Licensing your music

You generally get paid twice for any song that is used in a television broadcast. There is typically a one time, up front licensing payment that the show pays to the writer in order to use the song. Then once the song airs the writer receives the performance royalty that I've talked about. The amount of the licensing fee varies but for television shows is usually in the range of $300.00 to $3,000.00. The amount of the performance royalty varies greatly depending on a number of different factors. These factors include the length of the segment in which your song is used, how prominently your song is used, whether your song is aired during prime time or during the day and a variety of other factors.

To give you an example, the first time I had a song on TV, one of my songs was used in a daytime drama and was used for:55 seconds. The royalty I received for this placement was $800.00 and in addition to this I received a $500.00 licensing payment. So I made a total of $1,300.00 for 55 seconds of air time. For films in theatrical release you don't receive performance royalties while the film is in theatrical release, but the licensing fee is larger. Licensing fees for feature films are generally in the range of $2,000.00 to as much as $25,000.00, or even larger for more established artists. The licensing payment amount varies depending on the film's budget and how badly they want a particular song. More established artists generally command larger licensing fees.

Performing Rights Organizations
There are three main performing rights organizations in the US, although internationally there are many more. The performing rights organizations charge television networks a blanket fee each year for the rights to use music in their respective catalogs. Individual television productions then submit what are called "cue sheets" to PRO's that indicate what songs and artists are being used in their broadcasts. The PRO's keep track of all this information and then distribute quarterly payments to artist's whose songs have aired. The amount of the royalty is based on a weighted payment system. There are a number of variables, but to keep it real simple, the longer and more prominently your song is used the more you get paid.

If you haven't already, be sure to join one of the Performing Rights Organizations if you are planning on making money through licensing your music.  I am based in the US and am personally a member of ASCAP.  They have never not paid me for a placement I've had.

In my next email I'm going to write about where you can send your music, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next email from me.

Happy Songwriting!
Aaron Davison