5 Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing a Licensing Company 975 words · 5 minute read

You’ve developed a killer ad concept for your brand’s latest product. You know what you want it to look like and you know how you want it to make the viewer feel. There’s just one last component… What should it sound like?

Enter: music licensing company.

A music licensing company plays a very important role in the creation of any media project. For this reason, there are many things to consider when choosing a licensing company.

Do they have relationships with publishers and record labels?

If you already have a well-known song in mind, you’ll need your licensing company to clear that song for your use. This requires the licensing company to reach out to the publisher and/or rights holders who have ownership of that song. When you work with a reputable, experienced licensing company, they can often get that job done quickly and efficiently because their past projects have helped them build relationships with various copyright holders. These relationships can also lead to a better price on the license.

When a licensing company is beginning a new relationships with publishers and record lables, the deal-making process can be slow. Additionally, the price might not be ideal. Which brings us to our next question:

Will they try to get you the best price for your clearance?

Sometimes, publishers and/or rights holders just won’t budge on the price of a song. When this happens, you’re forced to either choose a new song or change your project specs. If you choose the latter, your music licensing company should be able advise you. What kind of content are you creating? Where does the song fit within that content? How long do you need the song for, and in what capacity?

For example: You might be clearing a song for an ad that will air on television for six weeks. Can you trim that down to four weeks? Will the ad run worldwide, or just in North America? Do you plan to air the ad online as well? All of these factors will affect the type of license you need – and the cost.

Modifying your project specs is a great way to reduce the cost of a license. A good music licensing company will help you hone in on the type of license that will benefit you the most.

But what if you decide to scrap the well-known or major label song and look for something new?

Do they have their own music catalogue and in-house music supervision capabilities?

Sometimes, no matter what your project specs are, the price of the song you want is out of your budget. Lucky for you, there are thousands of artists out there whose music you have yet to discover – you just need to find the right one. A top-of-the-line licensing company will have their own library of pre-cleared songs for you to choose from. This library should be varied, containing multiple songs at multiple price points so that your specific needs can be met.

Your licensing company should also have in-house music supervision capabilities. That way, after evaluating your project, they can expertly navigate their library and put together a playlist of options.

What if, after all of that, you’re still stuck? You just can’t seem to find that original sound your project needs. Hmmm…

Can they create custom music?

It’s possible that the perfect song for your project might not even exist yet. Your music licensing company should have custom music capabilities so that they can create exactly the song you want.

No, we aren’t referring to a corny jingle – unless you’re into that. A great music licensing company will be able to commission an artist to compose an original track for your project, alter one of their existing songs to better fit your needs, or even put a twist on a classic hit by another artist.

Whether you choose a well-known, indie, or custom song for your project, you’ll be ecstatic. You’ve finally found that perfect sound and you’re ready to sign the check. Not so fast! The price tag attached to that song should be carefully examined.

Does their lower-than-low pricing come with a catch?

What exactly are you paying for when you secure your sync license? Is the music of substantial quality, or was it thrown together with cheap, manufactured sounds? Is the song really custom, or was it made by some producer who isn’t an expert in that particular genre? Does the licensing company take your money and run, or does their service provide extra support, including help with publishing issues (like artist unions and cue sheets), obtaining stems of songs from artists, or customizing music to better fit your project? You’ve got to know what you’re really buying outside of just the song.

What about pricing when clearing a song?

Let’s say you’ve settled on the major label or well-known song instead and you’ve decided that Jay-Z is the best artist for your project. One company, License Pros, estimates $400,000 for the clearance of that Jay-Z song. Another company, Licenses 4 Less, has estimated $100,000 for that same song. Which company should you choose?

Seems like a no-brainer, right? WRONG!

Although Licenses 4 Less quoted you a lower price, due to inexperience, they may have incorrectly estimated the song’s worth, which wreaks havoc on your budgeting.

If you don’t have $600,000 in your project budget, your licensing company can help you find an indie artist comparable to Jay-Z whose music can be licensed at a fraction of the cost.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a music licensing company, but we think that these five are the most important. The more knowledgeable and versatile the company is, the better. Now, make that killer ad concept a reality!

By: Alex Holder, Music Dealers

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Creative Sustainability


Christopher Sessums