Top 10 Tips for Music Creators Who Want To Get Their Music Licensed by R. Michael Thomas

R. Michael Thomas_Jacket
R. Michael Thomas, Music Supervisor

10. Make your music easy to find! A lot of sites these days offer you the ability to TAG or META TAG or KEYWORD your music/presence on their respective sites (SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.). Use this seriously. It makes your music easier to find. For example, as a music supervisor, I deal a lot in “sound alike” searches. For example: A director says, “I need a song that sounds like Frank Ocean’s ‘Super Rich Kids,’ what can you suggest?” It’s so much easier to go to a site like Bandcamp, hit the KEYWORD/TAG “Frank Ocean,” and your music pops up. Which leads to the next tip….

9. Have contact information on your websites! If I find a song I like, I often have to move very quickly. What I won’t do is sort through 50 dead links, old Myspace profiles, your mom’s Gmail address, your Twitter bio which only says “#teamjesus #teamfollowback,” etc. Create a central repository for your contact info, like an page (which is free) and can host links to all of your other sites and more. If I can’t contact you, I can’t use your music.

8. Have your team (manager, publicist, cousin who handles your mixtapes) be more professional than you, at minimum! There is nothing worse than dealing with a manager who knows nothing about the music business, or a publicist who sends out misspelled and grammatically incorrect press releases, or a cousin who answers the phone “Yo!” and leaves me wondering whether or not I’ve called my own cousin who does nothing in the music business. Professionalism is key.

7. Be responsive! Music licensing and the film/TV world move very fast usually. We usually have only a day or two to turn around things and send them back to the parties that we are responsible to (music executives at film studios, account managers at ad agencies, sound editors, directors, producers, etc.). For every artist that doesn’t respond quickly, there’s another two to three I can find immediately that will.

6. Keep your expectations realistic! If you are an indie artist with no major label backing, no other major film/TV placements, no real record sales of note (according to Soundscan, not “downloads”), please don’t expect to be getting thousands of dollars, depending on the placement. Budgets are not as high as you think! Keep your expectations realistic, and don’t talk yourself out of some money because you think you’re the next Taylor Swift and your song is worth $40,000. It’s not.

5. Don’t email me individual mp3 tracks! Don’t do this. I immediately delete your music. Take advantage of the millions of options for streaming your music, whether it be via, Dropbox, ReverbNation, etc. It’s far easier for me to stream your music, catalog it and then download it if I want/need to, as opposed to you sending 10 individual emails with one 10mb mp3 attached to each email….work smarter, not harder folks.

4. Don’t send me your mixtapes. I tell you this from the bottom of my heart—most mixtapes are a waste of time, especially if they are mixtapes where you are writing/singing/rapping over someone else’s music that you don’t have the rights to. You may be a great singer, but if you’re singing your “lyrics” over Chris Brown’s “Fine China” instrumental, there is nothing I can do for you. Spend time and money recording and writing original music!

3. Know what you’re pitching for! Take the time to do due diligence and see what my current projects are. If I’m working on a movie that is a period piece based in the 1940’s, but you’re sending me daily emails of your EDM-based Pop songs that sound like the current Top 40, then they are going to the trash.

2. Build Relationships! Take the time to at least attempt to build your network. Referrals go a long way in this business. Go to some events. Get some business cards. Promptly follow up. Don’t pester, but make your presence known. Stay on the radar. Be polite. Be professional. That’ll get your farther than a spam email ever will.

1. Content is King (and Quality is Queen!). Here are the keys the to kingdom: If your music is versatile, fits more than one type of genre and situation, has great lyrics, is all original and has no samples, has a great hook, builds, tells a story, is professionally mixed, mastered, and can go straight to screen from my email inbox, and you have instrumental versions, and clean/radio versions, and has lyrics and contact information embedded in the mp3 ‘comments’ field, has graphics available for an on-screen promo, you know all the writers and splits and the publishers if any that control them, have contact info for any labels that own your master(s), is registered with the performing rights societies (ASCAP, BMI or SESAC), you have a website that is clean, professional and easy to navigate, and you’re ready for radio or a record deal, then 9 out of 10, I will listen to your music, archive it, and refer back to it in the future if it doesn’t necessarily fit for a current opportunity. Matter of fact, send me an email right now!  

R. Michael Thomas is the Principal of Adjacent Media, and an independent music supervisor who has worked on a bevy of film, television and digital projects, including Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls and Why Did I Get Married?, Issa Rae’s (Awkward Black Girls) web series The Choir, The Last Fall , 1982 and more.