18 Industry Tips for Composers, Catalogs, and Publishers

What Is Your Niche? While it’s important for a composer to be able to nail every bag, sometimes it’s more valuable to follow your specialization or niche. Is there a genre that you excel in both style and execution? Find your ultimate passion in composing, producing, and recording… then follow that lead.

Have you considered becoming a sub-publisher for both foreign composers and catalogs? This will expand the quantity of your cat as well as give you the ability to respond to briefs/searches/pitches you might otherwise have passed on. Why is quantity important? Most blanket agreements require a significant track count to balance the annual Blanket License fees. Caveat: these cats will expect you to grow their revenue. Perhaps you will need to add a music sales representative to gain their interest in working with and depending on you. A small advance could be offered as well.

What about creating videos, adding your music, and launching on YouTube? Ad revenue is a great icing revenue stream. For some, it’s more than icing. There are companies and investors out there investing in digital revenue only.

Are you with Sub Pubs in Foreign Territories? While this remains a standard strategy for U.S. cats seeking foreign exploitation, you might want to consider an Admin deal and arrangement instead. Some admins offer an advance. An Admin does not pitch your music…rather, it collects directly from their respective PROs at a much lower rate than a sub pub: 10-25% vs Sup Pub @ 50%. This might work for you if you are presently receiving PRO Foreign Income.

What industry reference guides are you depending on every day to expand your Network? There are several. You can learn of many online as digital/PDF copies are made available.

Are you attending Industry events? Attend as many Industry events as you can whether in person or online. Learn where to go and who to meet on the PMA site. What industry reference guides are you depending on every day to expand your Network? There are several. You can learn of many online as digital/PDF copies are made available.

Is your catalog celebrating an anniversary? A Big Win? A National spot? Placement in a new Film? Think new deals, acquisitions, clients, new office, new hires, and celebrating your ____th Anniversary. Perhaps this is the time to get some PR in the trades. Always be spreading your accomplishments and branding your brand.

Do you need an advance on your royalties? There are a few companies out there who understand the Quarterly Royalty Payment system and will advance you against future Royalties. There is usually interest to pay for this service. You can find these lenders online. You should also speak with your PRO about an advance.

Are you collecting Neighboring Rights? If not, go after them! There are some very experienced and generous NR collection Agencies out there. You have nothing to lose. You might also pair that pursuit with Sound Exchange.

Consider utilizing tools to help you in all aspects of growing your catalog and revenue at the same time. Do you know about Fuga? WIOpro? There are several other systems and platforms for delivering uncollected revenue to you.

Trust in your art and craft. Trust that you have created something larger than one composition. You’ve created an archive of music that will outlive you. Creating a Production Music Catalog, or a catalog of your works is one of the most worthy endeavors an artist/composer can pursue. Something brought you into this space…thrive in it!

This it what it takes to get into and stay in the Industry:
Perseverance – Ambition – Desire – Music Tools – Reference Guides – Commitment – Talent –

Consider a long-term license of a catalog that will expand your ability to respond to briefs. It could be Catalogs including Classical Music, Covers, Advertising, Trailer, SoundDesign, Well-known Masters, and other niches. Always be searching for new means to connect with existing and new licensees. Keep engaging to keep them engaged. Persistence!

Share a Licensing Rep with one or more other catalogs that are different from yours. A Rep can be your most vital and valuable asset.

Get your music into other PMLs or offer yourself as a WFH (work for hire) composer/producer. I know of catalog owners who not only write for themselves but also augment their income by composing for larger catalogs.

Create goals. Most composers/catalogs have a 5-year plan. Simply stated, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” Think about your personal musical growth as well as projecting and tracking your income from sync, custom, and royalties. How many albums will you produce and add this
year? Are you growing for quantity or is the quality and stylistic approach and expansion into other genres the right path to pursue? Are you considering selling your assets or operation as a goal? Bottom line, what do you want to achieve? Is your revenue increasing or decreasing?
With either direction, your strategies should reflect your ongoing actions relating to catalog growth. There are no two music catalogs alike. Yours is in its own category regardless of what the Business Music claims. Treasure and feed it.

Have you thought about collaborating with other creatives? Composing is often a solo gig, but this is a great option for expanding your revenue-generating and creative model.

Spend some time on LinkedIn. You might also look into a Premium account as you can connect with industry leaders not accessible otherwise.

JF’s Rules of the Road:

  1. Leave early enough for every gig counting on getting a flat tire.
  2. Don’t burn bridges.
  3. Don’t underestimate others’ role and place in your career…gatekeepers, assistants
  4. Be able to ask for exactly what you need from a person who asks you what your
    needs are.
  5. Remember to thank those who help you and make sure you pay it back in some
    way…even through expressing gratitude.
  6. Turn over every leaf…don’t leave opps on the table.
  7. You never know what doors will open when one closes…stay vigilant and present.
  8. Be positive in the face of the usual obstacles.

Broad Grant of Rights


In negotiating with television networks over the use of your music, you should be very aware that the networks are pushing for and are regularly utilizing the broadest possible grant language in their contracts with music providers. While these clauses may appear like harmless boiler­plate at first glance, they are a trap that could lead you to granting away far more rights than you ever anticipated and with no additional payment for doing so.

For example, one of the major networks uses language pursuant to which the music provider grants “rights in all media worldwide now known or hereafter devised, whether known or unknown, including, but not limited to, Free TV, Cable (basic and pay subscription), VOD, HDTV, Digital TV and DBS, Radio, Internet (streaming and download), Wireless platforms or Devices (now known or hereinafter devised), with such rights granted in transit and in perpetuity.”

If you enter into a contract containing such broad grant language, you should be aware that you risk granting away all of your exploitation rights in the music at issue. For years, broad grants of rights clauses have been litigated in the Courts, with the grantor usually losing and the grantee usually winning. These cases often involved whether a grant of motion picture rights included video rights (which were unknown at the time at the time of the grant). The Courts often look at this broad language and conclude that grantor clearly had no intention to retain any rights and find that everything was conveyed. This is a result that you obviously want to avoid at all costs.

How do you do it? Some members have some very specific language that they seek to negotiate. Try to be very clear about what you are granting. Also end your grant clause with language such as: “All rights not specifically granted above are reserved to the Grantor.” Years ago, a famous songwriter included that language in a grant he made to a motion picture company to use his music in a film. At the time, videos were unknown. When, many years later, the motion picture company sought to use his music in the video version of the film, he was able to prevent it from doing so based on the retention language. Naturally, an additional and substantial fee was negotiated for the use of the music in the video.

If a network is persistent in its requirement that the broad language be utilized and you feel that you have no choice, at least attempt to make sure that you will receive additional compensation in the event that some new or unforeseen media comes into existence during the life of the grant. For example, try to add a sentence that provides that “Any use of the music in media which is not specifically described herein shall constitute an additional and new use and will require a separ­ate license, to be negotiated in good faith with [Grantor].” While such language may not be accepted, it could possibly result in a higher license fee.

In short, avoid giving your music away for free. Use specific grant language and broad retention language wherever possible.