Unlocking Music Licensing Secrets with Amanda Levine

Published February 7, 2024

Dive deep into the world of music licensing with Amanda Levine, Senior Director of Music & Licensing at Platinum Rye Entertainment, in our first SAS Speaker Series interview of 2024! Amanda shares invaluable insights into the complexities of music licensing and pricing, unraveling the mysteries of hidden fees within contracts, the impact of geo-gigs and geo-blocking on music distribution, and the nuanced world of samples and interpolations.

Unlocking Music Licensing Secrets with Amanda Levine

Jordan Passman: One thing I'm curious about is the future of licensing. When I started out, airing on TV was considered the best. Broadcast was a big term that could always get a big budget. When you think about paid media on YouTube though, you are getting more eyeballs and bang for your buck than airing on TV these days. Do you think we're moving towards an all-media, worldwide perpetuity license, especially with the emergence of new platforms and media? I know that drives up the cost a lot but will broader rights lead to lower fees for those rights? Or do you still see the term being so tied to the media?

Amanda Levine: I think we're starting to see fees change in that respect. As you mentioned, there was a time when TV dominated the value of licensed music or talent. Now, digital plays a huge role in this landscape. As a result, digital fees are cranking up. I don't know if there is ever going to be a point where they're synonymous. We are finding that if you just license something for digital only and it’s a big catalog track that everyone knows, fees are going up, which is an industry-wide situation. There will always be songs that have that premium value. Everyone knows them. It's nostalgic. It's emotional and connects people to something greater. I think it’s important to have a problem-solving mentality when big shifts like this happen, which Score a Score has done so well. I think licensing has become such a money-maker for musicians, music agencies, and producers. Unless the music industry shifts so much and values things very differently, I don’t see a world where it will equal out.

Jordan Passman: Can you tell us about the hidden fees that many people outside of your industry wouldn't necessarily think of that would be on a contract like SAG?

Amanda Levine: Yeah, of course! So I am well versed with this to an extent because I have a lot of clients that are signatory to music unions. When we're talking about music unions as far as the US is concerned, we're mainly talking about SAG or AFTRA and the artist or their vocal likeness. There is also AFM, which is the American Federation of Musicians, which supports musicians that are in the Union. Let's say a brand in the US is licensing a song in the US and the song was recorded under a union contract like AFM, a side contract, or both, additional fees would be due to the singers of that song and/or the musicians. In those situations, you would probably work with an expert of the signatory company, which there are a bunch of, or reach out to the union directly so they can help navigate what your costs might be. Similar to a licensing fee, there are fixed rates for those things, but they're based on the usage of your commercial.

Jordan Passman: What tips do you have for musicians, composers, or artists who are looking to break into having these Fortune 100 companies that you work with to license their music?

Amanda Levine: There are some trends in the ad world like covers. That's a big one! Things that feel good and happy always sit well with clients. Rap is sort of getting back into it so I feel like hip-hop music with no samples is great. If you're a musician, definitely try exploring that. I think in general, the advice I like to give is just to network. The internet is crazy and amazing all at the same time. Use it to connect with people in your industry. Research! If you see a commercial online that inspires you, look to see what producers or agencies are creating those ads. Trades like Adweek will include an entire list of people who worked on that project. Attend webinars like this! Network by attending concerts or happy hours, and make it a point to speak with someone new; you never know where a conversation might lead. Finally, stay positive. I'm not a musician myself, but being one is hard and can take a lot out of you. It's emotional, it's vulnerable, and it’s important to stay true to yourself.

That's a Wrap with Amanda Levine on Music Licensing!

A massive thank you to Amanda Levine for joining us and enlightening us on the ins and outs of music licensing. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes by following us on LinkedIn or Instagram. Until next time!