💥🎶 Welcome to Episode 13 of the Boomcast, where musicbylukas, Noize London, and XJ Will join forces to share the secrets of generating passive income for music artists!
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In this power-packed episode, we discuss how you can turn your passion for music into a sustainable and lucrative career by creating passive income streams. Learn how to make $10k+ per song and unlock the financial freedom you’ve always dreamed of as a music artist. Our combined experiences and expertise in the music industry provide you with a wealth of practical tips, insider knowledge, and real-life examples to help you succeed.
🎧 What to expect in this episode:
- Introduction to passive income for music artists
- Strategies for maximizing revenue from your songs
- Sync licensing opportunities and how to land deals
- Navigating music libraries and royalty collection
- The role of branding and marketing in generating income
- Collaborative approaches to increase earnings
This week’s guest: XJ Will – https://www.instagram.com/xj_will
Thank you all so much for tuning in. Please remember to LIKE & SUBSCRIBE!
00:00:00:08 – 00:00:13:28
I finally land a commercial for Taco Bell. It was like five guys. And so I was like, Guys, let’s do that again. For everything else I was doing. How do we replicate this?
00:00:13:29 – 00:00:16:10
Welcome to BoomCast. I’m @Noize_London.
00:00:16:10 – 00:00:17:09
And I’m @MusicbyLukas
00:00:17:10 – 00:00:31:08
And today we’re here with a special guest XJ_Will – who’s going to be schooling us on a sync music library and how he has become one of the biggest faces and content creators on Instagram in that realm. Hey.
00:00:32:04 – 00:00:39:09
First of all, platinum selling producer, right? And then on top of that, featured in like Apple. I mean, you have a bunch of accolades.
00:00:39:10 – 0:01:07:09
First of all, I mean, like, it’s interesting, man, because there’s a lot of different places where my music has been used. But like, no one ever would know. So it’s like the accolades are there. But unless you see my name put under the title of credits, like, you’d never know. But yeah, I’ve had stuff like, Sony commercials, Apple TV shows, all kinds of stuff.
00:01:07:13 – 00:01:13:26
All kinds. Is there anything that I could easily go search, right after this call? On Netflix or YouTube or anything like that?
00:01:13:27 – 00:01:29:22
One of my favorite projects from last year was an Apple TV show short that I scored like all seven eight episodes. So it’s called Today Apple, and it’s their Procreate series, so dope.
00:01:29:22 – 00:01:45:24
So. So the point is, I think there’s a lot of producers watching this who don’t know anything about sync licensing and don’t know anything about this area. But it’s also at the same time, I mean, wouldn’t you say it’s one of the areas where you can find the most success as a producer? I mean, to fund your career and to make the most.
00:01:46:09 – 00:02:03:08
Most definitely. I always tell people after that first placement, like your price for everything just goes up because now you’ve been validated by a brand, you know what I’m saying? So, like, yeah, totally. I would highly recommend that you get into licensing just because there’s a larger budget for what you do.
00:02:03:08 – 00:02:09:18
To the viewers out there who have no idea what sync library music is. Could you give our audience a rundown, please?
00:02:09:18 – 00:02:28:16
Sync licensing is like your music as a rental car service. Okay. So if you’re, for instance, when you went to L.A. for NAMM, you might have rented a car because there’s no other way to get around in Los Angeles, right? When you spend money for that car, you’re using it for X amount of time.
00:02:28:17 – 00:02:51:10
It’s not yours. You gave the money for it, but it’s not yours because at the end of that term or period, you got to give the car back. That’s exactly how Sync Licensing works. A company brand, or film production crew, are paying for a license to use your music, not to own it, but to use it behind a motion picture for a specific amount of time.
00:02:51:10 – 00:03:10:24
And then after that, if they want to use it again, they’ve got to renew that lease or that license, you see, I’m saying. And so that’s the easiest way to, the most vague way to really describe sync licensing, because “motion picture” can be anything: video games, instructional videos, podcasts, like all kinds of stuff.
00:03:11:03 – 00:03:26:28
So the question I’m sure that tons of people watching this are wondering is basically how did you get into this and how can they get into it? Like what’s the entry into something like this? Because obviously, you know, it sounds really complicated on the surface, but yeah, let’s make sense of it.
00:03:27:01 – 00:03:38:11
Yeah. So I’ll try to keep this short, When I got into music, I was actually… I’m a trumpet player by trade.
00:03:38:11 – 00:03:40:28
You just have that handy at all times?
00:03:40:28 – 00:03:42:24
I do have to have it ready at all times!
00:03:43:00 – 00:03:43:27
You have it holstered?
00:03:44:14 – 00:04:08:28
Yeah, so I’ve been playing trumpet since I was 11 years old, and I got into orchestras and stuff like that as a kid, classically trained, then got in a full ride to a conservatory for jazz music. So like I was doing those kinds of things, trying to tour. I did some international stuff, which was fun.
00:04:09:10 – 00:04:33:23
And eventually when I got back, I started trying to get work again. And as a gigging musician, like it’s always a grind. You’re living paycheck to paycheck. It was fun. I was like, 24. Like, I didn’t care. I got to just work on the weekends, which was cool. But eventually what happened after I got back from touring, I was kind of over it – eating bad food all the time and never really being able to hang out with friends or family.
00:04:34:01 – 00:05:01:25
It gets kind of old after you get into… I think I was about 26 and that’s really important. I was 26 because when I got back, one of the adjunct faculty members from the school invited me to one of his shows. So I was like, Alright, yeah, sure, I’ll come through and get your vibe. I go there, the show is cool and for some reason like I walk out in there and I open up one of the pamphlets for the show and I realized, Yo, this, this isn’t just any concert.
00:05:01:26 – 00:05:21:06
It’s a benefit concert because he couldn’t pay his health insurance. And so, like, my whole life flashed before my eyes because I was like, Yo, this is me in like, 30 years. You need to figure out how to, like, monetize your music. For real through. If I’m not touring or playing on someone’s tour, like, how do I continue to monetize?
00:05:21:07 – 00:05:42:24
And it wasn’t streaming. It was publishing. I specifically remember, like, there was a turning point where we were just playing like Kanye covers with, like, jazz stuff. It was fun, but like, eventually what happened? I told them, like, yo, 80% of whatever we’re playing, I don’t care if the fans don’t like it. Like, just because people love hearing covers all the time.
00:05:42:29 – 00:06:02:15
We need to play our own music. And so, like, six months later, we do this and everyone’s like, starting to get into it just because everyone’s inspired to write new songs. Now everyone gets royalty checks a quarter later, because we’re playing our music publicly and that’s that’s publishing. So, we were getting paid twice for the same gigs, which was really great.
00:06:02:22 – 00:06:09:17
And so from there, it’s like, Okay, how can I do this without having to still go outside to do it? And that’s how I got in the film scoring.
00:06:09:24 – 00:06:17:29
Would you consider this passive income? And I guess the second question is, is there such a thing as passive income in the music industry?
00:06:18:04 – 00:06:38:01
Yes, yes, I would consider it passive income. But like with any passive income stream, if you’ve ever run a business before and I really think that music producers in general are all entrepreneurs, you have to dig the trench before it becomes a stream. That water can flow. Right, which takes a lot of effort. So like eventually what happened?
00:06:39:09 – 00:07:00:02
I tried stock music where it’s just used for like smaller licenses for YouTube videos and stuff that wasn’t paying enough. You know what I wanted? And there’s no artists around here that I felt had the budget for what I felt like I was producing at the time. Instead of trying to follow the streams, I was trying to follow the money.
00:07:00:02 – 00:07:21:10
So when I figured out that music libraries and sync agents were the actual ones that were kind of creating these opportunities for people, I was like, Yeah, let me get into one of these. And so I applied to a couple. One finally picked me up. I don’t know why, because at that point in time, I was still maybe two or three years into learning how to produce.
00:07:21:10 – 00:07:47:18
Like, I didn’t know what I was doing. I want to say 18 months. I was continuously just giving them more music. Sounds like this got to be like a numbers game, right? Like if I send you enough music, something’s got to land. Track number 248, I finally landed a commercial for Taco Bell and it was like five Gs and so I was like, Guys, let’s do that again for everything else I was doing.
00:07:48:01 – 00:08:33:21
How do we replicate this? And so, like, I reverse engineered why they chose that song. And eventually after I kind of got that formula down, it started a snowball effect. And so now like I’m getting placements every other month, and now that I understand what needs to be done, like I just turned into a machine and just try to put as much music into these places as possible. And when I would get a placement, I felt like it was resonating with the general public. Like I think it was a Starbucks commercial that I had. It was a lo-fi track that I made for some type of campaign. It triggered the Spotify algorithm because I went ahead and released it after I got it placed, and people were like, Oh, this is dope.
00:08:33:21 – 00:08:59:07
So they pulled out their phones and they were Shazaming it. And it triggered the Spotify algorithm and made streams go crazy with that. And so, from there, like, everything was wild just because, I mean, I was just making music. I didn’t have to make any content or anything, you know what I mean? So it was great because eventually, to just answer your question, it becomes passive over time because I have a catalog of music.
00:08:59:07 – 00:10:08:20
I have like over 1000 songs that are out there being pitched by music libraries and agents. All I have to do is wake up and make music and there is no shelf life. That’s the other thing: the shelf life of music for sync- there’s no expiration date. I think there was a study done. I can’t remember the name of the research group, but it was on the shelf-life of the most popular songs. They took “God’s Plan” from Drake, from like a couple of years ago, 2016 it was super viral right? In nine days, the streams were at half. So Drake is doing this… So a Tik Tok song, you only got maybe three weeks before it dies. So it just didn’t seem like a longevity game to me as far as trying to make a hit record that stands the test of time.
But with sync licensing, it’s new to anybody that I give it to. I could have made songs that are written four years ago get placed for thousands of dollars just because no one knows or cares if it’s new or not. Just they want to make sure that it fits the scene or story that they’re trying to tell.
00:10:08:20 – 00:10:20:12
It does also become passive because you get upfront fees and you get back-end royalties. So I think anytime your music is put on broadcast waves, you get paid again for it. So it’s really cool.
00:10:20:16 – 00:10:40:20
It does sound very similar to how record labels work, except for you’re getting the upfront payment and then you’re getting the passive income later. Because I have another friend who works in licensing and it’s very similar to your story. He got a record, you know, on a big advert with a big brand and they paid him for that, but they only licensed it like you say, the car rental thing.
00:10:40:20 – 00:10:56:04
They only licensed it for a month or something, a couple of months, and then it was out. Yeah, yeah. And then it became a hit and he put it on Spotify and he was getting 2 million streams a month. Yeah. And then he was generating income and he was just like, he was like, Dude, I’m making so much money from this one track.
00:10:59:04 – 00:11:17:08
Yeah. Basically, you were talking about how you tried and tried to get on a deal with a Sync Licensing company, and you finally did. How did you find, for people out there watching – how do you find the Sync Licensing companies? How do you submit to them? What is that process of kind of finding them out?
00:11:17:10 – 00:12:10:01
I always say that getting into sync licensing, just getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. After that, you can make music all day. Google is not your friend when it comes to sync licensing, as far as finding different libraries and things like that. It took me hours to find the right ones because when I hit search on Google for sync licensing libraries or whatever, I always get like ads, and they’re never like, they’re never good. What I found to be helpful is to search on places like LinkedIn, because if you just type in sync libraries or sync agents, you’re going to find literally all of them and the people that work there. When I go to their websites now, maybe when I submit my music on their forms or their platforms, I can address someone specifically.
The more fine-tuned you can pitch your music, the more likely you’re probably going to get some type of publishing agreement deal. The other thing that’s really important is you need to make sure your music is a good fit for the said library. Taking a bunch of hip hop and giving it to a neoclassical library… they might take it because they don’t have it. But it’s probably just going to sit on the shelf, right? Don’t write Burger King for Taco Bell. You know what I’m saying? There’s different stuff.
00:12:39:10 – 00:13:00:11
So, like, what you do is you go to their websites and check out their most recent placements. That way you’ll know. They might have a bunch of extra stuff in their catalog, but this is what people want them for. So, like, if that’s a good fit, then I’ll start to pitch my music to them and hopefully I’ll get a response back.
00:13:00:12 – 00:13:22:13
Normally in a library, they’ll give you instructions of what they want. I would normally never give more than, like, three songs because they’re not going to listen to, like, a whole album worth of stuff. They just get so many emails. And so what I try to tell musicians to do is make an album of ten songs, but find the three best, show them that, and just ask them if they’re taking submissions at this moment in time.
00:13:22:23 – 00:13:51:26
And normally that’s going to garner a better response than like, yo, check out all my stuff. Like give them your whole catalog and just hope that they take it, that’s not how it works. I understand it. Patience is the best superpower you can have. And this kind of stuff is like understanding that, hey, it might take two weeks. After those two weeks, give them an understanding email and just follow up with them:
“Hey, I still would really love to work with you guys.” That’s the kind of stuff that I find has helped me to become successful with working with different publishers.
00:13:52:05 – 00:13:54:26
Josh, what’s your experience been with Boombox so far?
00:13:56:11 – 00:14:13:22
My experience. I’m actually very new to it, so I’m really interested in how it can help me with the organization of my songs and things of that nature. I’m doing a lot more collaborations nowadays. So it’s something that I’m really, really interested in.
00:14:13:23 – 00:14:38:09
I think some of my favorite features of Boombox still has to be the voice memo commenting because I think there are some things you just can’t write. You know, you can’t write how to sing a melody when you need something changed in a record, especially when you’re collaborating with someone. Also, the one thing I hate about text feedback in any way whatsoever is that you can’t really read someone’s tone of voice.
00:14:38:09 – 00:15:10:29
And someone might say something in one way and you might be like, “That’s passive aggressive” or “That’s rude.”
The problem with text messages is everything is so uniform. That’s why you have to use emojis to spice things up a little bit. I honestly think that’s like the new way of showing emotion. But even so, like some emojis to one person might mean something completely different to another.
So that’s why voice memos are so important, I think, especially when collaborating with someone on music. Okay. But my pet peeve, though, is when someone sends a voice note that’s over one minute long.
00:15:11:00 – 00:15:18:14
You know, I don’t know, over one minute? I don’t know. What’s the rule where it’s too long? I think I think past two to 3 minutes. That’s my opinion.
00:15:18:19 – 00:15:24:08
Lukas sent me a voice memo that was over one minute once, and I was freaked out listening to this.
00:15:24:14 – 00:15:27:00
His attention span was done.
00:15:27:11 – 00:15:35:02
Well, I mean, think about it. It would probably take more than a minute and a half to read something like that. Right. So, like… I don’t know.
00:15:35:02 – 00:15:49:02
So a lot of people want to get into sync licensing. You’ve been doing this for a while. What are some of the mistakes that are holding some people back from getting to where you’re at?
00:15:49:03 – 00:16:19:03
40% of people that I know who start sync licensing don’t finish because it’s not a “get rich quick” scheme or anything like that. The fortitude and patience that’s necessary can be testing at times. The other mistakes that I see happen all the time is not owning all of the music that you’re pitching. So on the artist side, maybe they purchased a least beat from like a beat stars or YouTube or something like that.
00:16:19:12 – 00:16:40:21
You can’t pitch that because the track ID is going to be all over it and just think about it: would it make sense to take a $30 licensed song that you don’t personally own because it’s online, anyone can purchase it, and then flip it for like an $18,000 or Pepsi commercial? That just doesn’t make any sense because it’s so easy, everybody would do it.
00:16:40:27 – 00:17:02:20
This is always what I say…I understand. People use loops and stuff. Just recreate it. Now, it’s not simple anymore, you know? I mean doing stuff like that is another mistake. And I think we can talk about the other one, as far as: don’t give them a mountain of music to listen to.
No one listens to two albums with like 45 tracks. Like, I just can’t. I know most people don’t do that.
00:17:10:17 – 00:17:15:02
You can’t listen to a voice message, but he can. That’s one minute. But he listened to two.
00:17:15:15 – 00:17:16:18
I’m a hypocrite, dude.
00:17:16:23 – 00:17:33:02
Even some of my favorite artists, like sometimes I’ll scrub through the album’s release if I don’t have time to, like, sit in a nice sofa, turn on the fire and have, a nice glass of bourbon. I’m not going to be able to. I’m skipping through to see what catches my interest first.
00:17:33:02 – 00:17:34:13
Bourbon caught my interest.
00:17:35:03 – 00:17:44:16
Yeah. [laughs] So like that, that’s the kind of stuff that you kind of have to realize is that if you don’t treat people like humans like you’re not going to get very far in the industry.
00:17:44:24 – 00:18:04:09
If you’re an artist who also wants a career as a music artist, but then you also want to make some cash on the side and you want a sync license, do you suggest that you just take all the tracks that you’re not going to use for yourself and use it for sync licensing? Or do you produce in a different style?
00:18:04:10 – 00:18:12:27
I guess this leads into another question, which is like, are there particular genres that work better than others? Should you be focusing on those?
00:18:12:28 – 00:18:32:03
The other biggest mistake that I see is that people don’t research first. They’re instead, just kind of throwing jabs at the wind and getting really tired because they’re like, “Oh, I’m going to do this.” And then, nothing ever happens. Like, do they take the time to go to a library and, find out what they actually use or like?
00:18:32:21 – 00:18:53:13
People always ask me what genres are popular in sync. You don’t have to ask me. Like, all you gotta do is turn on the TV and close your eyes. Because everything, someone had to pay for it. So, understanding what for advertisers is really, really important for me personally. Like, I always specialize in advertising and advertising in trailers.
00:18:53:22 – 00:19:09:20
So like during the Super Bowl, it was great that the Chiefs won by all means, but I wasn’t even paying a lot of attention to the game. Every time the commercials came on, I was taking notes, trying to figure out what are the most popular genres that brands were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for.
00:19:10:19 – 00:20:07:27
And so, like, that’s normally how you can find out. So just to share the data that I found on that side of things, hip hop. There are five genres that are always super popular: hip hop, pop music, which could be technically anything, orchestral music. The interesting thing, normally corporate, would be another side of music that gets used a lot. But like now I’m seeing a lot of like R&B/ soul music for advertisements, specifically. Because I mean, no one dislikes soul music. Like, that just doesn’t happen. So that and then the last one being rock and it could be swagger rock, indie rock, whatever.
So like those are normally the five that I see most likely getting placed, just because the energy that’s from those kinds of songs are very universal that everyone can understand.
00:20:07:29 – 00:20:09:17
Do you see Lo-fi growing?
00:20:10:07 – 00:20:49:06
Oh, yeah. Lo-Fi. Lo-Fi is definitely under that Hip-Hop range of thing. Like, for instance, I’ve gotten a couple of placements with lo-fi, but like its been commercials for hotels that are using that kind of stuff. It helps tell a story. So whether that just is a chill kind of environment or you’re doing like a Mickey Mouse thing, where it’s the exact opposite of what you would think would be fitting for a hip-hop or Lo-Fi. You have those kinds of things happening all the time. And so like, yeah, it’s definitely any genre can technically place. It’s just those are the five that I see most often.
00:20:49:14 – 00:20:57:23
Basically, for artists that want to do this on the side, should they just use the songs that they don’t finish, or to try to push for single licensing?
00:20:57:24 – 00:21:27:29
I do both. Like, at the end of the day, unless it’s a buyout deal, you own all the stuff that you end up syncing. So why wouldn’t you like to have those opportunities for licensing purposes as well? I did sync licensing as a side hustle for three, four years before I went full time. The coolest part about the whole situation is that it just gives more excuses for independent artists to become their own label.
00:21:28:05 – 00:21:51:13
Like the average sync placement is normally four figures around $5,000. That’s a really nice music video investment, you know what I’m saying? So, now you’re funding your own artist through your new label. Reward. So, I actually recommend that sync anything that you feel like can resonate with the public. It could be easily transferred over to as long as you have a clean version.
00:21:51:14 – 00:21:55:13
That’s another mistake that I see a lot of people make is they won’t have a clean version of a song.
00:21:55:14 – 00:21:57:04
They won’t have a clean version. Yeah. Good point.
00:21:59:22 – 00:22:33:12
I think a lot of people come into the music industry as a whole, and I think it’s because we only see the end product of people who are successful in the music industry that people think they’re going to get there much quicker than they are. And you are just very transparent. You told us, you know, it was three to four years before you went full time with sync licensing.
If you could speak to us, if you could speak to yourself, three to four years ago and you could tell yourself one thing or a couple of sentences, what would it be?
00:22:33:16 – 00:22:55:15
Two things: make your music sound as expensive as possible by using references. The second thing would be to pick a niche and be a specialist in it. Oh, this is another mistake. A lot of people say they can write anything and I’m sure you can, but not very well, you know what I’m saying? Like, for instance, I like making rock.
00:22:55:15 – 00:23:35:24
I love making rock music, but I’m not very good at producing it. So, that’s not my lane. But after I get my foot in the door, now I have carte blanche to do whatever I want because I’m signed to them. So, like, now I’ve gotten in there for one thing, and they know me as like the hip hop guy or whatever. But now, I can afford to start experimenting and I don’t have any consequences of fans going, you know, why are you going left? Like, I came to your Spotify to hear one thing and now I’m hearing another. You don’t have that issue. And YouTube is the same way. So like, I definitely think that that would be my advice for my younger self four years ago.
00:23:35:26 – 00:23:56:28
Thanks so much, Joshua, for being an amazing guest on this podcast. And of course, thanks to Boombox for making this happen. Please comment down below. We want to know how many tracks are sitting on your hard drive that you think you could license to a library or to a brand, agency, and so on. Comment down below.
00:23:56:29 – 00:24:04:11
First of all, thanks so much for having me, guys. I didn’t ask. I was supposed to say something earlier and we kept going so I wasn’t able to.
00:24:05:11 – 00:24:06:26
I really thought you didn’t want to be here.
00:24:08:20 – 00:24:28:07
I changed my mind midway through the conversation like this. I know I won’t get that leave button, but like, no, I really love this conversation. I think we really hit a lot of great things. If you guys want to learn more about sync licensing by all means, follow me on XJ_Will – the ‘X’ is actually silent.
00:24:28:09 – 00:25:04:05
You also can, if you want to learn more: I have a private community where we actually bring in music supervisors, sync agents, library owners, and we actually do feedback sessions to vet your music to make sure it’s up to par before you start pitching, so that you know that the quality is exactly what you need to have so that it gives you more accountability, and just let you know that your tracks are vetted. So it’s a matter of when, not a matter of if. So if you’re interested in that, just go to any of my social media and just apply for the four week Indie Sync Catalyst program.
00:25:04:07 – 00:25:14:18
So thanks again for coming. And yeah, you can find Boombox at @boombox.io you know where to find XJ_Will – and you can find me @musicbyLukas and where you have Fabio -.
00:25:14:18 – 00:25:17:25
You can find me @Noize_London.
00:25:18:00 – 00:25:22:00
Well thanks everyone for being here and we’ll see you next time. Back on Boomcast. Talk to you soon.