How Do I Sell My Music
to Film and TV Shows?

Questions & Letters to TAXI


Answered by Michael Laskow, CEO, TAXI
How do I sell my music to Film and TV shows?

— Thanks,

Kevin Cheli


Dear Kevin,

You win the award for most succinctly asked question in a long, long time. Much appreciated!

The answer won't be quite so short.

You really don't SELL your music so much as you LICENSE your music for Film and TV opportunities. You grant a license to the TV show or movie to use your music for a particular show or film.

You get paid for granting that license, usually with an upfront fee, as well as collecting performance royalties when the TV shows air. You don't get paid when it plays in movie theaters (in the U.S.), but you DO get paid for theatrical release in most other countries.

Sometimes you don't get a "synch or master license" fee upfront, but if the TV show is played over and over again, the back end is often worth it, in and of itself. There is much debate about "selling out" by accepting no synch or master license fee and lowering the value of music overall. I'm not going to get into that debate in this answer, but suffice it to say, there are valid arguments on both sides of the fence.

In the end, it's up to you to make a value judgment on a case-by-case basis.

Most of our members that get Film and TV placements through TAXI, get them by becoming connected with production music libraries or Film and TV specific publishers. There are a wide variety of deals offered by those companies, but many of the deals are based on a 50/50 split of the money generated.

Some of the companies will take more, some less. Again, it's up to you to educate yourself as to the normal range of deals and make your decision on a case-by-case basis.

We have a ton of great articles on this subject on our site. You can read them by clicking here: http://www.taxi.com/faq/ftv/index.html

We also have a great series of short videos called, 'Earning Your Living with Film & TV Placements,' featuring TAXI member Matt Hirt. Matt has been very successful doing Film and TV music and pitching it through TAXI. These videos are like getting a Master's degree on the subject. Check them out here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FguwMMsDZA

One last thing to remember. Most people assume that you need to do elaborate productions to get your music in Film and TV. Not necessarily true! There are a ton of usages that feature nothing more than a solo acoustic guitar or piano in them, and they're easily recorded with a basic home studio.

Good, clean recordings are required and if you have vocals on your tracks, make sure they are performed really well and not pitchy. Good luck!

— Warm regards,

Michael




I've been reading your letters for more than 10 years and always love what you have to say. You have inspired me to do more with my music. It has not always been easy to find the time because I have a family to take care of.

I'm writing this letter as sort of a confession, so I hope you'll read it.

I did exactly what you said. I treated my music like it was more than a hobby. I wrote more music every day and eventually had enough songs for an EP. I paid a producer to record them, pressed 500 of them up and had a CD release party. People showed up, but when the booze ran out, so did they. I was depressed for a week but decided to continue moving forward.

I bought a directory that listed all the A/R people at the record labels and sent out more than 100 copies of my CD. All in all it cost me much more than a year of being a TAXI member, but I thought it would be best to pitch my music directly to them.

Only two of the A/Rs got back to me and neither of them wanted to sign me. One of them told me that my songs still needed more work. I am so embarrassed. I should have listened to you and used TAXI as my sounding board to get my songs to be the best they could be before I sent them to anybody.

Now I've wasted what is a lot of money for me and I am stuck with a few hundred CDs I am not happy with. I am writing to you in the hopes that you will tell other people who read your letters my story so they don't make my same mistakes.

I've enclosed a copy of my CD for you to listen to. I know it is a lot to ask, but could you please give me some advice after you listen? I promise to take your advice this time.


— Thank you Mr. Laskow,

Lakethia Johnson


Dear Lakethia,

First, let me tell you that you have nothing to be embarrassed about. At least you DID something to move forward. Do you have regrets? Sure, but very few of us don't in life.

I'm proud of you for finding the time to make the CD. I know it's hard for moms to do much more than take care of all the things life throws at them every day, so be proud that you finished the songs and the CD. That was quite an accomplishment!

I wish you would have told me that you were going to shotgun your CD out to the industry using a directory of record labels. I've known a few people that's worked for, but VERY few. And I've been in this business for 35 years!

People at record labels DO need to find great music. But, from years of experience they also know the odds of finding it in an unsolicited package are VERY slim. That's why I created TAXI 16 years ago — to point them in the right direction.

And finally, I know I'm repeating one of my favorite mantras here, but it can't be said often enough. Use us to help pick the right songs and make them as good as they can possibly be BEFORE you make the CD.

You should never be sad that you took a big step and didn't succeed in the way you hoped you would. You've learned something that will help you next time around the block. And I hope you have the courage to get back on the horse for another ride.

— Thank you for sharing your experience,

Michael




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