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7 Ways to Maximize Secondary Publishing Income: A Guide for Music Artist

7 Ways to Maximize Secondary Publishing Income: A Guide for Music Artist

Introduction to Secondary Publishing Income in the Music Industry

As the music industry continues to evolve, so do the opportunities for artists to generate income beyond traditional album sales and streaming royalties. Secondary publishing income, a relatively under explored revenue stream, offers a vast array of possibilities for independent musicians, music producers, songwriters, and publishers. This guide will delve into the various ways you can tap into this lucrative income source and take your career to new heights.

Exploring the Different Types of Secondary Publishing Income for Music Artists

Secondary publishing income can come from various sources once you explore synchronization licensing, this can include major motion pictures, independent films, television shows, commercials, video games, print music, and digital performance royalties.

Let's explore each of these in detail:

1. Major Motion Pictures

One of the most lucrative opportunities for secondary publishing income is licensing your music for use in major motion pictures. A synchronization license (synch license) allows your music to be used in “timed synchronization” with visual images. Fees for synch licenses vary based on usage and the importance of a song:

  • Background Use: A 10-second background play of an unknown song in a TV show may fetch up to $1,500.

  • Major Film Use: On-camera, full-length performances of well-known songs can earn between $25,000 and $250,000, depending on the song's popularity and the film's budget.

Moreover, synch licenses for major studios often include broad rights, granting them the right to use your music in trailers, promotions, sequels, and more. There are also specific terms such as “in context” and “out of context” use that can significantly impact your fees. For instance, using your music differently than it was used in the film (“out of context”) can command additional


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2. Independent Films

While independent films typically offer lower fees compared to major motion pictures, they present unique opportunities for income, especially if the film becomes successful. An initial synch deal for indie films might pay $500-$1,500, primarily covering film festival screenings. However, if the film secures a distributor, you could negotiate additional fees for broader usage rights.

A common approach in indie films is a “step deal,” where you receive incremental payments as the film progresses through different distribution channels like theaters, TV, and streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

3. Television Shows

Television shows offer another lucrative avenue for secondary publishing income. Licensing your music for TV can yield earnings between $10,000 and $50,000, depending on the song’s popularity. For independent artists, you may have to license your music at a smaller fee for a major TV show but the opportunity can provide a phenomenal boost in exposure.

This strategic move increases the likelihood of your music being featured and reaching a wider audience, showcasing your work to millions of potential fans while opening up opportunities for earning publishing royalties from streaming and sales, ultimately promoting your art and establishing a loyal fanbase that propels your career forward in the competitive music industry.

Additionally, TV promos using your music can earn you $1,500-$5,000 per week for as long as the promotion runs.

4. Commercials

Commercials are an excellent source of secondary publishing income, with national usage fees ranging from $50,000 to $200,000 for a licensed year. Even local commercial deals can be profitable, depending on the duration and scope of the campaign. These deals not only provide significant income but also offer substantial exposure for your music.

5. Video Games

Video games present a unique opportunity for secondary publishing income, although they typically pay a flat rate rather than royalties. Major hits can command up to $50,000, while typical fees range from $5,000 to $10,000. Additionally, if your song is used in a commercial ad for the video game, you can earn an extra $10,000-$30,000, depending on the commercial’s reach.

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6. Print Music Deals

Print music deals involves licensing your lyrics for use in various formats, from printed sheet music to digital displays. Websites like Genius, which post song lyrics without the accompanying music, often generate significant ad revenue. By allowing these sites to reprint your lyrics, publishers can receive up to 50% of the advertising revenue.

Digital print deals are non-exclusive, meaning you can license the same rights to multiple users, such as music apps like Apple Music and Spotify that display lyrics while a song is playing. These deals typically earn 5% to 20% of the revenue.

7. Digital Performance Royalties

Digital performance royalties are another crucial source of secondary publishing income. These royalties are generated when your music is streamed or broadcasted on digital platforms like Pandora, SiriusXM, or internet radio. Ensuring your music is properly registered with performance rights organizations (PROs) like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC will help you collect these royalties.

Real-World Examples of Artists Succeeding with Secondary Publishing Income

Many successful artists have tapped into secondary publishing income to bolster their careers. For instance, the indie band OK Go leveraged synchronization deals for their creative music videos, earning substantial income and exposure. Similarly, artists like Moby have licensed their music for commercials, television shows, and video games, significantly boosting their revenue.

Conclusion and Next Steps for Artists

Secondary publishing income offers a wealth of opportunities for independent musicians, music producers, songwriters, and publishers. By understanding the various sources of this income and strategically licensing your music, you can significantly enhance your revenue streams and gain valuable exposure.

To get started, consider the following steps:

  1. Register Your Music: Ensure your music is registered with performance rights organizations (PROs) to collect royalties.

  2. Network: Build relationships with industry professionals, including music supervisors, film producers, and advertisers.

  3. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with industry trends and opportunities for licensing your music.

  4. Negotiate Wisely: Understand the value of your music and negotiate favorable terms for synch licenses and other deals.

By taking these steps, you can unlock the full potential of secondary publishing income and take your music career to new levels.

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