ALTHOUGH MOST musicians focus primarily on
creating singles and albums to sell directly to their
fans, licensing music continues to be another
good source for music income. It’s also a great
way to get your music heard and noticed by new
fans. However, the mixes that television and film
producers, advertisers, Youtubers, podcasters, and
other licensors want from your music are often
different than what you’d create for your album.
The time to prepare your music is while you’re in
the mixing phase, not after the album is done.
Thinking about licensing during mixdown
makes sense: It’s easy to make another version
of your song while you’re already working with
the tracks. Plus, you can often save money by
mastering all of your tracks at once. Because of
this, consider making the following alternate
mixes while you’re still in the studio:
1. Instrumental Mix Removing the vocals
and creating an instrumental version of
your song is one of the most versatile
mixes you can make for licensing purposes.
Instrumentals can be used as beds under
commercial voiceovers, or for television, film,
radio, podcasts, video games, and more. If you
have to choose just one alternative mix to make,
this is your best choice.
2. Vocals-Only Mix A vocals-only mix can
be useful on its own, but is primarily used to
help you create the next three mixes below. A
vocals-only mix is typically synced and layered
on top of your instrumental mix to make it
easy to turn down, turn up, or remove certain
vocals (such as profanity).
3. Vocal Levels-Down Mix Creating an
alternative mix with a quieter vocal track
down can be the perfect mix for television,
film, and advertisers to use. This is so your
words don’t compete against voiceover or
other dialog happening in the scene that it’s
playing underneath, without taking them out
of the song altogether. To create this type of
mix, turn the vocals down about 1 to 2dB.
4. Vocal Levels-Up Mix Alternatively,
it may be the vocals that carry the exact
sentiment licensors are hoping to capture. For
these licensors, create a mix with the vocals up
between 1 to 2dB.
5. Radio-Friendly Mix If your song is long
or uses profanity or other non-broadcastable
language, creating a radio-friendly mix can
make you royalty income based on radio play,
and could also be used for licensing that needs
music without profanity.
6. Stems, Source Tracks, and Beats
While it’s easy to think television and film,
many potential licensors are interested
in your stems, source tracks, and beats,
considering the huge number of remixing
tools available. Today, there are entirely new
licensing opportunities for beats and hooks,
since musicians and remixers are looking for
ready-made sounds for use in their songs. To
pursue this type of licensing opportunity, you
can present each of your source tracks “as
is,” and also mix down stems and beats out of
parts of your song.
Once you’ve prepared your alternative
mixes, you can upload them to your website
to let potential licensors sample your mixes.
Web pages with instrumental pieces can
be especially useful to potential buyers. Or,
you can submit them to music-production
houses and licensing services such as sites
like Beatstars.com, Musicdealers.com, and
Magnatune.com. Naturally, you can send
them to a publisher, or directly to potential
licensors to create licensing opportunities for
Of course, you may get ideas for other
mixes that are useful to licensors. Often, the
key is to have what they need ready to go
when they ask so you can capitalize on the
opportunity. If you make what they need
during mixdown, you will save yourself time,
and open up new sources of income and
exposure for your music.
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are
authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide,
now in its second edition: indieguide.com.