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Pond 5 Review (Where I Sell Music Online)

I sell music online on several websites, but in this Pond 5 review, I want to share why it is the best site for me to sell stock music. And the only stock music site I’d wholly recommend for musicians.

First, a little background before jumping into my Pond 5 review. I joined Pond 5 around April 2015. I licensed my first royalty free song, an energetic classic blues rock intro, for $15. However, I've raised the prices now that I actually understand the value of my songs. Sales slowly trickled in and started building from there.

Since then, I’ve made over a $1,000 selling music on Pond 5. Lately, I've been averaging about $200 every month. And I've earned over $300 a month and with total earnings over $4,000. (Updated June, 2017).

I've now earned nearly $10,000 through sales on Pond 5 (updated November 2018). 

You can check out one of my detailed earnings reports here.
Just a note – Pond 5 does not give me any fees for referring artists. This is my honest to goodness warts and all review based on my experience as an artist on Pond 5. However, I do earn a referral feel from any purchases people make on Pond 5. But almost every major stock music site offers referrals).

Now that you know a bit about my relationship with Pond 5, what follows is my Pond 5 review based on my experiences selling music online.

Why I think Pond 5 is the best site for selling music

A major factor for choosing to sell music on Pond 5 is that there is a large market of serious buyers. That means that when I upload good music to Pond 5, it will sell. I’ve uploaded the same version of songs to other sites, where they’ve got lots of views but no purchases. So if you’re serious about selling music online, you need to work with a website full of serious buyers. If I had to guess, I'd say a good song gets a sale for every 20 to 25 views on Pond 5.

On other sites, like Audiomicro, the same song has had 200+ views without a single sale. 

And what Pond 5 review would be complete without noting that Pond 5 offers artists a 50-50 split of the revenue.

In the summer of 2019, Pond 5 announced that it would be lower its revenue split with musicians. Now, instead of making a 50-50 split, artists will only keep 35% of the sales. This is a major blow and a thoroughly negative development. No way to spin it well. 

Plus, buyers are supposed to file cue sheets, which means artists should earn broadcast royalties (what are these - click here to learn about the royalty types?), if applicable.

I've earned about $3,000 from these broadcast royalties (updated October 2019). 

Pond 5 has also announced the launch of Pond 5 publishing, which will handle some of the publishing work for artists. However, I think Pond 5 Publishing is a terrible idea for artists. For my full take on why Pond 5 Publishing is a bad idea, check out this article. (updated October 2019)

Another major factor in choosing to license my music on Pond 5 is that the website is easy to use for musicians. You can batch upload your songs (and Pond 5’s server is fast, usually). You can also use batch templates, and make batch edits to songs quickly and easily. Pond 5 automatically inserts watermarks so you don’t have to waste time (I’m looking at YOU AudioJungle).

Prince giving the stink eye

Prince giving the stink eye to Audio Jungle

Pond 5 also includes a suite of artist friendly resources, like this blog and it also offers artists extensive data on sales trends. And Pond 5 does not require an exclusive license, meaning you can also sell your music on other websites.

It also allows you to set the price of your songs.

Pond 5 has friendly and responsive customer service and active forums. It seems to be working more and more to improve the artist experience.

When it comes to Pond 5’s standards of review, I think it's pretty fair. It's not uncommon for Pond 5 to reject junk and some average music that’s in an over-saturated category (like shitty ukulele music). But good music always makes it through. Recently I've heard from some readers that Pond 5 is tightening it's standards, but I haven't experienced it (updated November 2018).

Pond 5 also provides the best statistics on listens, likes, and add to carts This allows artists to see how buyers are reacting to our own songs.

Update November 2018: I'v had my songs placed on multiple TV shows, an award winning indie short, and a Netflix documentary through Pond 5, which I think is super cool!

So that’s the good stuff.

Selling music on Pond 5 isn’t all wine and donuts.

Wine and donuts (when did this become a thing?)

My major gripe with the site is that it allows artists very little control over our portfolios and songs. Contrast that with the way AudioJungle allows artists to create all sorts of on site content. I think it’s fair to say that Pond 5 offers only an average amount of creative control.

I really appreciate that Pond 5 gives musicians the freedom to set the price of our music. However, it would be nice to have the option of setting the price for multiple types of licenses (individual, commercial, broadcast). I think this would be better for buyers and sellers. It looks like Pond 5 is heading in this direction, though, so I may have to update my Pond 5 review. Update November 2018 - Pond 5 has created new license types that a based off of the initial price you set.

The Pond 5 review time fluctuates. In my experience, music usually gets approved in less than two weeks, and often in just a few days. Sound effects, however, can languish for months. It’s been a growing problem. As an established artists, it’s only mildly frustrating, but if I was new to the business, I’d probably find it infuriating.

Pond 5 Review, in summary

In sum, though, I’m incredibly comfortable using Pond 5. It’s an easy friendly service to rely on. The rewards (financial and in terms of exposure) are there.

Even despite the fact that royalty rates are falling, I still think that Pond 5 is the best site for beginners to start licensing their music. But more experienced musicians really need need to move beyond Pond 5 as soon as they can.

Some competitor stock music sites, like AudioJungle, are a pain in the ass to use and offer artists paltry payouts. Other royalty free music sites, like Production Trax or Audiomicro, are easy to use, but don’t lead to any sales.

So instead of wasting much time on the other sites, I spend the time writing and recording new music. Then I upload to it to Pond 5.

Plus, Pond 5 does a good job of fostering a community of musicians and artists, which makes the process more inspiring.

So what are you waiting for?  Start licensing your music today!!!

Beginner’s Guide to Selling Songs Online

Selling songs online is much easier than you think. It’s not a “get rich quick” or a road to instant fame, but if you keep at it, you will find success.

But up until a year ago, I didn’t have a clue where to start or what to do. I had some vague notion along the lines of

  1. Record songs
  2. ?????
  3. Profit!

Don’t worry though, I’m here to show you what I’ve learned about selling royalty free music.

So let’s break out the steps of the process and build you a quick road map to get you started with stock music licensing.

These are the steps. We’ll dig into them in a moment.

  • Write your song
  • Record your song
  • Mix & Master your song
  • Upload and tag the song with keywords
  • Promote the song through social media and start selling songs!

That’s it! If you'd rather watch a video on the details, click here.

Licensing your music online is both easy and incredibly hard. Hundreds of books have been written about each of these topics, and I’m sure hundreds more will be written in the future.

I also plan, to write more about them, but for now, let me throw and a few tips for each, specifically as they relate to selling stock songs online.

  1. Write Your Song

Successful stock music tends to have two traits. First, stock music that sells maintains a consistent emotion and tone. If it’s a dramatic classical piece, it should remain a dramatic classical piece. If it’s energetic funky hip hop, then don’t mix it up with a weird interlude.

Second, (most) stock music the sells well is either a short 20-30 second piece of music that tells a story with an intro, body, and conclusion. Here are five tips for writing a great song intro.

If you want some examples, check out this chill downtempo intro/outro or even a repetitive loop, like this old skool hip hop loop, that can be used in the background.

  1. Record Your Song

If your focused on selling your songs, then when you record, the main thing to focus on is avoiding “distracting” sounds and performances. You want to avoid harsh resonances and feedback (unless the song calls for it). In other words, you want a nice clean performance.

Just put yourself in the shoes of a buyer – they’re probably buying production music to play in the background. You don’t need to worry that you can’t capture pristine sounds like Nigel Goodrich, you just need to be good enough to get a clear, clean recording. That way, viewers focus on the message without getting distracted by the song.

  1. Mix & Master Your Song

Looking at the marketplace of people selling songs, you don’t need to have a very good mix or loud mastering to successfully sell lots of stock music. But it doesn’t hurt.

With mixing, focus on getting the levels right, and cleaning up mud and harshness. If you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it, then by all means do your thing.

If you don’t have a clue how to mix, there are a lot of great resources (some free) to teach you how. Check out Youtube or The Recording Revolution. But for now, just commit to getting a little better with each song.

And you’re probably better off using compression and reverb VERY sparingly until you’ve gotten the hang of them.

When it comes to mastering, there is no secret sauce. If you’ve been working with your own track the whole time, then it should basically sound the way you want it to, in which case you should only use mastering to crank up the volume before applying a limiter.

But please don’t ruin your mix by boosting the volume too much. It’s terrible for the song, and the people that buy your stock music really don’t seem to care that much about volume. Besides, buyers can always crank up the volume further if they want!

  1. Upload the Song and Tag it with Keywords That Sell

I recommend signing up for an account with Pond 5 for the reasons described in this post. You can’t go wrong with them, and you can always join other sites later.

From there, you’ll want to upload your first song(s) and give it a nice descriptive title.

Be sure to write a strong description & use 50 evocative keywords. This step is honestly just as important as the previous 3, because no one will find your song without a good description, title, and keywords.

For the description of the song, you want to craft a short narrative to let the reader know about the emotion of the song, what it sounds like, how long it lasts, and how it might be used.

For the keywords, you’ll want to use a solid mix of terms that describe the tone of the song, who it sounds like, what its technical details are, any unusual instruments used, and how it might be used, but not in a narrative way.

  1. Social Media Promotion for Selling Songs

I don’t have evidence that using social media directly boosts sales, but in my own experience I have seen a strong correlation between when I started adding social media to my toolset and when my sales reached a new peak.

And a lot of stock music musicians more successful than me use it, so it must be helpful (if nothing else, it boosts the odds that your song will rank in external search engines).

I would recommend using three platforms to start.

Twitter, Soundcloud, and on your own webpage (not technically social media, I know).

With Twitter and Soundcloud, you need to focus on building a following just as much as you need to focus on promoting your song. By building a following, you increase the odds someone will click on one of your links or share it. I plan on talking more about social media strategies for stock music musicians in an upcoming post.

By tracking how many clicks my links receive, I know that this website drives a fair number of visitors to my stock music on Pond 5 (though I can’t track whether they buy my music online). However, a website is still give you a static base of operations from which to promote and highlight your songs, and is something that people are more likely to encounter through a Google search.

Closing thoughts on how selling songs online

So there you have it. Each of these previous steps is very difficult to perfect, but incredibly easy to start.

So you should start on this sooner rather than later. You are not aiming for your first song to be perfect. You’re aiming for your first song to be good enough. And for each song to be a little better than that.

A little better written.

A little better recorded.

A little better produced.

A little better described.

And a little better promoted.

If you commit to constant improvement instead of immediate perfection, you will absolutely be selling songs online. And the sooner you start writing, the sooner you start selling songs.

This video will give you a little more info.

Should I license my Music

It took me a long time to convince myself that I should license my music. I struggled with a lot of issues.

  • Are my songs good enough?
  • Can I record a professional sounding track?
  • Am I a sell out?

Do these sound familiar?

So how did I finally convince myself that I should license my music?

Some people call this “imposter syndrome.” And the truth is that everyone suffers from it – even genuine pros. Just remember that everyone had to start somewhere!

How to Feel Confident in Your Songwriting

Well, first, I just kept writing songs. I wrote my first song more than 20 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that I’m an expert, or that I only write good songs, or that every (or most) songs I write are good.

What experience has given me is perspective. At least now I’ve written enough songs to know which ones are genuinely BAD. But because I’ve written enough songs, I’m not emotionally attached to these turds. I can let them rot on my hard drive and sit down and write another song.


Another way I overcame my insecurity about my songs was by taking a few that I genuinely believed were good, and putting them out there.

Sometimes it takes a really long time to sell a license to my music, but thankfully I licensed this song within about a month of uploading it to Pond 5.

This provided the positive reinforcement I needed to continue to record and upload songs.

But don’t tie too much of your self-esteem to your song sales. Some of my favorite songs have never been licensed, and some of my least favorite have been licensed repeatedly.

Go figure.

Learn to Record Professional Sounding Tracks

I had dabbled in recording for a decade, but, looking back, I never tried to get good at it. I limited myself with the mindset that I was “only recording demos” so quality didn’t really matter.

But when I got serious about trying to license my music, I realized I needed to step up my game and learn to record professional sounding songs.

Like most things in life, improving the quality of your recordings comes down to two things: knowledge and practice.

Inspiration to license my music

Youtube is full of great free resources on mixing and recording. I recommend the Recording Revolution, Pensado’s Place, MixBuss TV, and the Pro Audio Files. You can see all of these recommendations here on the subscriptions part of my Youtube channel.

When it comes to practicing your mixing, it all comes back to writing lots of songs. The more you write, the more songs you have to work on, the more opportunities to mix & record you have. It’s a virtuous cycle.

I’ve also gotten a ton of value from Duelling Mixes by the Graham Cochrane and Joe Gilder. Each month they give you raw stems to mix, plus they each record an hour-long, highly detailed instructional video explaining how they got their sounds. It’s great because if you get stuck on something, you can see exactly how they approached the problem.

Am I a Sellout for Wanting to License My Music?

I think this is a personal question that only you can answer.

For me, I actually felt compelled to license my music. I don’t have a record deal and I don’t have a band to play my music live.

If I want to get my music heard by a lot of people, I need to rely on a third party to promote and distribute it.

Hell, 1,000’s of potential buyers listen to my songs every month, let alone the songs that are purchased, presumably to be listened to by even more people.

So I put them out for license. Here’s how to license your first song.

In my mind it’s that or have 5 people a month listen on Soundcloud or Spotify.

Of course, there are certain songs that are really important or personal to me, and those I’m not going to license.

But in my mind, everything else should get out there.

What is Royalty Free Music

What is Royalty Free music? What’s Stock Music? What’s Production Music? What’s the difference?????


These terms can all be so confusing. It took me months to figure out what they each mean.

In fact, the terms royalty free music, stock music, and production music, mean the same thing (most of the time)!

But that’s not even the frustrating part!


Because they’re often used incorrectly. Awesomesauce.

The difference between Royalty Free Music, Stock Music, and Production Music?

Ok, by now you’re probably thinking “WTF. This is absurd.”

And you’re right.

These, the terms are pretty much used interchangeably, and that’s how I use them on this site.

If you want more info, you can check out this video I made.

What is Royalty Free Music?

Typically, if someone writes a song, there are several different ways to make money.

The first type of right is called a mechanical royalty. It just means that whenever a copy of the song is sold (a CD is sold, mp3 downloaded, or sheet music is sold), the writer gets paid.

A synchronization license is required whenever a purchaser buys the rights to use a song as part of some other media presentation – for example as part of a TV soundtrack.

So when you license your royalty free music on a stock music site, the purchaser pays a fee for the right to use the song. On Pond 5, for example, the purchaser must pay a minimum of $15 to use the song, a portion of which goes to the songwriter.

However, there is another type of royalty, called performance royalties. When a song is performed publicly, either by being broadcast or played live, the broadcaster or the venue have to pay the songwriter a performance royalty. These are collected by performing rights societies like BMI.

Did you know that public places, like shops & bars have to pay a fee to BMI for the music they broadcast? Sometimes songwriters are willing to waive these performance royalties in exchange for a larger synchronization fee.

So if a buyer purchases a synch license for your song on Pond 5 for use in a TV commercial, they only pay that single upfront fee. Then, when the TV station broadcasts the commercial, the station must pay the performance royalties to BMI. BMI then sends a check to the songwriter.

Phew. That’s complicated.

So what is royalty free music, then?????

Basically, royalty free music just means that the purchaser only needs to pay a single upfront synchronization fee, without having to worry about any other complaints or royalties to the songwriter. Then, depending on the terms of the agreement, the musician may still be eligible to receive performance royalties from broadcasters.

Unfortunately this is pretty complicated, and each royalty free music site has different terms, so you really need to review it on a case by case basis.

If you’d prefer, here’s a video explaining what is royalty free music.

5 Lessons to Sell Music Online

5 Lessons From 1st Year Selling Music Online

5 Lessons From 1st Year Selling Music Online

I’ve been seriously trying to sell music online for about a year now. In the process of learning how to license stock music online this year, I’ve come up with five helpful tips I’d like to share.

This free video shows how to license your music online!

1. Start now!

I first heard about licensing stock music a couple of years ago. But like most things in life, I heard about it, I thought “huh, that’d be cool,” and promptly went on with my life.

I totally ignored learning how to sell music online at first

I totally ignored learning about stock music at first

Then, a year I heard about it again. This time I actually signed up for a site (Audiojungle), and uploaded some songs. One of these royalty free songs was accepted, and even sold, netting me a cool $7.50.

I was ready for retirement.

Of course, Audiojungle also rejected a metric CRAP-TON of my songs. So I got frustrated and stopped trying to make royalty free music for a while.

About 6 months after that, April 2015, I finally got up and running with my favorite stock music site, Pond 5. Through a lot of hard work I’ve started to create a portfolio of music that consistently sells.

2. Learn About Everything!

Learn all of it! Learn everything!

When I started, I thought I knew it all. Hahahaha. I was an idiot.

I needed to learn how to write better songs, how to record and mix, how to manage a portfolio of my stock music, how to do social media, and how to balance it all with my life.

There are tons of helpful free resources out there, many of which I’ll talk about down the line. These days there are websites, blogs, vlogs, podcasts and lord knows what else to help.

However, I will say that I’ve tended to get the best results from paid services, whether they’re books, communities, or courses.

So learn, but don’t be afraid to shell out for the right information. It is WAY more important than gear.

3. You need the right gear to make quality music.

Speaking of gear, you don’t need Abbey Road to create excellent stock music. But there’s certain non-negotiables when it comes to recording: decent monitors or headphones, a DAW you understand, a direct input box if you’re using a guitar or bass, and online backup software.

At the same time, so much gear, especially the vintage plugins, are just a total waste of time (and money).

Here are some of my favorites.

You don't need expensive gear to sell music online

You don’t need expensive gear to sell music online

There are plenty of things that make your workflow faster, though. If you’ve got the money, they can really be worth it.

For me, that’s an Avid Eleven Rack and Native Instruments’ Maschine.

4. If You Work Hard to Sell Music Online, You Can Make Real Money

Let’s be clear – you are not going to retire by licensing your music any time soon.

But if you apply yourself to licensing music, you will definitely be able to pay for lots of new gear and beer and pizza.

And that, my friends, is a-maz-ing.

To give you some idea, after a year of doing this about 10 hours a week, I’m now making about $200 a month selling my songs on websites. And I had fun doing most of it!

Pro-tip: There is basically NO money to be made from Spotify. Licensing is the easiest way to go.

5. Don’t Get Discouraged

People are stupid.

I often write songs that are obviously amazing, but people don’t buy them. Why people, why?

I occasionally write songs that are terrible. But…. people… buy them…? Why people, why?

All I can say is, the more songs I write, the less I care about the results of any given song. I put the best part of me into each one and set it loose on the world.

If you have faith in your craft, produce music at a consistent pace, and keeping getting better, than there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to sell music online too.

Learn how to license your first song here.