Navigating the World of Music Licensing + Music Distribution: Tips for Independent Bands

Music Licensing

Photo by James Stamler on Unsplash

The rise of digital technology has supplied the demand for music distribution on a grand scale, and independent bands have many opportunities with it these days. Streaming platforms and music licensing allow an easy way to release tunes without needing a record label. 

It’s necessary for bands to understand the world of music licensing and distribution. As an up-and-coming band, there are many crucial aspects of the music industry to consider. 

Distributing your music can be challenging, but it’s also a gateway to reaching your desired audience and fans worldwide. Here are some helpful tips for selecting the right distribution platform, licensing your music legally, and planning your release strategy.

Leverage Social Media Presence

Before you jump into your music career’s distribution or licensing aspect, does your band have a decent fanbase? Obtaining a loyal following is a necessary step to a successful distribution. 

Engaging your followers on various platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok gives your band the powerful resources and ability to connect with fans. You can utilize it to bring insight and “behind the scenes” sneak peeks that build hype around a new album or LP that you’re recording. 

All independent bands understand that marketing is an essential tool to establish their identity. Your unique presence will ensure that your music reaches its intended listeners.

Take Your Time When Recording

Your recording must be in a master form to be distributed for licensing and streaming. As an independent band, you may work with a sound engineer or have a simple home studio where you record your tracks. 

Most musicians understand that the recording process takes time, and it’s important that you put in the effort to get your sound mixed and mastered in the best way possible. Streaming platforms and creatives looking for music with their projects want professional, quality music.

After recording each instrument and voice, there’s balance, cohesion, and a reasonable volume when putting it all together. You’ll likely need to consider investing in suitable hardware and audio software to get professional-grade sound. Consult with someone in a professional music studio if possible to ensure the track has good quality.

Name Your Metadata

Your music needs to meet industry standards before its release, which involves organizing the music metadata. It’s the collection of information for each song file and includes pertinent tags that may include the following:

  • Band Name
  • Song Title
  • Writer/Composer
  • Producer
  • Sound Engineer
  • Music Genre
  • Recording Label

In short, the metadata is the way to appropriately credit each track when you have it mixed and mastered in its final form. Creating YouTube videos and licensing music require proper categorization and information for distribution.

Music Licensing Types

Licensing your music allows independent artists, composers, and producers to receive compensation for original work. When you license a particular musical piece or track, you grant permission for others to use your copyrighted works in forms of media, like television, video games, online platforms, and more.

There are several types of music licenses. And it’s possible that more than one license is needed when an agreement is made. It depends on how the third party (or licensee) plans to utilize the original, copyrighted music.

Some of the common types of music licenses are as follows:

  • Synchronization License: A sync license is for music that goes along with visual forms of content, such as films, television, commercials, online advertisements, video channels, video games, etc. It’s one of the most popular forms of licensing today.
  • Performance License: Music that’s being played or performed in a public manner, such as playing live on stage or through radio and streaming services, needs a performance license. 
  • Mechanical License: Music distributed in other forms of physical or digital recording needs a mechanical license. Usually, this type of license is incorporated when a record label, independent artist, or band covers or remixes existing songs. 
  • Print License: Copyrighted music in a printed sheet form, such as a songbook, sheet music, or other educational material, needs a print music license. Composers who want to monetize their music in a written format can allow third parties to obtain this type of license, and music teachers can purchase it for distribution.

Choosing a Music Distribution Platform

When you want to distribute your music, you must choose a platform to do so. Your band may want to explore multiple platforms to see what factors to consider, including upfront costs, commission percentages, how big the platform is (and its reach), and what other things are essential in their partnerships.

Music platforms are intermediaries between artists, digital music stores, and streaming services. It can be easier to license your music by utilizing a music licensing service, which can help ensure the distribution of your music to make it more available to a broad audience. 

You need to ensure you find a reputable distribution partner. Have your band research each option entirely to find the best fit. 

Plan Your Music Release Strategy

If you want your music to be successful in licensing and distribution, you must develop a well-thought-out strategy. Begin by setting a release date and work to build up the anticipation of the release by releasing a single, possibly accompanied by a music video. 

Your social media makes a massive impact on part of your strategy. You can utilize it to build up your followers and attract new ones to generate a big buzz around your upcoming music release. Your process may include many moving parts besides a social media presence, such as creating an email list to send updates with, branding (logos and colors), newsletters, and regular updates.

Obtaining Royalties and Maximizing Revenue Streams

Independent bands must have a way to bring in revenue. Registering your music with a Performance Rights Organization, or PRO for short, ensures you can collect proper royalties for your music. 

Do research to familiarize your band with the difference in types of royalties and how you will earn money from your music. Many digital streaming sales don’t bring in a lot of money. However, if you pair it with other ways to bring in revenue, such as streaming platforms, selling merchandise, and playing at live performances. 

Don’t Forget Networking

Collaboration with other artists, bands, and producers in the industry can help propel your band’s status and reach. Networking is always an essential aspect of helping with pre-release distribution to help promote your music.

Your band may want to reach out to fellow artists to work on songs or look for opportunities to play together at live venues. Working and networking with other industry professionals helps you gain more insight into navigating the world of music licensing and distribution for your group’s bright future.

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