New Opportunties for Indie Artists in Music Licensing

As a Music Supervisor, to say that my business has changed in the last few years, would be an understatement.  Most of this change has come about because of the access and ease of our friend the Internet.   It has increased my ability to research and keep myself organized beyond anything I could do on my own just a few years ago, and it makes my inner Virgo surge with happiness.

The Internet has also had a big impact on the pace and volume of my work as a Music Sup.  Interestingly, and not something I would have predicted, it isn’t so much the variety of jobs has increased, but the type of work for a campaign has quadrupled.

A brand used to order  a single :60 second spot with some :30 & :15 versions using the same music. Today, a brand has MULTIPLE channels to distribute content for them, ie, YouTube, and simply more screen for content (mobile phones, iPads, etc).

What do all of these changes in the industry mean for indie Artists and Bands?

Brands are producing video content for marketing at a rapid pace, and all of that content is in need of music.

That is really good news.  It levels the playing field for smaller artists and gives them a shot at exposure that has been reserved for bigger bands with management teams and record labels.

While it does give artists increased exposure, the revenues are not a high on web content as they are on TV.  As you can imagine, the budget for online video is not nearly the same as for TV.  There is also less of a concentrated, targeted viewing audience. However, this is not all bad.

Most Sups, if they have a decent budget are going to shop with majors to make sure the client feels they are getting their monies worth, but when you step down to online only content you are going from a $50,000 budget to a $5,000 which most majors and some Indies won’t touch.

Here is where your music gets a shot.  The reality is that these jobs are doubling in numbers every day.

Another trend that has been showing up lately is for brands that don’t use TV at all.  They produce content exclusively for their website and YouTube channel.  Red Bull and American Eagle are great examples of national brands that put their marketing dollars into video content rather than commercials.

Another great piece of news for the Indie artist is that most of these companies run all marketing in house and have a Music Supervisor or Music Director.  Which makes contacting them far easier than trying to track down a Music Supervisor at an ad agency.

The music licensing world has quietly and rapidly gotten bigger over the last three years.  I can tell you as a Music Supervisor with over 12 years of experience, this is just the beginning of this growth online.  The number of ways that content is being produced and distributed is a game changer for the indie artist.

I refer to this sector of growth as the MIDDLE MARKET.  It is huge, and surprisingly,  largely untapped. There are literally hundreds of thousands of opportunities for your music to get placed.

Of course I would never discourage you from gunning for that life changing license on a TV show or National/Global ad campaign, but you will have a lot less competition, make more money now and gain incredible exposure if you focus on these online opportunities.   It is a great way to diversify your catalog as well as your STRATEGY.



Take the Stairs…..

This Spring has brought me into a new realm of my life. New people and new ideas have been abundant. It doesn’t happen all the time, that life has such a fantastic flow to it, so when it happens I like to go deep with it. I am never more happy then when I am surrounded with people who push me to the next level.

Since moving from California to Tennessee I have experienced the most disruptive, confronting and ultimately life changing situations I have ever faced as an adult. It is very easy to get comfortable in life. I am not talking about money. I am talking about patterns.

Easy to form and hard to break, a pattern can keep us from moving our lives closer to our ultimate goals. Patterns are usually wrapped tightly like saran wrap around our emotions, like a second skin.

Bad patterns happen to all of us, so I took some time to try and break the cycle. This weekend I have had the pleasure of spending time with some new friends. A group of young professionals who have made the success of others their success. This group of three couples impressed me deeply.

One , a gentleman named Rory Vaden recently released a book that is a current New York Times best seller titles TAKE THE STAIRS.

Rory is the kind of person you want to be around. Not only because it is clear he is in the infancy of what is certain to become an incredible career as a thought leader with his New York Times best seller Take the Stairs, but also because it is obvious that this guy walks the walk that he talks.

His book taps into a universal epidemic of procrastination, and uses the idea of ‘Taking the Stairs’ to demonstrate what we need to do in order to move forward towards our goals.

He gets to the heart of a  simple concept; success does not come easy, and if it does there is always a price to pay on the other side.

Consider that theory as you are walking more deeply into your career as a musician. Hard work pays off, and I don’t mean that in a ‘Grandpa’s telling you’ kind of way, I mean that time and experience account for ALOT. Elbow grease, sweat, whatever you want to call it, it takes time to build a solid foundation.

So be kind to yourself, give yourself the time you need to build a foundation.

Consider how important DISCIPLINE is. Anybody can be BUSY, but having structure and discipline is required to make it to the next level (for anyone). Rory talks about how highly successful people have trained themselves to do the things that most people don’t want to do….I can relate to that. Anyone can.

Rory’s concept really got me thinking about what I call the “American Idol Disease.” I meet artists and musicians over and over who are simply waiting for a fairy godmother to appear, wave a wand and make them famous. That MIGHT happen for 10 people a year. Seriously. If you wait to be discovered instead of working hard towards your goal, you will most likely wait for longer than you are able to hold on. So consider Rory’s theory on life, music and maybe even in music licensing.

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” ARISTOTLE

Buy Rory’s book…it is worth it, also follow his social channels.





Shazam I love you

I personally want to thank Shazam for making me a better, more well informed
Music Supervisor. See, I am not the kind of Sup that can tell you the name to
every song I hear….I don’t need to, I have Shazam.

I look totally and completely annoying…..anywhere I might be, I keep my Shazam
ready to go so that at a moments notice, I can find out what is playing around me.

Have you ever been in a movie and someone randomly holds up their iPhone above
their head in the dark, blocking your view of the screen? That was most likely me.

Out to a nice dinner with my man……..I hear a good song….I hold my phone up.

The playoffs with a house full of friends…I run up to the TV and hold that phone

I NEED TO KNOW….it’s my job…..right?

It seems silly…but imagine how many people are just as ridiculous as I am? This
is great news for you when you get your song licensed. It is another direct way for
a fan to identify with, connect with and purchase your music. IN LESS THAN 5 SECONDS.

You can also use Spotify to play the song you just tagged. I haven’t figured that out
yet, but guaranteed I will! Shazam has something like 150 million users globally.
BANANAS. And it is only getting bigger.

Twentieth Century Fox announced last month that they will be integrating it into TV
programming, allowing viewers to unlock additional content.

Hold on, did you hear that? CONTENT……you music is CONTENT, valuable content.

I am going to make a prediction right now. In less then 3 years advertisers and
entertainment companies will be giving away MUSIC CONTENT as a reward for engagement
through Shazam.

Know what that means? That on top of the license fee you will get, they will be serving
up a fee for pre-purchased downloads.

I love me some Shazam….so should you.


I, like many of you work from home. I have had the office filled with people, video games, and scooters….it’s fun to be around other people and to feel that collective energy…it can drive you…it can also bring a lot of un-needed drama and overhead into your life.

Working from home on the other hand presents it’s own set of challenges. It’s wonderful because it allows me more actual time at my desk, and I get to throw a load of laundry in here and there….but I also find that it presents as many diversions as a big office full of people without giving back all the great collective creative energy that a work community provides.

And lets face it….it’s a lot easier to get in a rut if you have no one looking over your shoulder. It happens to me ALL the time. Creative sluggishness combined with my phenomenal talent for finding excuses NOT to go the gym and you have a serious case of the “uninspired.”

So what do you do?

As I write this, I am sitting on an airplane with more thoughts moving quicker then my fingers can move…..all because I changed my perspective.

I actually find that I think REALLY well when I am in the car. I LOVE my iPhone for occasions, I use a the voice note in EVERNOTE or iTALK and I record my ideas while I drive, email them to myself and transcribe them later.

So, get out there….a coffee shop, a walk, even invite a friend over to work in your space….but change your perspective and you will find that your ideas for songwriting or organizing or marketing will flow much freer.




This song hits a couple major notes that make it HIGHLY LICENSABLE.

Young – about youth
Set the World on Fire – inspriation
Carry you home tonite – great way to end a scene
Acoustic performance – simple ande clean to allow for plenty of room for what happens in the film
Duo vocals, male/female – makes for a nice mix

This is a song that breaks boundaries. It is simple. I can see this song being a triple threat. Film – TV Show – Ads.


I just wrapped up a nice little project for Elle Magazine. I was really pumped that I got to use this track on the project. Active Child had me at hello. This is the first of a new weekly series I am going to do called HIGHLY LICENSABLE where I am going to highlight a track that I think has great licensing potential and why.

This track is emotional….but when put to picture……it’s incredible. The vocals are strong without being overpowering and the angelic sound of the music itself is transporting. It’s dreamy without being sleepy and it has this slight touch of Vangelis to it that really rings the memory bell for me (if you never heard the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire…..go listen to it – the link to the YouTube vid is above – it’s classic). I bet we hear this Active Child song in ALOT of feature films. Enjoy.

Music Libraries… Stock Music… Online Music Supervisors… Needledrop… what does it all mean?

I would say that I get asked this question (or a version of this question) more then anything else.

The music industry was, not so long ago, exclusive….for the elite. In order to get your music heard, you had to be accepted by one of a small group of tastemakers. The gatekeepers. If they saw promise in you or your music, they would build your career, promote your records and move your career along. Parallel to that, Composers would be hired by Directors to create the scores to films. Sometimes, the Producers of the films would use a song that had been written by a Record Company.

It was pretty simple.

Now, the music industry is the great democratizer. It’s anyone’s game. Fantastic if you have talent and the smarts to move yourself along….because you no longer need a gatekeeper to get your music heard. Media is (almost) free. Difficult for others who need to be made and not born.

So what has this seismic shift done to the “other” music industry. The industry of creating music for films, tv shows and Advertisements? It used to be 100% mutually exclusive the “record making business”, but now, as we have seen, music placement fees are the ONLY steady steam of revenue left in the music business.

So everybody wants in.

Everyday (literally) I hear about another “Online Music Library” that is announcing itself to the community. The one thing I do find very interesting are the adjectives they use to describe themselves. Here are just a few;

Music Production Library
Online Music Library
Online Music Supervisor
Online Music Catalog
Pre-Cleared Library
Pre-Cleared Music
Catalog Music
Needledrop Music
Stock Music
Stock Music Libraries

….and the list goes on. But you can see the key words here: Library, Catalog, Pre-Cleared, Stock. These words don’t inspire one to think of the potential music as having great value. The words themselves devalue the music before a buyer has even heard it. Those words spell; CHEAP.

So no matter what the business model each of these companies may have; re-titling, taking publishing, etc. – if they use these words to describe their business, they are going to be PERCEIVED as having cheap, low quality music. One thing I can tell you for sure, is that music is all about PERCEPTION. Where is comes from matters. People’s opinion’s matter.

So to circle back to the original question, “Sarah what do you think of music production libraries?” Well, I think they are important and necessary, but I also strongly believe that if the companies want to be seen as trusted resources for finding great music, they are going to have to use different words to describe themselves and bank their success a little bit more on the most important quality that built music industry to begin with; CACHET. Just because you have music that is affordable, doesn’t mean it has to be seen as CHEAP. No body wins in this case, and I fear if the business continues down this trajectory, that the value of Production Music will truly be lost altogether.

So what does all of this mean? It all comes down to a matter of taste. Always has, always will.

So when looking to place your music with a rep or a company that has a “library” or “catalog” of some sort – make sure that you agree with not only their business model, but their taste level.

Hip-Hop music for UGG

I found this spot today on ADFREAK. It’s postable for several reason (ahhem), but most of all because it shows a GREAST use of Hip-Hop music in a TV commercial…..something you don’t see too often outside of sports….this is on the line fr sure, but a great use none-the-less. MOS DEF gets the love for his song Twilite Speedball.

Target Back to School

I wanted to post this spot because I think it is a great representation of “Happy, Upbeat Music with Vocal Instrumentation.” How many of you have a song like this? What is your STRATEGY for how to get that music to a potential buyer? If your answer is YES I DO HAVE A SONG, and NO I DON”T HAVE A PLAN….then make sure you check out some of my free training vids….lots of good stuff.

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© Sarah Gavigan