The Pros + Cons of Partnering With Music Licensing Agencies

Independent musicians have discovered that they can create a fulfilling and promising music career with music without signing a record deal. Music licensing is an excellent way for musicians to compose original tracks and earn money while expanding their network. However, there are both pros and cons to developing relations with music licensing agencies.

Music licensing is a contract that allows permission for the use of your original, copyrighted recordings. It can be exciting to land a deal to advance your career and provide you more exposure. Still, as a musician, it is vital that you understand all of the aspects regarding these music licensing deals, how they work, and how they could limit other potential opportunities.

What is Music Licensing?

First, you must understand what music licensing is. Each time that you write and record an original composition, two copyrights are created, and therefore, two licenses that need to be granted:

  1. The Music Composition – the music composition involves the melody and lyrics that make up your track.
  2. The Music Recording – the master recording of your music is the final, completed mix.

When someone enters a music licensing contract with you, they are permitted to use both things, even if you are the sole owner or creator of both. If you collaborate with any other musician, recording studio, or did work with someone on the lyrics, they are also considered a publisher that needs to grant licensing rights. 

Music licensing contracts can be confusing since they encompass a lot of legal jargon. If you are unclear or feel that you want a better breakdown when deciding on a licensing contract, it would help consult a lawyer or a music-focused legal provider who can give you insight into what everything means. 

The other option is working with an agency that can take care of all of the contracts for you. Allowing the agency to take care of this part alleviates much of the burden regarding the documentation involved with licensing your music. However, it is good to be as prepared and equipped with as much knowledge surrounding music licensing to make the most informed decision for your music career.

The Pros of Working with a Music Licensing Agency

There are many advantages to working with a music licensing agency. Musicians can reap all of these benefits for their original work:

  • Earn Money – generating revenue for your original music solidifies your reputation and your music career. You can earn a fairly substantial income working with an agency to promote your original music.
  • Expand Your Network and Connections – Music agencies have extensive music libraries and, therefore, a large network of creatives who utilize them. As a result, you gain a lot of exposure and have the opportunity to develop relationships with music producers and supervisors who might want to continue working with you for licenses.
  • In-House Production Services – Many licensing companies offer in-house music production services. This means if you don’t have equipment available to you for mixing and mastering your music, you can utilize theirs, which helps if you aren’t as savvy with sound engineering or audio software.
  • More Song Opportunity – Another excellent service that agencies can offer is helping to promote your music. Marketing can be challenging for musicians, especially if they don’t know the proper channels to pitch their music. However, there are employees within agencies that can find opportunities for musicians to license their songs.
  • Validation in the Music Industry – Probably one of the most rewarding aspects of working with a licensing agency is the validation you receive as a musician. Many musicians are under the impression that live music and being discovered are what it takes to be a musician within the industry, but composing songs licensed for commercial use is another way to become recognized and solidify your reputation as a musician.
  • More Time for Your Music – one last benefit of collaborating your efforts with an agency is that you get to spend more time making music and less time doing all of the other jobs (marketing/pitching, creating a contract, etc.). You can put your focus on creating.

The Cons of Working with a Music Licensing Agency

Now, with all of the benefits, some disadvantages can arise. Having a music licensing agency to promote your music, however helpful, can present some problems as well:

  • Fewer Profits – The music agency that assists you is providing a service. Therefore, you will be responsible for paying an upfront fee, so you will not receive 100% of the profits you could potentially get if you did all of the work to create and license independently.
  • Not a Priority – Most agencies and companies have multiple songwriters and musicians that they work with, so promoting your music will not always be their priority. Your songs will be among an immense library of other artists trying to gain more exposure.
  • Opportunities are Limited – You could potentially limit other music opportunities to establish relationships with other producers or supervisors who want your music by putting all of your eggs in one basket with an agency. Since they only have their network to work with, you don’t know what other options are out there for your musical tracks, and if they have their own contract for your recordings, you can’t pitch them across other channels once given to the agency. You also might not see much traction happen with your music for an extended time, which can also burden your budget with no money coming in.

Is Music Licensing Worth It?

While it is clear that the benefits of working with an agency outweigh the cons, it still depends entirely on you as a musician whether or not you decide to partner for music licensing. Musicians are all unique, as are their situations, so hopefully, now you have greater insight into whether or not you feel working with a music licensing agency is a good step for your career within the industry.
Nothing is set in stone, so if you have contemplated working with an agency, you can always try it out for a while and see how it works for you. There are multiple agencies and opportunities for musicians to promote and distribute their original, copyrighted tracks in various ways. The key is not to limit yourself and find as many routes to gain exposure and develop those relationships so that your music will be heard by the masses.

Written by Nicole McCray

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