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How to Get Your Band’s Music on National TV and Get Paid For It (Even If You're Unsigned)

Is music licensing for TV a new way for bands to earn money or just the same old song and dance?

Is music licensing for TV a new way for bands to earn money or just the same old song and dance?

With album sales shrinking, bands are always on the lookout for new streams of revenue. Sure, there is merch sales, but how could a band profit off the music itself? It seems more and more television shows are in need of music, and metal has been popping up a lot lately, including most recently on Elementary.

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We've spotlighted IKILLYA on the site before. They have been getting their music out there through a different medium: television. IKILLYA's music was recently featured in an episode of NBC's Chicago P.D. being seen by over seven million people. Here's a clip of their music being played on the show:

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We asked IKILLYA frontman Jason Lekberg how it felt to hear his music on a national TV show and he responded that it was a "strange feeling" and that he immediately began judging his vocal performance. He wasn't exactly excited that his music was being listened to by a psycho and used to distract a cop but that's to be expected.

Jason offered this advice on how other bands could submit music to be eligible for use in a TV or movie:

There are several ways.  The most optimal way is to sign a deal with a publishing company.  That company will then work to get these types of placements for your music.  They take a percentage of the earnings, but they actively pitch your music for usage you wouldn't have otherwise gotten at premium rates.  Thus far,no publishing companies have been interested in working with us, so I have our music as part of one of the bulk licensing companies, APM.  Brands or production houses pay a flat fee to license music for use in their commercials and shows.  The fees are way less than through a traditional publishing company because the music is generally from unknown or lesser known artists.

We submitted to APM through their partnership with Reverbnation.  There was an upload option in our artist dashboard on ReverbNation.  APM doesn't allow you to submit directly to them, but others like Music Dealers do.

How much money is there to be made here though? Unfortunately, unless you have a proper licensing deal, you won't exactly have enough to quit your job and live off your savings. While IKILLYA will likely be paid for the initial airing and reruns of the episode, they will probably only make around $100 dollars for this licensing deal. Of course, a band of higher stature or with better licensing deals could get far more money.

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Could this ever be a primary source of income for IKILLYA? Lekberg has his doubts:

This is a very important income source for artists.  Many have made lots of money in the past from it, but I don't know if it could ever become a primary source for bands writing original music.  The problem is that there's a finite amount of availability.  In addition, the music being used in a show or commercial is not the point of either – so it has to fit the mood and theme, and most importantly not get in the way of the message being sold to the viewer.  Uses like this are even more rare because it's actually part of the story, rather than a soundtrack.

There is the option of becoming a songwriter who works for a publishing company and specifically writes and records music for shows.  They are given a theme and style and paid to deliver what is needed.  I know some of the bigger brands like WWE even have their own staff writer.  I have to imagine that is a really tough gig to get though.

As for Lekberg's advice to other artists hoping to get into the licensing game, the biggest key is to have sonic consistency:

If you want to be licensed the most important thing is that the music has to be sonically consistent with the genre you play.  What I mean by that is that the production has to be on par.  In my experience, when a show or commercial is being edited, the editor will use or be thinking of a popular song.  If the production has the budget to afford that song, they'll license it.  If not, they go looking for something that has the same sonic quality and feel.  In our case, we have been very fortunate to make both of our albums with Josh Wilbur who has done Lamb of God, Gojira, Killer Be Killed, and many more.

After that, it's a crap shoot.  Sometimes they want music that has the right feel but hides behind the message and sometimes they're looking for a song that has a catchy part people will want to sing along to or augments the message.  For instance, the current Geico usage of Salt N Peppa's Push It – or the bazillion commercials that use Safe and Sound by Capital Cities.

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My advice would be to make the best music you can and invest in good production.  You get out what you put in and there's no substitution for a seasoned producer and engineer with good equipment.

So get to work!

For more information on IKILLYA, check out the band's Facebook page.

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