I want to show you my best selling songs and teach you why I think they were successful. So this will be the first in a series of my five best-selling songs for music licensing on Pond Five. I’ll probably do this over the course of a month or so.
So stay tuned every week or two I’ll be putting out another one of these videos where I break down why I think this song is one of the best sellers and hopefully you can learn something from this and apply it to your own attempts to license your music.
If you’re interested, here’s my five day free course on how to license your music.
This article is going to be a little more in-depth in that it looks at just one song and why I think it’s the best seller. Another thing I want to add to that is that all of these songs that are my best sellers also happen to be my oldest songs. The songs that I uploaded three or four years ago. So the fact that they’re best sellers doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best songs. It just means they’ve been around the longest. But these are the ones that have made me the most money – hundreds of dollars each.
And another thing I want to mention before we actually start listening to the song and break it down is that when I say “song,” I’m often writing a full length song but then making a version of it that’s shorter. And so these are actually the five best selling edits that I have. Some are complete songs. Some are more. Some are loops. Some are short edits.
Now we’re going to play this first one what we’re gonna do is we’ll listen to it then I’ll talk you through the points on what I think is good about it and what I think is bad about it now, having another three years of experience.
I think that this song does a really good job of conveying that hard rock. A Black Keys type of vibe, right? Classic Rock! If you’re interested, you can license this great riff rock song here (affiliate link).
From the first note to the very last note, you know exactly what type of song it is. It’s energetic and it’s hard charging and doesn’t try to do anything other than stay within its zone.
So for somebody who is looking for a song in that classic rock zone, this song is a fit, which is really important. Now they just have to determine if they like it and if the format is right.
The second thing is it’s constantly moving and never really repeats itself. It builds up. It goes and it ends and then it has a second ending. Which sort of helpful as well.
The third thing I think is that it’s reasonably well produced. It’s not terrible and it’s not great. It sounds within the genre, at least.
But there’s also a couple of things I don’t think it does well. I could mix and master it and record it better, but it was good enough for the time. It’s good enough for licensing.
The next thing I want to say is actually that the standard length for these types of things should be 30 seconds. This song is like twenty four seconds, so I probably shot myself in the foot and missed out on opportunities to license this song because it’s just a little too short. So this song doesn’t fit in there. I didn’t know that at the time. I was just trying to make something shorter.
Note: this article contains affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a commission at no expense to you.
Have all of your gear well maintained, so that when you are writing, you can actually get the most out of it.
This also means having backup strings on hand in case you break one just as inspiration hits. I like to buy in bulk.
Or maybe you still haven’t gotten around to get a power supply for your pedals (one of these days, I know). And you forgot to unplug the pedals after your last jam. And now all your batteries are dead.
It sounds lame, but having your equipment and music files organized allows you to focus on writing rather than spending all your time hunting stuff down.
Disorganization prevents you from performing at your best, so declutter and find a place for everything. For less than $15 I was able to get my gear under control and I haven’t looked back.
No joke, you’ve gotta buy the following:
Having a good system in place for capturing your song through notebooks and smart recorders is important for capturing your inspiration when it strikes.
When you're not writing, make sure you are brushing up on your scales, chord inversions, and upping your knowledge of your instruments and equipment. This will make a huge difference when you want to take what's in your head and make it into music.
Whether you're feeling inspired or not, block out time every day to get some writing in. You may struggle at times, but sticking to this discipline will hugely improve your music writing abilities.
Writing in the same place every day does work for some people, but if you're feeling stuck, a change of scenery may do the trick.
Are you a morning person or a night owl? Are you too drained after work to give any real effort to your music writing? Switching up the time of day when you write can make a big difference.
When you’re stuck on what to write, think of some of your favorite hip hop verses. You can apply the rhythm of the rapper’s flow to your own melody.
Annie Clarke, AKA St. Vincent, shares one of the most powerful tricks for overcoming songwriter’s block on an episode of the incredible Youtube channel Guitar Moves.
A lot of artists have found that switching between instruments can inspire them to think in new and creative ways.
So if your main instrument is piano, for example, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up an instrument that you don’t know so well, like a ukulele.
If you don’t have another instrument and can’t afford one, there’s still little things you can do. You could buy a slide for your guitar. Or you could try a free keyboard synthesizer app for your phone (or go to the reference page and check out the recommended phone apps). A harmonica costs like $12.
Similarly, stringed instrument players can benefit massively from experimenting with alternate tunings.
It’s a license to explore the guitar with all the benefit of the technique you’ve already mastered.
You can also try using a capo to put your guitar into a different octave. Sometimes open chords and drones will sound really cool.
Most musicians tend to have a favorite key or scale. But by mixing it up with something more exotic, you can force yourself to explore new opportunities.
In the opposite direction, it can help to purposely LIMIT your options. You may discover a world with in a world.
Playing upside down is incredibly helpful at coming up with creative chord voicings and melodies. So much of the guitar is different, but enough is the same that you can easily muddle through and come up with really interesting parts that you can then improve upon on with an instrument that faces the right direction.
When you find yourself in times of trouble, don’t be afraid to try singing a melody instead of playing an instrument. Sometimes singing can be more spontaneous and direct than an instrument, and it can help you work your way around writers' block.
If you’re stuck on a musical melody or solo, put yourself in the frame of mind of telling a story.
Music loops can be an incredibly powerful way of breaking through songwriter’s block. The rhythm from firing up a drum loop can inspire you to play chords in a certain way or create a fun riff.
You can find all sorts of loops for free on the internet. For example, I put together this list of the best sites for free loops. Just make sure you pick the version of the loop pack that is compatible with your recording software.
Sometimes when I get stuck on a song, I’ll come up with a very average melodic theme, and try to write five or six variations of it, without thinking too hard. Just by exploring different angles of the same theme, you can end up coming up with different approaches, in a jazz-like manner.
If you’re having trouble getting started on a song, you could always try coming up with a song title first, and then write your song around that. Whether your song is called, "Killer Clown" or "One True Love," you'll have a better idea about how to compose it.
Most of us play music in 4/4 four fourths of the time, but some amazing songs are written in 3/4, 5/4, 7/4, 11/4, and so on. Step out of your comfort zone and see what happens.
When struggling with writer's block on a new song, it helps to figure out what kind of scene your music could be the soundtrack to. What kind of song would you write if you were commissioned to write a song for the 27th installment of The Fast and The Furious?
If you’re still stuck in a rut, why don’t you try deconstructing your favorite song. Breaking down the components of a beloved song doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll use them, but it can serve as a good point of reference.
I can’t tell you how many song ideas I’ve gotten just by playing some blues riffs over and over, almost meditatively. Eventually you tend to fall into a cool rhythm, pattern, riff, or variation that breaks the mold while staying in it.
Sometimes we need a rhythm to play against, a force of tension to draw the music out. Beat boxing (you know, making drum noises with your mouth) can often be the solution.
If you’re really struggling, you can also use the internet to generate random phrases. You could go to https://randomwordgenerator.com/phrase.php and just keep hitting the button until you find a phrase that inspires you.
Reacting in real time to other musicians will get you out of your comfort zone and introduce ideas that you wouldn’t normally consider.
If you can’t find a writing partner, there’s plenty of other ways to be involved. You could go to an open mic night, sitting in at a jam session, find a drum circle, or just have a few friends over.
Playing live is one of the best ways to feel inspired. Even if you’re just playing a cover show, feeling the energy of the crowd is incredibly euphoric.
Public accountability can be a huge inspiration for some. I know a lot of musicians who were unable to finish their album until they had the additional pressure that came from putting a deadline “out there.”
Writing a song for someone can be a great way of finding inspiration. How many hits have been written for lovers? But even if you’re not in love, there’s plenty of ways you can write a song for someone!
Did you know that there are tons of statistics that say that exercise is good for you? It’s true! But it’s also really good for inspiration.
Walking can also be incredibly good for you. Just go out there and take a fifteen minute stroll in the middle of your session. You’ll feel relaxed, more in tune with yourself, and you’ll come back energized.
If you’re going to sit down and try to do some writing, turn off your phone, close all your browser windows and disconnect. You’ll be free of distractions and able to focus on the main task ahead of you: writing.
Explore genres that you aren't familiar with or listen to more challenging music, like classical or jazz. Either way, you'll find some genius which may just inspire you.
Meditation and mindfulness exercises are a great way of staying balanced and gaining clarity. You’ll also be much more calm and energized when you resume writing.
While consistency is ultimately king, don’t feel bad about taking a break. Taking time off may just be what you need to come back and refocus.
Certain books just contain such powerful ideas, such striking characters, such poetry, that there is no way that you come away without being inspired.
Reading about the struggles that other musicians have undergone, their creative processes, and just about the general history of music can be incredibly inspiring.
Between YouTube and Netflix, there are a plethora of great music documentaries. Seeing the methods and challenges of other musicians can be very inspiring.
There is nothing like live music. The energy that develops when people get together and perform is truly special. Basking in it nourishes the musical soul, like a church for musicians.
I'm not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. However, I have heard that crack is whack. I have also heard that Jim Morrison performed best drunk, but then he also died from a heroin addiction. We've lost enough great musicians to drug and alcohol abuse, so be smart and responsible.
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.
You can get a free Five-Day stock music licensing crash course by clicking on the button
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.
Basically, I break up my process into 5 steps, and try to do a different one each week.
The 5 steps are:
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.
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?
If you want to learn how to write a song, the first thing you’ll need is a *strong* intro. As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” and that’s as true in song writing as it is in anything else. In fact, as I’ve said in my tips for tips to write a song that sells, having a strong intro is one of the major factors in success.
This is one of the key things I reveal in my free video on how to license music.
Just think about it. People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. There’s literally 1000’s of songs being uploaded every day. If people don’t like what they hear in the first few seconds, they may not wait around until the better parts of your songs.
That’s why you’ve got to learn how to write an intro to your songs.
Now I’m going to give you guys a template with 5 different styles of intro you can use for writing that killer intro.
These techniques have gotten my songs placed on NPR and on National TV, among other spots.
Are you ready to learn how to write a song that instantly grabs your listener’s attention?
Great! But before we go further, I usually write the intro to the song last! Because ultimately, the intro has to fit the song, not the other way around.
This technique is great for electronic music and for hip hop. For example, you can hear Daft Punk doing this ALL of the time.
Basically, what you do is you “sample” the verse or the chorus of your song, select a little chunk of it, and then line them up together in little segments that get shorter and shorter.
Here’s how you can do it for hip hop.
And here’s an example of how you can do the Daft Punk style build up.
Using these techniques will instantly bring energy to your songs. They also work great for breakdowns, buildups, and bridges.
This style of intro involves creating an artificial soundscape that’s interesting, then slowly fading your song into it. This is great for bring the listener’s attention to the song, and much more powerful than just a straight fade in.
You can use this with almost any genre, from rock to EDM to hip hop.
Hear how the cacophony of the jungle gives way to the energy of the samba? Trust me when I say that this is 10x more powerful than just starting with the song itself. Of course, you still need to know how to write a song, but the soundscape helps place it in context.
This technique probably will require you to use some extra samples to get the ambiance right. But don’t fret – here’s a list of some of the best sites for free music samples!
This intro style probably works best with electronic music, though it also fits well with pop. Basically, you put a high pass and a low pass filter on your master bus and slowly decrease the amount of filtering as the song builds up.
You can hear an example of this (and the 1st & 2nd style, all combined!) in the song Digital Love off of Daft Punk’s Discovery. I highly recommend listening to this album a thousand times to learn all sorts of great production tips.
Yep. That’s how you write a great intro.
This 4th intro style relies on the art of surprise. Basically, you use a weird instrument or effect to kick things off, and that grabs the listener’s attention.
You can hear how this royalty free disco funk song starts with a highly processed drum beat that would be annoying if played for much longer, but it’s also weird enough to be interesting. It’s yet another way how to write a song intro.
If you’ve got an energetic upbeat song, then one of the best ways to start it is by just coming in hot! Start with a huge drum fill or searing guitar solo to instantly grab your listener’s attention. You can back it off from there, but it’s a great way of putting your best foot forward, especially if you know how to write songs that can maintain a high energy level throughout, but also have dynamic verses and choruses. This is especially good for fast paced classic rock music.
Ready to start putting these tips into practice? Learn how to start licensing your music today!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.