How The Music Licensing Industry Has Changed Yet Stayed Exactly The Same

Posted by Aaron Davison on Friday, December 20, 2013 Under: December 2013

Today's post is a guest post from How To License Your's resident Music Production and Engineering expert, Gary Gray.

Gary....  Take it away!

Trash vs. Cash

How the Music Licensing Industry has Drastically Changed.

And How it has Remained Exactly the Same.


By Gary Gray


Resident Award-Winning Producer/Engineer for

Winner 2013 UK Songwriting Contest – Finalist

Clients Include Multi-Platinum Recording Artists and Disney


Aaron Davison and I released two important courses within the last year: “How To Produce Music That Will Get Licensed and Make You Money,” and “Mysteries Of Mastering Solved.”  With Aaron’s help, I also released a book called “30 Years In 30 Days – Discover 30 Years of Music Production and Audio Engineering Secrets – In Just 30 Days!” I’ve been working with students all over the world who have signed up for these courses and purchased the book and the results have been incredible.

Here’s a direct quote from the course “Mysteries Of Mastering Solved.”  During an interview with Aaron, he asked me, “How important would you say the quality of a recording is in terms of closing licensing deals?”

“Production quality is the first thing Music Supervisors and Publishers listen to. You could create the perfect song; the perfect music – that could have been the theme song for a Major Motion Picture and it’ll go in the trash if it’s not produced and mastered well.”

In fact, I have taken my own words to heart and have recently completed many hours of research on how to even more effectively and efficiently raise the standards of music production quality without wasting time.  

But before I go any further, since this is the Holiday Season, I figured I would offer a gift to you.  Between now and December 31st, 2013, I will give you a personal written critique of one of your tracks.  Email me at with a SoundCloud link to your music and you will receive a free detailed written pdf critique of your production, with suggestions on how to improve it, if necessary.  The first 25 people who email me will also receive a free 15 minute Skype Consultation.  This will help me tremendously on research for my upcoming book.

I noticed something interesting amongst the many students and clients that I service around the world.  Some may or may not have a problem with finances regarding their career.  But even those who DO have the money to sink into their careers share a single dilemma with those who consider they DON’T have enough money to sink into their careers:

Not enough time.

Most people who are working on building up a career in Music Licensing -- until they’ve “made it”  -- have to pay their bills doing other things than working on their own music.  So that leaves only part of a day left over to work on their music career.

And since music production is so thoroughly computer-centric, all kinds of frustrations and problems can arise which Waste Time.  And Wasted Time (not lack of money) is the biggest demon that can tear down even the most patient, passionate and dedicated Soldier of Sound.

One key theme that weaves through both courses and my book, is the subject of how to identify and stay away from several areas of False Information that are still taught in the field of Digital Recording, Mixing and Mastering.  Once you learn what areas are False, Unnecessary and in some cases Counter-Productive --  I teach you the workable approaches to Music Production and the truth.  And this SAVES A LOT OF TIME (not to mention headaches, frustration and in some cases the decision to give up).

The biggest inspiration that keeps me going and gives me the tools to succeed has been and continues to be Aaron Davison and his website  I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Aaron to help the members of his International community with my area of expertise: Music Production and Audio Engineering.

So, in order to help Indie Musicians eradicate wasted time and frustration while pursuing their goals in Music Licensing, I’ve been doing extensive new research for a new Course and Book that I am collaborating with Aaron on for release in 2014.  It covers how the Music Licensing world is drastically changing – AND how it’s staying exactly the same.  However, I will let you in on some of the initial findings and how you can use this information right now in order to use your time much more wisely and productively.

How The Music Licensing Industry Is Drastically Changing 

This is a story we’ve all heard before and it’s nothing new. Technology and the Internet are creating both incredible opportunities and formidable challenges for Indie Musicians. Licensing Deals, Publishing Deals, Corporate Opportunities, Deal Structuring, Pay Scales, Royalty Rates, Collaboration Agreements, Copyright Laws and Unique Business Practices, Business Models  & Arrangements seem to be changing on an almost daily basis!

Thankfully, exists.  The way to stay on top of these changes is to utilize the golden resource of this website and Aaron Davison, who has dedicated himself to making sure you benefit from his vast knowledge and the fact that he keeps his finger on the pulse of the Music Licensing world daily.  If you ever have the opportunity to take one of his 90 day Challenges and/or to receive a Skype Consultation with Aaron, believe me – it is definitely NOT a waste of time.  It’s a process that you should do and re-do throughout your career in order to stay on top of all these changes, thereby putting the odds in your favor to continually improve your successes and earnings with Music Licensing.


How The Music Licensing Industry Has Stayed

Exactly The Same


The Music Licensing Industry, along with the entire Music Industry has stayed exactly the same (and I predict it always will) -- in this way:

High Quality Music Produced Professionally Rises To The Top

It’s amazing, in fact, how unstoppable the above scenario plays out in real life.

There are countless examples.  Here’s a great one:

Gotye, a previously totally unknown Indie Musician from Australia wrote and recorded, in his own home studio (in a barn) a song called “Someone That I Used To Know.”  The song became a #1 Hit in 18 Countries and won two Grammy Awards this year.

Gotye built his success by writing great songs produced extremely well in his own home studio.  He even did his own promotion and distribution by sending his recordings to Australian radio stations.  One particular station played and promoted his music regularly.  When he released “Someone That I Used To Know,” Ashton Kutcher and Lily Allen both happened to hear it and Tweeted about how good it was online.  And from there, the rest is history.

There is ample hope for you and I believe that any Indie Musician who works hard and smart can rise to International Success.

Like Gotye did, you just need to learn how to create quality music, how to produce and engineer it professionally, and how to navigate the business world.

To help you on your way in terms of professionally producing and engineering your music, I’m including some of the initial results of research that I’ve just completed with many students around the world and what problems they are running into and how to solve those problems:

1. The World of Computers and The Quality of Your Music.

I have found that Indie Musicians who have slowed down their dream or who have given up altogether, often were unable to jump over this hurdle:  Computer Limitations.  These limitations are divided into two areas,

a. Limitations of Computer Education and/or

b. Limitations of Their Computer itself.

Some Indie Musicians were total geeks who knew how to get a computer to drive a car, but had a limited budget and couldn’t afford a better computer to do even the basic requirements needed for Digital Music Production.  This caused great frustration and countless hours of wasted time “waiting” for their computers to compute.  I am very familiar with this problem, because I put up with this for a year when I first started out in Digital Music Production.

And some Indie Musicians had the budget for incredible computing machines, but lacked the Computer Education of how to set it up for optimal recording and how  to operate their recording programs.

For those who are geeks without a budget, the solution is easier said than done – but it IS THE solution.  I know because when I finally did it myself, my career took off like a rocket.  The solution?  Do whatever you have to do to save up for a good computer and buy one.  But before you do, MAKE SURE you find a friend, a family member, a colleague, anyone close to you, who KNOWS computers inside and out.  Make sure you get good advice on WHAT computer to buy and what recording program will suit your needs best before you buy them.  My computer tech is my BEST friend.  Believe me.

Once you get a decent computer, enroll in the courses “How To Produce Music That Will Get Licensed And Make You Money,” and “Mysteries of Mastering Solved.”  On purpose, Aaron and I ensured that the cost of these courses remain very low, so that the Indie Musician could afford them.

2. The New Secret of PROPER A/B’ing.

I found that many students around the world were not confident in knowing whether their recordings were good enough to compete with commercial recordings.  The subject of A/B’ing (comparing your recording with commercial recordings) is covered in detail on both courses.  However, I’m going to give you a tip that I recently developed that takes A/B’ing to a much higher level and also saves even more time, so you can get the quality you want much quicker.

Rather than A/B’ing your mix to a commercial mix during the mixing process,  and then A/B’ing your master to a commercial master during the mastering process,  I’ve developed an assembly line that ensures that your recordings will end up totally competitive when they are completed – and much more quickly.  It goes like this:

a.  Early on during your mixing process, when you have a decent “rough mix,”  export the mix and fully master it.  Even if it’s just the intro of your piece and you have nothing else completed.  A/B that master to the commercial master recording your are using (all commercial A/B recordings you use should be somewhat similar to the sound and style of your recording).

b. Burn a CD of your mastered recording and of the commercial recording and listen in the living room, your car, your friends house, etc.,  and compare those two recordings, taking notes of any differences that you hear about your recording that are bothering you.

c. Address those differences by working with your MIX, making any necessary adjustments, and then mastering what you have mixed again.

d. Repeat a, b and c above throughout the course of your project – NOT JUST AT THE END OF YOUR PROJECT. The amount of time saved is amazing and the quality will be awesome.  Guaranteed.

3.  Measure Thrice Cut Precise.

Many students did not spend enough time on important aspects of Mixing/Mastering and spent too much time on unimportant aspects of Mixing/Mastering.

When I was growing up and worked in the construction industry while building up my music career, I ran crews of workers on construction projects, many of which involved building high quality furniture (which is very similar to the process of Mixing and Mastering).  I was told by my bosses that those who worked under me had to “Measure Twice and Cut Once” – because of constant problems with workers making inaccurate initial measurements, cutting wood wrong, and then having to go back to do double work, wasting time and resources.

I found this to be such a big problem that I came up with my own saying, and enforced it -- which earned me a promotion:  “Measure Thrice, Cut Precise.”

In the Mixing and Mastering world this is translated this way:

Important Priorities Of Mixing and Mastering:

a. Laying down instruments/voices which are IN TUNE and IN TIME.  Rhythm and Pitch are MEASUREMENTS of music.  Laying down sloppy rhythmic performances and/or out of tune instruments/voices, causes double work, wasted time and wasted resources.  AND WILL LOSE YOU LICENSING DEALS! If you are going to spend time on production and engineering, here is where to spend the bulk of your time.   It will SAVE you time and trouble in the Mixing and Mastering process and allow you to record more recordings with higher quality.

b. EQ’ing individual tracks WHILE LISTENING TO THE ENTIRE MIX rather than EQ’ing tracks solo’d until they “sound great” will save you enormous amounts of time and will increase the quality of your tracks.  I call the process of listening to the entire mix while working on individual tracks COMPOSITE PERCEPTION, or listening to the whole, rather than the parts.  Yes, there are times when you need to solo tracks to work with them, but usually this is way overdone with way too much time wasted on working tracks solo’d. Once you pull up the entire mix again, your “great” track doesn’t sound so great with everything else playing.  

4.  A New Secret To Getting Great Vocal Recordings

The quality and price of the microphone you are using is way less important than how well the singer sings and how well the engineer and producer do their jobs.  I’ve said this before.  But recently I discovered a not-so-small detail that will immediately allow you to get Major Record Label quality vocal recordings in your own home studio:

The problem?  I was watching a local student recording vocals recently.  I was sitting back just observing.  I then listened to the tracks and was helping the student Mix and Master.  No matter what I did to that vocal track, it sounded inconsistent.  We could not get the chorus to match the quality of the verse no matter what.  The vocal production on the verses sounded awesome, but the choruses were sounding thin and washed out – and yet the choruses were LOUDER than the verses.

So I watched the singer very carefully.  This singer was very experienced on stage but did not have much experience recording in the studio. When the louder choruses were being sung, the singer stepped back from the mic (stepping back from the mic a little bit is ok in the studio, but not like when you are on stage). 

I had gone over this with the student engineer and the singer, but it was such a habit, that the singer still stepped back too much.

So, I played back the vocal track for the student and singer and had them listen to exactly what was going on.  The verses sounded rich, warm, bright, breathy and real (the singer was singing closer to the mic) but the choruses sounded thin, weak, distant and less emotional.

Here’s the solution:

a.  Before recording vocals have the singer sing into the mic, telling the singer to sing the loudest section of the song.  Adjust the input level accordingly so that it doesn’t distort. 

b. Do NOT then think that the rest of the recording will be too soft.  THIS is where students were going wrong.  They would then fiddle with the adjustment just made, and/or tell the singer to step back away from the mic during the loud sections. There is a law of digital recording which is mostly NOT taught out in the real world: that recording levels which were necessary for TAPE recordings are NOT NECESSARY FOR DIGITAL RECORDINGS.  The specifications of TAPE RECORDING are STILL BEING TAUGHT TO DIGITAL PRODUCER/ENGINEERS!!  A “low” level recording of a vocal (or anything for that matter) is NOT a problem with digital technology.  Why?  Because there is no TAPE NOISE to compete with like their used to be.  That’s why with tape, you had to get the level of recording up to near distortion even during quiet passages (especially during quiet passages!) so that you wouldn’t hear the hiss and rumble of the tape and tape machine.  It’s called the Signal To Noise Ratio.

c. Just because you have asked the singer to sing the loudest part of the song for you during your input signal testing and adjustment DO NOT THINK YOUR ARE DONE ADJUSTING. 

Now – get the singer to show you where the loudest part of the song is on the file itself.  Have them actually do a test recording of that part of the song, making sure you have the level of the music comfortable for them to sing to.  You will find that no matter how loud they sang when you first tested the loudest passage without the music playing, that they WILL sing it LOUDER when you are actually recording with the music playing.  Re-adjust the input of the microphone during this test recording process.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Tell them (nicely) that they are not singing on stage and that during the recording process it is vital that they do not back off from the mic during loud passages as much as they would during a live performance.

If they need to practice that for awhile, have them practice it.  It will be more than worth it when you go to Mix and Master.  Believe me.  People will start commenting on how well and consistent your vocal tracks sound – and you will land more licensing deals!


It is possible to professionally produce extremely high quality productions in your home studio quickly.  But it takes work and practice and know-how.  Aaron and I will continue to do all we can to supply you with the know-how.  Now it’s up to you to work and practice until you can nail a high quality production with a stiff deadline breathing down your neck!

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, as a gift to you for the Holiday Season, I am offering any member of a free critique of one of your tracks.  Simply email me a SoundCloud link of your music to  I will also give a free 15 minute Skype Consultation to the first 25 people who email me. Your gift to me will be invaluable information from you on what is working for you, what frustrations you have, what problems you are running into and what you need and want – which will help us produce future courses that give you exactly what you need and want.

And if you haven't already, be sure to check out our existing courses:

"How To Produce Music That Will Get Licensed And Make You Money"


"Mysteries Of Mastering Solved"

Happy Holidays!

Gary Gray

Los Angeles, CA

Dec 2013

In : December 2013 

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