Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

What Should You Charge To License Your Music?

Yeah, you could just throw out a random number. $100. $250. $25. But you could be seriously underselling or overselling yourself. What should you actually charge to license your music?

That’s exactly the question I’m here to answer.

First, Some Questions To Ask Yourself

Before you do anything else, ask yourself these questions. Your answers will help clarify how to set your prices.

What’s The Budget Of The Client’s Project?

Typically, the music portion of a film budget is 1-3%. So if you’re providing all the music (licensed or custom music), that’s a good place to start for a quote.

But if it’s a filmmaker’s passion project or a student film, there’s probably no budget. If no one on the crew is getting paid, you won’t either. The best you can hope for is exposure and experience.

Is The Client Buying The Rights To The Song?

If the client is asking for the full rights to the song — both the songwriter rights and the sound recording rights — you won’t earn backend royalties. And if the project gets a lot of exposure, there will be a lot of royalties.

This is your opportunity to charge more for your track or custom music. Like, a lot more.

Is It An Exclusive Or Non-exclusive License?

An exclusive license is when the client is the only one allowed to use your song. That means it can’t make you money elsewhere. That also means you can charge a lot more for it.

How Much Exposure Will The Song Get?

The wider the reach of the project, the more your music will be heard and the more you can charge. If the client wants to use your song more often in more places, that means your music is more valuable. More value means higher cost to the client.

Will The Song Be Featured, Or Will It Be Background Music?

Instrumental music playing underneath a commercial or promo video is usually a little more “cookie-cutter,” making it less unique and therefore less of a money-maker for you.

But if your song is going to be featured for its uniqueness, like a song you’d hear at the end of a drama TV show, that will have a much higher payout. They want your song for the mood, style, and even lyrics. You can charge more.

Will You Get More Work From This Client?

If so, you might want to consider giving them a “first-time discount.” This can create a great first impression that could help the professional relationship flourish.

Do You Want This To Be Your Full-Time Gig?

If music licensing or composing is just a hobby or side hustle for you, you might be willing to accept a little less payment to get the placement. However, if you want this to be your career, you’ll need to value your music higher and charge a bit more.

Do Your Research

Research is maybe the most important aspect of getting into music licensing. You can’t go into this industry clueless.

Start with Songtradr’s pricing tool. It will give you a good idea of what clients will pay for the different types of licenses. You can also check out music licensing companies like Musicbed or Music Vine to see what they charge.

The Different Ways To Charge

Now we come to the part where you make a decision on what you charge and how you want to deal with the agreements. There are a couple ways you can do this.

Use A Music Library

The easiest way to work out a contract with a client is through a third party. This could be Songtradr or some other licensing company. Doing it this way protects you legally and drastically reduces your admin workload.

Here’s what you can do: upload all your music to Songtradr. Then anytime someone shows interest in licensing your music, direct them to your artist page on Songtradr.

No admin work for you and no scary legal stuff.

Do It Yourself

The other way to license your music is by doing everything yourself. This takes some bravery, but it’s definitely possible. It requires you to draw up contracts, negotiate prices, and give clients the deliverables.

What you can do is find a sample contract online and adjust it to fit your needs. That way, you’re not starting from scratch.

The benefit of this is that you make as much money as possible. There’s no middleman taking a cut. Yes, it’s more work. But you’ll have earned every penny.

Don’t Forget…

One last thing. To collect all the money owed to you, you need to sign up with a Publishing Rights Organization (PRO), SoundExchange, and a company like Songtrust.

Let’s say your song gets placed in a TV commercial. When that commercial airs, you’re owed royalties. And to make sure you get all the different types of royalties, team up with royalty-collecting companies.

Caleb J. Murphy is a singer-songwriter and music producer based in Austin, Tx., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.


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Transform Your Rough Recordings Into Released Records, Even If You Only Have a Home Studio

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About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

We help musicians transform their recordings into radio-ready and release-worthy records they’re proud to release.

We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use immediately to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

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