If you’re a musician on board the home studio explosion, you already know that quality recording has never been more accessible. As a business-minded musician, earning money for your creations can be a priority, but you may not know the avenues to take you to your desired markets. Likely, you already know that self-promoting your music isn't as easy as following a checklist, and that you'll need to invest a little sweat equity. Your decision to target advertising companies may be one aspect of your overall marketing scheme, but you know that working in niches can improve your chances when compared with a more scattershot approach.

Every business has a "who you know" aspect, and the music world depends heavily on networking. Selling your music to advertising companies -- or to any other music user -- has two main avenues to success: building a reputation and being in the right place at the right time. After that, the specifics of the road map are up to you and the opportunities you create.

Assemble a Portfolio

No matter how suited your skills are to create for the advertising world, you’ll need a body of work to prove you’re up to the task. This is particularly true if you’re new to the game. Once you’ve had placements, you’ll build a resume that may get through the door, but until then, you need work that’s ready to go.

Create jingles on spec for local companies that advertise on radio and television. Not only will you build a portfolio, you can even practice your pitching skills in your home region. While you might not make the sale locally, you’ll have media-ready examples of what you can do.

Identify Your Market

Going after clients in the advertising industry already narrows your target market. It’s still a numbers game, however, so identify a wide range of potential advertising clients to approach until you learn more about specific agencies and their needs. You don’t want to send classic rock ideas to a client that specializes in contemporary urban demographics. It’s easy to find lists of advertisers online, and that’s a terrific place to start, as you can see in Resources 1 and 2. Research the names and select 10 agencies for initial contact.

An indirect way into the advertising world is through music libraries. These are specialty music publishers that supply music users in a variety of media. A good music library can do much of the legwork getting your music placed with not only advertisers, but television and movies, as well.

Ask Questions First

For much of the music industry, unsolicited material is treated as trash, and is returned or disposed of early in the process. It’s safe to assume that the ad agencies you’ve targeted will do the same. When you’re ready to pitch your services, contact an agency and ask these questions:

  • Are there any executives accepting music at this time? If the answer is yes, get their names.
  • Do you have in-house music services? If they do, ask if they’re hiring.
  • If you receive negative responses, ask about future opportunities or for any others in the industry who may be shopping for music.

Once you get a "Yes" response, ask how they accept submissions and follow these instructions to the letter. Don’t send a CD if they ask for MP3.

Prepare for Disappointment

There are many levels in the approval process, from the ad agency to the client. Even if your song is accepted, an agency may pitch several ideas. Rejection is common in all areas of the songwriting game, and it’s those who persist that end up in the right place at the right time, building a reputation along the way.