How To Get Paid Part 4 – Merch, Sync, Karma and the rest…

Ambiguous Records Posters

Over the last three weeks I have given an overview of some of the main areas to consider if you want to make some hard earned dosh from your beloved songs. If you’re reading this for the first time check out my page on this site to read more.

By now I am sure you are aware that to make any money out of the music industry it’s not just about selling records, live or royalties. It is a combination of many things – multiple, micro businesses all linked in together and a lot of hard work. Timing is crucial so check out this if you haven’t already. Aside from the usual suspects there are several other areas that you can explore.


It’s most certainly not a new concept but is definitely a good one. Whether it’s a T-Shirt, badge, poster or signed copy of your music transcribed these are all things you can make available to your fan base. You have spent so much time building your identity as an artist into, dare I say it, a brand, this can provide many opportunities. You don’t have to look far to see artists putting their name to clothing ranges to know what I mean. I know this isn’t for everybody and the music should definitely come first but here are some ideas and places that I’ve happily used to make them:

T-Shirts – Sandbag
Badges – Badge For Bands
Screen Printing for Posters and Limited edition artwork – Print Club London
Guitar Picks – The 15 day turnaround is optimistic at best. Allow a month – My Badges

my grey horse tshirt

Oobah from my grey horse modelling the latest in this season’s most desirable merch and some Ambiguous Records picks


Otherwise known as sync or synch, this is the business of putting music to picture. This could be in advertising, computer games, TV, film or even a corporate video. People talk about this like it is the holy grail of the music business. Don’t get me wrong the possibility of earning £200K for a film is pretty exciting but I urge you to put that out of your head and concentrate on the smaller fish. Typical offers that might come through are £500 for a tiny independent film, £2K for backing music for a trade show, £20K for an ad. Fees depend on how well known you are, the budget and how wide the usage will be. Some might argue that putting your music to an ad is selling out and some might say it is a promotional opportunity with a brand that you feel strongly supports your personal view. At the end of the day it’s your choice whether  and what you pitch for but please don’t under value your music. TV in the UK often works under a blanket agreement between the broadcasters and the royalty collecting societies (see here if you don’t know about them) so you don’t need to negotiate.

Things to know…


Look out for the terms of the contract. They could be anything from one month in a specific territory (that’s a country) for a three minute track to worldwide in perpetuity for 30 seconds of a song. In perpetuity means the license lasts FOR EVER.


Sync involves both publishing and master rights, often referred to as ‘sides’. When a song is used BOTH sides need to be cleared so if you own your publishing and your recordings you can do this easily. If you don’t and you are pitching make sure you can get to the person(s) who can clear whichever side you don’t own because if you don’t it’ll piss people off if you’ve said yes and then have to retract. The fee is spilt 50/50 per side and there are also potential performance royalties to be had for any broadcasts containing your songs.


Imagine this. You are a music supervisor and you’ve just put a call for a song for the next film you’re working on. You’ve received tons of great songs, you’ve dumped them in iTunes and it looks like this.

Sync Suicide

No brainer really. Add metadata to your songs including contact details. You can do this in iTunes by filling in the fields in the song information box.

iTunes Meta Data

Who do I approach?

Sync is all about relationships and staggeringly good and appropriate music. So don’t send your death metal track in for an R&B pitch. Scattergun is definitely NOT the right approach here. I reckon work hard with a few contacts and listen carefully to how they would like you to send them music. It could be via yousendit, their own dropbox, Soundcloud or even the good old CD. There are various people and companies that you can approach. Music supervisors and editors work on specific projects and choose music for that project. Agencies source music for their clients that could include music supervisors. Big publishers can pitch direct. However companies can take a cut of fees, anything from 10% up so look out for where your percentages are going. Here are some companies to check out:

Tracks and Fields
Felt Music
Pitch and Sync
Platinum Rye
AWAL (for those distributed by AWAL there is an option to be able to submit tracks for sync)

There are many, get googling…

Other stuff

I could go on for a long time about this. If you use your imagination there are so many opportunities – fan affiliated sales, licensing your recordings, ad support, patronage, sponsorship and not least what is known as karma. If you are a good force in the industry simply adding a ‘donate to my music making’ Paypal button on your site may provoke a response. If you can offer something to other artists, why not add a ‘buy me a beer button’ as a way of saying thanks?! Or you could try the likes of Pledge Music to attract investors who invested in early companies like Bitiq and fans on presale.


I know this is not the most glamorous of headings but remember if you are earning money from your music, you have to pay tax on it. This means you either have to register with HMRC as Self Employed or if you’re going the label route it would be advisable to set up a limited company. You can do this at Companies House or get a company to do it for you that costs about £100. If you are a limited company you will need to pay corporation tax.

VAT – The Threshold is currently £73,000 gross. So if you’re making that, firstly, well done and secondly, register for VAT!

So that just about wraps up this introduction into the main areas you can look at to start making a return on your music. If you want to read more of this sort of thing check out my other articles here.


I am a player, producer, label boss and staunch supporter of the independent community. In the interests of transparency, should I post any of my own material, my labels are Ambiguous Records and CRC Music. I am also on the board of AIM which is the trade body that looks after all the UK Independent labels. Read More...


  1. Just a point about Slice the Pie (not Slice of the Pie) – you are no longer able to attract investment through the site, it’s only used now as a tool for labels to get feedback about their songs.

  2. Al

    Thanks Christopher. Feedback appreciated and I have updated the post. Anything you’d like to add to help new artists? You have a blog and have knowledge of radio. Your advice would be really helpful. Al

  3. Making sure that all the music is properly tagged is essential. The amount of time I’ve spent re-tagging music to put into our playlists on the station is quite high.

    Also, if you are submitting music into a radio station digitally, don’t send it in .m4a format, as a lot of the radio playlist software doesn’t recognise the file format. High quality MP3s (320kpbs) or WAVs are much more preferable.

    One thing I would say to new artists starting out is to get in contact with student radio stations as early as possible and try to build up a relationship with them.

    It’s a great place to build up a following, because 1) student DJs are more likely to be receptive to new music, so your chances of getting played, or even playlisted, are much higher 2) It’s a great place to get experience of doing live sessions, and 3) If one of the student DJs likes your music and goes on to presenting radio full time, you could end up getting played on the station they move to, which will result in even more fans for you. As Head of Music at Queen’s Radio, I always love hearing from new artists doing exciting things, and I do wish that more artists would consider building up relationships with student radio.

    Anyway, that’s my (slightly ranty) 2 cents. I’m sure I’ll have some more things to add in the future.

  4. Cracking stuff as always Al and read through to the end for my own interests as an artist for a change.
    Your help is reaching!

  5. Al

    Hi Christopher, thanks that’s useful stuff, particularly the bit about .m4a format. (For anybody wondering about tagging, look at the metadata paragraph in the post above.) Tell us a bit more about your radio station? What are you looking for in the music you program?

  6. Like most radio stations, Queen’s Radio operates on a playlist system, which gets updated on a weekly basis. The list is split into 4 tiers, A List, B List, C List and Local List. The A List tracks are usually songs in the top 40. The B List consists of more alternate music, yet still usually well known. The C List consists of songs by new artists, artists on their first album or in some cases, their first single. It’s probably the list I have the most fun compilinng.

    The Local List is solely for music from Northern Ireland. When I took over as Head of Music, I wanted to do whatever I could to support music from our area, so I introduced the local playlist as a way for artists from our neck of the woods who are at the start of their career can get regular airplay and support. It’s great having a station where the new single from local bands like RunawayGo can get played right beside Carly Rae Jepsen’s single.

    We also have some specialist shows on the station that cater for certain genres, local music, and new music (my own show on the station, Young Blood, is dedicated to brand new music and artists). It’s good to look around the schedules of the station and find out who is playing the sort of music you are making yourself and get in contact with them. If you can’t get in contact with the DJ directly, then get in contact with the station’s Head of Music, who will be more than happy to pass it on to the appropriate DJs.

    In terms of the new music we play, the first bit of advice in submitting is to make sure it is radio friendly. Although student radio can be a great stmping ground for new approaches to music, at the same time it should still be something that you would be happy to hear over the air. No swearing on songs (if there is, an edit is essential), and make sure it’s not overly long (I’d say 4 minutes at the absolute most).

    And something that has been said in other places on this blog, but is still essential – make sure the first 20 seconds counts. While I try to remain open minded about a song and listen to it all the way through, if you haven’t hooked me in the first few seconds, it might never hook me. So make sure the first song you send is your catachiest.

    Hope that might be of interest to some of you. Although I can’t speak for every student radio station (given that some of them don’t even use a playlist system, bizarrely enough), I hope this might be of some use.

  7. Al

    That’s great Christopher. Thanks for taking the time to spell that one out. For anybody reading, there’s a great post from Tom on approaching radio here:

  8. Tom

    You’ve saved the best till last Al – this is such a useful series of posts. Let’s add a permanent page in our “Pages” menu at top LH side, with a brief summary and links to the four sections, so people can find it all in one place.

    I can’t endorse what you say about metadata forcefully enough. What are artists even DREAMING of, when they upload a track called “01 Summer (Master 2) to Soundcloud by “User 135877”.

    If anybody would like a longer and more detailed explanation of what metadata is, and why it matters so much, I can warmly recommend Simon Pursehouse’s legendary post on the Sentric Music Blog: Seven Steps To Metadata Utopia

  9. As a music fan I would heartily endorse the request for decent tagging / metadata. I like to go through my mp3 collection on my server, and searching through thousands of tracks is tiresome if many of them are called Track 1. Please, musicians, give proper tags to anything you make available for download or purchase!

  10. Al

    Thanks Tom. Not the last of this, I have been pondering a ‘how to spend money’ series amongst other things…

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