With the growing popularity of library music and royalty free music sites, especially the sudden development of user-content driven stock media libraries, it has become more important than ever for artists to be wary of the deals that they are getting themselves into. I’ve compiled some tips and advice from a business standpoint that I hope is helpful to composers and media producers looking to distribute their media online.
So you’ve found another stock media site to join. What should you look for?
Royalty Splits, Commissions & The Quantity of Sales Myth
Take a close look at how the site prices their media and much the site is offering you per sale. Some sites greatly undervalue their artists media, looking to make a quick sale.
Do the math:
Site xyz.com offers you a 50% split (which is about the de-facto industry standard), and they sell your media 50 times a month. But they also use the credit system, and they’re pricing your music at a whopping $1 per clip. It’s no wonder they are able to move your music so often. They are offering sync rights to the public, for which signed artists get thousands of dollars a track for plus royalties, for less than a cup of coffee! They rationalize to you that you will get your BMI/ASCAP/PRS/whatever royalties through cue sheets. But think about it. Joe Smith, online discount bargain music hunter, your average stock media consumer – do you really think he is going to 1) understand a cue sheet, and 2) take the time to fill it out and send it in? Furthermore, they justify the low price by saying that they have to sell at that price because you are basically an unknown, and that’s all people will pay for your music (which is a lie). Your total cut per month under this plan: $25, if you’re lucky.
On Productiontrax.com, we value your time and commitment to your art and production as an independent artist. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned pro, we give you complete control over your pricing. You set your clip price to what you think it is worth. We also give you 65% of your total sale – the highest royalty split in the business. Sure, you might not sell 50 times a month (though many of our contributors do), but, on a clip that you price at our average commercial license price of $35, you make $22.75 per sale. Sell just twice a month, and you’ve already made more with Productiontrax.com than you have anywhere else.
Exclusive or Non-Exclusive
Some sites and libraries have what they call “Exclusive” deals, meaning, you can only sell your content on one site. Usually, when a stock site offers you an exclusive deal, they also offer it with a bigger chunk of the royalty split. When considering an exclusive deal, make sure you realize that they pretty much own you for the duration of the contract. They might up your split to 60% (notice it is still below Productiontrax.com’s standard 65% cut for everyone), but you are limited to the sales you get through that one site. You can’t sell or market your stuff anywhere else! Combine that with some of the “discount” pricing schemes offered on many sites, and you have a recipe for certain failure. From a long-term business perspective, artists need the ability to diversify their offerings across the online music landscape. Think of distribution channels as an investment. Do you really want your portfolio of offerings to be limited to one site?
Productiontrax.com gives you freedom with your media. We don’t use fancy, confusing contractual gimmicks by trying to lock you in to just one place. It is hard enough to survive as an artist in today’s economic climate. We believe that you, and only you, own the rights to your media, whether it’s music, sound effects, stock footage, or photos. You should be able to sell it and market it as you see fit.
How a library lets its users use your media is a big part of what factors into sales. Take a close look at what a stock media site lets their customers do with your files. Are there restrictions? Are there copyright issues? What about mechanical rights, derivative works, sync, and publishing? What about reporting to PROs and cue sheets? What options do they give you as an artist? All of these are factors in the sale and promotion of your music.
Productiontrax.com is unique in how it licenses your music. We have taken great strides to protect your rights as an artist while giving our customers the creative freedom they need to succeed in today’s marketplace. Productiontrax.com allows you to set two prices – one for independent non-commercial use, and one for commercial and for-profit use. We’ve also taken it one step further, allowing you, the artist, to opt in to special license options and opportunities, such as sampling and DJ use, CD distribution, and bulk blanket licensing. This gives you ultimate control over who uses your media, and how they media, without confusing the customer with all sorts of legal mumbo-jumbo and difficult to navigate sites.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure that the image portrayed by a site meets your expectations for your own personal and professional image and reputation. Once you have joined a site, your music and reputation are associated with the brand and image of the site that it is on. If that site is constantly sending spam emails, offering your tracks at a discount, or low-balling you from a commissions standpoint, you can probably guess what the general public thinks of your music. On the other hand, if the site is clean, user friendly, offers comprehensive customer support, and promotes your music in a professional manner, respectful of your rights as an artist and the needs of the general public, your reputation has been brought up to that level.
To sum up, when you are selling your music online through a royalty free music site, or selling your sound effects library, stock footage, or stock photos, pay close attention to the deals you are creating for yourself, and the overall brand image that the library. Your artistry and professional survival depend on it.