Adding Other Artists
Commercial Airplay Myths
To DVD or Not
Indie Promo I
Indie Promo 2
Payola Part 2
Payola Part 3
Payola Part 4
Retail & Radio
Videos for Radio
By Scooter Johnson
So you have a band, a CD, a practice space, a
so-so van, a couple of gigs coming up and an internet connection - what next? Convergence.
A dirty word for corporations but a promising term for bands striving to go that extra
mile for exposure and financial independence. The internet is proving itself to be
beneficial to the newest bands and others who recognize that they have to reach far beyond
the city limits to make a go of music as a career.
Your two immediate online needs are a URL or domain name that is representative of band,
preferably www.yourbandname.com with a main email address of firstname.lastname@example.org that is
checked regularly (www.internic.net worldwide
or http://www.cira.ca in Canada, www.yahoo.com). With thousands upon thousands of bands
online, doing searches for indie bands who have lost themselves at the end of a very long
URL - can consider themselves truly lost. Dont make people fight to find you! There
are many sites that allow you set-up your presence for free or for a monthly fee that
includes your own domain name, an email service that allows group emails (ie. regular
newsletter or gig/touring announcements), merchandise sales with e-commerce capabilities
(credit card processing and shipping) and a walk through of all the steps involved in
building your pages (try www.freedomtogroove.com).
After your website our first foray into online money-making was joining mp3.com. It was
relatively easy to upload our music but we're not making any money off it and haven't for
over a year as the cost to be a 'Premium' member per month exceeded what we were
making off plays. It was enough to put back into the band for expenses, posters,
photocopying press kits, printer cartridges, postage, recording, gas money, CD dubbing
Curious on how to market your site, join
mailing lists, book a tour, contact an A&R rep and get the best deal on pressing CD?
Check out many of the dozens of websites put together by your peers (www.indie-music.com is excellent) that contain many
articles, links, resources and directory listings. What you probably will not find is
information on music licensing. Licensing? This is the term applied to the process of
placing music on visual creative projects, such as film soundtracks (film, video,
digital), television programs and advertising campaigns.
As more and more music is being made available online for different uses it is natural for
production people to turn to the internet to find music. Why? Because you can buy anything
on the internet! Savvy bands are spending time on film bulletin boards offering up their
music for soundtrack use, indie labels are offering licensing options on their websites
and composers are banding together and starting their own online write-for-hire agencies.
If you or your bandmates dont have the time, effort or expertise to find soundtrack
opportunities and successfully pitch your music there are avenues for you.
Who to trust?
Im on movie sets a lot and I can tell you how hard it is to approach the music
supervisor or the producer with CD. They may love it or I might lose my job. Not wanting
to jeopardize my finances Ive found a few online companies that specialize in indie
music licensing and are non-exclusive (which means you can join as many as you want - no
exclusive memberships). Before signing with any company remember you are entering into a
business relationship that involves your work and payment for use of that work.
The licensing company should have a legal contract that requires the signatures of the
owners or the authors/composers of the music sent in. If the company is legit they will
want to protect themselves from fraud artists that will send in other peoples music and
profit from it. Also there is the final license contract with the filmmakers or whomever
to peruse - is it for a Master/Sync license? or just a Sync license? (www.ascap.com, www.bmi.com
or www.socan.com can define these terms if you are not
familiar with the industry jargon).
The contract should also state very clearly the fees (monthly? yearly? by the byte?)
involved and how future licensing income will be split between you and them and how often
you will be paid.
Pre-Cleared or Restricted?
Also, ask about whether the tracks are required to be pre-cleared or if you can request
restrictions. Some companies have a standard restriction that reads something like
this track cannot be used on scenes depicting racism, pornography, use of tobacco,
alcohol or drugs. Requesting a restriction will obviously limit the amount of
interest your music garners and ultimately the pay-out. Personally I dont care if a
European sausage company wants to use my music on a television commercial - Im an
indie musician who can barely pay the rent, who is going to blame me for taking the money?
Ill take that money and invest it in my bands future.
Where to start?
Start where you begin all your other research - on your favorite search engine (www.google.com is huge). If you want to go the total DIY
personal route based on your location, use your city name and keywords like film
production, indie movies, production companies, music
wanted, etc. Most cities and provinces have film associations and unions that keep
track of local shoots and list them on their websites with contact information. Be
prepared to be your own sales agent - you will have to send each of the interested parties
a pitch package (some require two - one for the director and one for the music
supervisor), diligently follow-up, negotiate your terms and if needed, hire a lawyer to
proof your contract.
If you are willing to let go of a lot of control, a full-service online licensing agency
like Realia Music Inc. (www.realiamusic.com) may
be worth looking into. One of the larger agencies online, their online catalogue consists
of indie music from around the world and its pre-cleared and priced by a sliding
scale that caps at $5,000/world-wide usage. They have restrictions available but only a
special case basis (pre-existing contracts between musicians and other parties - I asked)
and provide a one-stop service for people who have limited budgets, tight schedules and
credit cards. They have a one-time $5 membership fee and a $1/song submission fee, 50/50
license split and a $2/song shipping fee for songs licensed. Your songs are represented
for as long as you wish and if you get an exclusive deal with a publishing company or
label, they promise they will remove your songs within 24 hours.
If you have a good idea of what your music is worth and prefer to wrangle your deals
yourself try SongCatalog Inc. (www.songcatalog.com).
Their system provides a virtual middleman for your negotiations. You submit as many tracks
as you wish for placement in their online Active List or in the
Vault and pay per track. Fees are billed monthly and start at $4.95 for up to
25 audio files stored in the Vault and $9.95 for up to 25 songs featured on
the Exchange (site search engine) and increase by smaller increments every
50/100/200 songs registered. There are different levels of search capabilities that have a
separate fee rate but you can check out there website for more details. People who wish to
license music register at no cost, browse the catalogue and when a suitable track is
located, they send an email - through the website - to the owner who then responds.
Dialogue and negotiations ensue and you are ultimately responsible for finalizing your
I would advise to check out the smaller companies, they appear to have more staying power
than the large online music companies (licensemusic.com - one of the first and definitely
the largest - shut down business abruptly months ago and is currently being auctioned off
on the internet through a bankruptcy trustee). Many have forayed into licensing but the
complicated traditional licensing system (long protracted negotiations, complicated
territorial and usage structures, clearances, exorbitant fees, favored nations, and
script/scene approval) has not translated well online. There was no immediacy, no click
through satisfaction that everyone has come to expect from the web. Once the costs of
software development, technical support, hosting fees and high-priced management were
factored in the license fees were unaffordable and potential buyers were back in the
nightclubs chatting up bands after their sets.
Online there is a market for indie music even if the band has broken up, doesn't tour, is
brand new or not commercially friendly, and it requires hardly any work on behalf of the
band. You fill in an application, get the appropriate signatures, mail it in and wait for
the money to arrive. It is the agencys business to market their catalogue, customer
services and bring the buyers in.
With record labels setting their standards higher and higher for new signings, showing up
with a portfolio of licensed tracks in your package just might be the wedge you need to
get in the door. It really doesnt matter where the track was used or for what
product, the fact that your music can be sold for hard cash is the attractive quality they
are looking for.
Always remember to be realistic with your expectations and tell everybody that you have a
licensing agency (it does sound impressive and looks even better on your bio).
There are hundreds of thousands of bands in the world with at least one album under their
belts. Thats a lot of competition for the same dollar. Its also unlikely that
directors Steven Spielberg or Kevin Smith are cruising these sites for music for their
next big project - they have budgets that afford them just about any song they want. As an
indie musician with an indie agency, your music will be marketed to projects without a
great deal of exposure attached to them. Focus will usually be on the catalogue not the
individual bands, there are fees and it is a relatively new industry - it may take years
for it to take off and compete with traditional process.
But dont despair, it only takes one new digital filmmaker with a vision and a few
thousand dollars to help pay off the band van or press those extra 500 cds.
Its a cheap and viable new way to get your music heard by a larger and potentially
lucrative audience and thats what you want. Isnt it?
Article by Scooter Johnson
© Oct. 2002
Photography by Suzanne Goodwin
(all fees referenced are in Canadian dollars)
Bio: Scooter Johnson started his illustrious career in the entertainment industry by
studying the cello in elementary school, soon dropping the cello in favour of the far more
romantic (and simpler) instrument - the gut-bucket bass. As the premier
bucket-master in Canada he spent 5 years touring the country with his
Hillbilly band The Hard Rock Miners and has created 5 internationally distributed albums
with his psychobilly band The Deadcats. Living in Vancouver (Hollywood North) also
afforded him the opportunity to engage in the business of acting. A regular (background
performer) on the Chris Isaak show and having worked in films and TV with such luminaries
as Sly Stallone, Greg BJ and the Bear Evigan, Isabella Rosellini,
and musicians Paul Stanley, Thomas Dolby, Stuart Copeland, and Sheila E (amongst many
others); his search for fame and immortality has almost been concluded and it is time to
pass on his knowledge to the next generation of seekers after the flame.