Independent Royalty Free Music – Artist Run Music Licensing

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Whether you’re an independent royalty free music creator looking to make an income from your music, or an organisation looking for great quality music at hugely reduced fees, please give me a few minutes of your time. Here at the IMLC we are connecting independent artists and content creators directly to change the face of music licensing.

I’m Ketsa, an independent producer who’s managed to go from doing nothing with my music to providing music for many hundreds of commercial projects in 5 years, including a Volvo TV advert, National Geographic documentary, The Times newspaper’s podcast, the UN’s podcast, promotional pieces for The Atlantic, Forbes, Nissan, Arezzo, Riachuelo, Konami, Fred Perry, Grace Ormonde and many more plus documentaries shown on National TV in Italy, Germany, USA and Canada. And I did it without any help from record labels or publishers.

How did I do it?

We are in a new age where traditional methods of doing things are rapidly changing. It’s important to be in the right place and have the relevant knowledge to take advantage of this new era.

For years I was a struggling producer, making plenty of music with absolutely no idea what to do with it. I always believed ‘making it’ meant becoming really well known, selling millions of records, being played on mainstream radio etc etc. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I understand now that you don’t have to do any of those things to make a good career doing what you love doing. Best of all, you can fully control your own art, take home all the profit and never have to sign a dodgy contract with a publishing agency or music label. Once you start on this journey, you’ll have something that will grow as much as you feed it and something you will never need to retire from.

Change your music making approach

Let’s firstly begin with our mindset and approach. Making music is NOT just a hobby. It’s a refined skill you’ve put years into mastering that the majority of the population do not possess. Try imagine watching a promotional video or film without any music. It would absolutely suck. Music can make or break any advertising campaign, video, podcast or film. Therefore what we do holds great value. Instead of seeing the making of music as a fun past time, start seeing the importance and value of your art and where its place in the world could be.

This was the first major breakthrough for me and it is definitely one of the most important. How you value your work and your art will directly determine how prepared you are to earn from it. Trust me, I’ve had years of self doubt that a major traumatic experience erased in a night. Life is too short to doubt yourself and too precious for you to not do what you are here to do. Start trusting your talents, you have them for a special reason and purpose. With the right focus your talents can become your career.

The future is one without middlemen. There will be the people who make the music dealing directly with those that need it, with no publishing house or music labels involvement whatsoever. 20 years ago when I wanted to release a record, other people needed to be involved at every stage, from labels, mastering, promotion, licensing etc etc. We can now do all these things ourselves, all the tools are there. Mastering a record used to be a hugely expensive experience. Now online services like Emastered and Landr are replacing the traditional mastering services for a fraction of the price…and I guarantee the majority of the population won’t know the difference.

So why shouldn’t we do the same? Why should companies pay ridiculous sums to license music when the publishers and/or labels take such a huge cut? Why shouldn’t these companies approach us the artists directly and save themselves huge fees?

Independent royalty free music licensing

And this is where we come in. This is the model I’ve been working on for over 5 years, and I now have my very own licensing website earning me a passive income of thousands each month doing what I absolutely love doing. And I know that it’ll grow even more.

The IMLC is committed to connecting independent artists and content creators directly to lower costs and increase quality.

The best royalty free music library

Put yourself in the driving seat

How independent are you when it comes to making music? Do you have to rely on others for studio time, or simply just to release your music?

When I ran a digital label with others it was a frustrating period. Trying to rely on people who may not have the same time, drive, or ambition as you to make something happen is not ideal. Ideally, you want to have your own set up, so you’re able to focus on making your music as much as possible. Think of your music as a plant. The more you feed it, the more it will grow. Plants will keep growing, getting bushier and larger until they flower, and eventually if you’re lucky they will bear fruit.

So it’s incredibly important when you’re not earning from music to keep feeding it. If you want to be a content provider then the most important thing is to keep building your content, even when it’s not earning. It all holds value down the line.

The ability to make music whenever you feel the need and the desire to do so is a big deal. Just like anything in life, if something is important to you, prioritise it! Watch less Netflix, go out less, make excuses to stay in. You have to feed this for it to grow. The universe is reactive. Big things are unlikely to come your way if you’re not putting in the work. But if you love making music, it’s not really work is it?!

Do what you do best

Think about your music style – what are your strengths? What makes your music interesting or unique? Feed these things, practice as much as you can to refine your sound.

You’ll hopefully have begun to realise that music is a highly regarded skill, and that if you have the ability, this should be your focus.

After the music distributor I worked for and had a label with went bust in 2003, I had no home for my music. Many times I thought about quitting. If it’s just going to be a hobby, it’s certainly an expensive and time consuming one! But as soon as you start seeing the value in what you’re doing, it all changes. This applies to everything in life, not just music.

I’ll talk more later in this piece about where my music found a home, and the way it started gaining attention and music licensing work that has continued to thrive for more than 5 years.

But just know, none of my success has come from selling my tracks in the traditional sense. In fact, I give my music away for free. Anyone can download and stream my catalogue for absolutely nothing.

When I got my first licensing gig, I received £25 for a company to use my track in an internal Christmas video. Less than a year later, I received £1500 from a big German engineering firm to edit one of my tracks across 8 videos. I’ve never learnt music production or video editing, but there I was earning from both.

Being in control of your own royalty free music library enables you to take on jobs you would never get by relinquishing control of your tracks to a publisher or label. A huge bonus is also that YOU make the contacts. After all, the only reason publishers take their cut is because of the contacts they have.

Licensing through your copyright

Empowering yourself as an independent artist means being fully in control of your music’s copyright, and not giving control of it to some external company. I’ve made this mistake with publishers before. 7 years ago I gave 25 tracks exclusively to a publisher, who just sat them in his library gathering dust. As I’d given them exclusively, I had no choice but to abandon them to the publisher instead of being able to earn from them myself. Do not make the same mistake as I did. Publishers and labels will promise a lot and deliver nothing.

For the last 7 years I’ve been releasing the vast majority of my music for free on a Creative Commons BY NC ND 4.0 license on the amazing website and resource, the Free Music Archive.

This website transformed my music career and life. How?

There are literally millions of people that use the FMA daily, not just as a free to stream and download catalogue of quality music, but also as an amazing resource of independent Royalty Free music that has the potential to be used in derivative and commercial projects. This is how I know there is currently a huge gap in the market that independent artists can and should be taking advantage of.

Through the FMA, I’ve not only been contacted by and received work from massive global agencies like Grey Advertising, Talk Radio, the BBC, Vice Media and the UN, I’ve also received plenty of work from independent film makers, podcast producers, games developers, universities, museums etc etc. There is such a huge number of people looking for music for all manner of projects that do not want to or can’t go down the traditional expensive route of licensing music, that’s why they are on the FMA looking in the first place. This is the time to make you, your music library and services as visible and clear as possible to take advantage.

Independent music licensing

Having your music available on the FMA means you already have a huge marketing resource for your music. We know there are so many agencies, companies and organisations on there everyday looking for suitable music. The bigger your personal library is, the more chance you have of getting music licensed. If they contact you, then that becomes YOUR contact, not a publishers.

This is why I’ve always said to feed the music ‘plant’ even when you’re not earning from your art. Building up the content you want to provide to people is obviously essential, and when you have your own personal royalty free library to add to, literally no track, riff or loop need go to waste.

This is why I started my own Ecommerce licensing site. I only have two things for sale, a perpetual single track use license and an annual subscription service. It’s so simple, easy to use and attractive as many people need multiple tracks for projects, and no traditional publisher can match the flexibility we independents have with our own royalty free music library that we have full sovereignty over. And this even extends to charity. I’ve let plenty of hospices, cancer wards and children’s charities use my music for free.

The future is independent

Here at IMLC, we truly hope our site becomes a treasured central resource not just for artists making independent royalty free music, but for all content creators, companies and organisations that need an awesome  affordable soundtrack. As we continue to grow, and be able to offer such a clear and attractive service, we truly hope to inspire and evolve a new way of licensing music, one that empowers both sides.

So we’re really happy you’re here. Both One Man Book and myself are easily contactable and here to support you at every stage. Soon we’ll have invaluable resources here too, like legal documents and production tips.

The future is exciting for independent royalty free music creation. Join us on the journey.



Independent, london-based producer and IMLC co-founder Ketsa is a giant of the Creative Commons music scene. His music has been used for a Volvo TV advert, and promotional campaigns by Greenpeace, Audi, Riachuelo, Grance Ormonde and films by the National Geographic, The UN, The Atlantic, Forbes and many many more. As head of Artist Services at the IMLC, Ketsa is fully committed to educating creators on the benefits of royalty free music licensing with his Empowered Independents YouTube series.

Empowered Independents