Category: Selling Your Music

Music Licensing and Royalties

Music and Royalties: What You Should Know

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

When Vanilla Ice ripped off the Queen/David Bowie classic “Under Pressure” for his 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby,” there was an outrage. Vanilla Ice tried to tell Queen and David Bowie that his bass line was a little bit different from theirs, but many—fellow musicians, fans, critics—disagreed. Fast forward to today, when thousands of musicians upload cover songs to YouTube. It seems that we’re constantly repeating Vanilla Ice’s mistake… but we really shouldn’t.

To avoid a similar debacle, you might want to brush up on your understanding of licensing and royalties.

Who Gets Royalties?

In terms of music licensing, the original creator is paid royalties by the person wanting to use the music. The price of using it can vary depending on the song, the creator, and the intended use.

Getting Permission

If you are considering sampling anyone else’s work, you are responsible for getting permission first. Don’t count on your lack of superstar status to protect you. If you don’t obtain permission, you can face serious trouble. There is nothing more devastating than pouring your time, money, and heart into a song only to find out that you can’t use it because you didn’t obtain permission first.

Ask the Right People

With remakes and cover versions floating around, be sure that you get permission from the original creator. Either search online or pull out the original recording’s CD/album and check the liner notes. Then, reach out to the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) or EMI. These are two principal players in music licensing, and most professional artists work with them. These groups can tell you what’s required to get the rights to sample, cover, or otherwise use this song.

Flipping the Tables

If you have original content, you have the option of licensing it for use and being paid royalties. There are hundreds of sites that can work with you on this. American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) or EMI are both great sites to start researching this process.

Now that you know more about music licensing and royalties, head out and make your music with confidence, knowing that you’ve taken the steps to protect yourself.

Have you licensed your music for others to use? How did the process go for you? Do you have advice for those considering licensing their music? On the other side, have you paid to use someone else’s work?

See also: Copyright Your Music: The Why and How

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Increase Your Exposure: Streaming Music

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

A confession: I like physical media. I back up sessions on hard drives. I have an extensive CD collection. When I’m near a record player, you can bet it will be in use. That said, I’m not stuck in the past. I’ve grown quite fond of backing up to cloud drives, and as a consumer I often use music-streaming sites like Spotify.

As a professional artist, you have to keep up on industry trends to get your music out there. You could have the best songs and the tightest band, but if no one hears your songs, none of that will matter.

One of the biggest trends right now is streaming music. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick overview:

When you sell your music, whether in physical distribution or in online sales and downloads, you get the profits and the consumer keeps the music. Streaming is different; the most common sites are closer to traditional radio play, just online and tailored to each listener. Listeners use a service, free or paid, to access the music but do not own the music. This means that they can listen to the artists and songs they like, discover related artists, retain valuable hard drive space, and not spend (much) money on music.

If you want access to these listeners, you must make your songs available on these streaming sites. On the plus side, there is usually a small amount of money paid to the you each time someone streams your song. While the profits from streaming services are not as ideal as album sales, the streaming services can offer increased exposure. As a user of streaming sites, I often check out similar artists suggested by the service. Some services automatically play similar artists. If these listeners like your music, they might regularly listen to you (more money) or might look up where to buy your music and do so (more money).

The major streaming outlets right now are Spotify, Pandora, and ReverbNation. There have been and will be others; be sure to keep updated on which is rising or falling in popularity.

If you’re still a fan of physical media and live performances like I am, that’s great. There’s still an audience for that, but it’s no longer the whole story. Now that you know about streaming music, you can decide whether or not this type of music distribution is a good fit for you.

Have you put your music on a streaming service? Has doing so resulted in increased sales or fans? Which service would you recommend?

See also: Spotify, Pandora and Streaming Music: Should You Post Your Music?, Top Five Websites for Streaming Your Music, Five Websites for Selling Your Music Online, Make Money Selling Your Music, Finding Music Distributors

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Free Downloads

Do Free Downloads Increase Your Exposure?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As a musician, when you are trying to get your product out there to the masses, every little bit helps. However, radio play, CD sales, and music videos are increasingly being eschewed in favor of music downloads. This has become today’s staple metric for how successful a music act is.

But what is the preferred method for music downloads? Some would argue that the only type of download is the free one, while others hold fast to the idea that sales is a far better metric of who takes your music seriously. There are pros and cons to both sides.

Sold Downloads

The first “pro” to sales is obviously that you make some money. This is the dream of every artist of any stripe: to have a public who says, “your product is worth enough to me to pay you for it.” Additionally, these invested fans are more likely to listen, promote, and return for more. What’s not to like?

On the negative side of things, everyone likes to get something for nothing. If you are only selling your music, you will likely have fewer downloads, even if the fans are better.

Free Downloads

Offering your music downloads for free opens up a whole other can of worms. Yes, you likely will get more downloads. But, how many of these people are actively listening to your music? How many will share your band with their friends, or come back to buy your other products? For all you know, your song gets absorbed into their vast music catalog and will only come up once a year on shuffle.

At the same time that you’re getting more downloads, you could be stigmatizing yourself as unworthy of any money from consumers later on in your career. Why should they pay in now when you used to give it away? The transition there is not an easy one.

So Which Do You Go With?

The best answer might be a mix of both. You could offer new singles for free for a limited time or to a limited audience (such as previous paying customers) then charge for the single downloads or album downloads later. This conveys that your product has value but that you appreciate the fans that keep up with and support you.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, and we’d love to hear what you choose!

Have you offered free downloads of your music? Was it for a limited time only or to a limited audience? Did those fans come back and purchase other music?

See also: Finding Music Distributors, Increase Your Exposure: Streaming MusicMake Money Selling Your Music.

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How Should I Price My Merchandise?

By NationWide Source Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As a musician, you may not fancy yourself a finance or business person. But the fact remains that selling merchandise should be one of the things you think about quite a bit. It not only gets your images, music, and more out to a far wider audience, but it is how a lot of musicians finance their gigs, enable their recordings, and gauge their success. It’s an all-around good thing… but that doesn’t make it simple. One important factor in selling merchandise is setting the right price. Here are a few good rules of thumb to consider.


One way to find out how to price your merchandise is to have a look around at what others are charging for their posters, CDs, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, t-shirts and other goods. Be sure to account for quality differences as well as name recognition. A professionally recorded, produced, and packaged CD can sell for more than something recorded in a garage and burned on a home computer. A more-established band can ask a little more.


Try putting yourself in your fans’ shoes. What would you be willing to pay if the same merchandise belonged to an artist that you liked? How much did you already pay get in the door? Are you carrying cash, and if so, how much? This also brings up payment options. Doing cash-only sales at an event means making change. Pricing things in round numbers ($5/10/20) can help, as can bundling items (think 2 for $20).


What is the cost (factor in time) for you as the artist? Are you able to buy these items in bulk? Are you on a lengthy tour and hauling them in your luggage or trunk? These are all things which can and should drive up or down the costs of your things.


Another thing to consider is what is the reward going to be for you as the artist? If you are playing for the first time in a big city, getting your name out might be more important than making a larger dollar profit.


Some final thoughts to consider: Who is your audience? Have you established yourself in your genre, or are you brand new to the game? Where are these sales happening? Is cash the best option, or would a card reader be a worthwhile investment?

How did you find the sweet spot for your merchandise prices? Did adjusting prices increase or decrease sales?

See also: Make Money Selling Your Music

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