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MUSIC LICENSING  (continued)

If you are willing to let go of a lot of control, a full-service online licensing agency like Realia Music Inc. (realiamusic.com) may be worth looking into. One of the larger agencies online, their catalogue consists of indie music from around the world and it's pre-cleared and priced by a sliding scale that caps at $5,000/world-wide usage. [Note: All fees referenced are in Canadian dollars.] They have restrictions available but only on a special-case basis (for pre-existing contracts between musicians and other parties) and provide a one-stop service for people who have limited budgets, tight schedules, and credit cards. They have a one-time $5 membership fee and a $1/song submission fee, 50/50 license split, and a $2/song shipping fee for songs licensed. Your songs are represented for as long as you wish and if you get an exclusive deal with a publishing company or label, they promise they will remove your songs within 24 hours.

If you have a good idea of what your music is worth and prefer to wrangle your deals yourself try SongCatalog Inc. (songcatalog.com). Their system provides a virtual middleman for your negotiations. Based on the submitting package you choose, you submit your tracks for placement in their online "Active List." Fees are billed yearly based on a 10 song, 25 song, or unlimited song package. More details on the packages and rates are available on their website. People who wish to license music register at no cost, browse the catalogue, and when a suitable track is located they send an email (through the website) to the owner, who then responds. Dialogue and negotiations ensue and you are ultimately responsible for finalizing your deal.

There is a market online for indie music even if the band has broken up, doesn't tour, is brand new or not commercially friendly, and it requires hardly any work on behalf of the band. You fill in an application, get the appropriate signatures, mail it in and wait for the money to arrive. It is the agency's business to market their catalogue, customer services and bring the buyers in. I would advise you to check out the smaller companies, as they appear to have more staying power than the large online music companies (licensemusic.com, one of the first and definitely the largest, shut down business abruptly months ago and is currently being auctioned off on the internet through a bankruptcy trustee).

With record labels setting their standards higher and higher for new signings, showing up with a portfolio of licensed tracks in your package just might be the wedge you need to get in the door. It really doesn't matter where the track was used or for what product, the fact that your music can be sold for hard cash is the attractive quality they are looking for. Tell everybody that you have a "licensing agency." (It does sound impressive and looks even better on your bio.)

But always remember to be realistic with your expectations. There are hundreds of thousands of bands in the world with at least one album under their belts. That's a lot of competition for the same dollar. It's also unlikely that directors like Steven Spielberg or Kevin Smith are cruising these sites for music for their next big project: they have budgets that afford them just about any song they want. As an indie musician with an indie agency, your music will be marketed to projects without a great deal of exposure attached to them. Focus will usually be on the catalogue not the individual bands, there are fees, and it is a relatively new industry. It may take years for it to take off and compete with the traditional process.

But don't despair. It only takes one new digital filmmaker with a vision and a few thousand dollars to help pay off the band van or press those extra 500 CDs. It's a cheap and viable new way to get your music heard by a larger and potentially lucrative audience. And that's what you want. Isn't it?

Scooter Johnson

Scooter Johnson plays bass
with the Canadian psychobilly
sensation The Deadcats.

Photo of the author
playing a
flaming washtub bass.

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