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licensing music
lucrative niche
singing competition
monetary compensation
television channels
x factor
publishing rights
glee
Licensing Music For TV
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Licensing Music for TV

The songs we hear on television shows generally come from two sources: in-house production for the TV show itself or musicians and producers who have their work licensed for use. Licensing music for TV has become increasingly prevalent as more music based television shows grow in popularity.

Major television channels such as Fox, ABC and NBC rely on licensed music to continue airing their successful TV shows season after season. Fox started the trend with their reality competition show American Idol in 2002, since then they have added another music based talent competition show, The X Factor and NBC has joined the fray with their show The Voice. Fox then upped the stakes with the breakout hit Glee, a high school set series that features several songs each week sandwiched in between ongoing drama and comedy. NBC and ABC have followed suit with their respective series' Smash, and the Dallas set program GCB. ABC will also introduce a new singing competition show called Duets on May 24th featuring man of the guest coaches from The Voice.

All of these shows use existing, copyrighted and usually popular music each week. Though the performances are original the actual songs require licensing from the publishing rights holders which may include record companies, composers, songwriters the original performers, etc. Without the approval of the license holder and monetary compensation for use, television shows would not be allowed to record and broadcast all of the songs you eventual hear performed in their programming. Additionally, the songs performed on TV shows are later sold online though websites like iTunes making this a very lucrative niche. As you can see licensing music for TV is a huge undertaking and big business since the demand for songs shows no signs of slowing down.

Songs used on television shows that are not primarily music based do not only rely on popular artists and songs but also lesser known artists to help create a mood or compliment transitional scenes. This has opened the market for many independent artists who are opting to bypass major record labels. While independent artists do not have the financial backing of their signed contemporaries when it comes to marketing and packaging. They can often keep the costs down depending on how they record their music, keep more of their profits by retaining all of their publishing rights and provide less of a hassle for music supervisors when licensing their music for TV since there are fewer middlemen to slow down the approval process.

With MP3s becoming the dominant way most music listeners purchase music, music artists are receiving less of their income from sales. While touring has become the most obvious way for music artists to make money, licensing their music for TV, film or advertising purposes is a growing source of income for those in the know.

Licensing music for TV involves many aspects for the licensee, creates income for the licensor and offers exposure for the performer(s). The steady success of music based shows including reality TV singing competition assures that music licensing will be an important part of television programming for years to come.


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