These days it feels like there are more musicians out there than ever. The internet has given a platform for virtually everyone to promote their art, and this has been great for fans looking to find new music. But with this incredible amount of new artists, it’s also become harder than ever to get noticed and stand out from the crowd. Also, with so many different bands competing for the attention of fans, finding a way to make a living by doing what you love is harder than ever. Some bands are finding new ways to get by in the internet age, and it’s a lot more than getting noticed on Spotify.
While it’s easier than ever to get your music out there, it’s never been harder to actually make money off of it. Most musicians can’t rely on record sales to provide a steady income, and only the largest of artists can make sizable profits from streaming services. That’s why bands have had to get creative to find new revenue streams that can help support their dreams.
One of these is through new advances in licensing. Loaning out popular songs to commercials, television shows, and movies is nothing new, but you might have noticed a much larger number of songs from smaller indie bands, as well as bigger names, in advertisements for cars, sporting events, video games, and a host of other promotions. Licensing is a great way for bands to get noticed, and sometimes being « the band from that commercial » is just what you need to fill up a concert hall.
Many people forget Modest Mouse was used in a number of commercials in the early 2000s. The song, « Gravity Rides Everything, » was featured prominently in a Nissan minivan ad, and many fans accused the band of selling out. When the same thing happens today with a popular indie band like Sylvan Esso, whose song is in the latest AT&T commercial, no one bats an eye.
In the internet age, the concept of « selling out » just doesn’t mean what it used to. The majority of musicians are struggling to make ends meet, and most fans understand that. It’s hard to begrudge your favorite band for wanting to eat, keep a roof over their heads, and keep the lights on. Licensing is nothing more than a means to an end that allows bands to continue to be able to focus on their art.
And it’s much more than just commercials where you might see your favorite band. As mentioned, licensing has extended to video games. Many artists have had their songs included on the soundtracks for popular sports games, but other bands have gone one step further to become the games themselves. Many classic rock artists, from Jimi Hendrix to Guns N’ Roses, have loaned out their likenesses for their very own licensed slot reels. These popular games can be found through portals playing host to a number of online gaming sites, and include not only the actual bands but also a number of their greatest hits. Video games are an excellent way for musicians to continue to reach new audiences, and also further extend their legacies beyond their recorded output.
Even acts that have long been incredibly picky about how and where their music can be used are now being heard more frequently. One article described how Led Zeppelin has long been notoriously finicky when it comes to licensing its music, but their music has been used in two separate trailers for upcoming blockbuster releases. Some of their songs have also been heard in commercials for popular video games. While their music is incredibly expensive to use, the band is clearly becoming more willing to let go of its legendary songs, for the right price. The moral high-ground of fighting against commercialism is a luxury that most artists can’t afford. Like most people struggling today, your favorite band likely just wants to get paid.
Big or small, licensing has become a lucrative industry for bands looking to make a buck. As money from sales of actual music continue to be harder to come by, it only makes sense for artists to find who’s willing to pay. They’re not selling out, they’re buying in.