Did you know that licensing your music can potentially become your full-time income strategy? It seems that everyone has their music on all the popular streaming platforms, but very few have considered learning how to sell music on Pond5. It’s just one of the many options out there for getting your music placed on television shows, films, trailers, video games and more!
To be more specific, we’re not just learning how to SELL music on Pond5. We’re learning how to LICENSE music on Pond5 because we’re not dealing with typical consumers. The people interested in purchasing your music want to use it in their productions. These production companies require specific licenses depending on their project to obtain clearance for the use of your intellectual property. So basically, Pond5 is your marketplace for getting your music exposed to these potential buyers. Now, let’s find out how we can get you started on Pond5 as a contributor.
- How does Pond5 work?
- Is Pond5 exclusive or non-exclusive?
- How much does Pond5 pay sellers?
- Can you earn your living by selling music on Pond5?
- Can you use digital rights management services with Pond5?
- What kind of music should you sell on Pond5?
- Pond5 vs AudioJungle
- Is it worth it to sell music on Pond5?
How does Pond5 work?
Before creating an account on Pond5 though, we need to make sure that you understand what you’re getting yourself into. If you’re just starting out in the music licensing business, you should start by familiarizing yourself with one marketplace before moving on.
There are plenty of these marketplaces, but rest assured that Pond5 is one of the best!
We’ll actually be comparing Pond5 with another marketplace later in this guide, but first let’s focus on this one. On the surface, this marketplace deals almost exclusively with royalty-free content. However, this DOESN’T mean that you can’t earn royalties from your placements (more on this later).
As contributors, we have the privilege to sell music on Pond5, but you can also sell sound effects, after effects, footage, images and 3D models.
One of the main advantages of Pond5 is the ability to set your own prices. There are other platforms that won’t allow this, so keep that in mind. You’ll even have the ability to offer extended-licenses that can earn you even more money.
Another feature you’ll have access to in an Artist Profile Page.
In essence, this page will be used as your portfolio to showcase everything you have to offer. However, you’ll need to be the one actively promoting this page. Although Pond5 does run its fair share of marketing campaigns, they won’t actively be pitching your music to potential clients.
That being said, the marketplace itself is a search engine.
Your music can still be found by potential buyers if you pay close attention to metadata. We’ll be discussing strategies for success later on, but for now we’re still trying to determine whether or not Pond5 is right for you.
I personally think it’s the best platform to get started.
The forums are one of the features that make it so great for beginners. You can ask the community questions and there’s a lot of support out there for new sellers. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Let’s dive a little deeper, shall we?
Is Pond5 exclusive or non-exclusive?
This is one of the most important questions in the music licensing business. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, you’ll need to understand them before moving on. You need to know what rights you’ll be keeping and which ones you’ll be giving away (if any).
In short, Pond5 is strictly non-exclusive as stated in their contributor agreement.
In layman’s terms, this basically means that you keep 100% of the rights to your music (exclusive rights). What this means is that you’ll be free to distribute your music to other non-exclusive libraries.
If Pond5 were exclusive, you would need to give away your exclusive rights.
Under these circumstances, exclusive libraries become the sole proprietors of your intellectual property for ever (or for a fixed period). In other words, your music would be stuck in their catalog and you wouldn’t be able to distribute it anywhere else (YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, etc…).
However, rest assured that Pond5 is NON-EXCLUSIVE which means you can withdraw your music at any point.
If you’re just starting out in the music licensing business, this is much more to your advantage. For example, you can keep monetizing your music wherever it currently is and you’ll be able to keep promoting yourself with it.
It’s difficult to give up exclusive rights when your catalog isn’t that big (less than 20 tracks).
So I say you have nothing to lose by learning how to sell your music on Pond5. You’ll quickly start to see which songs are selling and this’ll allow you to refine your music production skills to meet the industry’s demands.
If ever you feel like certain songs can be better placed in higher-end exclusive libraries, you can simply remove them.
However, this isn’t to say that non-exclusive libraries such as Pond5 aren’t any good. The disadvantage with non-exclusive libraries though, as I already stated, is that they’re not actively marketing your tracks, BUT…
Not all exclusive libraries will do your music justice. There’s always a risk…
That being said, the fact that Pond5 is non-exclusive is actually great for newcomers.
Now, let’s find out how much you’ll be earning (because that’s why you’re here, right?).
How much does Pond5 pay its sellers?
Before the summer of 2019, Pond5 was paying artists 50% of the Net License Revenue. However, you can now expect to make only 35% of your sales which is hard to swallow, but let’s put things into perspective.
For starters, we need to consider that Pond5 is providing you with traffic.
Sure, they’re not actively promoting your music, but how many people do you have coming to your website on a daily basis? How many of those people are interested in licensing your music? You can make 35% of something or 100% of nothing.
That’s not all there is to it though!
We also need to consider that most exclusive libraries give you 0% of Net License Revenue. Some may give you more, but here’s why that shouldn’t really matter to you if you’re in it for the long run…
In the music licensing business, you’re relying on your royalties to pay the bills.
To elaborate on what I mentioned earlier, yes, Pond5 is royalty-free. However, it doesn’t mean that their clients are the ones who’ll be paying you those royalties. For example, if your music gets placed in trailers and those trailers end up broadcasting on FOX…
FOX is the one responsible for paying “blanket fees” to performing rights organizations (PROs).
Since Pond5 is non-exclusive, you basically get to keep 100% of your writer’s share and 100% of the publishing. In these types of deals, you don’t hand over any of those rights. However, exclusive libraries have been known to take as much as 50% of our royalties (writing and publishing).
I apologize if this sounds complicated, but understand that Pond5 isn’t taking much.
Just the fact that you get 35% of the Net License Revenues is an advantage over most exclusive contracts. The fact that you also keep 100% of your royalties is huge because they’re the most important part of our income in this business.
The more placements you get, the more passive income you can earn for the rest of your life.
Can you earn your living selling music on Pond5?
If you ask me, the simple answer to that question is YES. Taking into account everything we talked about in the previous section, the answer to that question should be obvious to you as well.
The truth is that it’ll take some serious determination though, it won’t be easy.
I think if you’re focused exclusively on making commissions from your sales, you’d probably give up at some point. However, if you’re willing to be patient and put at least a year or two of work into this, I think you can get your income to where it needs to be.
Of course, I’m talking about focusing on royalties rather than commissions!
Think of your music catalog as an investment portfolio… The more assets you have out there, the more income you can generate. It’s actually almost identical to blogging in that respect and I encourage you to focus on growing both of these assets.
If you want to earn your living selling music on Pond5, the first thing you’ll need to do is register your tracks with your local performing rights organization (PRO).
Since I’m Canadian, I decided to register with SOCAN and have BMI as my representative in the United States. Unless we’re on the same boat, I recommend registering with either BMI or ASCAP. Although they’re technically the PROs for the United States, foreigners can also join.
Similarly, you can also research your country’s PRO for more information.
This step is essential if you want to start earning royalties from your potential placements. Unlike Content ID, which I talked about in another blog post teaching you how to monetize your music on YouTube, traditional music placements still rely on cue sheets.
Essentially, the production company that purchased the license for your music is responsible for filling this form out.
These cue sheets are then submitted to PROs to issue payments to the copyright owner(s). It isn’t a perfect system, so you’ll still need to do your homework to make sure you’re receiving your royalties. You can upload your music to TuneSat to monitor your placements (if any).
However, I believe Content ID-like software will soon make its way to traditional forms of media like television and radio in the near future.
That being said, you can in fact make your living by learning how to sell music on Pond5. The combined earnings from your 35% commissions and 100% royalties should amount to substantial income once you get enough tracks out there (I mean 100+ to be completely honest).
If you’re convinced that Pond5 is right for you, let’s find out how to prepare your music.
Can you use digital rights management services with Pond5?
If you were planning to or have already registered your tracks into one of the many digital rights management databases, you need to be careful. Selling licenses to your music (especially through music libraries) can become quite problematic if you use one of these services.
When it comes to Pond5, they specifically state this in their License Agreement.
The reason is very simple and is as follows… If one of your potential buyers were to license your music and use it in their YouTube video, what do you think would happen?
They’d have their video “flagged” for using copyrighted material and in their frustration, they would undoubtedly complain to Pond5.
Since the music has been registered by you, Pond5 would need to directly contact you to “whitelist” that video and any other potential channels used by this buyer. Do you actually expect them to do that every single time for every single seller?
Now, what if someone who DIDN’T purchase the appropriate license to your music ends up using it?
That’s why I suggested using TuneSat in the previous section for both television and online placements. What makes them different is that they simply monitor the “airwaves” for your music. They don’t actually make any claims for you.
They provide the evidence so that you can contact your PRO and/or music library yourself to make the claim. It’s also free-to-use for up to 50 tracks.
Sure, it requires more work on your part and you’d need to be aware of who’s actually purchasing licenses to your music. However, this is the only option I know of that will help you protect your intellectual property as much as possible.
It’s worth noting that these issues are easier to resolve with exclusive libraries because they have more incentive to help you out (part of your royalties).
If you do have songs registered with one of these databases though, I would try to get them out. It may not always be possible though (with Identifyy, for example), but you can always try.
For future reference, licensable tracks CANNOT use Content ID, got it?
What kind of music should you sell to Pond5?
What most people won’t tell you about uploading music to sites like Pond5 is that it should be “licensable”. What does that mean? It means that your music needs to be useful for people that are going to use it.
There aren’t any specific genres or styles that sell more, but there are certainly trends.
Before uploading music to Pond5, you need to ask yourself if your music can actually be used on television, films, trailers, video games and beyond. Most of the time, music is used in the background, but there are times when tracks are featured (usually with vocals).
Here are few guidelines to make sure your track is licensable:
- 2-3 minutes in length
- Changing every 4-8 measures (no looping)
- Avoiding any extended intros
- Having a definite “hit ending”
- Featuring a specific genre or a hybrid of two
These are just a few guidelines I followed while learning how to create licensable music.
One of the most important elements of any licensable track is its ability to “tell a story”. It needs to develop over those 2-3 minutes and if you repeat any sections, they should always sound different. I would try to have your track constantly building up and have your climax at the end.
In essence, there is in fact a specific format for licensable music that’s been proven to sell more.
However, you can always do it your way and find out the hard way. The beauty of using platforms like Pond5 is that you’ll be capable of seeing for yourself what works and what doesn’t. You’re minimizing your risks!
Another thing about Pond5 is that they’re more lenient than other marketplaces.
They accept a wide variety of different genres and styles, so I wouldn’t worry TOO much. Just keep those guidelines on the back of your mind. Always try to put yourself in the shoes of someone trying to synchronize your work to motion picture.
You’re making music to serve others now, not for yourself!
With that in the way, here are a few other things you’ll need to keep in mind:
- 24-bit/48 kHz is best
- WAV or AIFF
- Smaller than 1 GB
- Less than 10 minutes
These are the technical requirements listed on Pond5’s website.
The reason I recommend bouncing your projects in 24-bit/48 kHz is because most music libraries usually ask for that. It seems like it’s becoming a standard in television and film, but I have no way of confirming that.
It’s just a suggestion.
Also, be prepared to have your tracks rejected if they’re not up to point. Every track you submit needs to be reviewed by Pond5’s team before being added to the marketplace. This included any alternate mixes of your projects.
While we’re on the subject, consider having more than one version of each track.
- No Leads/No Vocals
- Drums and Bass
- 60 Second
- 30 Second
- 15 Second
If you’ve never done this before, I recommend getting into the habit.
Once you’ve done your homework, you should have no problem getting your music up there. If you ever have any difficulties, you can always contact me for help or check out the forums.
Pond5 vs AudioJungle
Now that we’ve become familiar with Pond5’s methods of operation, let’s take a look on the other side of the pond (full pun intended). AudioJungle is perhaps the most popular alternative to Pond5, but they have some significant differences.
For starters, AudioJungle provides both exclusive and non-exclusive terms.
They incentivize publishers to sign an exclusive deal by paying them more of the Net Licensing Revenue. However, I DON’T recommend signing any exclusive deals with AudioJungle. I wouldn’t sign over my exclusive rights to anyone who I hadn’t spoken with on the phone (or in person).
With that out of the way, AudioJungle’s non-exclusive terms are still attractive.
In fact, Pond5 and AudioJungle are often considered the best places to start licensing your music. When it comes to commissions though, AudioJungle is better since they give you 45% of your earnings (10% more than Pond5).
However, AudioJungle fixes the price for every track on the marketplace at $19.
Another thing you need to consider about AudioJungle is that their criterias are more strict. They seem to favour particular genres and styles of music, so you’d need to study that before having a chance at success.
If you’re into the corporate music niche (infomercials, seminars, etc…), check ‘em out!
The process of uploading music to AudioJungle is also kind of outdated, to say the least. I won’t get into the details, but Pond5’s ease of use far exceeds that of AudioJungle. Even if you could make more money on AudioJungle (which isn’t necessarily the case), the time you’d save with Pond5 is priceless!
Statistically speaking, you’ll be getting tracks accepted much more easily on Pond5.
I’m not demonizing AudioJungle, I think it’s still an excellent alternative. If you keep your deals non-exclusive, you could actually try both simultaneously and have nothing to lose. You can determine for yourself which platform suits your production style the best.
If you want other options, you can search for non-exclusive libraries on Google, but trust me when I say these two are the best (in terms of traffic, that is).
Is it worth it to sell music on Pond5?
The best way to think of selling your music on Pond5 is that you’ve got nothing to lose, but everything to gain. In my honest opinion, it’s the best marketplace if you’re just getting started in the music licensing business.
You could in fact make your living selling music on Pond5, but before that happens you’ll be learning all about the industry!
If nothing else, Pond5 is the ultimate educational resource for music licensing. It’s like the testing grounds for your potential best sellers which will reveal themselves to you in the process. If at any point you’d like to sign exclusively with another music library that can GUARANTEE you placements, then go for it!
One of my favourite parts about Pond5 is that you retain complete creative freedom!
Of course, you’ll still need to consider the guidelines we discussed above. The idea is to create music that will serve the needs of others. If you can keep that mantra in your mind while you create, I don’t think you’ll have any difficulties.
Just remember that if you want to maximize your income, you NEED to register your tracks with your PRO. If you don’t do that, you won’t be earning royalties!
Another thing you might want to consider is creating a blog/website to start promoting your musical endeavors. You’re the one who’ll be responsible for the promotion of your portfolio on Pond5, so start creating content that drives traffic.
Music licensing and music blogging are both digital assets that can feed off of each other. Start growing your portfolio today!
So, what are you waiting for?
I hope you’ve finally gotten all the information you need to turn your passion into your full-time career. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll get back to you. If you’ve enjoyed this guide, I would really appreciate you spreading the word to another musician/music producer. I also send out weekly newsletters to keep you informed on all our latest content (blog posts, courses, etc…), so consider subscribing. Thanks for reading!