Andy Lykens is a music industry veteran with nearly 10 years of experience pitching music for use in special brand projects, advertising, film, TV, and video games. A prolific writer for websites like American Songwriter, his book, How-To Music Licensing for Indies, is a useful guide for from the perspective of someone in the business. He also offers a free, eight part email series on how to get started in licensing. I enjoyed the series so much, I emailed him and asked for an interview. Excerpts from our conversation are below, they have been edited for clarity and readability.
I was finishing up my undergrad and I’m sure I shared the same dream that everyone who goes into music thinks they’re going to do, which is “I want to work in A&R for a record label. Until you figure out what those people do and then you’re like, I never want to ever do that” Then I got to grad school and it was an amazing program and I learned all about licensing and music publishing and that’s how I got into it. [After Grad School] I just started contacting people and got a call from this dude at a music library. We talked for an hour and at the end of the call he was like, well we’re not hiring right now but I have your resume so I’ll keep it in mind, and I was like yeah right.
Then he called you?
Yeah he called back [a few months later]. I interviewed a couple times and they ended up hiring me. That’s how I got started in music licensing, pitching and all that stuff.
Wow, that’s really relevant to your email series, you basically had a good conversation with somebody and then got a job.
Yeah, it’s funny. I always tell this story that I didn’t know what the actual job was when I got it. The interesting thing was, what I did to get that job was exactly what I needed to do to be successful in the job.
You had secret skills that you weren’t even aware of.
Yeah, and I think that’s the point of my writing, so many artists are like, oh I’m just not a business person. I think that’s an easy excuse. It’s easy to allow yourself to live that way. You don’t have to be some amazing music executive but you should know basic stuff that can help. There’s a lot that you can learn on your own that will go a long way to contributing to your career as a musician.
In one of your emails, you lay out four questions to use in networking and building relationships. I’m going to use them on you, okay?
This is awesome, go for it
Which company do you work for?
Oh, so I work for Comma Music now.
Yes, as of October, 2013 right?
Yeah, I moved from Imagem, which is the largest independent music publisher, but it’s small if you’re comparing it to Universal or BMG. There I was pitching commercial music from everything like no-name Brooklyn bands to Phil Collins and The Temper Trap, we ended up getting Daft Punk right before I left. So it was this crazy mix. Now with Comma, and my job is to explore some new avenues for them
You’re an Integrated Producer
Yeah, it basically means that I try to work a little more directly with brands themselves rather than going through agencies as much, though I still work plenty with my agency folks. Brands have all sorts of uses for music….There’s a lot of [new media] content being created by these brands, so it’s been really interesting and challenging.I’ve had to use all those same things that I try to tell everybody about in a pretty new way and on a new sort of target. I was doing the same thing for a long time and talking to the same people, and while I still deal with them for other reasons with the company, my actual targets are people I’ve never met before
You answered a couple of the questions in one there, it does flow like a natural conversation.
So you already told me what you do, and I feel like you sort of answered this too, but how do you like it there ?
Oh I love it. It’s great because it’s new, it’s challenging, the people are wonderful. What I realized about Imagem was that, Imagem is a really pretty progressive music publisher; they really did a lot of forward thinking stuff. It still just felt like you were 15 years behind working at that company so these kind of more independent companies, I’ve found at least, they’re kind of a little more progressive. So it’s nice to be with people who have that kind of mindset, you know this is what we do, how do we expand it, a sort of step by step process of what can we do that we’re not doing now?
So are you sitting at a desk all day?
No! well, yeah, I sit at a desk a lot of the day, but you know, I’m trying to set up a lot of meetings and meet people. I have to come in and work on pitches and I put together slide projects a lot and stuff. There’s administrative stuff to be sure but if I’m doing a good job I’m getting meetings with people which is really really hard and takes a lot of time
You’re building relationships. Wow, that was fast, these questions are great. So the last one is, what are you working on right now?
Oh! What did I do today? Today I had a call with a really nice guy at Harman which is the umbrella company for Harman Kardon, JBL, Infinity, a couple of other audio houses. He is responsible for the artist partnerships that Harman does. He’s a long term record label guy, his job is to reach out to artists. I think his most recent one was with JLO, they go to the artist and they say hey we’ve got this product we think you would be great let’s chat and see if we can make a partnership work. I spoke with him today and I’ll spend the rest of the week working up a little pitch for him.
Tune in tomorrow for the rest of my interview with Andy!