Pump Audio puts music licensing in composers' hands
Artists like the band Presidents of the United States have used Pump Audio to license music.
Pump Audio's online tools let prospective buyers search for music based on a wide range of criteria.
The music business has always been a bit of an obstacle course, one that's increasingly more challenging to navigate-but in which new opportunities emerge. So while some traditional revenue streams start to stagnate, others emerge. One of the most important is in licensing; in a contenthungry world fueled by cable and satellite TV, radio, and the Internet, opportunities abound.
The music business has always been a bit of an obstacle course, one that's increasingly more challenging to navigate—but in which new opportunities emerge. So while some traditional revenue streams start to stagnate, others emerge. One of the most important is in licensing; in a contenthungry world fueled by cable and satellite TV, radio, and the Internet, opportunities abound.
Pump Audio offers a new approach to getting music licensed by letting musicians submit content to a master database that is trawled by potential buyers. The idea was a response by founder Steve Ellis to his frustration at trying to survive in the music business. "Pump Audio was born out of necessity, " Ellis says. "I had a couple of poor experiences at record companies, and I needed to make a living. I licensed one of my own tracks for a commercial and thought there might be a way of assembling many people like myself—people who owned and controlled all their own rights whose music was pretty good, but just wasn't famous, and where the rights weren't complicated. If we could grab a few of those folks we might put together a pretty interesting, broad cross-section of good music that would be easy to license because all the rights would be handled by one person."
Signing with Pump Audio is similar to working with some music library houses: It's a non-exclusive agreement in which the composer retains ownership of the music. Earnings from anything Pump licenses are split 50/50 between the company and the composer.
"They simply go to pumpaudio.com and submit it through our process," Ellis explains. "We've gotten so overwhelmed with new submissions, we're actually hav ing to upgrade our submission process. So it'll be down until about February (2008)." Although the submission process starts online, Pump requires the actual recordings to be sent on CD to meet its sound requirements. "You send us the legal documentation, we confirm everything is original and checked," Ellis says. "We then accept the music into the system if we like it and feel it can be useful to our clients."
Pump Audio offers a new approach to getting music licensed by letting musicians submit content to a master database that is trawled by potential buyers.
Once your music is in the system, it'll be accessible to clients from every area of the broadcast business. "We have a desktop application that is for our high-volume television clients," Ellis says. "It's an in-house solution called a Pump Box, which basically gives them the ability to search on their desktops by genre, mood, speed—all the usual key markers. We also have a Web version."
Pump Audio founder Steve Ellis
One important difference between Pump Audio and traditional music libraries is that Pump has no staff writers. Anyone can submit, and if your music is accepted, it gets an equal opportunity for exposure and sales. "We basically have funneled millions of dollars that used to go to three composers somewhere in a room in L.A., to many people like me—musicians who previously made no money at all." Ellis says. "It was just about trying to create a broader opportunity."
As for as genre and style, Pump Audio's placement reflects industry trends as a whole, with hip-hop styles most in demand. "It's also the hardest to find quality work in, because it's usually so sample-laden, which limits how much of that stuff [we can legally use]," Ellis says. "But it's definitely the most-used genre, and our hip-hop artists are doing very well."
Rock styles are the most competitive, but Ellis stresses that all genres of music are welcome: "Really, we just tell people, 'Don't try and judge your music. We'll judge it when it gets here.' There isn't a particular criteria—we're not asking people to make music for production. There's heart and soul in this music, so what we say to people is, 'Send us your best work, and we'll try and create a real opportunity for it.'"
Although the submission process starts online, Pump requires the actual recordings to be sent on CD to meet its sound requirements.
One way to maximize that opportunity, Ellis says, is by thinking broadly and submitting as much quality works as possible. "My experience as an artist is that if you think about hitting home runs, you tend to have a very low percentage," he advises. "We've always taken the opposite approach. We want to get you in as many things as humanly possible, and if one of them happens to pay you $100,000, great, and if one of them pays you $100, great.
"There's really also no downside to being with Pump Audio. We're totally non-exclusive, and we're not here promising you riches and fame. We're promising a chance to make a living. We have artists—those people who joined us at the beginning, who bet on us when we were small—who have benefited massively from the experience. They get paid regularly, and they get paid a lot."
Learn more at Pumpaudio.com