Want to sell your music overseas, but lack the contacts, money or experience to break into foreign markets? Help and funding is available, and here's how to get it.
How many times have you been told that you latest track would be "perfect for a TV show or a film”? Many SOS readers aspire to write music for film and TV, but only a small number will have the skills and the contacts to get ahead in such a competitive business. Yet there is at least some help at hand. Not everyone will be aware that support is available in the form of Government schemes and grants, and that organisations such as the BPI, UKTI and MPA arrange trade missions to help British music companies and makers to export their material into areas such as film and TV.
In an age of increasing artist self-sufficiency, many artists are trying to create business opportunities and revenue streams for themselves. After all, you can record the tunes yourself, sell on iTunes or CDBaby, create a buzz using social media and organise your own shows and tours. But after that, things start to get expensive. If you really want to get serious, you need radio pluggers, press and PR people, and maybe a music video. And when it comes to getting distribution deals overseas, or getting on the bill at festivals like South By Southwest in the US or Summersonic in Japan, you have the added problems of knowing who to talk to and how to strike deals — all the kinds of things that a really great management team at a record label would normally do for you. It looks daunting for the indie artist or baby band without the resources or money to risk in making that happen, and much great music goes unnoticed because of that economic reality.
It is, surprisingly, not particularly well known that you can access help, advice and grants for your music business from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a part of the UK Government that helps companies based in England and Wales to develop and to ensure success in international markets. Businesses based in Scotland are assisted by Scottish Development International (SDI) and through Creative Scotland, while in Northern Ireland, you need to get in touch with Invest Northern Ireland. In each case, the process is fairly similar. British music is held in good esteem throughout the world, and by getting your music heard and sold abroad, you are contributing to the development of British exports. According to UKTI, the UK music market was worth something like $2 billion in 2011, and overall represents the third largest music market globally.
For SOS readers, there are two really significant ways that UKTI's Creative Sector can help: through their Passport to Export scheme and through their trade missions. The Passport to Export scheme is a programme to help inexperienced exporters develop their business overseas through, amongst other things, capability assessments, support in visiting potential markets, training and consultancy, and support and mentoring from a local UK professional. For music companies, the key attraction is the availability of funding to help you sell your music overseas. This works on the basis of match funding: you develop a marketing plan with your local UKTI Creative Sector professional, and you then agree on the activities that you will engage with. UKTI will then match your investment pound for pound, up to a total of £2000 (where you and they each contribute £1000). It's up to you and your local business professional to agree on what the money should be used for, as long as the activities are aimed at developing a business opportunity overseas. Possible example applications include getting your band to an overseas music festival, or setting up with a new business partner overseas. The first step to getting involved in the Passport to Export scheme is to contact your regional UKTI office. Check out the 'Useful Links' box in this article if you want to learn more and find out how to contact your regional adviser.
The next important thing to appreciate is that UKTI don't just work alone. They partner up with other organisations to help you develop those vital international opportunities. A perfect example would be the partnership between UKTI and the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI, formerly British Phonographic Institute) and the Music Publishers Association (MPA). The BPI is the UK's music business trade organisation. They represent the major labels and hundreds of independent labels. BPI also own the Brit awards, run the Official Charts Company (OCC), lead the UK fight against music piracy and represent the interests of their members on a wide range of issues. The MPA is the UK music publishers' trade association, and their mission is to represent and safeguard the interests of their members and the writers signed to them.
UKTI, BPI and MPA work together to deliver the UK trade missions. These are events designed to take UK music companies overseas and help them to develop new markets for their music. Currently there are annual trade missions to Tokyo, Germany/Austria/Switzerland (the GAS countries), the Nordic counties and Los Angeles, as well as British music events at major music conferences, including MIDEM in Cannes, SXSW in Texas and PopKomm in Berlin. You can apply for support to participate in these trade missions through Market Visit Support (MVS) grants from UKTI, and similar grants from the corresponding funding agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Roger Figg, International Trade Adviser (ITA) for UKTI's South East Region, explains: "Our market visit support grants are designed to assist established companies access the various international events that we organise. Our music sector events do tend to be heavily subscribed, so we are looking to support credible companies with a track record, financial wherewithal and a well thought-out plan to develop international business. Companies can apply for one market visit support grant per year, and for those that are looking for further support to help develop an international strategy, we also offer various mentoring schemes to achieve that end.”
At the moment, a typical MVS grant can be up to around £500, and you can get up to two grants for each territory visited. A MVS grant can be used to support whatever costs you incur; you just need to discuss your plans with your regional adviser. UKTI have provided support previously for music production houses, publishing companies and even individual artists. But bear in mind that demand for grants in the creative sector is high, and so you do need to develop a plan as to what you are trying to achieve, and demonstrate that you have the ability to achieve what you want.
It was thanks to an MVS grant that my own company, Anemo Music was able to participate in this year's UKTI/BPI/MPA sync licensing trade mission to Los Angeles. This was my second visit to LA, and it proved an immensely helpful way to meet and network with key music supervisors (the people who select and negotiate music for films and TV shows) and other industry professionals in the world of film and TV. Anemo Music is a music production and publishing company based in Brighton; we produce a wide range of music, and have been trying to develop sync licensing opportunities for our material. The LA 2012 mission saw 35 companies travel to LA from 23-26 April for a programme including Q&A sessions with key music supervisors placing music in major and independent films, film trailers, advertising and on-line, as well as US publishers and sync agents. There are also networking opportunities through social events such as the industry pub quiz at Rock and Reilley's on Sunset, an Internet radio party courtesy of Hunnypot Music, and a reception hosted by the British Consul General in LA, Dame Barbara Hay. The main sessions were hosted in the world-famous Studio A at Capitol Records, and there were site visits to Disney and NBC/Universal where we could meet with key figures in those organisations in smaller groups, and talk to them about what they are looking for from UK music companies.
The sync mission offers a chance to meet an impressive set of US film and TV professionals that would be almost impossible if you tried to do it yourself. The LA consulate plays a key role in helping to bring together LA's key players with the UK music companies. Carlo Cavagna, VP for Creative and Media at UKTI based in LA, explains: "The Sync Mission focuses on educating and connecting its participants. It is challenging for an indie music company to understand how the business of music for TV or advertisements works, let alone to plug into it effectively, particularly from far away in the UK. Personal relationships are essential, but with so many clamouring for attention in the marketplace, it can be difficult to forge personal relationships with busy music supervisors and other creative executives. We open doors, and help companies take their first steps.”
So how successful are these missions? Phil Patterson, a music industry consultant to UKTI, says that "Experience shows that around half the companies that participate in the LA mission typically generate some real new business with the LA music supervisors over the 12 months following the sync licensing mission.” But be prepared to do your homework. You need to spend time cultivating relationships with people in LA. These people do their jobs because they love music, and they want to hear new music and work with the latest sounds and emerging bands, but you need to do some research to find out what sort of projects they are working on and what sort of music they are interested in. Carpet-bombing your music just won't get you the results you want. There are many web sites, like the Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB) at www.imdb.com, where you can find out about which music supervisors have worked on what productions, while specialist sites like www.productionleads.com follow what film and TV shows are going into production. There are endless forums devoted to what music is used on what shows, and you can use all of these resources to try to refine your pitching to present the very best of your music to exactly the right people.
From a music supervisor's perspective, the trade missions are a great way to hook up with new music companies. Rudy Chung is a senior music supervisor for Hit The Ground Running. Founded in 2001 by Brit Jason Alexander, HTGR's current and past supervision credits include CSI, Everybody Hates Chris, Entourage, Goal! and Behind The Mask. They also have a separate arm called Pusher that represents artists and composers for the highly lucrative film-trailer market, including such recent campaigns as Hunger Games and Battleship. Rudy explains: "We don't send out briefs on huge mailing lists. The search for new music is always ongoing and we want to hear what's new as soon as it comes out. Send whole songs, not clips and always make sure that you have your songwriting splits and publishing agreements in place, and have an instrumental version as well.”
It's also worth pointing out that these events are also opportunities to meet and network with the other UK delegates, and many companies involved end up doing business with each other. It sounds strange, but I had to go over 6000 miles to discover two other companies in my local region doing similar things to us!
Home and abroad, it's certainly true that, in this age of the independent artist, there are opportunities to be had. But many SOS readers will be all too aware that with the rise of the self-sufficient artist comes the cost of having to do a seemingly endless range of activities yourself. A good friend of mine grumbled recently "I'm sure I used to be a musician” as he was filing a VAT return and making pitches to music supervisors at stupid o'clock in the morning. We all need to focus on being more than just creative types. This is the music business after all.
The most important lesson that you can take from the work of UKTI, BPI and the other organisations and music supervisors mentioned in this article is the importance of reaching out to people and building relationships. It's not all dull stuff: there are plenty of fun moments and you get to meet interesting people, all of whom are deeply passionate about new music. One highlight for me was the chance to meet Curt Smith from Tears For Fears, who was speaking at the LA sync trade mission. So get creative, get wise to the help that is available to help you realise your business ambitions, get to know other companies in the UK that do what you want to do, get into relationships and spread the message about what you do. You can't be the next big thing if no-one's heard of you. And as for the 2013 sync mission: in the words of the former Governor of the state of California, I'll be back.
British Recorded Music Association (BPI)
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
Invest Northern Ireland
Music Publishers Association (MPA)
Passport to Export (UKTI)
Internet Movie Database
- Get to know individual music supervisors and find out what projects they are working on. Don't just email them asking "What are you working on?” Do your research, find out what projects they have worked on in the past and what productions they are involved with now, and what sort of music they have placed previously. And yes, you will end up watching a lot of TV and films!
- Don't clog supervisors' inboxes with MP3 files. Instead, send links for where they can preview and/or download your music.
- Don't send links that time-expire quickly. It can take supervisors months to get around to listening to your music. There are many commercial file-sharing services such as box.com that you can use for this.
- Use high-quality MP3 files (320kbps) and put your contact details in the comments section of the MP3 metadata. A song is no use if the supervisor can't track down who sent it. Non-downloadable stream links are useless, and so are 30-second clips.
- Don't edit tracks; their editors can fit to picture.
- If there's interest, instrumental and stem versions will be required.
- Don't send music where you can't clear the rights for both master and sync uses fully. Music supervisors dread getting the call about the five percent of the rights that you don't own or can't clear. Pull a stunt like that and you won't get a second chance.
- Make sure your tracks are registered properly with your Performing Rights Organisation (PRS in the UK).
- Be selective in what you send. Becoming your own filter is important.