Tag Archives: Placements

Music Business: Mailbox money: How cuts can increase your money-making potential

Written: By Brent Baxter 

January 18th 2018

A “pitch” is when a song is presented to an artist in the hopes the artist will record it. When an artist records your song, it is commonly called a “cut.” When you get a cut, it can lead to a wonderful thing called “mailbox money.”

You’re an artist. You love being in front of an audience and doing what you do. You get a rush from leading a crowd into the palm of your hand and watching them sing every word back to you. Putting it all out there during a show and gaining some new hard-core fans by the end of the night can be really satisfying.

And selling CDs and some merchandise sure doesn’t hurt, either.

Money matters

After all, guitars don’t buy themselves and groceries don’t mysteriously appear in your fridge. You need money to get these things, and money doesn’t always come easily for artists, does it? If you’re a live act, you have to get on a stage somewhere. If you aren’t on a stage, you probably aren’t making any money. But even when you are out there, as high-energy and amazing as your shows might be, you can still only be on one stage at a time. And if you’re not getting significant radio airplay, you’re only making fans one show at a time, one night at a time.

And what if you’re a non-touring artist? If you’re a YouTube, SoundCloud, or Spotify artist, it can be even more difficult to monetize your music. YouTube ads? Sending fans to your Patreon page? There has to be a way to make money outside of just hitting the highway or passing the digital tip jar.

Consider this way to monetize your songs, without selling your own CDs from a stage or a computer screen: get other artists to record your songs.

This begins with someone pitching your song to another artist. A “pitch” is when a song is presented to an artist in the hopes the artist will record it. When an artist records your song, it is commonly called a “cut.” When you get a cut, it can lead to a wonderful thing called “mailbox money.”

Mailbox money

We call it mailbox money because royalties literally show up in your mailbox (or email inbox). If your song gets recorded by a major artist, the money can be amazing. But even if one of your songs gets recorded by another indie artist (much more likely, especially at first), it can help keep gas in the van and new strings on your guitar.

Here are some of the major royalties your song can earn when it’s recorded:

  • Mechanical (digital downloads, streaming services, physical product sales (CDs, vinyl, etc.), ringtones, and more)
  • Public Performance and Broadcast Fees (streaming services, radio, TV performances, live performances)
  • Synchronization (TV, film, commercials, video games, etc.)

This post isn’t a deep-dive into every type of royalty stream. I suggest you use this as a starting point for your own research. The main point here is to make you aware that these revenue streams exist and that they could be working for you.

Multiply your money-making power

When you record your own songs, you’re making money through all the promotion and sales efforts you make to sell your music and get it played — and that’s great. But when another artist cuts your song, you’re making money with those efforts in addition to making money when the other artist is doing the same, selling his or her recording of the song YOU wrote.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll dive into how to get your song to an artist, outline additional benefits of writing for others, and detail some pitfalls to avoid. But first, there are reasons why writing songs for other artists might be something you should NOT do.

This strategy isn’t for everybody

This approach won’t work for everybody. For instance, writing songs for other artists is probably NOT a winning strategy for you if you don’t love to write songs. If you only write songs so you aren’t labeled a “cover band,” this is not for you. If you only write songs because it’s time to put out some new product, this is not for you. Getting cuts is not simple, and if you don’t enjoy the songwriting process, you’re going to be miserable. And you probably won’t be very good at it, either.

But if you love songwriting, if you write even when you don’t “have to,” this could be a profitable path for you.

If you are a true songwriter, you probably write more songs than you can release. And maybe not every song you write is for yourself as an artist, anyway. You probably have songs you really feel good about, but they don’t fit your artistic voice or band’s profile. Maybe you’re known for good-time party songs, but now and again you write a tear-in-my-beer heartbreak song. Or you’re a Christian artist who mostly plays churches, but you sometimes write about being a country boy who loves getting mud on his boots. Or you’re in a southern rock band, but you love writing pop songs every now and then. You get the idea.

You know you’re probably not going to put an “off-brand” song on your next album, but you write what you write because you’re a songwriter. It’s what you do. And as a songwriter, you can follow the muse wherever she leads. But as an artist, you usually have to stay “on-brand,” and it can be frustrating to write good songs that never see the light of day. But there is good news: If they are high-quality tunes, your “off-brand” songs don’t have to sit on a shelf. They might actually make you a little bit of money.

And don’t forget the music you’ve already released yourself. Nothing says another artist can’t record those songs too. There are several examples of songs plucked from indie or minor-label albums and turned into hits by a completely different artist.

Today’s homework

So today, you have homework. Take out your stack of songs, released and unreleased. Ask yourself: “Could this song be amazing for another artist? Who would that be?” Then tune in next week and catch my next post in this series. We’ll dive into how to get your songs to other artists, so stay tuned.

To BE a pro songwriter, you need to THINK like a pro songwriter. The FREE ebook, Think Like A Pro Songwriter, will transform your thinking, your songwriting, and your success. Get it today at www.GiftFromBrent.com.

Brent Baxter is an award-winning hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US, a #1 in Canada, and a top 10 in Texas… so far. He teaches songwriters how to write like a pro, how to do business like a pro, and he connects them to the pros through his websites,SongwritingPro.com and Frettie.com. He also produces “The CLIMB” with fellow Disc Makers’ Blog contributor and music-industry pal Johnny Dwinell.

source: Discmakers



Music Business Article: How To Get Songs Placed On TV And In Movies


Last weekend at the ASCAP Music Expo at the Loews Hollywood Hotel I attended the Music Supervisor panel containing 5 music supervisors who actively place music in film and television.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had about 30 TV placements (20 in the last year from my new record). I’ve gotten songs placed on high profile shows that are known for their music, like One Tree Hill and shows you’ve never heard of, where music is very much “background,” like Friendzone. And everything in between.

And I’ve also been 1 week away from having a song on So You Think You Can Dance. Contracts were signed. The only problem was, the contestant who was going to dance to my song got bumped. Balls.

There is no one way to get music placed on TV (or in film). In addition to how I’ve gone about it, I’ve spoken with many of my musician friends who make livings on song placements about this.

Music Supervisor

According to the Guild of Music Supervisors, the definition/role of a music supervisor is defined as:

“A qualified professional who oversees all music related aspects of film, television, advertising, video games and any other existing or emerging visual media platforms as required.”

Music supervisors are the actual people who take the cues from the producers and director when the “picture is locked” and underscore the picture with songs. The composer underscores the picture with original, scored compositions written specifically for that scene.

Sometimes (most of the time) music supervisors use the instrumental version and most of the time it’s just a small snippet of the song (however, now I have to brag a bit, One Tree Hill used all 3:43 of my song – words and music. But that’s very rare).

On the ASCAP panel sat Rebecca Rienks, who currently places music for E! (you know those promo montage spots that always seem to have Ryan Seacrest looking… Seacresty); Holly Hung, who primarily places music in film trailers; Jeff Gray just finished a feature film; Lindsay Wolfington (who placed me in One Tree Hill), mostly works on TV shows; and the moderator, Jason Kramer, is a music supervisor at Elias Arts, a music production company that specializes in original music composition and sound design for TV, films and commercials. Kramer is also a host on Los Angeles’ KCRW.


They rapped for just over an hour about what types of music they look for, day to day challenges (mainly dealing with producers who say stuff like “can you make this more purple?”) and showed us some of the spots they’ve placed music in.

“As long as it fits and tonally hits everything that it needs to hit, it doesn’t matter if it’s an indie band, somebody not signed, somebody just dropped, if it works it works.” – Holly Hung, Music Supervisor

Hung told a story about working on a trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  She said they had a Coldplay song as temp music and she spent 3 weeks looking for a replacement for it. She scoured iTunes and found a band who had just gotten dropped by their label and the singer was currently working at Starbucks. She used the song and the band got $80,000 for the placement.

Getting Music To The Music Supervisors

As you can imagine, music supervisors get inundated with emails from people wanting their music placed. Be it musicians, licensing companies, publishing companies, managers or just fans of the supe (that’s short for music supervisor – and yes they have fans), supes can get overwhelmed and are very picky about HOW they will take submissions.


There’s no correct way to get music placed, but there are a few incorrect ways. All supes on the panel said do not attach mp3s to an email. It clutters up their inbox and will go directly to the trash (and your email will probably get blocked).

How To Get Your Email Opened

Hung said to put who you sound like in the subject line. Like “Sounds like Coldplay.” Keep the body short and to the point and only send the songs that make sense for the project that supe is working on. So, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Do not send your tear-jerker ballad to Rienks who needs upbeat, fun, exciting music for her E! spots.

How To Get Your Song Listened To

In the email, include links to where the song can be quickly listened to (without having to be downloaded) where there is ALSO an option to download it if they want to use it. Also, directly below the song, include a link to the instrumental.

Wolfington mentioned that she loves Box.com. Box.com (unlike Dropbox) will open a window with a player and it has a download link in the upper right hand corner. Very convenient.

Do not include links to ALL of your music. Send the best 1-3 songs that will work for that supe’s current project.

If the supe wants more of your music, she’ll ask.

In the email, it may help to list a couple distinctive adjectives below each song or key lyrics. Like:

“Cold Water”
epic, explosion at end,
key lyrics: “I will find the artist inside me”
full wav: link to box.com
instrumental wav: link to box.com

And yes, always upload .wavs. Not mp3s. If the supe wants to experiment with your song in the spot, she isn’t going to want to have to REEDIT in the wav once she realizes it’s a low-quality mp3.

Licensing Companies

If you don’t have a publishing company, there are companies out there who solely pitch music to music supervisors. Unlike publishing companies, they do not own any part of your song. Similarly, though, they will not go hunt down your mechanical royalties around the world for you (like publishing companies will).

Some will take a back-end percentage of your performance royalties (like from ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN), and others won’t. Some will work with you non-exclusively and others (the more established ones) will require you to work exclusively with them.

Typically licensing companies will take about 30-50% of the total sync fee and 30-50% of the back-end performance royalties.

Getting Paid

All network TV shows have a budget for music. Most higher profile cable TV shows have a budget for music. Most reality shows have a very tiny budget for music and will not pay you for the placement unless they have to.

Network TV shows will typically pay $3,000+ (depending on the spot and your level of clout). Cable TV shows will typically pay $750+ and reality shows on cable mostly pay indie artists nothing. Movies, trailers and commercials typically pay the most: $20,000+.

But these are very loose numbers. I’ve heard of major label artists getting $30,000 for a cable show and indie bands making $80,000 for a trailer.

Before you breakout the pitchforks for the reality TV show producers, you won’t NOT get paid EVER for these spots, you just won’t get paid up front. Meaning, many of these shows will ask you for the rights to place your music for free, knowing that you’ll make back-end songwriter/publisher performance royalties from your PRO (Performing Rights Organization – ASCAP, BMI, etc). If you get a bunch of these kinds of placements, they can really add up. It just takes about 9-18 months to see that check, though. These shows also (to compensate for their lack of payment) do a decent job of maximizing the band’s exposure. Most shows have an entire music section on their websites that list all music from each episode with links to iTunes and Spotify and to the bands’ websites. The Real World also puts the name of the song and the artist on the screen while the song is playing.

So, it’s not completely free. It can be pretty decent exposure.

And hey, if you don’t want to let them use your song for free, there is no one forcing you to.

Also worth noting, you don’t make any performance royalties when the movies are shown in theaters. There’s no legitimate reason why. It’s one of those messed up parts of the music business.

Pay To Submit Companies

There are companies like MusicXray.com, Sonicbids.com and Taxi.com who charge you to submit to music supervisors (oh you also have pay to become a member) for consideration. Taxi.com openly admits that only 6% of their artists get some kind of deal (who knows how many paid submissions they already submitted). But one of the music supervisors on the panel (I’ll withhold who) when asked about these companies, said, “it’s bad business.”

I’ve never actually heard of anyone getting a placement through these services. If you have PLEASE post it in the comments.

You have to see it from the supe’s perspective. They want music from people they trust, like licensing companies, publishing companies and musicians who they have a relationship with. Not some service that pushes out music where the only barrier for entry is a fee.

How To Get In The Door

Now that you know HOW to submit, how do you know WHO to submit to? Well, simple, do your research. The first handful of placements I got were from watching TV shows, noting the kind of music they used, looking at who the music supervisor was (they’re always listed in the ending credits – or on IMDB), Googling a bit to find their email, and cold emailing. Actually, I tweeted Lindsay Wolfington my song for One Tree Hill.

They’re all mostly on Twitter too.

Above all DO NOT SPAM them. This is a quick way to get blacklisted and blocked. Be polite and respectful. Make sure your emails are short and to the point.

If you don’t get a response don’t think they’re not interested. Wolfington mentioned that she puts all of these emails in a folder and when she’s looking for music, she sifts through the folder. So make sure your links don’t expire.

If you want to find a licensing company, there are a ton out there. Google around for a bit. Ask your friends who have gotten placements who they use. Check the credits of films to see who the song is “Courtesy of” – if it’s not a label, it’s most likely the licensing or publishing company.

I get asked all the time who are some good licensing companies out there, and the fact is, I don’t know all of them. I don’t know most of them. I’ve worked with a handful of them and have a few now who pitch me (non-exclusively), but it’s pointless for me to share this information because then the few licensing companies I know would get flooded by your emails. Do your research and find the company that’s the best fit for you.

Getting songs placed on TV shows and in movies is a highly sought after part of the music industry. Some musicians make their entire income off of it. Many companies do exclusively this. Like any avenue in the music industry, if you want to do well, you must put in the time necessary to master it. You can’t blast out 50 emails to 50 music supervisors and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It takes years of building up relationships, networking and trial and error. And again, DO NOT send out music that is not right for the show (or underdeveloped). That gives a bad name to all self-pitching artists. Every time a supe gets an email from an artist with shitty music or music that is completely different from what she places, she is less likely to open another email in the future. Don’t hurt your fellow independent musicians. Be respectful and be professional.

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

source: Digital Music News