How to License Music in 5 Steps

May 3, 2022

As an independent musician and home producer, it’s important that you license your music to protect your intellectual property. It’s also a great way to create a passive income stream and make money off your talent. Here’s how to license music through sync licensing.

What is a music license?

Also called a synchronisation license, this is a license that allows other people to use your music in a visual medium for a fee. They could use it in an advertisement, film, TV show, YouTube video, or video game, and you’d get paid for allowing them to do so. A music license usually gives someone the right to use your music for a set period of time, and you can even restrict how the music is used in some cases. You get two main types of synch licenses:

  • Exclusive – This is when you give one party the right to use your song. They’re the only one’s allowed to use it, so both you and the party you signed the deal with cannot let other parties use it.
  • Non-exclusive – Here, an unlimited number of parties can use your music. All parties have to agree to the terms, and it only works where there are no parties that want exclusive use.

The great thing about licensing your music is that you retain the rights to your songs. When it’s done right, your music is still yours, even if you sign an exclusive deal. 

How much can I earn?

Earnings from licensing your music depend on a huge range of factors. The most important to consider are:

  • How big the project is – For example, a small-budget local film will usually pay much less than a Hollywood blockbuster.
  • The scope of the projectIf your song or music is used in a TV show that runs for years you will earn much more than you would for a once-off, short-term show.
  • The type of dealDepending on how many parties want to use your music, you may earn more from a non-exclusive deal than an exclusive deal.
  • How the song is usedThe more prominent the song or music is in the project, the more you will earn.
  • How many people created the songThe more people involved in the creation of the song, the more ways the fee must be split.


Licensing music in the UK

So, you’re ready to get your music out there and earn some money – what should you do?

Step 1:  Approach music licensing companies

In the UK, there are two bodies responsible for licensing music. PRS For Music collects fees for around 150,000 songwriters, composers, and publishers, while PPL represents over 120,000 record labels, musicians, and performers. You can join either of these companies for a fee and they will store your music in a library that film makers, videogame makers, and others use to source music for their projects. They will also ensure that you get your royalties and that your music earns royalties if it is used in shops and small businesses too. If your music gets selected, you’ll be sent a license or quote request for you to sign off on. When it gets used in any media, you’ll be paid a synch fee (also called an advanced fees) and royalties.

Step 2:  Network with Music Supervisors

These are the people who source and select music for TV shows, commercials, movies, and videogames. Most music supervisors will go straight to music licensing companies, but you can also network with them directly. You’ll need to use any industry connections you have to chat to their assistants and get into a position where they are willing and able to hear your music. If your music is selected and used, you’ll get paid according to whatever agreement you sign with them. Because project budgets are highly variable, let them pitch you a fee rather than going in with one in mind.

Step 3:  Get in touch with independent and local filmmakers

Big budget films are very difficult to get into, but at the same time, local and indie filmmakers often struggle to find artists and music for their projects. This is a great way for the two industries to work together to help each other grow. Whether it’s a small local film, a passion project, or new filmmakers looking to break into the scene, you can get your music out there by selling a license to your existing music or even creating custom music for their project.

Step 4:  Get represented by a synch licensing agent

This is a bit like an agent for actors, but they’re there to pitch your music rather than pitching a person. They usually have great connections with music supervisors, indie film groups, advertising agencies, and other professionals who look for music on a regular basis, and they can save you a lot of time by approaching them directly when they think a project is perfect for your talents. Usually, they’ll be paid a percentage of your fee or a set fee, and you get the rest.

Step 5:  DIY

Of course, this is the age of DIY and, thanks to the internet, it’s possible to license your own music. While it’s an easy process to set up, it’s difficult to get the traction that a synch licensing agent or music licensing company has. The best thing to do is to set up your official website and make your tracks available for listening on the site. Then, have a contact form so that music supervisors, filmmakers, and other people can get in touch with you about using your music. You’ll also have to draw up contracts, negotiate your fee, and manage your music yourself.

How to get your songs ready to earn

For you to make money by licensing your music, you have to be able to offer tracks that are exceptionally high quality. Anything less than a professionally produced track just won’t be able to compete with what’s out there and won’t be usable in the project either. Even for home producers, it’s worth it to book studio time and lay down a high-quality version of your track.

A great studio is not only soundproof and designed to capture your acoustics perfectly, but also provides specialist expertise in the form of sound engineers and producers working on professional recording and mixing equipment.

At Kore Studios in London, we’re all about the music – and that means creating a space where great music can be made. With comfortable studios that are fully equipped (including a 32 channel API console) and professionally soundproofed as well as a team of talented sound engineers and producers, we’ll help you hone your sound so that it’s ready for use in productions. We’ve worked with Amy Winehouse, Kasabian, Ellie Goulding, and White Lies – and we’re ready to work with you. Chat to us today about our rates and services.