A music career is about so much more than just talent and songwriting. It requires save, hustle, and a business mindset. That’s why I wanted to interview one of the top music career coaches out there, Bree Noble.
Bree Noble is more than just a successful musician, she’s helped thousands of musicians learn how to take control of their music careers. Her website is is chock full of great tips for becoming a profitable musician.
She is especially focused on the struggles that female musicians face building, and launching their musical careers.
Her career advice for musicians boils down to this: musicians need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs and act accordingly. Our 20 minute interview offers lots of actionable tips on how every musician can take control of their music business to live a fulfilling, creative life. She also has a fantastic book, The Musician’s Profit Path (affiliate link), that offers even more tips on profiting from your music.
I want to show you my best selling songs and teach you why I think they were successful. So this will be the first in a series of my five best-selling songs for music licensing on Pond Five. I’ll probably do this over the course of a month or so.
So stay tuned every week or two I’ll be putting out another one of these videos where I break down why I think this song is one of the best sellers and hopefully you can learn something from this and apply it to your own attempts to license your music.
Some Thoughts On Why This Track Has Been Licensed So Much
This article is going to be a little more in-depth in that it looks at just one song and why I think it’s the best seller. Another thing I want to add to that is that all of these songs that are my best sellers also happen to be my oldest songs. The songs that I uploaded three or four years ago. So the fact that they’re best sellers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best songs. It just means they’ve been around the longest. But these are the ones that have made me the most money – hundreds of dollars each.
And another thing I want to mention before we actually start listening to the song and break it down is that when I say “song,” I’m often writing a full length song but then making a version of it that’s shorter. And so these are actually the five best selling edits that I have. Some are complete songs. Some are more. Some are loops. Some are short edits.
Genre & Structure are Important for Music Licensing Success
Now we’re going to play this first one what we’re gonna do is we’ll listen to it then I’ll talk you through the points on what I think is good about it and what I think is bad about it now, having another three years of experience.
I think that this song does a really good job of conveying that hard rock. A Black Keys type of vibe, right? Classic Rock! If you’re interested, you can license this great riff rock song here (affiliate link).
From the first note to the very last note, you know exactly what type of song it is. It’s energetic and it’s hard charging and doesn’t try to do anything other than stay within its zone.
So for somebody who is looking for a song in that classic rock zone, this song is a fit, which is really important. Now they just have to determine if they like it and if the format is right.
The second thing is it’s constantly moving and never really repeats itself. It builds up. It goes and it ends and then it has a second ending. Which sort of helpful as well.
The third thing I think is that it’s reasonably well produced. It’s not terrible and it’s not great. It sounds within the genre, at least.
There’s Always Room For Improvement When Selling Stock Music!
But there’s also a couple of things I don’t think it does well. I could mix and master it and record it better, but it was good enough for the time. It’s good enough for licensing.
The next thing I want to say is actually that the standard length for these types of things should be 30 seconds. This song is like twenty four seconds, so I probably shot myself in the foot and missed out on opportunities to license this song because it’s just a little too short. So this song doesn’t fit in there. I didn’t know that at the time. I was just trying to make something shorter.
Music equipment gets expensive really quick – but with these 3 steps, you can save 10-25% (or more) on gear – before apply coupons! These steps will help you save money on musical instruments at Guitar Center, Ebay, Amazon, and more!
The first thing you need to do is turn off your web browser’s Ad blocking software. Simply Google how to do this for your specific browser (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc.)
This may sound complicated, but after you do it once or twice, it is really easy. To help you learn how to save money on music instruments, I’ve added a video summary (at the end) and a flow chart.
Ok, now onto the method.
Raise (affiliate link – you’ll receive $5 off your first order when you sign up through my link!) is a marketplace that allows people to sell their unwanted gift cards. It allows buyers to purchase those gift cards at a discount.
So if you were going to spend $200 at Guitar Center, you’re likely find a gift card to Guitar Center for 6% off. Or $188.
Raise also frequently has promotions that can get you an additional discount. At the time of this writing (around Mother’s Day), they were running a 6% off sale. So 6% off of $188 = $176.72. Then subtract the $5 off you get on your first order for signing up for Raise through my link. Boom!
You just got a $200 piece of music gear for $171.72!!!
Or a ~15% discount!
But wait. There’s more. WAY MORE. You can seriously get some mega discounts on music equipment by combining gift cards with referral sites.
You have probably heard of “affiliate links” – where a retailer (like Guitar Center) pays a website (like this) 5% of the sale price for every referral it makes.
Well some sites – like Ebates (affiliate link that will give you a $10 signup bonus) – will share a portion of their affiliate revenue with you in order to entice you to purchase through their affiliate links.
It’s a total win-win.
They get affiliate revenue they wouldn’t otherwise get, and you get cash back you wouldn’t normally get. This cash back for music gear can add up to you saving some serious money.
Let’s continue our example, but let’s pretend you went to Ebates first (before Raise). You sign up through my link and already get $10 cash back.
Then you search for Raise on Ebates. Right now, Ebates offers 1% cash back on Raise, so when you spent $171.72 on the Guitar Center gift card, you’d get 1% back (I know, it’s not a lot, but these numbers frequently change – and Ebates also frequently has promotions).
So now you’d only spend $170 on the gear.
But then you go back to Ebates, and search for Guitar Center. Currently Ebates is offering 3% off purchases at Guitar Center.
So you go to Guitar Center via Ebate’s link and you purchase the $200 piece of music equipment using the gift card code you got from Raise. Ebates will then give you 3% cash back on your full purchase price! Or $12 back.
link and you purchase the $200 piece of music equipment using the gift card code you got from Raise. Ebates will then give you 3% cash back on your full purchase price! Or $12 back.
So now it’s $170 (for the gift card) – $12 (Ebates) = $158.
And don’t forget the $10 bonus that Ebates gives you for signing up through my link.
gives you for signing up through my link.
At the end of the day, you will have paid just $148 for a $200 piece of gear – a 26% savings on musical instruments!
And that’s how to save money on musical instruments. Plus it doesn’t even account for the fact that Guitar Center coupons often exist too!
I’ve used these money saving techniques to literally save hundreds (maybe thousands) on studio gear. These money saving tips have allowed me to build out my studio faster, with better quality equipment than I’d normally be able to.
Please note that all of these numbers are subject to change, but were accurate as of May 2019.
Hey guys! Hope you’re doing well – Evan here with an update on my music licensing activity for the past few months. It’s been a wild ride. Here’s my earnings reports for my music licensing side hustle on Pond 5 during December of 2018 and February 2019.
Over the years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed that the business is highly cyclical, and this is the time of year when things really whipsaw. People blow their budgets leading up to December, and it takes a few months for things to return to normal. Which is unfortunate, but it’s part of the game.
December 2018 was one of my best months of licensing stock music. I sold $317+ of music on Pond 5, and this result was thanks in large part to having some good holiday music in my catalog. Having holiday music can be a good way to ride the cyclical wave. It was a month of pretty consistent sales, which is always how I prefer to see things go. Surprisingly, I sold some sound effects for big money (like nearly $40!).
If you didn’t know, Pond 5 offers several different types of licenses, with the more expensive licenses offer buyers the ability to use the song/sfx in a larger project or to allow multiple users to access the file. These business licenses can really add up to extra cash. Especially when it’s some sound effect I probably originally had priced at $5.
Unfortunately, February 2019 was a different story. My stock music licensing earnings plummeted in February 2019 – From an incredible $314 in December to a measly $115 in February. Probably my worst month in a couple years.
Well, I have a few theories.
First, we’re still in the slow part of the business cycle, though things should be picking up. Second, and more importantly, I think it’s because, in an experiment, I significantly raised the price of all my songs (basically doubled them). I had a theory that price didn’t matter as much as I thought it did. I was proved wrong. I could let the experiment run a bit longer, but the results were pretty convincing.
However, I also hit my biggest outlier in February – I sold my most expensive song ever. A song with full vocals called it’s a “Brand New Day” sold for $99 on a standard license. So yea, maybe my price theory is only half correct?
I’m not totally sure what to do with the info, but my sense is that MOST buyers on Pond 5 care about price, but they can stretch their budgets a little. I am now trying to keep all my tracks under $29, which seems to be a price that buyers are willing to pay. With $20 as the minimum price on Pond 5, I don’t think most buyers mind spending an extra $9 for a good song. But I think they did baulk at pay $49 for it.
Only time will tell. I didn’t lower my prices until midway through March, so we probably won’t know everything until April. And even then, the business cycle will have picked up.
October 2018 was a pretty good month of music licensing for me. I earned more than $270 on Pond 5 from my music licensing side hustle.
At the beginning of 2018, I took several of my best selling songs off of Pond 5 to put them exclusive on another site. And for most of 2018, I’ve been ignoring Pond 5 to submit songs to exclusive libraries and to upload my existing songs on some other sites (I’ll update you on these pursuits when I have more data to say if it’s worth your while).
So most of 2018 has been slow. But I finally started uploading to Pond 5 again in September, and quickly saw my earnings start to grow again.
Sound effects contributed to my October 2018 music licensing earnings
As you can see, I had one really big day where I earned $60 from three sales. A lot of days where I sold a couple of songs. And then there’s a bunch of small days where I was selling sound effects (I also sold them on big days).
I’ve now earned hundreds of dollars from selling sound effects. And while it’s not as fulfilling as selling songs, it really adds up. Click below for my quick guide to selling sound effects online.
While my 2018 earnings have been worse than 2017, I the clear reasons why. So I think things are still going strong on Pond 5, but you’ve got to keep your catalog growing to account for changing tastes and a growing music library. As I start uploading to Pond 5 again, I imagine the my earnings will hit new peaks in 2019.
Today I want to talk about my 2018 first quarter BMI royalty payments. But let's begin in the recent past... in the 3rd quarter of the year I made about eighteen hundred dollars, off of mostly one song which was played in Romania.
I don't know the source or anything like that. I just get a check from Romania. Awesome.
The 4th quarter of 2018 I got about 200 bucks from that Romania thing and another song of mine had been included on a show on the outdoor network it is. And so they had played that a few times and so I got like five or six bucks from that.
Now in the 1st quarter of 2018 I've got some really exciting news for you.... So drum roll please.
I made seven dollars in 19 cents from my royalties.
Seven dollars and 19 cents.
And to be honest I'm totally OK with that, because I can't control how people are going to be using my music.
I can just keep creating more and more music and putting it out there, and the songs that have made money - well a lot of them I would have never guessed would be the songs that made money and they make money at any time. They could still make money.
Remember my mantra: Romania will broadcast them. Maybe some other country will broadcast them.
Or maybe these maybe songs that I've been putting out since that time will be the ones that go and become popular. I can't know any of this.
I just keep making my music and I'm sure it will get out there and continue to get me paid.
And there's actually a couple of very exciting things about this royalty statement although it's much smaller.
So the first is that that song that was on the outdoor network is still being played. That show is was played again this quarter and I got another five or six bucks, so hopefully they will keep on playing that and that'll sort of be a regular revenue stream for me.
So now that song has been included on a movie that is on Netflix. So I would assume that from now on every quarter I'm going to see you know two or three bucks from that streaming on Netflix. It's called Forbidden Games the Justin Fashanu story.
I guess he was the first openly gay soccer player in England and it's basically a story of his life. And it's really it's a great story but it is rough. He had a very tough life . And I was happy enough that they chose to put my song in it and I could help tell that story.
I would assume for the next couple of years it's going to be there and it will continue to make me some money every quarter every time somebody streams it. The other thing I would say is that if that the movie came out late in last year 2017. So international royalties take a lot longer to make their way to the US. So I'm assuming that there's probably a pretty good payday coming from Britain and maybe from the EU or other countries where soccer is much more popular and more prominent and where people actually know who Justin Fashanu was.
So anyway the main lessons I have here is you don't know what's going to be popular. You don't know when it's going to be popular and you don't have any control over it. So just make the music put it out there and it will find find the right home. Don't be afraid to start. Don't worry that your songs aren't good enough. I do not think the song that literally has earned me more than 2000 dollars in royalties and a couple hundred dollars on Pond 5 from Sync is any good. It's one of my worst, in my opinion. I'm slightly embarrassed by it, but who am I to say?
Today I'm going to be doing a tell you about the two best sites to sell music for beginners. When it comes to licensing music online, there's only two sites that beginners should consider: Pond 5 and/or AudioJungle.
So I've done posts in the past reviewing both Pond 5 and AudioJungle from the perspective of a songwriter looking to sell stock music online
But this post is a little different.
Here, I'm trying to help you figure out sort of what are the actual differences between the two of them. This way you can better allocate your time to making music and spend less time uploading!
The Best Site to Sell Music for Beginners ain't gonna be the same for everyone
The first thing I'm going to say as a preface is there are a lot of other sites out there for selling stock music that could be good for you but this is really tailored to people that are beginning to look into selling stock.
These other sites could be good for established musicians that have a deep catalog of high quality songs, but if you're starting out, please just stick to Pond 5 or AudioJungle.
I think Pond 5 is the better place to start to license stock music, but I think that AudioJungle could also be a good choice for the right person, depending on where you are with your journey and the type of music you enjoy making.
One last thing before we get into which is the best site to sell music for beginners: I don't recommend doing both sites simultaneously (at first).
That's because succeeding on a stock music site requires you to play a different "game" for each marketplace. At first, just focus on learning one marketplace and improving your songs. Once you've mastered those steps, then you can consider branching out.
Differences Between Pond 5 and AudioJungle
So let's start getting into the reviews of the differences between Pond 5 and AudioJungle.
So first things first. Both are free to join. As a poor musician, that's a big plus.
The second thing - and this is super important - is that that both have a large network of buyers and sellers. That means that you're actually going to have a good chance of having your songs sold if they're any good.
I can't tell you how many sites I've joined, wasted hours and hours and hours and hours uploading my songs and then just heard crickets.
The more sales you get, the more information you get about what types of songs you should be making and how they are being received. If you were to get one $500 sale a year from one site, it doesn't tell you nearly as much as getting you know fifty $20 dollar sales on various songs.
Knowing what people like will really can help you grow your business and grow your skills, because you're getting more data points. Both Pond 5 and AudioJungle are pretty equal in terms of activity, but AudioJungle might be slightly more active.
How Much Can You Earn Licensing a Song?
The next thing is how much can you make on each site.
So on Pond 5 it's a very simple system. It's non-exclusive and you get 50% of what they sell your song for. And you can set the price of your tracks anywhere from $20 up to... I don't know if there's a limit. Definitely hundreds of dollars.I've sold plenty of songs for the $60-$80 range.
And then I would've received half of that. Pond 5 also has a few different tiers of licensing in terms of liability protection which those licenses sell for more.
On the other hand AudioJungle is a much more complicated system. All songs are sold for nineteen dollars. (although they also have a tiered licensing system for liability).
If you're non-exclusive you'd get 45% of that $19 dollars. So it's slightly less than Pond 5.
Updated October 2018: Audio Jungle now lets you set your own prices, as well.
However, if you are exclusive with AudioJungle, your commission increases based on the total value of your sales with AudioJungle. So if you've sold like, $50,000 worth of songs then they're only going to be taking a 20% commission. If you're an exclusive author and have have not sold $50,000, then they're going to be taking a 37% commission starting out, but scaling towards 20% based on your sales... or something like that.
Why I think Exclusivity is Bad for New Musicians
So let's just to get into exclusivity for a second. Basically, it means that you grant AudioJungle the exclusive right to license your song for ever. That means they will be the only outlet where you could distribute your song. And if they went out of business then theoretically would never be able to sell your song again.
Orif you get another incredible opportunity, you can't take it. So let's say McDonald's just finds your beat to be incredible, and says I'll give you a hundred million dollars to be able to use it. You can't do it. So you lose all control of your song but you get a higher commission.
And so that's something you need to think about. I have definitely put songs up exclusively. I also have most of my songs nonexclusive. I think if you're starting out, you definitely should err on the side of going nonexclusive, because you can always convert a track to exclusive but you can never go back the other way.
Plus, you don't know what your songs are really worth what they're capable of until you've been doing this for a while. So I think it's kind of good that AudioJungle gives you that option if you know what you're doing. But I also don't urge beginners to take that.
Which Site is Best For Looking to Start Music Licensing?
To be honest, I prefer Pond 5. Especially for a beginner. Over time, as you improve, AudioJungle could become a nice part of your portfolio, too. On the earnings side, I think for beginners especially in the first year or two Pond 5 is definitely the better call because you get slightly more per song in terms of what they charge for the song and then also slightly more in terms of commission.
But over I think over time, if you're really committed to AudioJungle and make that your main platform exclusive, it could be more lucrative because of the sliding scale. But I've been at this three-and-a-half years, working pretty diligently, and I'm just I'm still a little shy of seven thousand dollars of sales (including plenty of sales priced ABOVE $20).
So to really get to where you're going to be making an advantage from that exclusive amount, it would take a long time and a lot of work. So don't just think oh yeah I can get fifty thousand dollars. It's going to take a long time and a lot of work.
What Types of Songs Sell?
What types of songs sell on each site?
Here Pond 5 has a massive advantage. With Pond 5 the ability to get a song approved and upload it quickly is drastically drastically better than AudioJungle.
On the AudioJungle site, the reviewers are ridiculously strict and narrow-minded. AudioJungle it's really like they're looking for a specific kind of pretty-well-produced corporate music. I think is the right word kind of ... Muzak in any genre. They don't want edges. they want it to have very a very specific vibe. And what I would just recommend is to go on to Pond 5 and AudioJungle and looking at like the five best sellers and you'll get what I'm talking about. I would say that the almost all of my songs get rejected from AudioJungle if I'm not trying to write specifically for them. I've even written like a little note to the reviewer being like: "Hey! I've sold 15 copies of this song on Pond 5. You should let it in because it sells!" And then they don't let it.
On Pond 5, their main criteria for disproving a song would be either it's just really bad quality (like really really bad) or that it's just a saturated genre that they already have or that it's infringing on copyright or something like that. But basically as long as your song sounds ok, in terms of quality, and it doesn't really matter too much about style or if it's an objectively or subjectively good song. Pond 5 will approve it. Their philosophy is to let the marketplace decide what a good song is. That's how I've managed to make more than $2,000 from one of my worst songs.
Update October 2018: Some of my colleagues have said that Pond 5 is starting to be more restrictive, but I haven't experienced it personally.
So I think that's a big feature and a big plus to Pond 5, because you get you get more songs out there and they let the marketplace decide. And it's definitely a big reason why I'd say that Pond 5 is the best site to sell music for beginners, because working on AudioJungle can be really demoralizing.
Usability and Speed
Uploading music onto AudioJungle is the biggest nightmare and headache you could imagine. It's like 1990s internet.
It takes soooooo much time.
So the opportunity cost of having spent 20 minutes to get a song ready to upload to AudioJungle and then have it rejected is just gigantic. And you add that up over five songs six songs. That's time you could have used to make a whole other song and put it up on Pond 5. So that's a big negative.
And here's how AudioJungle makes it hard to upload. Well first of all you have to create both a regular version of your song and a version with an audio mark (like a watermark). Literally every other site that I've ever used automatically does.
Then you also have to create an .mp3 and .wav version of your track. Oh, and wrap it all up in a zip file of your track. So that was another two or three minutes of your time and they allow a custom graphic for each song and you can just use the same war hero as he is. But that takes a second to put up.
If you've got multiple edits of the same song (which you should always do), this is just a ridiculous amount of backend work to set up.
Now on the plus side, AudioJungle really supports you in brand building. It let's you customize your shop, being sticky to customers. I think that's the best way of describing it and letting you sort of customize yourself and present yourself as more than just a commodity selling music.
Pond 5 on the other hand is much more like eBay. They don't really care what the seller is. It's just like: "Is this the widget that I need? Cool." On Pond 5, there's not really much of a profile there's not any like community to it.
And I think again this goes back to the long term versus short term orientation of the sites. If you want to do something long term, then I see AudioJungle being kind of the better potentially a better path because we have a chance to build a brand and get repeat customers and interact with them. And that could be really valuable down the line.
Conclusion: What's the Best Site to Sell Music for Beginners?
So now let's wrap it all up. Which one is better for beginning musicians? Well I think what this has shown is that Pond 5 inevitably is going to be better for you for your first year or two.
Audio jungle might be better down the line, but here's where I'm going to sort of change the paradigm from what I've just been discussing.
The fact is, after you've been doing this for two or three years, you probably should not be focusing your efforts on either site. Hopefully you've gotten good enough in that time to have started moving into exclusive libraries and aiming your sights higher and higher to get better more expensive placements and more opportunities to have backend royalties.
So you if you're trying to build your career by aiming to be the best at AudioJungle is like trying to be a big fish in a small pond.
Holy smokes! I earned nearly $1,900 in back end performance royalties for the 3rd quarter of 2017!!! Now, I've been making about $300/mo through my licensing income through upfront sync fees, but the ability to basically QUADRUPLE my earnings through performance royalties is shocking.
This is my first quarter with significant back end royalties. I earned about $1,850 from Romania (no, I have no idea what show or why), and another $23 from sales broadcast in the U.S. on the Outdoor Network.
I earned all of this money through my performing rights organization (PRO), BMI.com.
Music Licensing Income = Sync Fees + Back End Royalties
And so normally the way that works is I will license song through Pond 5 and it will entitle somebody to use the music the music for all sorts of projects whether it's a podcast or on YouTube or on a TV show.
And so initially they pay a fee upfront for that. The song sells for 30 anywhere from like 20 to 70, 80 dollars. And I'll get half of that from Pond 5. And you can license the same song multiple times, so I've earned hundreds of dollars in upfront royalties for my best selling songs.
But if somebody goes ahead and use the song on YouTube that's it. There's no further royalties from that.
What Are Performance Royalties?
However there's another category of royalties called performance royalties. Basically if your if a song you wrote is broadcast on national TV or in a public space generally speaking you are entitled to a royalty for that.
I've done a much more in depth post on the different types of royalties in this video, if you're interested in watching.
How to Get Your Performance Royalties
And in order to collect those royalties, or even to determine whether or not your songs have been performed, you need to join a performing rights organization and in the U.S. The two main ones are BMI and ASCAP.
I'm with BMI, and it's been working pretty well.
But as far as I know there's no major difference between the two different. Also, different countries have different societies.
Once you join a PRO, what you then do is register your songs with them (including all of the different edits you might have of your song).
And then when somebody on TV, for example, uses your song on one of their shows they have to fill out this thing called a cue sheet.
A cue sheet is basically just a list of all the songs they used and how long those songs lasted. And so basically at the end of the day they submit these cue sheets to the PRO, which allocates revenues based on a proprietary formula.
The PROs distribute you a portion of the earnings that they make in proportion to how your song was play based on a formula they have.
Since some of you have asked, here is the gear I use, I’ve found everything on here to work well for me and would recommend all of it. After a lot of trial and error and money wasted on gear that I didn’t use, I’ve settled on the following selection of music equipment.