A startup that allows songwriters to compete for custom music licensing contracts is launching today. The Nashville, Tenn., company, MusikPitch, promises to match songwriters with people or companies looking for custom music via “contests.” A “contest holder” wanting to license a particular piece of music specifies what it’s looking for, including requirements such as song length, genre and budget, and songwriters then compete over a 14-day period to meet those requirements.
Songwriters submit their tracks, and the contest holder then has until 5 days after the close of the contest to review submissions and provide feedback to songwriters that they may use to fine-tune their submissions. At the end of the contest, the contest holder chooses a winner and pays the specified prize, while MusikPitch provides a form licensing contract, in which MusikPitch takes full rights to the song and then licenses it to the contest holder.
MusikPitch’s standard licensing contract will work for 90% of cases, according to founder Scott McIntosh. For the 10% where an industry standard contract isn’t a good fit, for example animation films in which songs are produced in-house as a work-for-hire, MusikPitch will work with the contest holder to negotiate a more suitable contract.
MusikPitch decided on a model in which it essentially serves as the publisher to ensure that songwriters would get performance royalties (based on radio play, TV, and public performances) as well as mechanical royalties (from sales of the music) if a song has commercial potential, according to McIntosh. MusikPitch collects royalties, of which it receives a share, and will refer songwriters to performing rights organizations BMI or ASCAP if it believes the song will be sold commercially down the line. The prize amount is not an advance on future royalties, which the song can generate if it ever goes commercial (ie, if it is used in public such as radio or TV or sold).
The company charges contest holders a $39 flat fee plus 10% of the prize amount. MusikPitch will recommend a prize amount when a company is setting up a new contest, and the recommendation will be based on industry standards for the usage category (for example, movie trailers, personal projects, independent films, etc). However, contest holders are free to set their own prize amounts. A “premium” prize level is meant to incentivize songwriters to provide higher quality work, said McIntosh. If contest holders do not find a winning song for their purposes, MusikPitch will refund their money.
The service is free to songwriters. The standard length of a contest is 14 days, but contest holders can extend this for no additional fee. MusikPitch is also planning to add quick, shorter contests in the future, said McIntosh. The submission file type will be MP3 for the initial entry and then most likely wav files, but will be based on the contest holders’ needs. All contests are closed so that only the contest holder can hear all submissions, and the songwriter is only able to hear his or her own entry.
A small number of invitations to MusikPitch went out Monday and Tuesday. McIntosh said the goal is to target songwriters who are already producing quality work, but he hopes MusikPitch will also discover new songwriters. McIntosh would like to have up to 50 contests being run a day, with 50-100 entries per contest, a number he believes won’t overwhelm contest holders but would provide them with a large enough entry pool to find a winner.
In addition to finding songs to license for TV shows, video games, films, and corporate jingles, MusikPitch would also allow contest holders to find songwriters to create a personalized wedding or reunion song.
MusikPitch is the second venture focused on songwriters for McIntosh (the first was StartMySong). It has raised $100,000 from angel investors. There are many companies in the crowdsourcing space including 99designs for design work and Crowdspirit for software, but the contest concept is new to music licensing. The closest competitor is probably Taxi, but its process is less automated, with the label or publisher telling Taxi what they are looking for and Taxi filtering through the submissions itself (similar to the traditional A&R function). There are “a lot of people tap dancing around it,” said McIntosh.