Music placement is when your music is licensed to be used in a movie, TV show, commercial, video game, or anywhere else you might hear original music. There are few things more exciting than getting paid to have your music placed, but getting paid without having to share the profit is even better.
If you are an independent band making a few waves, eventually someone will tell you they can get your music placed somewhere. It sounds too good to be true. And in the music industry, when it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.
If someone offers to place your music, but they don’t require a contract, you should walk away. If they ask you for money up front, run.
There are legitimate placement agencies out there, like YouLicense, that can get you placements. The blog Passive Promotion has an excellent post, from musician Helen Austin, on getting placed with help from a third party. Austin has had great success, but it took her years to get to where she is today. Placement agencies are a valuable resource, though they are not the only option.
Music placement DIY
Recently we talked with Carrie Hughes, a music supervisor who places music for TV shows like “The Hills,” “Project Runway” and “From G’s to Gents.” She said she often deals directly with bands, managers and publicists.
Hughes said she rarely works with placement companies, due to problems in the past. Some placement agencies have signed contracts, but they did not have the proper rights to the music.
Hughes finds music a lot of different ways, from going to shows, checking out new music on top music charts, and even the piles of CDs that get sent to her every day.
“I get anywhere from 20-100 CDs on a given day,” Hughes said.
If you want to stand out, you need to do your homework. “Really do your research. Find all the shows on television [you are interested in] that use music…that really feature music. Then research who is the music supervisor on that show,” Hughes said. “Then really focus on the kind of music they use on that show, and make sure that your music fits that show.”
One of the best resources we have found for finding members of the music department for a TV show is IMDB. We looked up “The Hills” and then clicked on the link Full Cast and Crew, there was a section for the music department. We were even able to find Hughes resume, which included contact information.
But before you start calling every music director in L.A., make sure you follow these guidelines we put together from talking with Hughes.
Tips to dealing directly with a music supervisor:
- Get Your Rights. Make sure you have the rights to have your music placed. If you are a completely independent artist, this should not be an issue, but once you starting signing deals with publishers and record labels, things can get complicated.
- Do Not Lie. Don’t tell them your song would be perfect for a show when it is not. According to Hughes, not only does this waste her time, but she now knows you have no idea what they are talking about.
- Research. Explain what attributes of your song work for the show. If the last 30 seconds of the song is the best part, let them know. And if you can tell them what mood the song works best with, that’s even better.
- Don’t Be A Pest. Music supervisors are busy, don’t ask them the same questions twice, and don’t call them every week asking if they want to use your song.