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.
The second has to do with that the same song of mine that was also popular in Romania (and I still don't get why the whole video on how like one of my worst songs ever has made me the most money). I don't know but that's why I just keep making music and hopefully somebody find something good to do with it.
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.
And you know I wasn't actively pitching the song to them or anything but the cool thing, they just found it through Pond 5 (here's my free 5 day course on music licensing through Pond 5).
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?
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.
(If you want to get started on license your music, you can watch this 15 minute video basically giving you an overview of the whole thing.)
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.
The most remarkable thing is that this is one of my worst songs. I previously published a post about how shocked I was that one of my least favorite songs had earned me $200 in upfront fees. Well now it's become my highest earning song, hands down.
I earned all of this money through my performing rights organization (PRO), BMI.com.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks so much for stopping by to learn how to start licensing your music online.
Just enter your email address in the video box below to get started. It will tell you:
You'll instantly be able to start watching the first video. Then, over the next five days you'll receive a series of emails walking you through what you need to know to start licensing your music. After that, you'll get periodic tips and tricks.
Don't hesitate to shoot me an email at stockmusicmusician [at] gmail.com if you have any questions!
And if you're wondering about where to start with gear, you can find my recording equipment list here.
Here is my bi-monthly(ish) stock music earnings reports for January & December 2018. You can see previous earnings reports here. Note, this report only deals with my earnings on one site, Pond 5. It's currently my main site, but I get bits and pieces of sales here and there from time to time.
So let's get the bad news out of the way.
January 2018 was my worst month licensing music since.... January 2016. Now, the stock music licensing world is cyclical, and January has always been an off month. I think advertisers blow their budgets on the Christmas holidays and don't really start advertising in January. And I think everyone is also still bloated and hungover. Not ready to return to the real world.
And now, the number you've all been waiting for..... in January 2018, I earned .....
I genuinely have no idea why the plunge was so low. And honestly, I'm not at all concerned by it. If they stayed in a nose dive, maybe I'd be more concerned. But I know that January is historically a rough month for advertising, and the signs I'm seeing in February, and now March, are promising.
I'm in the music licensing business for the long haul.
My plan is to earn a consistent $300 a month from Pond 5 to fund my budget for producing more involved, complicated productions, which I'll then shop to more prestigious (and remunerative) libraries.
Diversification is a great idea beyond just investing.
So, as I already said, I made $256 in February 2018 selling songs online. This was a little off of my average income of around $300 a month. But there are some very good reasons for it.
The first reason is that February is a short month. So if there were a few more days, it probably would have been closer to the average.
The biggest reason is that I took three of my highest earning songs (and all of their edits) off of Pond 5. These songs collective have probably generated over $1,000 in earnings for me (note: I can't share the name of the library because it's by invitation, but if you make good music and put it out there, inevitably good things will happen for you too).
So why did I do it?
Well, I got invited to submit remixed versions of these songs to a prestigious library. The only problem is that this library is exclusive, which means that they're the only ones who can sell licenses of these songs.
So why did I do it when the songs were already selling well? Well, because the library offered a generous upfront fee for my songs, and they believe that they will be able to place them in works that generate more revenue.
So I took a calculated risk. But I expect to see my earnings on Pond 5 remain depressed for the next few months as I work on some more songs for the library.
And, in fact, most of my efforts are now focused on putting songs in libraries that have a long payout window, but offer bigger rewards (like Songtradr).
As always, I'll keep you guys posted, but I expect it will take sometime for the earnings from these new marketplaces to come online.
Ok, I'm back again with the September and October stock music earnings reports. As I usually say - it was the best of times, it was the worst of times (aka - the industry is inconsistent).
So in September I smashed through my record high to earn $382 on Pond 5 licensing music. Then the sugar high wore off, and I crashed down to $263.
A drop of more than $100 is kind of shocking. But I've been licensing music long enough to say that it's also totally normal Through most of this year I've been averaging around $320 in sales, and these two months, combined, continue to bear that out.
The thing I want to say about my music licensing on Pond 5 for most of the second half of this year, though, is that it continues to passive income. I'm earning passive income licensing my music because I haven't been writing and recording new music for Pond 5.
Instead, I've been focused on a couple of really exciting licensing projects that I'm hoping to be able to share with you in the next month or two. But it would be a major step forward in my licensing career.
Another cool thing that happened to me in September is that a filmmaker who used one of my songs in an indie short actually reached out to me and shared the finished product! It was so cool to actually get a chance to see everything working together. It was exactly the type of scene I'd imagined. So that was really thrilling, and totally worth a lower earning month. Plus, it looks like it will be played at some film festivals, which should actually generate performance royalties for me! So there will be some sort of lag to my earnings, I think.
May 2017 was my best month licensing music. I earned more than $330 on my main licensing site, Pond 5. This is $30 more than my previous high, and I've basically earned more than $300 per month licensing music this entire year.
I think this success selling music online is due to three main factors:
It's taken me three years to get here, but I feel like my music licensing success is only going to go upward from here. (If you're interested in learning how to license your music I've got a free video telling you how to do it here).
You can tell I had one huge sale for $70+ (thanks pricing) and also the most overall sales I've ever had (thanks keywords and tagging!)
Now I just need to keep doing what I'm doing and keep adding more songs. Onward to June!
Well here’s the June & July 2016 stock music sales report. Damn. June was a bad bad month. I had more songs than ever, more views than ever, but couldn’t get a sale.
Apparently a lot of musicians at Pond 5 were reporting the same. Maybe buyers were going out of town for the holidays? Maybe there was an algorithm change? I don’t know.
And there were no sales on the other sites where I’ve got some music, either.
But it sucked.
And so did July. I don’t have anything to really useful to say about either month.
I’d blame it on Summer, but August and September have been my best months.
So let’s just say there was a weird anomaly and be thankful that things have not only gone back to normal, but actually started growing again.
Here’s some of the usual statistics, FWIW.
The average value of each song that I sold was $11.70. This was higher than the average price of $9.73 the previous month (I also raised the minmum price of my sound effects to between $10-15).
I made one sale per 107 views, which is way way worse than the average of one sale per 54 visitors in May.
Still, I remain hopeful that I’ll meet my goal of $400 a month of sales by the end of the year! Fingers crossed!
Well, on the bright side, my May 2016 Stock Music sales were the highest ever! But on the not so bright side, I only earned .50 cents more than in April!
Kind of discouraging. Not that I’m in this short term, but I added some good new songs, and was hoping to see a bounce.
Still, $200 a month is an earnings level that I’m happy with, for now. However, my goal is to double it to $400 by the end of the year.
All of my sales occurred on Pond 5.
Again, I had no sales on Productiontrax, Audio Micro or Audio Jungle.
In May, I licensed 21 tracks and sound effects. This compares to 19 in April. The fact that I only earned .50 more means I experienced a lower average sale price this month, at $9.73 a sale. These are net earnings, after Pond 5 has taken its 50% cut. My sales skewed much more toward sound effects than music.
I would guess I had about 670 songs online by the end of the month, probably about 20-30 more than April. But I didn’t make any sales of those new songs.
I’ve long believed that buyers on Pond 5 are willing to pay for quality. I’ve seen songs sell for as much as $199. And I’ve been experimenting with certain premium songs in the price range.
So I’m glad that I licensed my most expensive track yet! I licensed this Energetic Kanye Style Old Skool Hip Hop Funk Soul Beat With Horn Section for $49. Previously, my most expensive song had sold for $45. I will continue experimenting with higher prices.
Another win is that I managed to license (slightly) more music to fewer visitors! Visitors listened to my tracks 200 fewer times in May as compared to April, but led to more revenue.
This may support my theory that Artist Page views are worth more than general views, since these increased from 27 to 36.
However, I some of my stats may be starting to skew due to writing this blog and tweeting. In other words, some readers (fellow stock music musicians) are going to Pond 5 to check out my portfolio, as opposed to being serious buyers. Which is fine by me!
We’ll see what June holds (spoiler alert: the dreaded summer slump seems like it’s coming).