Music Industry Advice: Licensing for a Living

Music Industry Advice: Licensing for a Living

Music Industry Advice: Licensing for a Living Jason BlumeJASON BLUME

Jason Blume is the author of Six Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting and Inside Songwriting. His songs grace albums that have sold over 50 million copies, and many have been licensed by hit TV shows, including PBS Frontline’s “Whatever Happened to Childhood,” which garnered Blume an Emmy Award. He developed and teaches the BMI Nashville Songwriters Workshop and has presented master classes at Sir Paul McCartney’s Institute for Performing Arts in Liverpool, England, and throughout the world.

Do you recall your first song placement?
I’ll never forget it. My co-writing partner and I had a friend who was affiliated with the TV show Fame. So, we tried to write songs for it but they were always rejected. When we watched the show we noticed that the songs were different from what we were doing. That’s when I learned you shouldn’t hit the nail too squarely on the head.

What do you mean by that?
You have to say things in a new and fresh way. For example, I was asked to write a song for a movie with the message “As long as I believe in myself...” But using that phrase would have been too perfect. So, I wrote, “If I wasn’t meant to fly, I wouldn’t have these wings.” That song got a “featured use” placement in the end credits.

How do you secure placements?
I go to film festivals and workshops to meet music supervisors. But mostly my publisher pitches my songs and I use music libraries. One song, “Show Me The Honey,” has been licensed 20 times, probably because of the unusual title.

How did you attract a publisher?
It took me over 10 years to get a publishing deal. I got it because I co-wrote a hit with someone who already had a deal. If any artist is looking for a publisher who specializes in placements make sure they have a film and TV department.

Do your placements generate a decent income?
It depends on the usage and how popular the production is. I have some placements that generate income on a regular basis. Then there are others that don’t do very much. I haven’t had much luck with MTV. As a cable network their sync frees are low or non-existent and my performance royalties for MTV placements range from 2 cents to 11 cents.

You mentioned an issue that most people don’t realize about sound recordings.
Yes, it involves interest in the sound record- ing, which is an important license granted in a placement. If you hire players to record your song, they might have an interest in the recording unless they sign a “Work Made for Hire” that includes an “Assignment of Rights.” In fact, some music supervisors ask to see the waiver they signed. The problem is that musicians know this and will sometimes ask for extra money to sign off.

Final advice?
Artists need to look at their career like a business and treat it like one. If they can do that, they might make a living doing what they love. I love knowing my music is being heard. And, I especially like being compensated for it.

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