Last week, Nashville-based photographer Peter Carlson tackled the timely topic of music licensing. Many of you chimed in with your thoughts, questions and frustrations! So, we’re eager to share the next post in this series focusing on music licensing for professional photographers. You’re invited to voice your opinion by commenting below!

In my previous post, I introduced you to one of EMI’s Publishing Directors, John Thompson. What I love about John is that he has always been one of the music industry’s most forward-thinking leaders. He is passionate about art and wants to see the industry innovate continually.

After reading your comments on my previous post, I thought it would be valuable to learn where John sees music licensing going. So, let’s ask John and find out!

Peter: When it comes to licensing, the biggest complaint I hear from photographers today is that the music industry has not made it easy to license music for small projects.

John: We are working on making cheap and legal better than free and illegal. Low-cost, accessible licenses are definitely getting on the radar. Since we are a larger publishing company, we have the resources to build our own non-commercial website: It’s an automated system where you can just go online and enter your credit card to pay $30-$40 for a license.

Technology has given us shopping cart systems and we no longer need to have a person who answers the phone for a $30 transaction. Before the automated technology was available, we could not justify the cost to sell small, inexpensive licenses. Now, I see other publishers wanting to do the same thing we have done. The reason is, you can consider how many $30 transactions are out there. When you can automate it, why not grant small licenses?!

Right now, most licensing happens though external third party sites. With these sites, the main concern for publishers and songwriters is control. I don’t want our songs to get used in certain contexts. As I work primarily with Christian music, I don’t want somebody to put up some porn montage or video by licensing our song through some website. By using third party sites, anyone can technically have a license and post their video online. As publishers, we want to be sure a song is not being used to promote something that our songwriter would not want to promote.

Everyone is working hard and figuring it out, so I really believe we will see more music available for small licenses in the near future.

Peter: My questions to you, The Photo Life readers:

What are your favorite sites to license music?

What do you like or dislike about certain licensing sites?

Here are some music licensing sites that I really like:

The Music Bed
This is probably the most intuitive site I use. Great songs are easy to find, including some of the most popular independent artist like Dave Barnes, Seryn, and Matt Wertz. One of my favorite features?  They’ve got instrumental versions for many  songs!

They’ve got a growing catalog of popular music. This is a site to keep your eyes on! Current artists include: Jason Mraz, David Gray, Colbie Caillat, Train, Etta James, & Ingrid Michaelson

EMI CMG Licensing
They’ve included popular rock acts such as Switchfoot, Anberlin, Underoath, as well as a large catalog of popular Christian music and worship music. Although it’s a bit difficult to navigate, their rates can be as low as $15 for a short-term license!

Triple Scoop Music:
Includes a HUGE selection of small, independent artists. I recommend the instrumental electronic and jazz categories. Their main selling point is their license terms are probably the most flexible for what a photographer would want!

Written by Peter Carlson

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love   working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

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