Music Industry

I Swear I Heard This In A Commercial: How The Internet Handles Licensing

Earlier this week we talked about MixBANK, a licensing software designed to make legal remixes easy for both the DJ and the artist being sampled. That’s all good, but that particular process is designed to get music properly shared between two artists. What happens when music is needed outside the industry – say, in advertising or film production? Well, clever software designers have designed platforms for that purpose, too. And it all happens automatically through the power of the Internet.

A quick Google search for ‘music licensing platform’ brings up all kinds of websites. There’s Audiosocket, who lists Starbucks, Microsoft, and McDonald’s as clients. Or Musicbed, serving companies like Google, Netflix, and Nike. And even royalty-free, no-payment-required services like Instant Music Licensing show up among the ranks. These are all technically Rights Management Systems (RMSes), just like MixBANK. There’s obviously a market for these kinds of RMS platforms, but what exactly do they do?

Well, licensing music can be a tricky business. Artists, or more accurately managers and label representatives, have to put a dollar value on their songs. Companies wanting to use the music in movies, advertisements, video games, presentations, in stores, or for any other kind of project have to pay for the rights to use the tracks. Depending on the size of the project and area of distribution, those fees can get quite high. Simply buying a song for personal use isn’t enough!

There’s a tricky balance to strike, though. Artists and representatives definitely want to get paid, but at the same time a popular commercial can lead to plenty of exposure as well. However, online RMS programs like the ones above automate the entire process, removing the need for negotiating over mail or phone calls. Plus, the programs can host thousands of songs, so groups looking to buy music can browse and choose at their leisure.

Artists sign up for RMSes, and submit their work to the service’s catalogue. Price points are all different – some platforms allow artists to set their own prices, others assign different tiers the artists can choose from, and some simply do it automatically. Once a price has been decided, songs are posted to the catalogue which buyers can search through to find exactly the kind of music they need. Some RMSes even go farther – a popular platform called Songtradr allows buyers to build playlists, and even added an industry-first notification system recently that alerts artists when their songs are being browsed and bought.

The nice thing about RMS catalogues is that they lineup smaller artists with big names, and can actually give the more affordable unknown names a competitive edge. Some project managers are more interested in affordable sound-alikes rather than expensive big names, and the continued growth of online RMS platforms could mean more great bands are spread through licensing than ever before. Plus, data-mining can help targeted marketing pick the best new music to attach to their ads – maybe Google knows what alt-rock song to include based on your interest in this article!

Mathew Kahansky

Once upon a time, Mat studied journalism. That's how he became Alan's one-time intern and current-time contributor, and the rest is ongoing history - get it? Mat also studied biology and music, so he has a strangely specific knowledge set that doesn't really apply anywhere other than useless fun facts. He currently works for a music tech start-up in Halifax, and is a big fan of the em dash.

Mathew Kahansky has 294 posts and counting. See all posts by Mathew Kahansky

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