In order to clarify why Music Agencies are a better alternative to Distributors, P.R.O.s and Publishers, I prepared this FAQ together with an interested reader of this BLOG who is Composer, Artist and works also at a Publisher. I do not state that the FAQ cannot be corrected but please tell me if you think something is wrong, otherwise I will not learn it and other people who are reading also will not understand the correct methods. I am still not a professional in legal affairs, I am just sharing my personal experience of 10 years.
HOW IT GOT STARTED
I have an idealistic way of thinking and my rules for music business are:
"Consumers can Stream and Download Music for Free for their Enjoyment.
Business Generate Revenue by using Music, so they should share a part of their profit"
You can offer all the music where you are the only rights holder or you know all of the rights holders and you collaborated with them or you have agreement the other rights holders that you represent them.
Rights holders in Licensing Agencies could be summed up most commonly as composer, writer (lyrics) and mechanical rights (rework or editing has been done). It is a similar share like in consumer music business where author (writer, composer), performer and publisher. share the royalties. Also you can offer songs, that you have released already and they are registered at a publisher, distributor or P.R.O., so Music Agencies, also commonly referred to as Aggregators, add a plus to musicians who are already on the consumer music market (e.g. YouTube Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer).
You cannot offer music where you are not the only rights holder or there are some legal entities involved that you did not agree with in advance.
Further if you have an exclusive contract for some of your works with a legal entity, then these particular songs you cannot offer to 3rd legal entities.
After producing and composing music for 15 years and dreaming about work to be released for airplay on the radio, I got to know my first contacts in music business. There have been promises about some songs to be released and inquiries for tracks by clients, but the result was usually unsatisfied A&R managers and clients, who could not accept the songs in the way how I produced them.
It was around 2007, but I cannot recall how I came across the first agency where I uploaded my collection of music. I uploaded around 100 finished songs of various styles that I could offer, containing instrumentals and music with vocals and lyrics. Maybe they did not like all of those for their catalogue, but I guess they took at least one third of the songs for their database, so we made a non-exclusive contract.
After a short time, maybe it was six to twelve months the agency could sell one song to a star alliance airline for their newsletter, which gave them the possibility to share one of my tunes as a downloadable mp3. The license was for 50.000 downloads and for 1 year. I never made a successful deal like that until the day when writing this about page.
Then I registered at more than eight different agencies, communities and distributors over the next 4 years. I usually offered a catalogue of 200 songs and sometimes only 20 have been chosen, sometimes more than 150. During the years from 2010 to 202 I earned constantly around 100-150 EUR per month.
Due to my inactivity in production and songwriting i did not supply new music to the agencies and sales dropped with the years, even one agency asked me to stop the contract, other's do not accept new contributions anymore.
In 2021 I decided to spend a whole year for clarifying all the different contracts at different agencies in different countries that I made and blogging this to this website, also showing the possibilities, why Music Agencies are a better option than Distributors, P.R.O.s or Publishers.
What usage do Music Agencies offer?
Different Music Agencies or Licensing Agencies offer a wide range of different usage for your music. Keep in mind that these are business to business (B2B) usages, it has nothing to do with the consumer world (B2C).
In-store Music / In-store Radio: Your Music is used to entertain customers in shops, restaurants, public spaces or services.
Best option for a steady income, that is higher, than from publishing your music on the consumer market, if you don't want to deal with marketing.
Licensing Catalog: Most likely business customers use your music as background for another media, most commonly a video. Depending on the national or international usage of that video, licensing royalties vary much. could be a few Euros for a private webpage or could be several thousands of Euros if an international company is reaching 10000's of customers with that media. (e.g. Commercial for TV, cinema, radio. The amount of licensing royalties is bigger when there are more people reached by that media.
Best option for getting your music connected to companies and products.
Sync usage: Some of the agencies also have tv and movie production companies in their customers. Here you have the highest chance for getting your music used in a media that might get a lot of attention. Usually those require you to be registered already with a P.R.O. too. Additionally with Sync you can get the highest deals with EUR.
Best option if you have some of your music posted exclusively to an agency, because these deals are usually done exclusive.
Is it true that only music not registered to P.R.O.'s (Performance Rights Organizations) can be offered to Music Licensing Agencies?
That is only partly true. Most of these agencies already accept music that is also registered at a P.R.O. You must just show that you are a member and your song is registered. On the other hand it might unqualify that song from some of the licensing models, on the other hand it might qualify for other usage like sync.
Is it possible to exclude usage areas for some of your music, e.g. licensing for political advertisement or industries that you feel not comfortable with?
In some of the bigger agencies these parameters could really be set for each song. In the smaller agencies it is not visible for the composer who registered as an artist, if the music is used in a way that you don't feel comfortable with. Maybe it makes sense to look at the philosophy of each agency and to take a deeper look at their customers. By screening these before you sign a licensing contract, you could avoid bad experiences.
What type of music is more suitable for music licensing agencies, do they like instrumentals more than music with vocals?
I think they accept and like all your good music. Music with vocals gets usually more royalties at In-Store Radio. Instrumentals have a better payout for licensing catalogue. Also you should not bother about the language of a song or the genre, they really can use everything, you never know what the clients need. In some cases the licensing agency might deny some music if their catalogue is already full with music of that genre. Especially if you have music that is a rare genre and are very unique then its the best to start with Music Licensing now.
How many songs do I need to start with licensing my songs at music agencies?
You need only one very good song and you could have a Exclusive Sync Deal for 100000 EUR, but better get in touch with them when you have a catalogue of at least 20 good songs, better is 100-200 average songs. Some will not start discussions with you if you don't show that your catalogue is bigger.
Most of the musicians use digital distributors for their music, is that interfering with music agencies or are they seperate? Some of the distributors offer sync, too.
Music Agencies offer also sometimes publishing and distribution, it is very difficult to make a strict line between these. The companies out on the market have either focus on Licensing or on Distribution, I don't think that these two exclude each other. I also know that it is not mandatory to be member of a P.R.O. but you can be. My goal for 2021 is to understand my own situation better and see where I am legally with my own released music, so I am always learning.