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My Music Licensing Side Hustle

Over the past three years, I’ve gone from knowing nothing about the music business to building a music licensing side hustle that’s earned me over $10,000! I did all this part time, from the “comfort” of my studio (read: living room). And I have no connections, no incredible talents, and pretty simple gear. 

So how did I do it?How do you make money licensing music? 

The Start of My Side Hustle

Well, first I made a ton of mistakes. It was a learning process, and I was hurt a lot along the way after having my songs rejected from sites. But I knew I loved making music, and I was going to make it whether I got paid or not.

By the way, if you want to start applying this as your music side hustle, I’ve got a free five-day music licensing crash course.So the first thing I did is look for the best site to license my music on. I wasn’t good enough to be on a really professional site, but I didn’t want to be selling my songs for $4 on a site with no traffic.Eventually I settled on Pond 5. It was the best site for beginners when I started, and I still think it is. Here’s why. Then I started to hone the craft of writing songs for music licensing and on getting better at producing. I took lots of courses (especially on mixing – I’m learned a lot from Graham Cochrane) (affiliate link), watched a ton of Youtube, and practiced my butt off. I work full time, but I still tried to find time to finish one song a week to grow my music licensing side hustle. Because you need a least a few songs to consistently see sales. Then to make the most of my limited time working my musical side hustle, I’d upload my songs in batches, maybe once a month.

Here Comes The Moolah!

At first a got a trickle of sales, one here, one there. Then it started to become a more steady thing, $50 a month. $100 a month. It’s been hovering between $200-$300 a month for over a year. You can see some of my earnings reports here.And then the backend royalties started rolling in for public performances on TV. I got a check for nearly $1,900 one quarter! And this was all passive income from music licensing. From one of my worst songs!I’ve been exploring other business models this past year, and hope to have some interesting things to report in the future, but in my opinion, the course of action I teach in my free five-day music licensing course is still the best side hustle for song writers. Just look at this example – I barely uploaded any new songs to Pond 5 this for the first 3/4 of the year (in fact, I’d taken songs off!), but I still earned over $3,000. All off of old songs!

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Audio Jungle vs Pond 5 (best site to sell music for beginners)

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.  

And since you're just starting out, you'll want to know what stock music is and how to get started selling it, so check out this free five day course that will get you started right away on Pond 5.  

So What's the Best Site to License Music Online?

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. 

How Much Money Can I Earn (AudioJungle vs Pond 5)

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. 

Or if 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. ​

What do you think? Any sites you'd recommend?

How to Produce One Song a Week

At the end of the day, music licensing is a numbers game.  You need to produce one song a week. The more songs you have out there, the more likely you are to have the right song for the right client. Having more songs means your songs are more likely to be found by prospective clients, and it also means that there are more songs that might fit a specific need.

Plus, the more frequently you write songs, the faster you'll start to improve! 

But having more songs means writing and recording more songs!

And that takes time. I don't know about you, but I never seem to have enough of it.

Over the past few years I've been thinking hard about how I can finish more songs. And that's lead me to a bit of an assembly line process.

This video is from my stock music licensing course.

You can get a free Five-Day stock music licensing crash course by clicking on the button

​​​​​​​​​​​​How I FINISH One Song a Week

The first thing to remember is that the goal isn't to just have recordings on your hard drive. You actually need to FINISH your songs. It's not good enough to just say this is a demo. Even if the song isn't perfect, you have to finish it and move on.

In other words, this isn't about creating the demo of one song a week. You still need to do that. But you also need to finish another song in the meantime. 

So with the goal being to actually finish a song, this is how I keep things moving at a nice clip.


You can watch me describe the process in more detail here.

The 5 Phases to Producing One Song a Week

Basically, I break up my process into 5 steps, and try to do a different one each week.

The 5 steps are:
1. Songwriting
2. Demoing
3. Recording
4. Mixing
5. Mastering

I try to have 5 songs going at a time, each at a different stage of the process. This way I don't get bogged down working on a specific song, and I can maintain a sense of perspective. Plus it prevents burnout.

I only focus on the step that I'm working on at the moment. And I never say that if "there's a problem with the recording I can fix it during mixing." Well, I say it, but I don't let myself get away with it.

Doing the Administrative Work


Then, of course, there's a 6th and 7th step: uploading my song to Pond 5 (and adding the keywords) and registering the song with BMI. I try to do these administrative steps in a batch process, i.e., once I have 3 or 4 songs mastered, I'll take some time to do the administrative end.

What do you do to speed up your process?

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One of My Worst Songs Made Me $200+ in Licensing Revenue

Would you believe that one of my worst written, worst produced, worst mixed songs - one that uses mainly loops - has generated over $200 and continues to sell?

I'm as shocked as you. 

Update 5/22/18: I just earned $1,800 from this song on back end licensing!!

One of my worst songs generated more than $200 in music licensing revenue

These 2 edits of one of my worst songs each has generated more than $100 in sales

But it turns out there are at least 3 secret reasons why this song has done so well, which I'll share in a minute. 

First, though, you really ought to take a listen to this little gem. 

Originally, I never intended this song for licensing. I was just making a demo song to experiment with mid/side processing. As the song shows, that experiment failed.

However, I accidentally exported the song and uploaded it to some licensing sites with a batch of other files.

When it came time to start tagging the song with keywords and descriptions, I thought, what the hell.

Now, to begin with I recommend writing and recording high quality songs!

The point of this example is just to show that if you know what you're doing when it comes to key wording songs, and make songs that are a good fit for music licensing, you can be successful at music licensing even if you're not the greatest musician or producer.

So let's talk about why this song sucks!

- The mix is terrible, instruments are all the wrong volume
- That wah guitar (loop) is jarring
- The song doesn't sound glued together
- I could go on...

The main point is that the quality is pretty average, and the song is kind of boring. Although songs that are good background music are great for music licensing, you don't want to overdue it. 

So why has this song worked? 

- It's written in the format that fits stock music
- The song has a consistent, clear vibe
- It's got a clear ending, not just a fade out
- I did a great job using evocative keywords (see bullet point #4!) so buyers could actually find the song
- There's horns (buyers like horns! (I get my samples from here)

All of these are skills that can be learned and improved on. All you need is some direction and a commitment to work on your craft. In the two or three years since I made this song, my recordings (and success) have continued to grow.

You need to stop making excuses that you're not good enough, or you're not ready. You will fail, but as long as each song is a little better than the last in some way, eventually your progress will start to snowball. 

Stop making excuses that your music isn't good enough, or you're not ready. You may  fail, but as long as each song is a little better, eventually your progress will start to snowball. #sidehustle #hustle #musicproducer #producerlife

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This means that you can license your music too!

So cheer up, even if you're still working on your production skills, you really can start licensing your music online today. If you want to learn how to do it, my Stock Music Alliance program really gets into these details (through hours of videos and song critiques so you don't make my mistakes)!

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How to Get a Record Deal in Hip Hop

How to get a record deal

A year ago I had no idea how to get a record deal. I was a bedroom producer making a few hundred dollars a month selling stock music. But unbeknownst to me, powerful forces were at work that would lead me to getting a publishing deal. 

Here's how it went down. 

I Wasn't Looking for a Record Deal

To be honest, I was happy just making my music for myself and selling it directly as stock music. But occasionally, a beat that I made would be fire. 

So when that happened, I'd invite my friend Ryn over. Ryn has been a rapper for a long time, and he would come over and spit some lines. It was fun, but we weren't really thinking about how to get a record deal.

It was really just an excuse to drink. And occasionally it would lead to a great track. Over time, it got better. So yea, practice is important. Then Ryn invited his friend Vince over. And Vince is a great rapper to. 

Together, they started making some awesome music. 

Here's the main tip from this story: start learning how to make good beats (stock music licensing was a great way of learning to produce professional tracks while getting paid.)

Also note that it's important to connect with people in the real world. You could call it networking, but it's really just being a person. You'll be amazed at the opportunities that will arise. 

How to Get a Record Deal

Ryn sometimes worked with another producer who had a publishing deal. When he heard some of our demos. He decided to pass it along to his publisher. 

Once the publisher heard our tracks he reached out and offered us a record deal. So while this seems like a magical thing (and it really did come down to luck), let's break down what's going on behind the scene so we can actual deconstruct how to get a record deal.

How to get a record deal infographic

The 4 elements you need if you want to learn how to get a record deal

First, I put in the hard work of making good beats. The songs were ready. How did I get there? Well I've been doing this for years, but I've also written hundreds of songs. Having a big library of tracks to chose from means that some were going to be way better. Not only that, but it meant that I could pick songs that were a god fit for the MCs.

But I'm not the best. I'm pretty average, especially considering how long I've been doing this. If you work hard on your craft, you'll get there.

The second part of how to get a record deal is to work with good people. Ryn & Vince are good. They've put in their hard work at their skills, too. So when we hit record, we would get great results. 

Here's a really in depth tutorial on how to record rap vocals.

The next part that was essential to getting our record deal was being professional. These record publishers are busy people with lots on their plate - the easier your are to work with, the more likely they are to get an offer.

In fact, by delivering exactly what they wanted, in a timely, professional manner, we received an open invitation to submit tracks in the future.

So there, you have it, the basic steps for how to get a record deal. Hone your craft, write lots of songs, work with good people, network, and be a profession.

So there, you have it, the basic steps for how to get a record deal. Hone your craft, write lots of songs, work with good people, network, and be a profession. #musicproduction #producerlife

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How to Sell Stock Music (Start Licensing Your Music)

How to Sell Stock Music

I recently did a wonderful interview on how to sell stock music with Jesse from Sync My Music. In this 30+ minute video on how to sell stock music, Jesse and I discuss how stock music libraries are different from other types of production music libraries, how anyone can get started selling stock music, and also what I have planned for the future.

Even though Jesse has been making a fulltime living licensing his production music through libraries, he is now seriously considering putting his "rejects" on to a site like Pond 5

The Best Stock Music Site

It's really not that hard to do get started licensing your stock music. I had no idea what I was doing three years ago when I started trying to license my music. Also, I made TONS of mistakes. But I've muddled through with some hard work (the key to success at anything) and a commitment to investing in my growing knowledge.

It's really not that hard to do get started licensing your stock music. I had no idea what I was doing three years ago when I started trying to license my music. Now I make hundreds a month. #musicproduction

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Basically, any musician with some decent production chops can go and learn how to sell stock music by spending some time putting songs on Pond 5 and seeing which songs are successful. In my opinion, Pond 5 is probably the best stock music for beginners. There is a big marketplace of buyers and sellers, the editorial standards are fair, and the company is easy to work with. 

If you want to know more about the best stock music site, I've made a more complete review of the best stock music sites.

How to sell stock music

First you should definitely watch the video with Jesse - it will teach you how to sell stock music.

But when you write songs for stock music, try to think of an emotion or mood. You want your song to have a very clear emotional hook, and you want it to keep moving forward.

Your production doesn't need to be phenomenal, but it doesn't need to be clean, clear, and free of distractions. 

Then you can grow your practice around that by getting better at keyword tagging, songwriting, and production. 

That's the path I've taken, anyway. And I'm earning hundreds of dollars a month passively doing it. 

Now, if you're interested learning how to license stock music by getting off to a running start, I also offer a course that teaches you exactly how to hit the ground running on Pond 5. You can watch it here.

Music Licensing: Types of Rights

If you're interested in music licensing, there are three main types of rights: Mechanical, Synchronization, and Broadcast. There's also a fourth type of right, print rights, but those aren't as common unless you have a big hit.

The types of rights for music licensing

How to collect royalties for each of the three types of rights in music licensing

Now music licensing is super complicated, but I'm hoping to explain it in simple terms. These types of rights are all a little different, and all require different organizations to collect the money for you. Also note, this is not legal advice, just one musician talking to another about the types of rights we're entitled to with our music.​

Now, each type of right leads to a corresponding royalty. Basically, as musicians we trade away part of our right, let's say to synchronize our song with a video, in exchange for money and publicity.

So let's dig into th​e types of rights for music from the perspective of royalties, cause getting paid is always more fun.

The first type of right is to mechanical royalties. This is basically your right to get paid every time a "copy" of your song is "sold." So this can mean if you sell a physical CD at through Amazon. Or if someone buys an MP3 from iTunes. Or even if someone streams your song on Spotify. Mechanical royalties can add up quickly, but they require a distributor like CD Baby or Distro Kid to actually collect your earnings.

The second type of right is a synchronization right, or synch right. Basically, no one is allowed to use your music in the background of their video without your permission. And you (or your agent) can negotiate whatever rate you want to give up that right.

This is basically how I make ​hundreds of dollars a month licensing royalty free music. With royalty free music, the "royalty" that is being licensed is the synch royalty, allowing the purchaser the right to synchronize your song wit their videos or audio.

The third​ type of right is the broadcast or public performance right. Whenever a song is performed publicly, the songwriter is entitled to a payment. 

So if your song is broadcast on TV, the TV Network has to pay you. If it's played in a large store, it's still a public performance, and you are entitled to a royalty from the shop. Hell, if a cover band plays your song, theoretically you get paid for that too.​

These royalties are collected by performing rights organizations like BMI and ASCAP.

If you're interested in learning how to get started selling royalty free music, check out this video.

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5 Secrets for a Song that Sells

If you’re interested in licensing your music, here are some secrets for a song that sells! Check out these five simple tips that will make your songs instantly more marketable to start earning a passive income by selling your music.

Watch this free video to learn how to license your music and put these 5 secrets into effect!

1st Secret for a Song that Sells – Keep it Short!

Most successful songs used in licensing are short. Keep it around 30 seconds. Usually, the buyers of stock music are looking to establish a mood quickly and move on.

Just watch HGTV, the Discovery Channel, A&E, whatever. On those shows, songs play for 5-10 seconds before moving on.

Same with commercials, Youtube videos, and corporate scenes. Most buyers aren’t looking for an extensive montage.

2nd Secret for a Song that Sells – Tell a Story

Good production music tells a story efficiently in its short time span. You should force yourself to write a beginning, middle and end into your song. Take the listener on an evolving journey.

How do you do that?

Well the first step is to remember that you’ve only got a little bit of time to grab a buyer’s attention, so start on the right foot! Whether it’s an energetic rock ‘n roll drum fill to start the songs or a sad melancholy piano chord, don’t leave the listener guessing.

3rd Secret for a Song that Sells – Establish a Mood

From the first note to the last note, your stock music songs should establish a mood. Just because it’s a short song, but that doesn’t mean it should be devoid of emotional content!

Think of a mood and craft your song specifically around that. Here are some ideas for moods that you can experiment with:

  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Surprise
  • Wonder.

As a song writer, I’ve found that trying to write songs in different moods can be uniquely rewarding and challenging.

But it’s not just about the notes, it’s also about choosing the right instruments and production vibe. It would be weird to use an accordion in a death metal song, and it would be equally strange to make a hip hop song that sounds like it was recorded on an old vinyl record from the 1920s.

 

4th Secret for a Song that Sells – A strong ending

There’s a reason that everyone knows the phrase: “End on a high note.”

It’s because you should always leave a strong last impression!

It’s just human nature to tie our memories strongly to the most recent memory. For a listener, that’s going to be the end of your song.

You always want the last note of your royalty free music to be interesting. Whether it’s a chord that resolves things, or adds a touch of dissonance, whether a sudden stop or an interesting drum fill, I’d strongly encourage you to put a lot of thought in to your endings.

If you ever need any inspiration, just check out the Beatles. They were the masters of about a million things, but endings were one of their strong points.

For the perfect ending, check out “A Day in the Life” off of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

5th Secret for a Song that Sells – Clean Production

You don’t need to be making Grammy-worthy recordings to license your music. But you do need clean, professional sounding audio. I’ve licensed plenty of songs with recordings that are far from perfect. Just don’t let the production distract from the song, and you’ll be fine.

Clean up any flub, remove any harsh frequencies, and set levels in such a way that the emotion and energy of the song are clearly conveyed. Make sure the overall mix is balanced across the frequency spectrum, and that there aren’t too many wide dynamic shifts.

When it comes to mastering, you don’t need to participate in the “loudness wars.” Just make it a reasonable volume. If a client needs your stock music to be louder, she can always turn it up in her video production software.

Think you’re ready to start licensing your songs? Find out how to get started!

 

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How Musicians Earn Passive Income

Ready to learn the secrets to how musicians earn passive income these days? Passive income used to be the cornerstone of the music biz.

When you think about the golden age of the music industry, musicians would earn passive income all the time. It's why Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson became billionaires. 

And it can be summed up in one, simple, magic word: ROYALTIES

Think about it earning passive income as a musician  like this:

  • Every time a band sells an album or has a song broadcast, it gets paid. Even on stuff recorded 50 years ago. That’s how musicians earn passive income. However, with the advent of music streaming, some of these traditional types of revenues are fading away.
  • In contrast, any time a band goes out and plays a show, it gets paid directly for the active work it puts into that show. This ain’t passive income. Anyone tearing down gear at 2am knows that.

Now, that's slightly simplified, but it's the basics. Keep reading to see how to get your piece of the pie.

Nonetheless, there are still good ways to earn passive income through your music. It just revolves around stock music licensing instead of selling music to fans (who you let stream the music for free).

These days, everyone online is talking about passive income. Most always it seems like some get rich quick scheme.

The fact is though, successfully licensing music is a time-honored profession that takes a lot of work. In fact, it's more like a proven "get a decent side hustle income slowly" scheme.

But once you put in the work, you can reap the rewards for 70 years or more.

Just remember – a grand don’t come for free.

What is Passive Income?

Passive income means that you invest your time upfront creating value. In other words, you “work hard now to continue to reap the benefits later,” as Pat Flynn, the famed internet entrepreneur says.

In short, with passive income, you stop trading your time for money.

Here’s how passive income works for me. I went on vacation at the end of May. I didn’t record any new songs. Nonetheless, every few days – even when chilling on the beach in San Diego eating amazing burritos – I received an email saying that someone had licensed one of the songs from my back catalog.

It’s totally possible to earn passive income as a musician while sitting on the beach eating burritos.

Because I put in the hard work over the past year, I was able to continue to make sales & earn passive income even while visiting my family.

But I don’t want you to think that this was easy or overnight. I mean, I’ve spent thousands of hours practicing guitar, piano, and bass. I’ve probably spent another thousand hours writing songs and learning how to record & mix.

And that was all just for background. That’s the work I had to put in to get to the point where I can start to work easily as a stock music musician.

Then, any one song took me 15-20 hours to write and record. Most songs might never even get licensed! 

Hint: one of the best ways to be successful is to cut down on the time it takes you to finish a track. 

Sometimes, it takes a year to sell. Maybe more.

But don’t let that discourage you! Follow my simple road map and anyone with a modicum of talent can start licensing their songs.

Licensing Your Music Opens New Opportunities to Earn Money as a Musician

This is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s just a new marketplace for selling a traditional service provided by the professional jingle writers of yore.

It makes sense that this is growing, though.

Back in the day, they didn’t need as much audio content.

In the 1970s there were four or five TV channels in the developed world and maybe a couple dozen radio stations. Today, there are hundreds of different TV channels in more than 100 countries, dozens of radio stations, digital radio, millions of Youtube creators, videogames, and apps. And more and more I foresee a need for music for narrowcast streaming services like periscope and twitch.

Demand will keep up with supply.

The need for quality audio is growing rapidly creating more opportunities to earn passive income.

Marketplaces like Pond 5 allow you to market a skillset you’ve honed over your lifetime.

Earning passive income from your music is just a way of transmuting years of discipline and craft into a marketable product.

10 years ago, the opportunity to earn passive income from music royalties was available only to established songwriters. But now the internet and cheap recording software/hardware have democratized the opportunities to create your music.

How musicians earn royalties (passive income for musicians)

Hell, even 15 years ago, you would be lucky to spend $1,000 to record an EP, then hope some friends bought it at a gig. Now, with as little as $300 worth of recording equipment and a computer, you can record unlimited professional sounding songs.

You can put these up on the internet and distribute them to a vast market place of buyers.

You can get paid for doing something you love. Whether you use the passive income you earn from licensing your music for paying your bills or buying more gear, I think you’ll be amazed at what selling your music does for you.

The Future of Passive Income for Musicians

I sell my music online. Because of the way copyright works in the United States, I (and my children, and my children’s children) can earn money on my songs for my entire lifetime, plus 70 years! Thanks Congress!

Now, that doesn’t mean that 100 years from now anyone will want to buy my music. I mean, seriously, how many 100 year old recordings do you listen to? And it doesn’t mean that the stock music marketplaces, like Pond 5, will be in business 100 years from now.

But I think it’s safe to say that for at least the next 5 or 10 years, I will earn $1,000’s of dollars a year license my music, even if I don’t record another song.

And I have no intention of stopping.

How Music Pays My Bills

What if I told you that music pays my bills?

Imagine if you could pay your bills as a musician through the money you earned selling your music?

Or if you made enough money selling music to donate to your favorite charity?

Imagine if you had a little extra money left over at the end of the month to buy a pitcher for your friends?

When music pays your bills, you can buy your friends a pint

Yum!

Well here’s how. Licensing your music is not rocket science. It’s earned me over $10,000, and I’m just an average guy working part time making music in his living room.

Here’s a quick video about what I do.

All you’ve got to do is take the first step.

Honestly, that’s the hardest part. I struggled so much with whether or not I should license my music. I was worried about whether it was good enough. I was worried about being a sellout. I was lazy.

I was scared.

Since I started selling music online last year, I’m now able to consistently pay my bills for my major expenses each month (I’ve earned as much as $2,000 in one lucky month). And there’s always some extra money left over to donate to charity.

It’s not like I’m going to retire on this anytime soon. But the passive income I earn from licensing my music pays for my electric bill (why does that always seem to be going up?), my water bill (why does that always seem to be going up?), my cable bill (why does that always seem to be going up?), and my internet bill (why does it always seem to go up?).

(Also, to be clear, I’m not talking about some anthropomorphized version of music coming to life, logging on to my bank account every month, and making sure that the cable company hasn’t overcharged me before cutting a check, automatically, to each company. That is not how music pays my bills!)

It feels great to know that month in, month out, I have enough money coming in to not to have to worry about these bills. And having another source of income allows me to relax more and focus on song writing and performance. In fact, once you start selling stock music, you’ll find it creates an incentive more songwriting and music production!

Imagine what it would feel like if you didn’t have to stress out about finding money for your bills?

How selling music pays my bills

Bills, bills, bills.

Imagine if you weren’t completely dependent on your job. Instead you earned multiple streams of income.

Month in, month out music pays my bills or music pays for my gear.

And that’s why I’ve created these detailed monthly earnings reports to demonstrate how music pays my bills. I want to show you that licensing your music is a real job, and that there are tangible rewards if you put your mind to it (in addition to the reward of getting spend time making music!).

In addition, I always first I set aside 10% to donate to a charity. Being paid to make music is a gift. I still can’t believe it, sometimes. Being fortunate enough to get paid to make art is a gift that I feel obligated to reciprocate (that’s also part of the reason why I made this site).

So come on, I challenge you to do even better a selling your music online than I have. This video will walk you through the process.

Start small, and keep writing music.

Take that first action step right now.

Head over to Pond 5 and sign up for an account.