What exactly is music licensing?
Licensing, in general, is about allowing someone else to use your music commercially and pay you for this permission. It comes in tons of different forms like exclusive or non-exclusive, etc. But the main point is to get your music to be used in exchange for a sum of money. Basically, even the online sales of music are considered as a form of licensing. Let's say, for example, your song is available on iTunes. So people pay a certain amount of money and "buy" your songs and then they can listen to it countless times on their devices which are using the same Apple ID and then Apple will pay you for it. But in fact, those people are not actually buying your song itself. They are buying the license or better to say they buy the permission for listening to your that specific song on that specific platform with their ID. Or another example can be Spotify or Apple Music. When listeners are paying the subscription fees or they tolerate those annoying advertisements in between the songs and use these platforms to listen to your music, in fact, you are you are getting paid for letting Spotify or Apple Music license your music for a very short period of time.
But all these are not our concern on this topic. We're now talking about the bigger and long-term type of licensing which is for commercial and films use.
The concept of long-term licensing contract is to allow a certain company/person to use your music or audio piece for a specific use in a specific territory for a limited period of time which is usually between 6 months to 5 years but Sometimes for uses like films and movies, it can be up to Ten years. Especially for major projects which you can even sell all the rights permanently instead of borrowing the right to the user by licensing.
Usually, the users who want to license a piece of music for their project are students or companies who need music for their presentation and they don't want to use the stock music. The bigger size but less common category of users are the advertising agencies and minor film or TV studios. Sometimes there can be a possibility that you come across major film studios or television networks too but to be realistic, that is not an everyday thing in this industry and the reason is that the main and major players usually have their own in-house music productions team and don't need to outsource.
All these said, now we get to the main question!
Usually, the big agencies and networks who are the final users of the songs prefer not to work with the musicians directly for the licensing and going through the publishing companies is more convenient for them. For an example let's use the company that I am its music director, Flipside Productions.
So Flipside has songwriters and musicians and already has contracts with those artists and writers to be authorized to license their music. We are always gathering the songs from our writers and composers and keep the songs in our archive. Meanwhile, let's say NBC Television Network (purely for sale of example) wants a music for their new upcoming series. So NBC sends the request of the needed song and its specifics, for example, a piano-driven ballad with female vocals, with a love topic and bright theme, to a middle agency which for our example we call it Agency X.
What Agency X does is that they have contracts with music production houses and music labels like Flipside. Agency X will send that request to Flipside and other production houses and they look through their archive and any song which is matching with NBC's request will be sent to Agency X. The Agency will review the songs and probably filter some and send the rest to NBC to review and finally, NBC will choose one and sign the licensing contract with the production house through the agency.