When it comes to music licensing - or anything, really - having a strategy is what separates the winners from the losers. If you really hope to earn money licensing your music, then you'll need more than just good music.
You'll need a strategy. Which is what you'll get in this article and video.
It's loaded with tips and tricks on how to go from a producer to a someone who consistently earns passive income licensing their music. You can see some of my earnings reports here.
And of course, if you're looking to license your music, you'll also need tactics. If you want to know exactly how to start licensing your music, join my free five day music licensing crash course.
Key Stock Music Licensing Terms Explained
Before you learn the strategy, though, I want to define a few essential music licensing terms, so that you can prioritize your productions. This article also offers some additional background on how to license your music online.
Exclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Music Libraries
One of the biggest debates among stock music musicians is whether to work with exclusive vs. non-exclusive libraries.
An exclusive library will be the only library authorized to sell a license of a specific song. That means that you can't upload that same song to other websites. Don't work with an exclusive libraries unless they are offering something special for the exclusive right to represent your song. Usually that will be an upfront fee ranging from $50-$500. Or it may be a larger share of any licensing fees earned.
Benefits of licensing your music through an exclusive library
Upfront fee or higher royalty rate
Usually have better connections to production companies
- More likely to get placements if you're in the right library
Downsides of licensing your music through an exclusive library
- Your music's fate is tied to a single library
- Only accept high quality, A-class music
A non-exclusive library is basically the opposite of an exclusive library. You can put your music in as many non-exclusive libraries as you like. This lets you play the field and expose your music to more buyers. Plus, as the industry changes, this lets you maintain control of your music and rights.
Some non-exclusive libraries, like AudioSparx, may have additional stipulations. For example, they don't want you also posting the same music on "cut rate" libraries. Here's a review of the 4 best music libraries accepting submissions right now.
Benefits of licensing music through non-exclusive libraries
- Complete flexibility to control your music
- Able to adapt to changing market conditions
- Accept "B" and "C" class music
- More opportunities to sell your music
Downside of licensing music through non-exclusive libraries
- Lower payments
- Could waste time uploading to sites that don't lead to sales
- Less likely to secure TV and Movie placements
Licensing Agreements in Perpetuity
When you submit a song to a music library, you also have to be aware of how long they'll have a right to sell your music.
Most non-exclusive libraries are non-perpetual. You upload the song to their website, but you can remove it any time. The exception to this is AudioSparx. They are non-exclusive, but for perpetuity. Meaning you can upload the music to AudioSparx and Pond 5, but while you can remove from Pond 5 at anytime, it will be stuck on AudioSparx forever.
Consequently, as I'll discuss later, you may not want to upload your very best songs to AudioSparx if they may have a future shelf life in a package submitted to an exclusive library.
In contrast, most exclusive libraries will secure your tracks in perpetuity, but this is usually in exchange for an upfront buyout, so at least you've earned some money. Some exclusive libraries may also allow you to buy back your music if it doesn't sell. This is known as a reversion clause, and can be a good way to limit your risk.
Choosing the Best Music Library for Each Song
Whether the library you submit your music to is exclusive or in perpetuity is going to be a crucial determinant in how you approach submissions. We'll discuss this a bit more later on, but I wanted to give a quick overview of the best music libraries. If you're interested in a detailed review of the best music libraries accepting submissions, check out this article. All of these libraries have a good chance of making sales. While there are hundreds of other libraries out there, I recommend that you ignore them and only focus one the best ones (and on creating more music for them).
Music Library 1: Pond 5
- Will accept most all music
Music Library 2: AudioSparx
- Will accept most music
Music Library 3: AudioJungle
- Only looks for "corporate" music; weird quality standards
Other Exclusive Music Libraries
- Exclusive (duh!)
- Perpetual or reversion clause
- Only accept the highest quality music
- Tend to want to acquire music in 4-5 track albums
Honestly Assessing Your Music for Licensing
When it comes to the music that make for licensing, you need to be able to honestly and openly assess the quality of your tracks. This isn't a relative scale based on music being your side hustle that you do in your home studio. Instead, you need to compare your music to the music you hear on TV.
Is it as catchy? Does it move enough? Is the production quality comparable?
Developing a Ranking System
I use a three-tier ranking system for my songs. I am brutally honest about how about how good each song is.
"A" Tier Music Licensing Tracks
My "A" Tier music are as good - or nearly as good - as stuff on TV. It follows the conventions of stock music writing, including song structure. It is well written and well produced, and is also unique and catchy.
These tracks often take longer to produce, maybe 2-4 times as long as a "B" tier track.
"B" Tier Music Licensing Tracks
My "B" Tier music is as good as or better than most of the stuff that's for sale on stock music libraries. It may have short comings with the writing or production. Or it may be too generic. It might also be a good song overall, but not necessarily a good fit for licensing.
Once you've got some experience under your belt, you can finish one of these songs in a day.
"C" Tier Music Licensing Tracks
My "C" Tier music isn't great. It has noticeable issues with mixing, song writing, or arrangement. Often they're either too generic, or, ironically, so unique that they just don't fit in well with a client's stock music needs. Some "C" Tier tracks can be finished very quickly - you realize it's never going to be great and you can just slap some finishing on it and get it out the door. Other times these can be the longest tracks to finish. You keep hearing yourself being so close to an amazing sound, but it just keeps slipping away. If you find that happening, cut bait, finish the track, and move on.
Building Your Stock Music Licensing Strategy to Earn More from Your Music
Putting together everything we've discussed so far, I'd like to suggest a strategy for you to pursue that can see you multiply your music licensing income, potentially in less time! The most important thing to keep in mind is that stock music licensing is ultimately a numbers game. So you need to focus on what you can do best.
The first thing you need to do is determine what tier of music you're aiming to make. For many of us, the aim should be to create "B" tier music, because we simply lack the skill, experience, and equipment to consistently make "A" tier tracks. This will give you a big supply of "B" tracks to consistently submit to libraries.
Nevertheless, even though you're aiming to produce a steady stream of "B" tracks, from time to time you'll stumble on to an "A" track. And from time to time you'll fall backwards into "C" track.
This is where the strategy starts to come in.
My Music Licensing Strategy Revealed
Getting the right songs to the right libraries is crucial. I put all the music that is "B" tier on Pond 5 and AudioSparx. I don't care that AudioSparx is perpetual, because I know that songs are never going to be good enough to make it into exclusive libraries.
If any of these tracks happened to corporate, though, then I'd instead try submitting them to AudioJungle instead of AudioSparx (remember, AudioSparx doesn't want you selling music it represents on AudioJungle). If they didn't get accept on AudioJungle, then I'd take them to AudioSparx.
Any "A" tracks I have, I'd upload to Pond 5, because it's non-exclusive and I can remove them at any time. Then, once I'd built up a catalog of 5 "A" tracks in a similar genre, I'd try pitching them to exclusive libraries and take them down from Pond 5.
Finally, I'd take any "C" tracks I had and submit them to Pond 5. I wouldn't bother submitting them to AudioJungle or an Exclusive library, because they'd surely be rejected. And I wouldn't bother with AudioSparx, because they'd never sell.
But on Pond 5, who knows!
My most profitable music licensing track ever ($2,500+ and counting) is a "C" tier track that I license through Pond 5. So don't just let these whither on your hard drive!
If you want to estimate how much you can earn from music licensing, check out this free music licensing earnings calculator.
An Example of My Music Licensing Strategy in Action
While this article is jam packed with actionable strategy tips, if you're looking to license your music, you'll also need tactics. If you want to know exactly how to start licensing your music, join my free five day music licensing crash course, plus a bunch of other practical tips to get started.
So let's say I'm aiming to create "B" tier tracks. If I make 20 of them, maybe 2 end up being "A" tier and one ends up being "C" tier. And two of those "B" tracks ended up being "corporate." So what do I do to maximize my earnings while minimizing my time?
Pond 5 Submissions
- All 20 tracks, "A," "B," and "C" tier
- The 15 non-corporate "B" tier tracks
Audio Jungle Submissions
- The 2 corporate tracks
Exclusive Library Submissions
- None - I wait until I've built up a catalog of 4-6 "A" tier tracks in the same genre before I start pitching.
Closing Thoughts on Music Licensing Strategies
As you can see, this strategy allows you to prioritize your track submissions in the libraries that are most likely to be receptive, and also that will allow you to get the most value for each song you create.
The great thing about this strategy is that it works no matter what stage of your music licensing side hustle your at. Whether you're a beginner only mostly "C" tier music, or a pro mostly making "A" tier music, you know exactly what to do every time you finish a track.
You'll be able to earn more by getting music placed sooner, without the risk that you lock up your best material.
At least, that's what's worked for me. Do you have another approach to where you seek music licensing placements? Do you have any questions about this approach to submitting tracks to music libraries? Let me know in the comments below and I'll be sure to respond!
From a Frustrated Producer in a Ragtag Bedroom Studio to Major Placements on TV Earning $1,000s!
My name is Evan, and I've been making music since around 3rd grade. I'm from San Diego, California, but I've lived in Washington, DC for the last 20 years.
While I still have a full-time day job, I have created systems that have allowed me to produce dozens of songs a year in my spare time.
My songs have been on Netflix, TV shows like the 90 Day Fiance, an award-winning indie film, and NPR’s “All Thing Considered.” They've also been streamed millions of times.
In addition to being a music producer, I am passionate about teaching people how they can make professional-sounding music and earn money licensing it, all in their spare time.
Thousands of musicians, like yourself, have trusted me to guide their musical journey. My YouTube videos have been watched nearly a million times. And my story has been in Forbes, Side Hustle Nation, and the Side Hustle School.