Optimize Your Music Mix for Licensing

Although most musicians focus primarily on
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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 your music.

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.