We aren’t all signed to major record labels (which is probably a good thing), and we don’t all have huge media corporations controlling our publishing either. But all bands are still trying to make a living, with or without record deals, and in a post-Napster generation of file sharing, record sales have crashed, and artists need to find other ways to earn income from their music.
Placement of songs in TV shows, Commercials, Video games, and other media outlets has become a crucial part of the music industry over the last decade. A placement on Grey’s Anatomy, an iPod ad, or a Tony Hawk video game can give huge exposure to artists, and be the tipping point to move them from being an unkown, to an uberstar!
But if you are an artist and are unfamiliar with music licensing, you need to take some time to educate yourself before you start signing on the dotted line to give your rights away. US Copyright laws require that three separate licenses need to be cleared before any piece of music is put into any TV show, Commercial, or Film. Those rights are:
Synchronization, Master Use, and Performance rights.
Synchronization (sync) rights come from the music publisher, who gives license to the intellectual property that is your song, while Master Use rights typically are owned or controlled by the record label (unless you’re Ray Charles, and you stick it to the man). The “masters” are the actual recordings of a song. So one song may have several different masters (maybe even from artists other than the original performer).
So a music supervisor would need to get a license from both the Record Label, and the Publisher (which may or may not be affiliated with the Label). Production Music companies like ours exist to make that process easier, so we control “both sides” (which means sync and master) on everything in our music library, so our rates are inclusive of both sync and master.
Whether you use a music placement company, or try to get your songs placed yourself, you will want to register all of your songs with a Performing Rights Organization. The three main PRO’s in the US are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Whichever you choose (we will remain neutral, since we use all three), it will be their job to monitor the public performances (mainly broadcast) of your music, and collect and pay you royalties each time your music hits the airwaves. Matt Hirt wrote a great article about how much money you can make from Film & TV Music, but it can be hard to predict, so don’t buy that new guitar or drum kit until the check is in your hands!
To briefly toot our own horn (can someone please explain that phrase to me?), 5 Alarm Music has a label just for independent artists, so if you want to find out more check out: Rescue Records. And here is great article from Billboard about how DMI Music (our loving parent company) used several different media outlets to boost the career of one of our artists: Kirsten Proffit.