This post was originally published via my newsletter, where my newest material always gets sent months before it appears on this blog. Click here to subscribe to my music licensing newsletter.
Musicians are often asked to trade dollars for ears and told how great the exposure will be. Whether it be a live performance, a synchronization usage, or simply giving away CDs at a gig you will constantly be confronted with opportunity paid only by a promised quantity of listeners.
What’s interesting about this predicament is how set most people are in giving their opinion. You’ll hear things from “never play for free!” to “give it all away!” In the end, it boils down to a simple choice – but these choices are often made under pressure or time constraints.
It’s key to think about these sorts of business decisions before they even arise. This way you can be equipped to answer them under pressure, or at least know enough to ask the right questions. In this way, you’ll have enough information to make the right choice for you.
So how do we value exposure?
Well, it goes back to a bunch of other topics I’ve written on – specifically goal setting. If you have your key goals in mind you’ll be able to make the most of ‘exposure’ opportunities.
Let’s take a look at just one instance of value vs. exposure on TV
Many placement companies will make a list of placements and a lot of the shows on that list will be MTV. Have you watched an MTV show recently? How many songs get played during any given show? How are you to differentiate one song from the next?
Generally MTV pays very, very little money for the music they use (sometimes they pay nothing at all) but then touts how great it is to get music on MTV and they put a track list up on a website after the program airs.
This CAN be good exposure but think about this:
If a potential new fan is watching television and hears a new song they like, will they go through the process to seek it out online, listen through the various songs used in the episode, find the song, google the band, and go to their website to sign up for their mailing list or go to iTunes to download their song?
The answer is – they might! But this is a long and fairly tedious process to acquire a single song that they’ll most likely forget about if they don’t IMMEDIATELY take action upon hearing it on the show. Yikes!
Now look, I’m not saying to not take a placement on MTV, but what I am saying is you need to consider what you might get out of it. So let’s give it a try, shall we?
I went on the MTV website and here was my process:
- Go to MTV.com
- Find the show I pretended I was watching (in this case I just chose 16 and Pregnant – nice’n’wholesome).
- Here’s what I immediately see:
- I’m not sure which song it was, so I’ve got to try and nail it down by clicking on each artist (I’m pretending it wasn’t the ‘feature’ song).
- Alright, now I see the following:
- After listening through the track list, I finally find the song I liked. My options are to buy it (on Rhapsody!), or check out the info and bio for the artist. Here’s what I see for the artist page:
- The artist page is a joke. No link to the artist website, no bio, so now if I want to find out more about the artist, live dates, or if the artist is trying to funnel me to their mailing list I’d have to specifically google her and hopefully she’ll show up and I’ll be pointed in the right direction. And finally, buying the track from Rhapsody? Are you serious? When you think of where to buy digital music, is Rhapsody the first name that pops into your head?
Sheesh – lots of work involved for the fan. How many opportunities does a new listener have to get fed up or bored with this process before they find your song? Furthermore, I did this on a laptop, what if the person is using an iPad or an iPhone? How great is this ‘exposure’? What kinds of questions might you ask if you’re given a proposition like this one?
Remember: have your specific goals in mind, weigh the opportunity as carefully as time allows, and do your homework BEFORE the situation arises!
If you’ve licensed a song on MTV yourself or through a service, I’d love to hear about that experience and how it turned out for you. Leave a note in the comments and fill other readers in on your experience!