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.

August Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

From Rio to the US Presidential election, it’s been a busy summer for everyone, including songwriters around the world:

  • Rio turns out to be as much a competition for artists looking to get sync placement as it is for the Olympic athletes.
  • Donald Trump stirs even more controversy by using “We Are the Champions” at the Republican National Convention, against the wishes of Queen.
  • Apple makes a motion to set a standard streaming rate, a move that would revolutionize royalty payments for songwriters.

Advertiser’s $1.2 billion budget for the Rio Olympics turns sync placement into a competition of its own.

It should come as no surprise that the Olympics is one of the most widely-popular televised sporting events around, particularly for US viewers. Even for a disappointingly low year, a whopping average of 27.5 million viewers watched Rio Olympic coverage via NBCUniversal over the 15 days of competition. And with that high number of average viewers, comes a high demand for prime advertising placement.

With the Olympic viewership paling only in comparison to the Superbowl, companies were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to intersperse the high-profile swim and women’s gymnastics competitions, among many others. Particularly at the opening ceremonies, with an outrageous rate of one commercial every eight minutes, there was a lot of competition amongst companies and ad agencies alike to help their product stand out from the crowd. This is where a skilled Music Supervisor comes into play.

Between the more US-friendly time zone and the hype surrounding high-profile athletes like Simone Biles, NBCUniversal had planned for a higher viewership than they received for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As a result, companies were flocking to advertising agencies as early as a year before the competition began. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years — it’s the first time we’ve had to dig deep so early,” commented Grey Group Director or Music Joshua Rabinowitz.

Sync royalties for Olympic commercials were reaching upwards of $250,000 for the Rio games, not to mention the added benefit of an audience of 27.5 million people who could download or stream the song after hearing it.

Some agencies decided to stick with tried-and-true classics, like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” or the Gershwin classic “Rhapsody in Blue,” and some chose to highlight newer artists, like Boys Noize’s “Rock the Bells.” A personal favorite advertisement for Nike included music from the 2003 song “Drums Are My Beat” by Sandy Nelson.

But not every song used for ad sync placement at the Olympics was a catchy or recognizable tune. Writers Andrew Simple and Michael Logan curated a sync-worthy song that snagged them a spot in a commercial for Folgers that left me quietly weeping at my desk. A colleague of Simple’s noted, “I knew it could be the soundtrack for a spot that taps into a close relationship,” and the song was pitched for sync placement before even being released.  

Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and a handful of songwriters were able to take home the gold at this year’s Olympic games.

Repeated unauthorized use of their song “We Are the Champions” on the Donald Trump campaign leaves Queen seeking legal action.

Whether you’re voting for him in November or you’re adamantly protesting against him, everyone can pretty much agree that Donald Trump isn’t playing by the rules of a typical US Presidential campaign. He brought this attitude to the world of publishing recently after his second unauthorized use of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The issue first came up in June of this year, after the last Super Tuesday of the year when Donald Trump celebrated his victory over the last remaining primaries. Trump’s campaign blasted “We Are the Champions” to commemorate their victory, only it didn’t occur to anyone on Trump’s staff to acquire permissions from Queen first.

Queen’s guitarist Brian May immediately expressed his upset over this, taking to his personal website for a reaction statement. “…permission to use the track was neither sought nor given… Regardless of our views on Mr Trump’s platform, it has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s team did not see this statement as an unofficial cease-and-desist, as they played the song again this July at the RNC. After Melania Trump’s semi-plagiarized speech, the RNC was a one-two punch of intellectual property theft. Queen took to Twitter shortly after the broadcast to follow-up that Trump’s campaign had, again, failed to request permission to use the song.

This month, Queen’s publishing company Sony/ATV Music Publishing announced a formal statement regarding the Trump campaign’s use of “We Are the Champions:”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing has never been asked by Mr. Trump, the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization for permission to use “We are the Champions” by Queen. On behalf of the band, we are frustrated by the repeated unauthorized use of the song after a previous request to desist, which has obviously been ignored by Mr. Trump and his campaign.

Queen does not want its music associated with any mainstream or political debate in any country. Nor does Queen want “We are the Champions” to be used as an endorsement of Mr. Trump and the political views of the Republican Party. We trust, hope and expect that Mr. Trump and his campaign will respect these wishes moving forward.”

Apple’s proposition to set a concrete, per-stream royalty rate could revolutionize songwriters’ relationship with streaming.

The battle between songwriters and streaming services has been around since the latter’s inception, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be easing up anytime soon. In the wake of the United States Department of Justice ruling for 100 percent licensing, songwriters and publishers alike are not satisfied with the DoJ’s perceived favoritism of streaming services. However, Apple has put an initiative into place that might change streaming payouts in favor of the songwriter.

In a proposal made by Apple, in conjunction with the Copyright Royalty Board, streaming services should pay 9.1 cents in songwriting royalties for every 100 times a song is played. While that only results in a payout of $0.0091 per stream, having a standard rate of streaming could mean more transparency between streaming services and songwriters.

“An interactive stream has an inherent value,” Apple wrote in their proposal, “regardless of the business model a service provider chooses.”

The need for the DoJ, streaming services, and songwriters to come together is ever-present in the increasingly streaming-friendly world. The general consensus seems to be at “freemium” streaming services like Spotify need to change their subscription models in favor of making more money for the songwriters. While this Apple proposition isn’t exactly giving songwriters what they’re asking for (and doesn’t necessarily favor its competitors’ pricing models), it’s a direct attempt to eradicate freemium streaming, and it looks like it may be a step in the right direction towards more harmony between artists and the streaming services that pay them.

For more information on TuneCore Publishing Administration, click here.


TuneCore Sync Placements Q1 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 Perfect Match
The Perfect Match
Song Title: “Hopes Up (feat. Na’el Shehade & Via Rosa)”
Writers: Nael Shehade, Rosa Lluvia, David Medeiros
Artist: Drama Duo

MLB The Show 16
MLB 16: The Show (video game)
Song Title: “Burial Ground”
Writer: Scott Woodruff
Artist: Stick Figure

Song Title: “Out da Ghetto”
Writer: David Wade
Artist: 2wop

Grey's Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy
Song Title: “Boom”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

The Good Wife
The Good Wife
Song Title: “Scary Woman”
Writer: Xavier Dphrepaulezz
Artist: Fantastic Negrito

Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow
Song Title: “Swallow Tail Jig”
Writer: Andrew Driscoll
Artist: Swallow Tail Jig

The Vampire Diaries
The Vampire Diaries
Song Title: “An Honest Man”
Writer: Xavier Dphrepaulezz
Artist: Fantastic Negrito

Song Title: “Fire”
Writers: Eric Michels, Steve Michels, Seth Dunshee, and Jonathan Tanner
Artist: Foreign Figures

ESPN First Take
ESPN First Take
Song Title: “Play to Win”
Writer: Alexander Robinson
Artist: Nametag & Nameless

Interview: Foreign Figures on New Album, Sync Licensing, and More

Four-piece Foreign Figures stem from the lesser known city of Orem, Utah. They’ve got a natural ability to bring listeners a true arena pop-rock vibe to their songs within seconds of pressing play, such that it’s hard to believe the band is only a couple of years old!

Foreign Figures released their debut full length album, Paradigm, on Friday, April 1, and as TuneCore Publishing Administration clients, we were able to secure their song “Fire” on the hit series Younger.

As the group continues to accelerate past local and regional markets, bassist Seth Dunshee was kind enough to talk about their beginnings, the new album and how it represents the massive shift towards an independent band really going all-in and full-time, (and everything that comes with that) as well as Foreign Figures’ recent sync placement.

How did Foreign Figures come to be as a band?

Seth Dunshee: Eric [Michels], our singer, and Steve [Michels], our drummer are brothers, so they began writing together while in high school. Steve and Eric put out an EP together in 2010, and I met them soon afterwards through a mutual friend. We jammed for a couple months, but, Eric soon decided to volunteer for a 2 year mission for his church.

During that that me and Steve continued to jam and write casually, but mostly did acoustic covers at weddings and parties. When Eric returned in late 2013, we decided to form a band and record some songs together. I knew a great engineer and producer named Jonny [Tanner], and we soon went into his home studio to record our first song together. It didn’t take long for us to ask Jonny to join the band as a guitarist.

How do you feel the collective music experience of each member has played a role in developing your sound?

Foreign Figures’ sound is truly a collaborative effort. Each band member is a strong songwriter and vocalist, and our musical influences differ enough to spark extra creativity when writing.

Jonny comes from a metal/rock background, whereas I’m more into R&B and funk – a big fan of M.J. and Justin Timberlake. Steve loves dance/pop music, and Eric likes indie/rock pop a bit more. While we all like different genres, we can all agree on a few bands, namely Coldplay and Imagine Dragons. When we write, it’s typically a synergetic experience, but of course, is not without lots of bickering and disagreements. I think that makes us stronger songwriters, though.

Clue us into what the music scene around Orem, Utah is like. What do you think are some of the advantages of forming in a lesser known music city?

Not being from LA, Nashville, New York, or Austin definitely makes it a bit easier to be noticed on a local level, just for lack of saturation. Networking with the music industry is definitely a bit harder though. Orem is extremely close to Provo, where bands like Neon Trees, The Used, and Imagine Dragons have come out of.

Provo has an awesome and very loyal music scene with a lot of talented artists. A lot of our fans will call us a “Provo Band”, since Orem and Provo are sister cities and we play there often.

TuneCore landed “Fire” on Younger in February. How does it feel to achieve a sync placement just a year and a half into your career as a band?

It feels really awesome. We have really loved working with TuneCore, and were especially excited that “Fire” was used in a scene where a guy proposes to Hilary Duff’s character, (laughs). As a musician, it’s nice to know that you can make money without having to play a show, (although playing live is our favorite), so we were very excited about the placement.

How has the placement impacted interest outside of your established fan base?

I think it has legitimized us in the eyes of a lot of fans. To see a band that you’re a fan of on TV is an exciting thing, more so when it’s something that’s somewhat relevant on television.

In terms of outside our established fan base, we got a good deal of traction from people who follow Younger that found us from that scene. Pretty sweet.

In general, what are your thoughts on how independent artists lean on licensing as a source of revenue and exposure in 2016?

We always talk about focusing on making money “while we are sleeping”, which is such a rarity for a band trying to break out of a local market.

Given the current industry and the low payout for digital streaming and downloads, learning to make money through licensing is a must. That being said, we aren’t specifically writing with hopes to land sync deals, but it is a goal of ours to be able to get a certain amount of exposure and income from that area.

Collectively, how would you describe your understanding of the world of music publishing administration?

I feel like when it comes to educating yourself about the moving parts of the music industry, it’s easy for bands to just assume that a label or manager will come around that will make the tough decisions for them and get educated.

For us, we have really tried to run our band as a business, and that means doing our best to be in the know. We try and learn something new everyday. If I were to describe our current “understanding” of the world of music publishing administration, I would say that we have a base understanding of how things work with a desire to learn and network as much as possible.

Especially with this new album – there are so many songs that I feel would be so awesome as part of a movie trailer TV show, etc. It’s pretty anthemic and, at times, cinematic. As we grow, we are excited to work with royalties more as well and actually start to make some money there.

How do you think indie artists can better educate themselves in this area of collecting songwriter royalties?

Perhaps the best way to educate ourselves is to try and learn as much as you can on your own. Every artist has a team – whether that’s a legitimate management company, or a mom and a dad. I feel that indie artists will only gain from trying to learn about it themselves instead of simply trusting someone else to do it for them.

You can’t do everything on your own, but part of the excitement behind success in the music industry is knowing that you, (at least somewhat), knew what you were doing, (laughs).

Tell us more about your debut full length, Paradigm. Where are you guys coming from on this album?

Paradigm is basically the battle that took place for us personally as we decided to make Foreign Figures a reality. Bridging the gaps between, “Hey, we’re pretty good…” and, “Let’s do this for our full time jobs…” and,  “Hey (wife) I’m quitting my job to be a bass player in my band…” is definitely an anxiety ridden journey.

Lyrically, Paradigm confronts the uncomfortable emotions of knowing that you want to do music full time, and even feeling that you should do it full time, and then making that happen. Giving up grad school, comfortable careers, and supporting wives and families while deciding to do music full time is a scary thing, but so worth it.

Paradigm is the shift of vision that we had that went from unsure but hopeful, to confident and hopeful. Musically, the album has a “battle born” concept. It’s got some very anthemic moments, and a lot of emotional moments, all within what we’ve found to be our sound. We are so excited for this new album.

What are some of the benefits of having an ‘in-house’ producer playing in the band?

The most obvious benefit is the money we’ve saved – Jonny [Tanner, guitarist] has put in probably 2,500 hours of mixing, editing, mastering. And on top of that, all the production and writing sessions that we had as a band. He is so awesome – he never asked us to pay him anything extra.

He knows we all do things to push Foreign Figures forward, and his engineering and production skills are, in his words, “just part of his contribution to the band.” Besides the financial savings, being able to take time on songs and try things has been super cool.

It sucks to rush art, so it was nice to feel creative freedom. On the other end, it’s been a LOT MORE work than what a band that outsources all of the mixing, editing, mastering. One thing for sure, Jonny is the man. We’re super grateful for him.

What other plans do you guys have for 2016 in terms of promoting Paradigm and continuing to build a fan base?

2016 is our first year as a full-time band, and with the release of Paradigm we will get our first tour of national touring. So far we’ve got a few regional tours planned, and weeklong tour of the midwest as we head to Nashville this May. Our goal is to tour/gig like we’re unstoppable.

Of course, we know that just booking random shows in cities where people don’t know about us isn’t the smartest decision, so we are being strategic and working with a few people in the ways of marketing and PR to maximize dates we play outside of our home region.

Another goal of this year is to really get networked with industry people – so far all of our connections have been organic, but we are connecting a few dots within the industry.  We will also be releasing a few other music videos throughout the next year and a half of so. We are very excited to keep working hard to connect with people through our music.

February Songwriter News

By Dwight Brown

The music industry is moving along and songwriters and artists are making it happen.  

Finally the “Happy Birthday” song controversy is over. A top songwriter, unhappy with a royalty streaming check, gets active. Spotify fights back against a class-action lawsuit. A who’s who of songwriter activists gather at the California Copyright Conference to get the word out.

There’s a lot going on for songwriters and music publishing. It’s a lot to digest.

‘Happy Birthday’ boldly takes steps into Public Domain Land

Indie filmmaker Jennifer Nelson has beaten Goliath. She filed a class action suit against Warner/Chappell for charging her a $1,500 license fee for using “Happy Birthday” in a documentary she was making about the song. According to Hollywood Reporter, “music publisher Warner will pay $14 million to end a lawsuit challenging its hold on the English language’s most popular song.” U.S. District Judge George H. King determined Warner and its predecessor didn’t hold any valid copyright to the song and never acquired the rights to the “Happy Birthday” lyrics.

Warner avoids fines for collecting licensing money for many decades. Around $4.62m of the $14m goes to the plaintiffs’ attorneys. The rest goes to those who licensed “Happy Birthday” and meet the definition of the proposed class. King stopped short of declaring the song was in the public domain. However, Warner will not stand in the way of a judge doing so. “How old are you now?  How old are you now?”

Indie songwriter shocked into action over tiny royalty check

Indie-rock singer-songwriter Michelle Lewis was elated when her song “Wings” had nearly three million streams on Spotify. Not so happy when she got her royalty check. Lewis: “It was for seventeen dollars and seventy-two cents.”

Lewis and writing partner Kay Hanely sought advice from L.A. music lawyer Dina LaPolt, who specializes in songwriter issues. Their voyage of discovery and songwriter rights are chronicled in a very detailed New Yorker article, “Will Streaming Music Kill Songwriting?”

The article points out historical milestones:

  1. The Copyright Act of 1909
  2. The 1920s/’30s when broadcast radio’ s performance royalties were significant.
  3. 1941 when the Justice Department’s Consent Decree allowed Performing-Rights Organizations (collecting societies) to process the licensing fees for songwriters,
  4. The now outdated Copyright Act of 1976.

LaPolt makes some key points:

  1. Unless music-licensing system is overhauled, the songwriting profession will die.
  2. Members of the profession need a bargaining leverage (e.g. a union).
  3. Songwriters have to become activists.

LaPolt, Lewis, and hundreds of songwriters joined Songwriters of North America (SONA).  

Spotify dukes it out with a class-action lawsuit

Spotify responded to a lawsuit filed in December by Camper Van Beethoven and Camper front man David Lowery, who seeks $150 million in damages from the streaming service over alleged willful copyright infringement. Lowery’s suit arrived on Spotify’s doorstep just days after the company announced plans for a new publishing database designed to alleviate royalty payment issues.

In the Billboard article, Spotify raises questions and states the difficulties they face:

Q: What do you do when multiple songs have the same name?

S: Just having the title “Hello” is not enough to determine if it is by Adele, Lionel Richie, Evanescence or Ice Cube.

Q: How do you define the members of the proposed class?

S: Not administratively feasible for a catalog of 30 million-plus songs.

While Spotify spars with the lawsuit, Billboard sources say another class action suit is in the planning stages. Stay tuned.

Grassroots Advocacy Panel speaks out at California Copyright Conference

According to Chris Castle at Music Tech Policy, the activists at the #irespectmusic Grassroots Advocacy Panel at the California Copyright Conference had one thing in common: “All of their stories are inspiring examples of individual action. Blake Morgan took on Pandora and Big Radio and founded the #irespectmusic campaign. Karoline Kramer Gould joined Blake in supporting the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act and became an inspiration to all of us. Adam Dorn started SONA out of spontaneous meetings with songwriters who were confounded by the state of the industry. And David Lowery [involved in Spotify class action suit] started writing the Trichordist blog as a cathartic blog that has inspired thousands and is widely read.”

The activists came together to tell their personal stories. Inspiration turned to advocacy as they actively recruited. Follow them on Twitter through the #irespectmusic‬‬‬‬ and @theblakemorgan, @radioclevekkg @davidclowery @moceanworker and @musictechpolicy. Each is involved in a campaign for the fair treatment of all creators.

Artists and songwriters prove you can’t stop progress. A filmmaker topples a corporate giant’s royalty reign. Advocates fight for fair pay. All are making a difference in 2016. It’s a good time to have TuneCore Music Publishing Administration in your corner.


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TuneCore Sync Placements in Q4 2015

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:

Fuller House

Fuller House (Promos)
Song Title: “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)”
Writer: Timothy Mingo
Artist: Silentó

Tuesday Night Comedy - FOX
Fox Tuesday Line-Up (Promos)
Song Title: “The Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

YouTube Rewind 2015
YouTube Rewind 2015
Song Title: “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)”
Writer: Timothy Mingo
Artist: Silentó

Black-ish Drive Slow
Song Title: “Drive Slow”
Writer: Leonard Harris
Artist: Kanye West

Criminal Minds
Criminal Minds
Song Title: “Ghosts In Control”
Writer: Braden Palmer
Artist: Detuned Kytes

The Leftovers Season 2
The Leftovers
Song Title: Multiple songs
Writers: Michael Silverman, Robert Silverman

hawaii five 0
Hawaii Five-O
Song Title: “The Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight

Minority Report TV show
Minority Report
Song Title: “Just Obey”
Writer: Ryan O’Toole
Artist: Amateur Blonde

Desigual Christmas Campaign 2015
Song Title: “The Wild Life”
Writer: Carlos Sosa
Artist: Outasight