Song Placement in TV/Film. A Primer for songwriters.By Don • Category: Songwriting Resources
It’s true some artists feel song placement in movies is “selling out”. But everyone’s idea of selling out is different, and many bands welcome the prospect of licensing songs for movies because it means a steady income, which allows them to continue to create music, tour, and support themselves in the process.
It is important to understand the concept of a music supervisor. This person essentially controls what songs are placed in a TV show, film, or commercial. The majority of projects have a budget allotted for licensing music, and the music supervisor is the one who manages this aspect of the budget. The director of the film project may choose “where” the songs are placed, and what type or mood of music is needed. But they usually defer to a music supervisor to sort and find the songs needed for these crucial and incidental scenes in the project. When these songs are finalized, the music supervisor will “clear” them with the performance rights organizations, like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
At the time of this writing, some of the easiest placements are with reality TV shows – famous for low budgets, usually on cable networks. While I personally have a low tolerance for so-called “reality” television, the good news is these “lower end” song placements often result in larger placements in more reputable projects down the line. As with any venture, networking is important. Once your name is used and you can reliably provide music and build a reputation with these music supervisors, the chances are quite good that you will receive additional placements in the future as they move on to other projects.
One of the positive aspects of music licensing is the general nature of music supervisors. A great majority of them actually resist using songs from major label acts. It makes it easier to license, keeps the cost down, and generally there are less hoops to jump through with an artist that isn’t already working with a publishing company. But don’t be alarmed. These music supervisors usually pay fairly and treat the artists well. It’s in their best interests actually.
You do need to be quick on your feet when dealing with licensing for TV or movies. Often they need music in a matter of days – sometimes hours! Other times in post-production they may find they need an instrumental version of your song, or an extended intro, or some other unique twist to your music. You need to be able to turn this around quickly. If you can, and you reliably deliver your edited or remixed works on a consistent basis, music supervisors and directors will love you. This often results in a prolonged relationship as they work on other projects.
Because the performance rights organizations (ASCAP, SESAC, BMI) will be paying you for your song’s usage in film, it is important these songs, titles, etc be registered immediately with them.
In the past (and even now), it has been common for advances to paid against the royalties. In the future it has been predicted these arrangements will be less common and songwriters will have “gratis” licensing opportunities. This basically means you only get paid the performance royalties – not some advance. In the short term that may mean less money, but the revenues over time will equal thousands of dollars. Do the math: dozens or hundreds of song placements with royalties coming in from all those avenues could mean a comfortable passive income for decades.
There are many sites that specialize in licensing music for film and TV. Each one usually has a daily or weekly list of music genres needed for various film/TV projects.
Here are a few:
According to their website: “Record companies, publishers, and music supervisors call us directly to find new artists and bands to sign. They also call to find hit songs, instrumentals and tracks for TV and film placements.
“We get the request, then give you the exact details about what type of music they’re shopping for. The company requesting the material remains anonymous (for the time being) to protect them from being bombarded with truckloads of unsolicited material.”
Broadjam works closely with film and TV music supervisors, advertisers and other industry professionals to bring music opportunities to you. Explore the projects that need music, and submit your best songs.
Visit Broadjam.com. Also check out their list of Success Stories.
This is a newer venture by Getty Images, the famous image licensing company. According to TechCrunch, “Pump Audio’s catalog of music from 20,000 independent artists can be licensed for the Web, TV, or radio. Customers range from major TV shows like The Colbert Report to advertising agencies and podcasters.”
Visit Pump Audio.
Movies and TV aren’t the only place your songs can be placed. Video game music is another lucrative area – and we’re not just talking rock legends on Rock Band or Guitar Hero. Check out Phil Roberson’s take on composing video game music.