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1

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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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.

2 Easy Song Licensing Business Models

When it comes to selling stock music (what is stock music?), there are 2 easy song licensing business models that have been successful for countless musicians. The first involves directly pitching your songs to music supervisors. The second, and even easier, way to license your songs involves uploading them directly to websites that serve as the middleman between you and the buyers.

The first method is great for established musicians. But if you're like me (and still learning the ropes), you should start at the second method as you cut your teeth in the music industry.​

1st Easy Song Licensing Business Model - Using a Publishing Company

In the first method of song licensing, you develop a network of contacts (or purchase a directory) of music supervisors and publishing companies that are looking for ​music.

Music supervisors are the end users on projects (let's someone working on a TV show looking for a specific type of song for a scene). 

Publishing Companies act as intermediaries between music supervisors and musicians. They develop a catalog of songs. So then, when a music supervisor comes to them and says "Hey, I need to license a song that sounds like Buddy Holly over a dubstep beat, but with a didgeridoo," ​the Publishing Company already has an idea where to start.

The Publishing Company will then submit a shortlist of songs to the music supervisor, who will make the final call. ​

In exchange for performing this service, the Publishing Company will take a share of the synch license revenue​. They will also take a share (often 50%) of the broadcast license revenue, each time the song is played on TV.

This method of music licensing will be the easiest song licensing business model for certain musicians, if:

  • You've got high quality (professionally recorded, mixed, and performed) songs​
  • You have established relationships in the industry
  • You write fewer songs, but spend a lot of time on them

I'll be honest, I don't use this business model. In large part because I still don't think I make music that is of a high enough quality. Also, because I don't make vocal music often. And also, because I don't have any contacts.

But if you want to learn more about this type of music licensing opportunity - you can check out ​ Cathy Heller or Howtolicenseyourmusic.com.

2nd Easy Song Licensing Business Model - Sell Through Websites

For me, this second business model is really an easy song licensing system

I simply write and record the songs I want to make, upload them to a few websites, and sit back and way for buyers to purchase a license. And I make hundreds of dollars a month doing this.​

Now the big advantage of this for me is that I don't have to be a "professional" musician. I just have to be a good musician with decent recordings. This has allowed me to really grow my skills over the years while still getting paid to make music I love.

And it's much more passive, since many of these websites like Pond 5 and ProductionTrax make it really easy to upload your music (much easier than pitching someone). ​

Now of course there's a big downside - these sites pay significantly less ​than you would get from going with a Publishing Company. Maybe 20-30% of what you'd earn.

But if you're not ready for a Publishing Company yet, this is an amazing way to get started in music licensing.

Not only will you start making some money, but when you are good enough to move up the value chain, you can point to your successes when pitching publishing companies ("I sold hundreds of songs and was featured on...")​

Watch this video to learn how I'm making $1,000's licensing my music.​

Easy Song Licensing

The 2 business models for easy song licensing

Have you tried either of these methods of music licensing? How is it working for you? Is there another major business model that you can think of? Let me know! 

August & September 2016 Earnings Report

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times! August was my best month of license on Pond 5, by a significant margin. September was one of the worst this year.

In August, I licensed 20 tracks for $267, which puts it an average price per sale of $13.50. Back in May I was averaging $9.73 a sale, so I was really happy to see the average price of a sale go up. I’d raised my prices, and it appeared to be paying off!

If you want to find out more about how to license your music, check out this free video!

And it was my birthday, so I promptly blew (some) of the money on a great Mackie Pro FX mixer, mostly for live playing, but also helpful for recording drums and some other situations. It’s great and I’m loving it!

Image result for i'm loving it gif

Prior to August, my previous April and May had been my best months on Pond 5, with $204 in sales in each month. June and July took a big slump, though, in the $130-140 per month range. I wish I had an answer for such wild swings in music licensing revenue, though! Because in September, things went south, again.

I only licensed songs worth $130 in September on Pond 5, which is crazy because I have I added at least a dozen new songs a month. I’d expect to be basically increasing sales over time with the occasional up and down. But this feels more like two steps forward, two steps back.

On the plus side, the average higher price stuck, with sales worth about $13.30 a piece.

If August hadn’t been so good, I guess I could blame the slump on higher prices, but those didn’t seem to turn off buyers in August.

Maybe it was just end of summer vacations?

I don’t know. But it’s disheartening to have fallen from much higher numbers earlier in the year, despite having, better music, more of it, and higher prices.

However, it’s not all terrible in September (phew)!

First, I the one song I have on AudioJungle sold, so that is another $9.50. However, I’m not really a fan of AudioJungle, and you can find out why I here. But it’s an easy sale.

Second, I license a song for the first time on ProductionTrax, netting me $32.47. Previously I had been skeptical about them, and only time will tell how good of a marketplace it is. I’ve had about 60 songs up there for the better part of this year, so the marketplace doesn’t seem huge. But the price is right, and the platform is easy to work with.

Finally, I licensed three tracks over at Audio Micro for a whopping…. Wait for it…. Drum roll please… a whopping total of $10 bucks. Total.

That is awful. $3.30 per song.

Image result for sarcasm gif

The songs are supposed to be price higher, but they give huge subscriber discounts, and take it out of the artists’ pockets. I’ve got a theory that subscribers probably purchase a lot of audio, so maybe they’ll make repeat purchase. Maybe they’re bigger, so there’s higher odds of a song being broadcast? I’m going to leave my tracks up there for a year, just to see if anything happens with back end royalties or growing business.

Otherwise, though, I’m going to take my songs down.

So with all of that, my grand total for September 2016 was $181.87. I’m happy I got some sales from other sites, but all in all, it still was a lackluster performance. Here’s hoping for the future!

6

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!

 

Royalty Free Bossa Nova Jazz & Sambas

Since writing Brazilian bossa nova jazz music is one of my passions, I’ve built quite a catalog. Whenever I pick up my guitar, these beautiful songs just flow out of me.

These high quality songs are just the thing to add a little South American spark to your video productions about Brazil.

Once I dug in to the music of Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gil Gilberto, Astrid Gilberto, Milton Nasciemento, Os Mutantes, and Babel Gilberto, I was hooked.

I mean, who doesn’t love a samba’s pulsing rhythm? Seems like I go weak in the knees for the smooth female jazz vocals! And the haunting melodies and complex jazz guitar chord changes always captivate me.

Energetic Brazilian Samba Stock Music with Female Vocalist

Royalty free energetic brazilian samba stock music

Royalty free energetic Brazilian samba stock music

The cacophony of Brazil’s steamy Amazon jungle gives way to energetic swinging samba drums and samba percussion just in time for Carnival and the Olympics. Furthermore, upbeat Latin jazz horns signal that the party is ready to begin in these 122 bpm edits.

Most edits feature a sultry female vocalist singing in the style of the great Brazilian female jazz singers like Astrid Gilberto.

Sultry Royalty Free Bossa Nova Jazz with Female Singer

This sultry, romantic bossa nova was inspired by the great jazz musicians of Brazil. My inspirations include Antonio Carlos Jobim and Gilberto. And of course, Stan Getz. As a result, these songs feature afro-cuban percussion, silky jazz guitar, and hypnotic bass.

Also, some versions of these royalty free bossa nova jazz songs feature sultry female vocals singing in Portuguese.

Bossa Nova Instrumental Brazilian Guitar Song

Most of these songs feature solo bossa nova guitar. As a result, my royalty free bossa nova jazz guitar songs feel looser. Furthermore, they also have a more contemplative air than the other pieces.

2

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.

8

Audio Jungle Review (Where I Sell Some Music)

It was the best of sites, it was the worst of sites. It was the most popular of sites, and the stingiest of sites. It was the most creative of sites, and the most dickish of sites.

Ok, pardon my Dickensian introduction.

I got my first sales ever on Audio Jungle, with this chill dub song. I was super, super stoked. In fact, I’ve sold it repeatedly. So Audio Jungle has a special place in my heart as my first. Thank you, Audio Jungle.

But like many "firsts," that special place is also full of a lot of frustration and pain.

Full of a lot of mixed feelings about Audio Jungle. So even though there’s money to be made on Audio Jungle, I cross the street when I see it coming while looking nervously down at my phone.

Here’s why. If you're interested in how AudioJungle compares to my favorite site, Pond 5, check out this article.

Just a note – Audio Jungle 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 Audio Jungle. However, I do earn a referral feel from any purchases people make on Audio Jungle. But almost every major stock music site offers referrals).

Audio Jungle Review, pt. 1 - It does some really good, creative things

Audio Jungle clearly has a huge market of buyers, which makes it a great place for sellers to sell. If you can get your songs up, you'll probably get lucky.

It has a really attractive layout and is super easy to navigate.

Plus it allows musicians to customize their pages and songs in all sorts of ways. And every Audio Jungle review should note that it includes a lot of wonderful social media features that give musicians the ability to create their own song packs and sell different types of licenses.

I know a lot of folks that swear by Audio Jungle. But for me, it’s not worth the effort because…

Get your FREE 5-Day Music Licensing Crash Course

You've dreamed about being a musician all your life. Sign up for the free course to get started learning the secrets for your music licensing journey.

Audio Jungle review, pt. 2 - It is literally the worst ever (at some things)

As an artist, I get the feeling that Audio Jungle is trying to bully me into meek acceptance of its terrible behavior. It’s like it gets off on being withholding. Like it only hurts musicians because it cares.

Why?

Let’s start with payout. If you’re a non-exclusive author, Audio Jungle offers you about 36% of the sale price, compared to the industry-standard 50% you see on sites like Pond 5, Audio Micro, and Production Trax. Update October 2019 - Pond 5 has also moved to a lower payout ratio of 35/65 in Pond 5's favor, so this makes AudioJungle a little more appealing.

If you give up your rights to sell your song on other platforms, than Audio Jungle boost the payout to 60%, which is nice. But then you’re tied to Audio Jungle forever. But what if it goes out of business or stops being popular with buyers? What happens to your catalog then? What if some hot new startup pops up and everyone is selling there?

Audio Jungle sets the price of your files without giving you any control. These prices are some of the lowest in the industry, at $19. Now some authors on Pond 5 sell themselves short and price their songs at $15, but they’re being fools. But it's their choice.

Update November 2018: AudioJungle now let's you set the price of your songs.

I mean, us musicians know that some of our songs are crap. But we pour our hearts and souls in to writing and performing most of our music.

Receiving 36% of $19 dollars (~$6.85) is a slap in the face.

Now Audio Jungle’s low standard price is offset, somewhat, but Audio Jungle offering multiple types of licenses, some of which do pay out WAY more. For example, a full music & film broadcast license costs $300+.

But to add insult to injury, with Audio Jungle, you are not allowed to register your songs with a performance rights organization, like ASCAP or BMI. This means that if your song is ever broadcast, you miss out on the opportunity to collect performance royalties.

Next, Audio Jungle has terrible standards of review that I can't come close to figuring out. They weed out some bad stuff, sure. But they rejected this energetic rock song which I’ve licensed on Pond 5 a bunch of times.

Update November 2018: I've literally earned hundreds of dollars from this song on Pond 5.

Of course, strict reviews wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t such a terrible, massive pain in the ass to upload your files to Audio Jungle.

For each song (or edit of a song), you have to create your own version with an Audio Jungle watermark, and also create a .zip file. When an average song could have 5 or 6 edited versions, it just ain’t worth my time. I haven't seen these absurd, archaic requirements on any other site.

In sum my Audio Jungle review is this: if you’re ok gambling you’re time away formatting files in the hopes of having songs accepted, you will probably make a little money from those songs. Personally, though, I’d rather spend that time making music.

Anybody have any different thoughts on Audio Jungle?

I'll add that if you want to make corporate music, AudioJungle is probably a decent platform for you, but not great for any other style.

Update November 2018: Base on most of the comments I've received below and on Youtube, most musicians feel that Audio Jungle isn't worth the effort.

Get your FREE 5-Day Music Licensing Crash Course

You've dreamed about being a musician all your life. Sign up for the free course to get started learning the secrets for your music licensing journey.

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.

7

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!!!