – whether it’s an album or a one-off single?

Whitney & Cami: Seems contrary to what you would think, but we feel it really gives people a better sense of what we sound like as a duo and how we write. We’ve taken these covers and tried to transform each into something new, something that sounds like “The Sweeplings”.
Hopefully, people will be able to get a better idea of what we do musically through them and be a gateway to find each other. The main benefit we’ve found, (and the reason for the for an EP), was that it creates a way for people that might not find us on their own to have an introduction to us through a song they already know and love. It’s a bridge, bringing us to fans that are looking for something familiar but new.

Your music has a very cinematic feel to it. How important are licensing opportunities for you as independent songwriters?

Whitney: Very, it’s honestly how and why we started this duo. We wanted to be found and exposed to our potential and future fans through TV/film. We’ve personally found songs we love on our favorite TV shows/films, so to be a part of that experience for someone else is a dream come true.
Cami: Musically, we feel the way we write, compose and produce is tailored for licensing. It’s very intentional. Our goal is to create music that “sounds the way you feel”, tells a story sonically and takes people to another place.
Whitney & Cami: On the business side, we get paid for our music to be involved in a TV/Film and as a result, we also get the perk of it being shared and exposed to tons of potential fans. There are very few platforms that can get you that level of exposure to new fans and at the same time give you the financial boost to keep things rolling. As a current independent artist, it’s really priceless.

How far along are you into the production of your follow-up full length? 

Whitney: It’s in the works! The recording process begins soon. We’re really excited about our progression and the new music. The new songs are of course still very duo driven, but feels like a step forward for us.
Cami: We hope to release our follow up album either late this year or first thing 2017.

What themes and experiences are you hoping to capture on it?

Cami & Whitney: A pretty wide range really. From stories of escape, to the impact of true love – we write about all aspects of life.
The follow-up feels like it’s our most well rounded group of songs to date and a perfect compliment to our debut Rise & Fall.

April Songwriter News

By Dwight Brown

As spring settles in, songs, activists and artists are creating news.

  • The iconic civil rights song “We Shall Overcome” may be headed to Public Domain territory.
  • Government regulations are stymying songwriters, but there may be a way out.
  • Led Zeppelin may have a “Whole Lotta Love” for borrowing tunes.

There’s a lot going on.

The attorneys who liberated “Happy Birthday” go after “We Shall Overcome.”

Making the case that copyrighted songs like “Happy Birthday” belong in the public domain is becoming the norm for the law firm of Wolf copyright iconHaldenstein. As reported in Hollywood Reporter, their newest lawsuit centers on the classic civil rights song “We Shall Overcome.” “The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the We Shall Overcome Foundation, say they are producing a documentary movie and that “We Shall Overcome” will be performed in it. They requested a quote for a sync license from the defendants.” The outcome: 1. “We Shall Overcome” is a difficult song to clear. 2. The song cannot be cleared without review by the rights’ holder. 3. Their request was denied.

A putative class action was filed in New York federal court against the Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music, Inc., seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and the return of money for the licensing of the song. An investigation and a piece in The Atlantic reveals that the song’s melody may date back to a 1792 hymn, “O Sanctissima.” The lyrics probably evolved from a 1901 hymn by Philadelphia’s Reverend Charles Albert Tindley, were adapted in 1945 by striking union workers, then by singer Pete Seeger and in 1960 by folksinger Guy Carawan, among others.

Looks like “We Shall Overcome,” the song The Library of Congress calls “the most powerful song of the 20th Century,” has a lot of parents and a brand new lawsuit.

Which government regulations choke the lifeblood out of the songwriting industry?

A guest post in gave David Israelite, the President and CEO of the National Music Publishers’ Association, an opportunity to raise awareness about government regulations that stymy songwriters. “Songwriters are the most heavily regulated part of the music industry. A stunning 75% of their income is controlled by the federal government. In 1909, the sale of copies of compositions was put under a compulsory license—meaning anyone could use them, for a government-mandated rate. At that time, the rate was two cents. Now it is only nine cents.”

Around WWII the main non-profit organizations that license songs govt iconand distribute royalties to songwriters (ASCAP and BMI) were dealt a massive blow by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Forced regulations, “consent decrees,” prevented songwriters and music publishers from selling their work in a truly free market.

Israelite, “DOJ has opened a formal review of the regulations governing ASCAP, BMI and the thousands of publishers and songwriters they represent.”

Possible outcome?

  1. Relaxing the 70-year old shackle of the PRO consent decrees,
  2. Allowing ASCAP and BMI to license music creators’ songs in a free market.
  3. Ending policies in the digital age that were created before transistor radios.

Led Zeppelin climbs a stairway to other people’s music. Is anything new?

guitar iconLed Zeppelin’s song “Stairway to Heaven” is being scrutinized by Billboard as it follows a ruling by U.S District Judge R. Gary Klausner that lawyers for the trustee of late songwriter/guitarist Randy Wolfe (of the 1960s rock group Spirit) had shown enough evidence to support a case that the 1971 hit “Stairway to Heaven” copies music from the 1966/’67 Spirit song “Taurus.”

Circumstantial evidence: Led Zeppelin and Spirit performed at some concerts and festivals around the same time, but not on the same stage. Klausner wrote that there’s a circumstantial case that Zeppelin may have heard “Taurus” performed.

Incriminating evidence: Digital Music News printed a Roger Plant quote from the bio/book Led Zeppelin IV that notes an instance where Zeppelin copied music: “I think when Willie Dixon turned on the radio in Chicago twenty years after he wrote his blues [You Need Love], he thought, ‘That’s my song [Whole Lotta Love].’ … When we ripped it off, I said to Jimmy, ‘Hey, that’s not our song.’ And he said, ‘Shut up and keep walking.’”

Stairway and Taurus may have a Granddaddy: A nearly identical tune by baroque composer Giovanni Battista Granata, written in 1630, has similar sounds. That melodic line may push both songs into public domain territory.

Someday, will all songs be derivative in one way or another?

This is a great time to have TuneCore Music Publishing Administration in your corner.


Team up with TuneCore Music Publishing Administration.

Closing Out a Strong 2015: TuneCore Artists Earn More Than $142 Million

NEW YORK, Feb. 11, 2016 — TuneCore Artists earned $36.8 million from digital streams and downloads in Q4 2015, capping off another strong year of sustained growth, which saw independent artists on TuneCore earn over $142 million, a 7 percent increase from 2014. Publishing revenue for TuneCore artists was up 47 percent in 2015 and sync revenue up 57 percent, with placements in major feature films and network TV shows. Since its inception in 2006, TuneCore artists have earned more than $648 million collectively.

2015 Artist Earnings

Key Growth & International Expansion

As part of its continued commitment to support independent artists around the world, in 2015 TuneCore opened two new offices in the United States in key music cities, Austin and Atlanta, and launched two new international sites with TuneCore UK and TuneCore Australia.  With these new international expansions, TuneCore now offers local musicians in four countries outside of the U.S. – UK, Australia, Canada and Japan –  the opportunity to collect revenue in their local currency, including earnings from streaming services, digital download stores, songwriter royalties, and sync licensing opportunities.

TuneCore also continues to add stores in new, emerging markets throughout the world, including Saavn inIndia, Nmusic in Africa and the Middle East, and Zvooq in Russia.  In 2015, TuneCore saw an impressive 71 percent growth in new customers in the Latin American market and 55 percent growth in the African market.

New Hires

To further connect with the artist community and broaden opportunities for its customers, TuneCore added new talent to its executive team both in the U.S. and abroad. E-Commerce and marketing veteran Andreea Gleeson has been named Vice President, Marketing, assuming leadership of TuneCore’s global multi-channel marketing initiatives focused on the growth and retention of the company’s artist customer base. Additionally,Marie-Anne Roberts joins the TuneCore team as Vice President, International, leading expansion and growth in local markets around the world. Indie music veteran, Sam Taylor, has joined TuneCore as the UK brand manager helping to develop TuneCore’s brand presence and B2B relationships across the UK market.

Artist Highlights

The heart of TuneCore is the independent artist, and 2015 marked another landmark year for the TuneCore community. The artists continue to be heard across the world in all creative mediums, including on the big screen, with music featured in Universal Pictures’ “Furious 7” and  on the small screen in CBS’s “The Good Wife” and FOX’s “Family Guy”. The music of TuneCore’s independent artists was also included in national commercials for major brands such as and Huggies.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 4.29.16 PM

YouTube continues to grow as a key driver for artists’ revenue and with its YouTube Sound Recording Collection Service, launched in 2014, TuneCore grew royalties collected on the site by more than 370 percent. An artist who is in enrolled in TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording Collection Service, on average, earns$100 more than an artist not enrolled in this service.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 4.32.00 PM

An infographic with full Q4 data and highlights is available here.

Looking to 2016

Building on the achievements of the past year, TuneCore is committed to further empowering independent artists through education and experience. Following the success of its inaugural TuneCore Indie Forum in Los Angeles last fall, TuneCore is excited to host the TuneCore Nashville Indie Forum on February 20. This forum will feature roundtable discussions and panels from a variety of music executives, professionals and artists, such as Peter Frampton, R.LUM.R, John Marks, Dan Huff and more, to educate attendees on today’s music landscape and the industry’s continued growth.

Additionally, in an effort to provide artists on-the-ground opportunities to reach wider audiences, TuneCore is expanding its popular TuneCore Live series from Brooklyn and Los Angeles to additional primary music hubs such as Nashville, Austin and Atlanta to reach more music fans across the country. TuneCore will also continue to strengthen its core offerings, including its music publishing administration business, always with an eye toward new ways to grow the careers of its independent artists, so their music may be heard by more people across the globe.