How to License Your Music

Source: Aaron Davison,

Licensing Your Music In TV and  Films

My name is Aaron Davison. I’ve been writing songs for over fifteen years. I attended Berklee College of Music in the mid 1990’s where I majored in Songwriting and studied with some of the world’s most renowned Songwriting Professors, including both Pat Pattison and Jack Perricone. It was during my time at Berklee that I was first introduced to the concept of writing songs for film and television as a career. Although at the time I was mildly intrigued by the possibility of this career path, it wasn’t until eight years later that I decided to seriously entertain the idea. At this point I had played in a variety of bands and had still yet to achieve my elusive goal of becoming a rock star.  

One day while surfing the Internet I came across an article about a Berklee Alum who made a living, in part, writing songs for Film and Television.  This article inspired me for the first time to make a serious effort to pursue the craft of writing music for Film and Television.  I realized that during all the time I had spent chasing my dreams of rock and roll stardom, I had passed over many more attainable goals that could have helped me make a living doing what I love to do most, playing music. I also realized that accomplishing these goals would probably actually get me closer to where I wanted to be.  Within six months of reading that article I had signed my first licensing deal with a publisher and about four weeks after that I had my first song placed in a major network TV show.


How You Get Paid When You License Your Music
For television shows, each time a song is used on air a performance royalty is generated.  The royalty amount varies based on a number of factors including the length of the segment as well as how prominently it is used.  Each performance generates both a writer’s and publisher’s royalty.  If you work with a music publisher you both essentially get half of the entire royalty.  If you are able to place the music without the aid of a publisher you retain both the writer’s share and publisher’s share of the performance royalty.

Again, the amount varies, but to give you an example the first song I had placed was in a scene that lasted about :55 seconds on a daytime drama in 2002.  The royalty check I received for the placement was over $800.00!  This was in addition to a $500.00 licensing fee that I received from the television show that the song was used on. Not bad for less than a minute of airtime. 

Why Most Musicians Don’t Earn An Adequate Living From Their Music
Most musicians I know are shooting in the dark with their careers.  They are waiting for some sort of elusive success that will probably NEVER come.  I’m not saying this to scare you or to alarm you.  I’m saying this because it’s true.  Unless you have an AMAZING manager or are VERY VERY lucky, the odds are simply stacked against you. There are MILLIONS of other bands and artists that are trying to break into the music business as well.  But the good news is that MOST of the competition will not take the necessary steps to succeed.  This is good news for YOU! You can set yourself apart by educating yourself and taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY for your own career.

What’s the solution?
You HAVE to learn how to take matters into your own hands.  Just writing a great song doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to make any money from it or that anyone will ever hear it!!


You can’t sit around and wait for someone to discover you!  It’s NOT going to happen. Really, it’s not.  The odds about the same as winning the lottery.  Have you ever won the lottery?  Well I haven’t either! However, the good news is YOU CAN succeed if you take FULL RESPONSIBILITY for your music career.

Record sales have been declining for several years now but the licensing and publishing aspect of the music industry has never been stronger.

The Music Licensing industry alone is a 20 BILLION dollar a year market

These days there are endless opportunities to provide your music as background music for various mediums.  From TV shows to movies to websites and video games, independent music is everywhere.  The music industry, like all industries, is constantly changing and evolving. 

To survive, and eventually thrive, it’s imperative that you stay abreast of the where the music industry is headed and stay on top of where the demand is for your music. Making a living as a musician can be an extremely challenging task, to say the lease. I know it was for me for many years.

But, if you’re driven enough and are smart enough about what you’re doing, making a comfortable living is very attainable.

Posted on February 2, 2016 in Music Blog, Music Business, Nonprofit Resources, Recording Studio

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