June 23rd, 2011
Last night, at the gorgeous downtown BMI offices, I attended the Women in Music panel Sync It Up! Maximizing Opportunities & Revenue from Music Placement in Film, TV, Advertising & Gaming.
The panelists, ranging from music supervisors, to publishers, to songpluggers, shared tips and details on how to get music placed in Film, TV, ads and video games. The standing room-only event was filled with a wide variety of creatives, and the panelists touched up different approaches to take whether you are an instrumental composer or songwriter. The standout for me was Charlie Feldman, VP of BMI Writer Publisher Relations. His charming personality, sense of humor and wit created a conversational and intimate tone for the event. He also wasn’t shy to use BMI’s “real numbers” in his answers. Hearing those specific references as well as personal anecdotes definitely made this panel come together.
So how do you get your music placed? The magic answer is that there is no one way. Some panelists recommended reaching out to the top music supervisors, others suggesting seeking out the top NYU film students and forming early relationships with them (a la Steven Spielberg and John Williams). Jessica Sobhraf of sirgroovy.com and Rose Adkins of Audio Network Americas also shed light on various online resources that artists and companies use to get music placements and clearances.
There were some across the board lessons though for writers:
1. (And this is something I’m always explaining to my clients. It is so so so important). Get your rights in order. The easier it is for someone to license your song, the more likely they will do it. Unless you have a publishing deal, control your publishing. If you own the master, control the master. Admin deals are great, but get everything in writing. If it’s a co-written song, sign a writers agreement with the other writers so it’s clear what the ownership shares are and the approval process for licenses. You don’t want the licensee to have to track down permissions from a ton of people. Most likely if you’re an emerging artist, as soon as they hit some difficulty, they’ll quickly move on to another song.
2. Online media offers tons of placement opportunities. Between online games to magazines to ads, music placements are increasingly desired in online content. These placements may pay less but they’re usually last minute and a fast turnaround.
3. Public performance pays. If you’re being placed in a television show or movie (apparently internationally distributed films pay BIG public performance royalties, according to Charlie Feldman), you should receive royalties for ever airing of that show or movie. Make sure you are affiliated with a performing rights organization (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC are the major US players) and be sure to keep your compositions registered.
Towards the end of the panel, a songwriter asked about legal fees, that she can’t afford to hire a lawyer for $250 an hour to do these licenses. The panelists responded by saying there were books and forms she could look at to draft her own. I want to add that there are many services and resources that offer licensing services for less than a regular lawyer rate. Part of my practice is music licensing, clearance, and rights administration. I can speak for myself, and I’m sure this applies to many other lawyers and rights clearance professionals, when I say that I completely understand that independent musicians can’t pay massive fees for this type of work. Each case is individual and licensing services can often be arranged at a reduced rate.
Overall, the panel was a definite success! BMI is hosting a series of WIM events this summer, this was the second of the bunch. I’ll be sure to announce future events as I hear of them.