Make Money In The Music Industry

An inside look at selling music to TV and Film

So, it is interesting being an artist these days. Not only is there more ways for anyone to upload their music, but almost anyone can make their songs available via e-mail or on the web. A lot of people I know in the industry are no longer pressing their creations to CD's and just uploading them to various sites like CD Baby, Reverbnation, myspace, Broadjam and iTunes. Ofcourse there are way more to mention here, but you get the idea.

Since I have been in the music industry my whole entire life, I thought I would give you a glimpse into the "other part" of the industry that a lot of artists can not break into. This is the television, commercial and film industry. Now let's start with the fact that a lot of major companies will go to a wellknown band with a hit song to license it for their campaign. This ofcourse costs them a lot of money. This lucrative deal can bring the record label or band anything from $5,000 to a whole lot more since most companies license for "worldwide" usage. A big brand like a car company will pay a lot more.

Do not fret my little one's because there is a way to get into this closed world of famous songwriters. I have sold and produced songs for major television shows and this is because I made contact with the producers when there was an opportunity. At one point I even offered the producers of a show on ABC, 50% of my publishing so that they would use more of my tracks on their series. This gave them incentive and a way to make royalties in the future. None of them were ever in the music industry and this was an opportunity for them to make more money. Since they were only instrumentals, this was not a big deal for me and I made a lot of money while the show was running. My father who had written many hits in his life told me to "never give up my publishing" and to this day I'm will do anything to keep it including taking less cash upfront. I know famous artists who made publishing deals with record labels and eventually the royalties run out a lot sooner. They will still get their writers royalties, but eventually that runs thin too and they get to be less and less as the years go by.

The other wall that many hit in this part of the industry is companies that license lots of instrumentals for little money because they have such an extensive collection of songs. These companies will sometimes license a song worldwide for major companies for under $500.00 and that is peanuts compared to a song from a famous singer or band. Infact now these companies are offering licenses for anything you want to use "for life" after you pay them the initial fee. I feel the only way to beat this is to create your own music library or compilation album with tracks for this particular industry and mass mail them to production companies that need music. Make sure you know "who" you are sending it to and "what" they actually "produce." There are also lots of production companies that produce promos and campaigns for the networks. An example of a "promo" is "Next week, on Friends...." They use music on all of these ads which advertise upcoming episodes on their network. Ofcourse some companies will try to buy you out and pay a lump sum, but something is better then nothing and besides you can add it to your credits. I still believe there is a market out there for "not so known" music writers and producers. If someone loves the song and it fits for what they are doing, they will want it. One of my songs ran on a DVD release for a famous show because it just "worked."

A way to find out where to send music is to check out the trades and see what is in production. Certain trades like the Hollywood Reporter lists these. Then you need to phone the production office and ask who or what company is handling the music. Then you will call and find out "who" to address your submission to. You do not want to send any sort of package "blind." There is also the chance that they may take e-mail submissions also. Do not forget the production companies that produce promos and movie trailers. If they get an account from a network to promote a popular show, they will need lots of music!

I have licensed songs for independent films at $500.00 per song to wide released movies at $5,000 or more. I just licensed a song to a movie with Jennifer Aniston in it. This is a big deal, but the producers wanted to pay less. So, they paid $5,000 for the song to use worldwide. Now this is not a lot for a film with a huge star in it, but it is EXPOSURE and that brings more people to the table.

There was once a time where a documentary wanted to use a title of a song for their title of their documentary and they paid $3,000 for that. So you see, there are many opportunities to make money besides being an artist. With the economy in the toilet and bad ticket sales for smaller venues, it is not the best time for up and coming artists to do concerts or perform live if they are in it to make money. It is even harder for the publicists and promoters to make money if there is not enough to "promote." There are also a lot of places that want bands to "pay to play" which does not leave much of a way to make cash for performing. It seems the only way to make money performing is in Vegas or on a cruise ship. Even a famous rock star from the 80's told me about what a pain it is to book concerts now a days because the venue promoters have so many things they need in order to promote the act like "guarantees." I don't think there are any "guarantees" these days.

There are also plenty of opportunities to submit your songs to a show that does not pay. If you want the exposure and use it on your credits, then go for it. Some artists have gotten hits by doing this, but it is very rare. There are a lot of pessimists out there that say one day "music will be free." Yes, they are probably right because some music "will be free," but if someone wants something to represent a "brand" or a "network," they will have to pay. I believe that this is a market that anyone can pursue, but you need to have the right music for the media that you submit too.

A few sites that I recommend for artists to submit to all sorts of music opportunities is Reverbnation and Broadjam. They do ask for submission fees, but sometimes it may be worth it. It would also be good to to join music industry sites where you can learn about these sort of opportunities.

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Comments 27 comments

msorensson profile image

msorensson 6 years ago

Perfect. I will email this hub to two people who I have been trying to raise money for their music. Thank you for sharing. Thank you.

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

msorensson! I'm so glad that I could help! I hope to inspire many ;


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

Your experiences always make for great reading........... and I'm sure that the information here will help someone hoping to raise some money to fulfill their dream. Dreams come true!


Russell-D 6 years ago

G-As yoo know, I run a parallel music path, but the use of name rights holds in publishing, also.. My Detroit AD Agency CD was Jack Elliot composer of "It's So Nice To Have A Man Around The House", "Sam's Song" & "Elmer's Tune". (he taught me how to create commercial jingles) Jack sold "It's So Nice..." rights to a Free Lance writer. Her book was bought by a studio who threw the book away and just used the title. (Doris Day?) So, you never know David Russell

cheaptrick profile image

cheaptrick 6 years ago from the bridge of sighs

Hi G,so cool to see this side of the music industry.I wonder how many great songs went no where cause the artist was not business savvy.I don't know if it can be done but how about featuring some of your music in a Hub!I'd love to here some!


GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

D-I love hearing your wonderful stories about your experiences. One never knows what happens in this industry. There are always "surprises!"

The music industry is so different these days. Trying to track down some of my dad's old songs is close to impossible! I have spent years trying to get rights and songs back. I have prevailed in many cases, but still......Anyway, I hope you keep the stories coming! Best, G

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

cheaptrick.....I just sent you an e-mail. I think a lot of artists lose out because of their lack of business savvy. At one point I actually went to work for a big record label to learn more. It was the best experience ever! I have never thought of myself as just an "artist." Just being "an artist" will not help anyone succeed.....

I have actually helped other artists learn how to promote their music at one time......Anyway, I could go on and on......Best, G

HappyHer profile image

HappyHer 6 years ago from Cleveland, OH

What a great hub! I used to do quite a bit of work with local bands and enjoyed working some much bigger shows with friends of mine in the industry. Your hub brought back great memories of that time! I now watch my children and their friends doing their best to promote their own bands. Being a musician/band/artist in this day and age is not for the faint of heart, no matter which path you are taking it! Great work - again dear!

malonge profile image

malonge 6 years ago from Western New York On Hubpages

I'm glad I read your hub as my son is a young but extremely talented songwriter, harmonica player and vocalist. He is trying to break into the music industry so this article was very helpful. Listen at

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author


Thanks for stopping in.......enjoyed your comment! hope you are well....G

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

malonge...thanx for stopping in. Glad that this hub was helpful! I hope your son does well! Best, GPAGE

bat115 profile image

bat115 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

GPAGE, I just wanted to let you know your hub was beneficial to me. I am putting together a low low budget horror/comedy and was wondering how the song licensing biz worked.

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

bat115....let me know when you get closer to laying the music down when you edit your film. If it is so low budget, you should be able to pay a small fee per tune. Just make sure you get it in writing (a release form of some kind). Whoever gives you the music MUST sign something from you explaining how the music will be used and also saying that you do not owe them any other money or royalties after you pay them. If you want a bunch of instrumentals for cheap, I can point you in the right direction. Congrads on your project! Best, G

sree1987 profile image

sree1987 6 years ago from India

That was a great hub.

I am a self taught musician.

It was very useful to me because I learned essentials for making money and it was a good piece of information.

Thanks for writing it.

bat115 profile image

bat115 6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Thanks, GPAGE.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Most excellent information, my dear. I had not thought of selling songs to TV or film but I should have. I remember the song "At this moment" had flopped when released but then six years later became the song of the year after being on a TV show. There is a big lesson in there. Thank you for making em think outside the box a bit.

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

sree1987...I'm so glad that this hub gave you some good information on how to sell or promote your music! goodluck! Best, GPAGE

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

bat115...can't wait to see your film! ; Best, GPAGE

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

JAMES! You just never know!; The music biz is so complicated BUT I still feel that there are many opportunities that artists never think of. I have been licensing and selling music for a long time.......sometimes it is a surprise and sometimes it is a pain! BUT overall it is nice to know that your music can live on in different medias.....It seems with so much change in the biz, it is harder to be "just an artist" and make a living......will be interesting to see even more changes in the future......hopefully they will be good....."it is never too late my friend." Even if you have friends doing films, you have some good music there and it should be heard by many for many more years to come! Best, Gx

rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

nice hub. my youngest son just finished writing the music for a documentary. since it's his first, he said he would do it for the credit only. it has been a learning experience for him, but a good contact as they like his work. he has a regular job and wants to compose. he's been going to the conventions and that's where he made some of his first contacts and he joined the IFMA site. I'll send him this mail. thanks.

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

rebekahELLE.....I wish your son the best in this industry! Documentaries do not make a lot of money so they usually do not pay much for music. Conventions do not help that much when it comes to making contact with the right people since most of them there are "selling something" for their own purpose. His best bet is to keep composing and get it to industry professionals that will pay him eventually. Too many freebies are not good either. Next time he gets an opportunity, let him know to ask for a small sum. Glad that this article can help him. I'm always here to inspire! So nice to see you here! Best, GPAGE

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

I never know about this before. I think you are very famous for the music industry. Now I know about your job. Why you told me that you are busy person. And it proved here. After I read from your hub, You get a lot of money from this business. It looks really nice job and this is also fun job.

Actually I like singing and make a song. But with my job in teaching. I was not give attention for this hobby. Just for having fun in weekend with my friends. After I read this hub, there are many opportunity in music industry and it can be produce a lot of money. I think this hub inspiring us who interesting with music. I'll bookmark this hub.

GPAGE you made this world more colorful. Thank you very much. God bless you.


GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California Author

prasetio30....I'm so glad that this hub inspired you! A lot of people who love to create music never think of the business end of it or other ways to make income with their music. I was able to link into this part of the industry because I learned early on that it was hard to be an independent artist and make a living on your own without a lot of money behind you or a major label to finance your project. Sometimes when a song plays on a wellknown show or commercial, more people hear it! AND ofcourse if more people hear it, you make more money! ha

Thank you so much for sharing your love for music and that you enjoy singing and writing music on the cool!!!!......Best, G

Brotha Phil 5 years ago

Thanks G!! I'm sure that this info will prove to be invaluable! Still looking out for me, huh!!

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 5 years ago from California Author

Brotha Phil.....YUP!!!! ha ha ... ;

songmancometh profile image

songmancometh 5 years ago

The world has changed so much in the last 5 to ten years. Getting a song placed with someeone like Kathy Nelson,is pretty much an Elton John thing. Any place where you can get a bead on the small cable shows starting up?

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 5 years ago from California Author

songmancometh....sorry I can't help with that. It seems that a lot of channels are using worldwide library music for low money. Meaning they only charge once to use the music for any territory. Best avenue is always to get to the producer of any show (even cable). I always take the angle if I'm doing instrumentals, I do not mind sharing publishing.....I did this with producers of an ABC show.....that way they make money on the music too.....incentive! GPAGE

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