Where do Music Supervisors go to find music?

Goodbye Mr. Jobs, you changed my life forever

Every site you go to this morning is lit up with anecdotes on Steve Jobs. He has changed our culture forever, and it got me thinking…..he changed MY life forever.

In 2000, right after I had started my Music House, Ten Music……I met some very cool people who worked for Apple’s ad agency TBWA/Chiat Day. This chance meeting led to job opportunity (no pun intended) that was simply one of the coolest I may ever have as a Music Supervisor. Steve Jobs was a music fan, but circa 1970 was about where it stopped for him. Apple was on the rise. I lived in the electronic music scene, which meant that when I went to see music live, I stood in a room with a few hundred people and stared at a guy on his apple computer bobbing his head. Mr. Jobs was all but completely unaware of the impact his products had had on music.

Now remember, this is JUST after the birth of iTunes and before Garage Band or millions of Apps that help you to be a DJ.

So, hired by the Agency to introduce Steve Jobs to electronic music, my company a series of CD’s, each dedicated to ONE genre of electronic music. It was amazing. A notebook tour of the electronic music scene from the warehouses of Detroit to the stadium clubs of London and Ibiza and everywhere in between. He loved it.

And he chose a song for his Titanium Laptop commercial from a little known electronic artist from Germany (signed to Compost Records) called MINUS 8. What an amazing experience. What a game changer, for me as a Music Supervisor, for the Artist and for the world of electronic music.

I tip my hat and courtsey to you Mr. Jobs. You changed my life forever.

"When I write for Ads, should I create cues that are :30 and :60 seconds long?"

So much MUSIC ……so little time. How a Music Sup listens Music. Part 1

I have been “busier than a one arm paper hanger” lately wearing my MUSIC SUPERVISOR hat.  Each job is so vastly different, and the needs and styles of the music change as the job moves forward, but it is my job to move with the flow of the job wether it is a slow moving creek or white water rapids.

So it got me to thinking that I should let you guys in on how a Music Sup really listens to music. It’s not the same as how you listen to music as a consumer.

I would say that about 50% of the music I hear is sent to me, the other 50% I seek out myself. From up and comers, to legacy catalog and everything in between. But HOW does a Music Sup keep up with it all?


I don’t think anyone takes time to imagine what is it like to manage a 300,000 plus track catalog…..and that is only a fraction of what I am sent and what I actually work with!

I interact with music in two distinct ways……general listening….and specific listening.

First, let me talk about GENERAL LISTENING.

I take time every week to see what’s new out there, and despite the fact that I get hundreds of emails a week – a good portion of what is new out there never reaches me unless I look for it. I use an RSS reader to keep up with music blogs, writers and playlists at great college radio stations across the country like KCRW. I also get music handed to me – at shows, or recommended to me by a friend (my favorite way to get music….more on this later).

I listen for a few key things in a song (now remember, I am only talking about ads here)

- does it “go somewhere” – an by this I mean does it take me on a journey or is it a bunch of sameness

- positivity or quirkiness without a negative or uncertain emotion (minor keys and chords tend to evoke negative emotions – no good for ads, but can be great for film & tv)

- lyrics that are very general in theme – the chorus could be applies  to a multitude of situations

So if I hear something I like….THEN I open it in iTunes. This is when I rely on the owners of the track to supply me with some basic metadata on the track (Label, Publisher, contact info)….but I also ADD my own rating and categories to help me find it in my system when I do a search.

I also keep a number of folders in my iTunes like, LOVE, EMPOWERMENT, or HOLIDAY, VALENTINES DAY, AUTOMOTIVE  that I will add tracks to. These are general themes that I see over and over so it makes sense for me to file the song in different ways to make it easy to find when the right job appears.

I also have a litany of filters that I use; Reps, Labels, Publishers, KCRW, college radio, but I also invest a good portion of my time to research, which is where I become a consumer of music with just a more specific ear.

My point is this; as an artist trying to get your music licensed, don’t forget that the more bandwidth you have in massive stream of music consumption, the greater chance that I will find you.

As  non-touring musician who is dedicated soley to making music for sync licensing, then you need to reach out to Music Sups directly. Getting a fancy website and hits on MySpace – it’s just not important. Save your money and use Soundcloud or Box.net. I love those programs (as most Music Sups do) and prefer them over an individual website.

The last item to remember about how we listen to music is this; YOU MUST HOOK US. Many of the musicians that I talk to and the students in the GYML Workshops get hung up on trying to send what is “right” for a specific ad or show that a Music Sup might be working on. Know this: IT”S BETTER TO BE GOOD THEN RIGHT. There is simply not way for you as an outsider to know what would be right – so don’t guess. Just send us your very best track and make your email short and clever. If you show me in 10 seconds of a song that you have great taste in music and can create a track that is engaging, then you have me at hello.


Levis Ads….its always been good

I am feeling a little nostalgic today as I am doing some research on the history of music licensing in ads.

Enjoy the eye candy :)

Brad Pitt and T-Rex for Levis

Helen Austin – A Music Licensing Success Story

I wanted to take a few minutes out of your weekend to share with you what I see as a very special story of an Artist in control of her career.
Nothing talks like success, but it comes in all shapes and sizes. In this case it comes in HELEN AUSTIN.
Helen found me on twitter and through delightful diligence we created a relationship. She happened to live in the area of Vancouver Island that I visited last week to speak. I find Helen’s story very inspiring and I wanted to share it with you all to demonstrate that her diligence is her success.
When she chose to take my GYML in Commercials Workshop (registration is open for a short time only), I decided to interview her for you guys to hear about career, from her.

GYML Interview – Helen Austin by sarahgavigan

Knowledge is Protection and POWER in the music licensing world

This has been a great week. I always love product launch weeks because I get to connect with so many of you and hear your questions. I hope that you were able to take advantage of the training videos that I gave away this week, some of my best.

I diligently follow a few forums online that discuss Music Licensing, because as a consultant and educator, it’s my business to know what YOU need to understand in order to succeed.

I have made it my business to help Musicians succeed in the Music Licensing world.

Now that I think about it, this has been my business in different iterations since 1999 when I met Eric Hilton and Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation at a Music Festival in Iceland. They planted a seed inside my head that changed the course of my life forever. You can read my bio if you want to know more about that story.

When I started Ten Music in 2000, it was my job to REPRESENT Record Labels and Publishers to the Advertising community for the potential of licensing tracks. It was a very new model….there was no one else doing what I did, so there was a certain amount of  ”behind the curtain” in my job. My rolodex was mine and that was what my clients paid me for. It was the “agent mentality. I was trained to think that way. “Stand back while I go out and make magic happen for you.”

As time went on, I began to see that the clients of mine who KNEW the most about the music licensing business, TRUSTED me the most, and stayed the CLOSEST to me, were the ones who succeeded the most. Funny right?

It actually makes perfect sense. With KNOWLEDGE of that which you seek, you have a greater chance of success.

Now I am 3 years into my career as an educator, honing my craft and taking in information in a completely different way in order to feed it back to you in a way you can understand, digest and USE for yourselves. But one thing is still stands true.

KNOWLEDGE is the ultimate PROTECTION and POWER that an artist can have if they want to succeed.

Let’s think about that on a purely artistic level, like how you write a song, or how you get inspired to write a piece of music. The more you KNOW about how to play your respective instrument, the better you are. The more you KNOW about other music, the more you have inspiration.

So this theme felt appropriate to point out as I head into the second (and final) Workshop session for this year.

Here is the Question:

“Sarah, if I want to license my music, what should I do.”

LEARN….you need to learn….it will change everything you do and set you on a course that is tangent to what the business is looking for.

If you want to learn more about my workshop, you can do so HERE. Registration is open for a few more days or until the seats are filled (I am over half way filled in just one day).


The workshop begins on July 12th and runs for 4 weeks.

Have an incredible holiday weekend!


Music Libraries, Reps, Brokers, Online Music Supervisors……what's the difference?

I have just finished a fantastic speaking tour in Vancouver….thanks to everyone who came out and for your incredible enthusiasm.

One of the greatest benefits I get from teaching is to get out hear from YOU. It helps me understand what it is you need to know to move forward with your music career and how it relates to music licensing.

The theme for me lately has been “how to make music licensing a part of your business model as an artist.”

Every musician is different. Some of you are songwriters looking to have your songs covered and performed, others of you produce and perform your own music, while even some of you are non-touring musicians who are looking to take decades of talent and translate it into income.

In the same way, the music licensing business is more diverse then you think.

It’s a food chain, an ecosystem like any other. There are some projects and shows that are going to go for the hits, the best music out there. They have the budgets. Then there are projects that look steadfastly to the Indie and unsigned artists to license from both for the innovation, buzz and affordability. And then there is the library business.

The Music Library business has been a hot topic lately and one I am very intimately familiar with because I built one of the very first models online called HANK. It seemed such a DUH for me and my team when we developed HANK. A place online where those looking to license music could go and search by genre, tempo, mood and vocals. I took the Indie Labels and Publishers that I represented and hosted their music in HANK to allow our clients music to be available 24/7. I founded HANK in 2005 and launched in 2007.

The “Library” business or “Online Music Supervision” business was growing rapidly. They were popping up like rabbits. It was clear that the only scalable model was what I called the “something everything” model. This meant that anyone could submit their music into the system; the goal being to have the MOST tracks in your library. One company stood out in this sector of the business; Pump Audio. Investors agreed and they were steadfastly aquired by Getty Images in 2007 for 9 times their yearly revenue. It was an extraordinary sign of what was about to happen. The explosion, and I mean this figuratively and literally, of the online music library business.

I myself, chose a very different model, and one that ended up NOT being scalable financially. I chose to be selective about the content, to be exclusive and to take a smaller % of only up front fees. Right or wrong, it is the model I still believe in, but it was simply not sustainable financially.

Pump Audio was agressive on many levels, but they were groundbreaking in their revenue model. A model that has changed the music licensing business forever. For better or worse. They take 50% (I am hearing 70% now) of all revenue both front end licensing fees as well as back end royalties, which means that in order to collect on your behalf they must re-title your work and essentially re-assign the copyright non-exclusively.

See, until Pump Audio came into the game there were STOCK MUSIC companies that paid musicians and composers and up front fee to write on assignment for them. The Stock Music Co owned the master and the pub and the artist retained the writers share. This was a sustainable and fair model for many years.

Every time I speak about music licensing I am asked about Music Libraries and what I think about them. I think that the term MUSIC LIBRARY is just a term to describe a company. Other similar company types would be a MUSIC HOUSE (mainly servicing the advertising industry), a BROKER or REP, or even a sync centric PUBLISHER. All of these companies do the same thing; they represent your music for the potential of licensing it to a licensor.

Some of these companies use “online searchable databases” as their leading offering. To date I have seen no one in this space crack the code. Music Supervisors simply don;t have the time to look ourselves, we need to have the music spoon fed to us based on the briefs we send. Other companies take a Agent approach, like a REP or a BROKER. They have smaller rosters and more personal relationships.

The key difference here in all of these companies that you must look at is what portion of the business they service. Stock Music Houses and Music Libraries service the TV Networks that refuse to pay upfront master and publishing fees and will only pay back end. This is the ultimate numbers game. The Libraries load their content onto hard drives and deliver them to the respective clients whom have signed “blanket licensing deals” with. Simply put, the company pays one lump sum to use any of the tracks in the library as much as they want for the period of time allowed on the license (usually one year). Then each show Supervisor turns in a cue sheet and the Library collects the Public Performance royalty on the backend as additional compensation. This rings very similar to how ASCAP, BMI and SEASAC charge for bars and restaurants to play their music, and I would fair to guess they pay put the same way as well.

Reps and Brokers are going after the golden eggs at the top of the business, what I like to call the PREMIUM CONTENT. These are the hits – the hit makers and the tastemakers that have the talent and style that catches the ear of one of these reps, and they go to work trying to place that music in any one of the top TV shows or global and National TV ads where the placement fees average $5000-$100,000 for one license. Make no mistake, this is the top of the food chain.

So in summation of this overview, I give you this advice; think about your music diversely and honestly. Not every track is going to be GREAT, and many of them may not even be GOOD, but within these vastly different types of companies you have the opportunity to choose where your content belongs. The B sides? Great for a music library. The hits…..go for a rep.

Section out your music like this, ask friends for advice and keep doing your homework on all these companies. It’s a very very big business and more players enter it every day, which in my estimation is a GOOD thing……so lets check them out.

Yes, it can be overwhelming, so create a network with your colleagues and friends about whom they have spoken to and liked. Help one another, and in doing so you will help yourself.


You want to make money as a Musician? You have to diversify….

I saw the news today at major label band the Scissor Sisters are going to be creating the score to the new FRAGGLE ROCK MOVIE.

WOW – that is quite a departure and at the same time, pretty cool….following in the footsteps of other Artists and bands that have gone on to score like Trent Reznor for The Social Network or David Holmes for the brilliant Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen trilogies.

These boys were masters of their respective genres, but it did not stop them from tackling something outside their scope. I dig that tremendously, and not only was it brave, but it was BRILIANTLY good music.

The point of success is not in ONE PROJECT or one song anymore, it’s in diversity. And that means you need to have some damn fine skills as a musician and an artist to keep the creative juices flowing. You have to keep searching and moving forward.

The statement above carries so many parallels to the Music Licensing business.

It is a business that has a solid foundation of what works and what doesn’t – simply defined by how a piece of music makes a piece of film FEEL.

Many of the Musicians and Bands that I work with want to license their music. Got it. Check. But have you ever thought about how licensable your music really is?

Have you ever taken you music and put it up to a commercial on You Tube, or muted your TV and played it along with a TV show? You might be surprised at what you see and hear when you do that. It changes your music, and most importantly, it changes your perspective. I strongly suggest you give it a try.

The more you know about what music works to film, the better your chances are of making a piece of music that is all things; GOOD, REAL & Licensable. The triple crown.


Music Licensing Fees…..it's ain't so easy

There is one question I get asked more then any, ” what is the average price for that kind of music license?”

It’s a tough answer to give, and many of the conversations I have online with DIY Bands and Musicians lead me to say the same thing;  ”It’s all negotiable,” which of course is of no help to you whatsoever.

Two quick things for you today:

1.) An article that I believe is the best answer of averages I have found to date on what things are “worth” and what they “cost”, but REMEMBER, these costs are based on the perceived value of a track and that is in the mind of the owner and the buyer.  So check it out:


2.) This is an idea for how to get the best deal possible if you have been given a licensing contract and have no idea how to negotiate the best deal for yourself: ASK AN EXPERIENCED LICENSING REP TO DO IT FOR YOU. I love this idea and did it for several artists that ended up becoming clients in my day as a rep. It kills a few birds with one stone. You offer the rep a small % of the license fee to negotiate the contract on your behalf. This way you know you are getting the best deal possible, and maybe they will be motivated to take you on as a client because they see you as client that is making money!

Simple….but sometimes the best ideas are.

Happy Monday….now go kick some ass.


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