The Motion Sick: A Quick Guide to Indie Music Licensing Web Sites

We use a variety of avenues in dealing with licensing songs.  We’re working on setting up an interface on our own web site.  Until then, we work with Taxi, Broadjam, Youlicense, Pump Audio, Sonicbids (though Sonicbids has very little publishing focus), and a handful of small publishers who’ve licensed our work for specific placements or future general use (I won’t review those publishers here).  I want to give you all a quick breakdown in case you’re curious about how these work. 

A lot of people have requested feedback on how the Taxi process worked, so we’ve started a blog showing all of our experiences submitting songs to Taxi.  Thus far, for anyone curious, we’ve had a couple of deals via their calls including a recent radio commercial (for vitamins).  These deals have approximately led to us breaking even using Taxi and we hope that we’ll actually see some positive cash flow in the future, but it looks quite promising.  Taxi is the most interesting of the bunch because of the feedback they provide.  The blog is here:

For Taxi, you pay an annual fee of about $300 and then $5 for each submission you make (so it can add up quickly).  They send biweekly emails with calls for songs.  Calls might be seeking bands, artists, songs, composers, lyrics, etc.  You then submit to these calls.  Taxi’s A&R team reviews your song and decides whether it fits the call.  If they like it, they “forward” it on to the person  that sent in the call.  If not, they “return” it and tell you why it didn’t meet the needs.  Although people complain that this means your music gets disqualified even though you’ve paid $5 (I.e., it never reaches the ears of the person who wanted it), I think this system actually encourages people to make calls through Taxi because they know it will be pre-filtered.  If Taxi just sent everything along, what would be the benefit of a call through Taxi over just accepting unsolicited submissions?  Still, people complain about this.   Taxi takes no percentage of any deals you make. 

We’ve also licensed several songs via Broadjam, including the inclusion of “30 Lives” in Dance Dance Revolution, so thus far, that has been a positive cash flow outcome.   Broadjam is essentially identical in cost model to Taxi (the annual rate is cheaper – they have different packages, but I pay $100 a year).  Broadjam doesn’t have the same A&R process.  They allow users to rate and compare songs using some kind of silly system and then they deliver the whole lot to whoever made the call, but the songs are ranked as per the user ratings.  So, the caller can listen to as much or as little of the pool as they desire.  Broadjam is  perhaps easier and perhaps easier to make a mistake with.  You agree to some aspects of contracts just by submitting songs via Broadjam, but I don’t think they are intending to be too deceptive.  I think the intention is to make it easy for the callers to use the stuff quickly.

Youlicense is pretty new as far as I can tell.  I joined just for kicks.  They have hardly any opportunities listed, but they serve as an easy access point for people looking to license music.  You can elect to prelicense stuff at fixed rates (which I did not do) or have someone who finds you on there make an offer to you.  For no cost, you can upload a small number of songs and allow them to make a 9% commission off of any licenses.  For $30 for 6 months, you can offer more songs and they take no commission.  I’ve just joined pretty recently and no offers via them yet.

Pump Audio is the music branch of Getty Images.  It’s free to use.  They have premade non-exclusive licenses.  Once you give them stuff, they can pretty much license it for anything non-exclusive and they take half of the earnings.  The thing that makes them worthwhile is that I expect that many people will go to them for content.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the largest licensing house, but again, I think Getty just bought up Pump recently, so it’s all just rolling out.  They have an “audition” process and then a song-based review process after to decide what does get included.  I am happy to say that we passed the audition and that all of our songs that I’ve submitted thus far have been selected for inclusion.  There is no submission or calling process here.  People go to their site or use their standalone systems to find music for things they need and then they just pay the predetermined licensing costs.  Inflexible, but  I think their volume of business makes up for it.

isn’t really for music licensing most of the time, but sometimes they have calls for songs for licenses.  I wouldn’t really even include them here, but people always ignorantly compare them with Taxi, so I’ll throw them on the list here.  You pay an annual fee to be part of Sonicbids (I believe $50 for the package we have) and then an amount for submitting chosen by the promoter.  The thing that makes me wary here is that the people making calls for submissions actually make money off the submissions, so it encourages them to make frivolous calls and encourage oversubmission.  Callers receive all of the submissions, no quality control, no ranking, etc.  Anyway, we basically use Sonicbids for submitting to conferences and things like that where I (at least somewhat) trust the reputation of the promoter and the cost replaces the application cost that would be paid submitting via mail or any other system.  For this, thumbs up! For music licensing, eh. 

In a way, it’s kind of  sad that indie musicians have to pay to get music in front of people who might use it for something tied to $$, but I think it’s realistically a fact of life.  Taxi sends out regular newsletters and one of the topics they cover is a question about just that.  Why should I pay Taxi when I could just do a lot of legwork and get the same stuff for free.  Their argument, a good one I think, is that you can, but it would take up all of your time, so you pay $300 a year to give yourself time to make music. 


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