I just found out another one of my tracks was licensed for use in a video game! My track “Where We Were” (produced by Gary Gray), from my CD "Shooting Stars", will be featured in the upcoming VR video game "Catch And Release" from developers Metricmind and publisher Advanced Interactive Gaming. This track is one of 30 that will be featured in the game and will also be released on a corresponding soundtrack.
Check out the song here:
This latest license is, I believe, the 15th new license in the last three months or so. I’ve built quite a momentum lately with licensing my own tracks, and as they say, when it rains it pours. I also have around ten or so other tracks that have been shortlisted for various projects that I should know more about soon. I don’t say any of this to boast, it’s simply the result of a lot of hard work over the last couple years.
In today’s post I thought I’d explore how to build and sustain momentum with your tracks and licensing. It’s all too easy to get discouraged when pursuing something like licensing. Results can be incredibly slow going in the beginning. There are simply no guarantees in this business and all too often writers sign with a few libraries, sit back and wait and then….. crickets. Nothing! I’ve been there and I know the feeling. It’s not a good feeling!
However, the flip side, is that once you start to see the results of your efforts pay off it’s an incredible feeling. When you work towards something for a sustained period of time and you start to actually see the results you want, that’s a hard feeling to top! It also gets easier over time. Success begets success, and once you start licensing your tracks, it become easier to license more and more. You still could have times where things slow down, like in all industries, but once you get how the business works and realize what works and what doesn’t, it becomes much easier to build momentum and move forward.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re getting started and building your own momentum.
It Takes Time
Licensing takes time. You have to understand that going into this industry. This isn’t an instant gratification business. Many of my recent licenses have been songs that I recorded several years ago or more that are just now getting picked up.
It takes time to build a catalog, build contacts in the industry and ultimately to get things licensed. You have to remember this in the beginning when you are getting started. A great analogy is to think of it like planting a garden. You do the work now and things come to fruition in the future. This can be frustrating if you’re trying to turn this into a full-time revenue stream, but it is what it is. You have to think long term and focus on the things in front of you that you can actually control. Things like building your catalog, writing and recording new music, making new contacts in the industry and so on should be your focus in the beginning.
Another good analogy is to think of it like dating. When you’re single you never know when you’re going to meet the next person you click with. You can’t really control it or predict it. What you can control are things like taking care of yourself, focusing on your purpose and mission in life, where and when you socialize and so forth. When you focus on the things you can control, things tend to fall in place.
Licensing is a lot like that. There are always things you can do to move forward and set the stage for things to go well in the future. Too many musicians get discouraged when they don’t see instant results. Don’t get discouraged. Instead keep focusing on the thing you can do that will get you closer to realizing your goals.
If you’re not getting the results you want, here are things you can focus and work on, RIGHT NOW:
Grow Your Catalog
The more songs you have, the better your chances are of licensing your tracks. Of course the songs need to be good and the production needs to be good. But, in general, the more tracks you have the better. The more tracks you have, the greater the chance that you’ll have something that meets the needs of different projects looking for music. Of course, no single artist will be able to cover all the different, potential needs for licensing. But the larger and more diverse your catalog is the better.
Keep Expanding Your Network
Another thing you should focus on, at all times, is the network of people you have pitching your music. The more tracks you have the greater the chances of something landing, and the more people you have pitching your tracks, the greater the chances of someone landing you a placement. If you have a great catalog, but it’s not earning you substantial money, focus on growing your contacts. I have my music with quite a few libraries and publishers at this point, and usually when one quiets down another one will pick up. Again, to use the dating analogy, think of it like meeting ten people and getting ten phone numbers. They probably won’t all pan out, but if you meet and connect with enough people, eventually you’ll make a solid connection. Dating is a numbers game. So is licensing.
This part really applies to life in general. But, while you’re doing all this, stay positive! It’s easy to get frustrated about the things you can’t control in life, but everything seems to flow better when you have a positive mindset. By simply focusing on the things you can control you’ll get much better results and you’ll be a lot happier.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely been through periods of extreme frustration when things weren’t going the way I wanted them to. But, looking back, I wasted a lot of energy getting upset about things that I had little or no control over and ultimately, my frustration did zero good. The only thing that’s really helped me move forward is just doing the work.
If you aren’t where you’d like to be, you have more work to do. It’s that simple. So, keep putting in the work and effort until you get there.
Do you ever find yourself feeling discouraged because you haven’t gone as far in your music “career” as you’d like? Do you sometimes find yourself obsessed with thoughts about when and where your “big break” is going to happen? Do you wish you made more money from your music? Do you wish you were more known and respected for the music you make?
For some reason, a lot of musicians associate being successful in the music business with being “famous” in the music business. I think a lot of musicians even start with this being their primary goal. As if being a great musician and being a “famous” musician were somehow the same thing. It’s sort of weird if you stop and think about it. There are few other professions where the goal is to get famous for doing said profession, apart from the entertainment industry. If you aspire to become a great doctor, you’re probably not also hoping to get famous in the process. Unless you’re Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil perhaps, but do they even count? If your goal is to open a restaurant, chances are you’re not looking to become famous for it.
Ideally, fame, if it comes at all, should be a byproduct of being a great musician. If you’re really, really good at something, and enough people find out and appreciate what you do, there’s a chance fame will come as a result. But, to pursue fame as the ultimate goal, is a bit like putting the cart before the horse, in my mind. I’m not really sure if I would even like being famous, it seems like a lot of pressure. Especially if you’re super famous like Shakira or Justin Bieber. Although, there are obvious perks, I can only imagine that fame would also come at an extraordinary price, in terms of having very little privacy, having increased demands on your time and the pressure to maintain the success you’ve achieved.
When I was younger I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed and become famous as a musician. To me, it seemed at the time, to be the ultimate goal. I wanted to be famous like my idols that I looked up to. When I didn’t have the success I aspired to have after several years of playing in bands and doing everything in my power to make it happen, I grew disillusioned. I started to feel really negative about the music business and my role in it. I can remember the awful feeling of playing gigs that weren’t well attended and feeling like a failure. This isn’t how this is supposed to be going I thought. Music, for awhile, stopped being fun and started to feel like a giant source of frustration and pain. My goal of becoming a famous musician seemed to drift further and further away.
This feeling lasted a few years, until after about ten years of gigging, I took a break from playing live and playing in bands, in my early thirties. For a couple years I sort of put music on the backburner, not really sure what to do with my passion or love for music. I still wrote new songs during this period and continued to pursue things like licensing, but music started to seem like more of a glorified hobby than a career. This feeling continued for the next few years until I noticed something sort of strange, which was that I reached a point where I wasn’t trying to “make it” in the music business anymore and didn’t really think about it anymore. As a result, I no longer felt the frustration associated with trying to do something and falling short of my expectations, but, my love for music remained. In fact, untethered from the need to “make it” in the music business, I realized I enjoyed writing and playing music more than ever. It was as if I rediscovered what drew me to making music in the first place, which, at least in the very beginning, wasn’t to become famous. I simply loved music!
I think for most musicians, there’s something that drew us to music, before the idea of “making it” in the music business entered our minds. When I grew up listening to music, I wasn’t drawn to bands and artists because they were famous, I was drawn to different bands and artists because I enjoyed their music. They became famous, because a lot of people enjoyed their music. I was drawn to making music, because I simply loved music and wanted to follow in the footsteps of all the great musicians I grew up listening to. It wasn’t until later, when I was in my early twenties, that I started obsessing over and worrying about becoming famous.
Benefits Of Detaching From Your Success
I’m about to get all zen and philosophical on your ass. That’s right, here it comes! There’s this idea in eastern philosophy, and western philosophy for that matter, of detaching from the outcome of things. The idea is that as you pursue your goals and desires, it’s best to do so from a place of non-attachment. In other words, go for what you want, but relax about how things unfold. This isn’t the same as not caring about the outcome at all, but it’s just that things aren’t always going to go exactly how you want them to go, so you’ll be a lot happier if you just lighten up and not worry too much about how or when things happen. Do you really want to be successful, but worried and stressed out all the time?
One of my favorite quotes, is a zen proverb that sums up this idea: “the hungry don’t get fed”. Think about this and how it rings true in your experience. Think about people who want things so much that they come across needy and desperate, as opposed to ambitious and confident. You obviously don’t want to simply throw your hands up in the air and become completely apathetic about your life and your goals. That’s not what I’m suggesting. But you also don’t want to be so fixated on your goals that the thought of not attaining them causes you to become crippled with fear. I think there’s a middle ground where you can simply pursue the things you love and let things happen, however they’re going to happen.
Back To The Music
When you shift your focus away from being overly concerned with success and back to your love of making music, you take your power back. You see, there are people in the music business, who in some ways can hold you back from success, although not as many as there used to be. But, there are still gatekeepers that can reject your music. Maybe it’s a music publisher who doesn’t think your music has what it takes, or maybe it’s a music supervisor who doesn’t think you have the right “sound”. But, when you stop worrying so much about success and just focus on making great music, well, no one, and I mean no one can stop you. Only you can decide whether or not you’re going to keep making music, keep writing better songs and keep improving your craft.
You are completely in control of how good you become as a musician. Maybe you haven’t had the success you’ve desired so far, but it’s up to you whether or not you want to keep improving and growing as a musician. This is what’s so exciting about letting go of the need to “make it”, it puts you back in the driver’s seat and puts the focus back on the only thing you ever really had control of in the first place, the music!
And of course, the better you get as a musician and the better your music becomes, the chances of attaining “commercial success”, or success in general, become greater. It’s easy to be cynical about the music business and there are plenty of examples of uber successful musicians whose music you might not respect, and we probably all know musicians who are uber talented who, for whatever reason, haven’t found much success to speak of. But, in my experience, when you work hard, and stay focused on growing as a musician and doing what you can to move your career forward, opportunities do come and doors do open, eventually. It might not happen exactly when or how you think it should, but when you persist at something like music long enough, success, in varying degrees will eventually come. And when that happens, you can take a deep breath, relax, and get back to making great music.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.