Photographer’s Corner: Using Music to Enhance Marketing and Grow Your Sales

November 11th, 2013

Music can enhance the emotional impact of your stories, supercharge your marketing, and help you to sell more prints, albums, slideshows and sessions. But how does music licensing actually work for professional photographers? What is legal? How do you choose the best songs for your project?

My team at Triple Scoop Music and I have dedicated the last seven years to helping creative professionals around the world grow their businesses with award-winning music. We make music licensing incredibly easy, fun and affordable.

The partnership between Zenfolio and Triple Scoop Music provides special music options directly within your Zenfolio account. The new TSM 10K subscription includes unlimited streaming access to more than 10,000 hand-picked songs. During the month of November, all Zenfolio users get a free trial to access Triple Scoop Music’s award-winning songs. To take advantage of this offer click on the Free TSM 10K Trial link when customizing a gallery or embeddable slideshow.

First, I’ll go over a few common questions about the basics of music licensing. Then, I’ll cover how using music in your slideshows can help you grow your business and enhance your marketing.

What is a music license? 

Simply stated, a music license provides permission to use a song within your business. Various types of licenses allow for uses such as:

  • Adding (synchronizing) music within your marketing slideshows, videos, and sales presentations
  • Sharing slideshows and videos on your website, blog, Facebook and YouTube
  • Using music in TV or film projects
  • Creating (and selling) slideshows and videos for your clients

Do I really need a license?
Absolutely. Using music without a license is not only bad form, it can create serious legal issues for your business. As a business owner, you should not be using anyone else’s content without a license (you wouldn’t want other people making unauthorized copies of your photographs, for example). The responsibility is yours, and making the right choice is a smart way to protect your business.

Can I use CDs I’ve already purchased, or the music I bought on iTunes for my business?

No, that would be illegal. When you purchase a music CD at a retail store, or when you buy a song from iTunes or other consumer music sites, you are only allowed to use the music for personal listening, not for professional use. If you want to use music within slideshows and within your business, you will need a license.
What if my client brings his or her own CD, or provides the MP3 file?

Even if your client is the one who purchased or downloaded a song, it is still not legal for you to use the music in videos or slideshows you create for them, unless they (or you) have a proper music license.

What type of music license do I need? 

To license a song for use within slideshows or videos, permission must be granted by:

1) The owner of the audio recording (usually a record label).
This is called a “Master Use“ license.

2) The copyright owner of the song and lyrics (usually a publishing company).
This license is called a “Synchronization” or “Sync” license.

You must have permission from both the record label and the publisher in order to use the recorded song.
The tricky part is that many songs have multiple, independent owners that each must approve the music use. This tends to make licensing through record labels and publishers extremely time consuming, expensive and restrictive.

At this point you may be asking (or yelling) to yourself “Why is music licensing so complicated?”

Don’t worry — you’re not alone! We felt music licensing should be easier, so we started Triple Scoop Music to provide a simple, affordable way for professional photographers, event filmmakers and businesses to license hand-picked music.

Here are some easy tips for creating great slideshows that will resonate with your clients:

1. Write one simple sentence on the story of your slideshow.
Is the slideshow for promoting your business? Is the slideshow for a client?  If you’re 100 percent clear on what story you plan on telling, you’re more likely to stay on track. For example, “This story is about Sarah and Chris Smith’s romantic wedding in New York and the love between them.” Or “This story is about my family portrait business and the passion we have for making families smile.” Notice how each of these sentences help you to focus on a specific story.

2. Write down three words that best describe the feel or mood of your project.
For example, if the project is a wedding slideshow perhaps the three words would be: elegant, romantic, and timeless. For children’s photography perhaps your three are: playful, innocent, and happy. For a sporting event, your three words might be: aggressive, intense, and fast. These words are important to define the overall energy and feel of your slideshow.

3. Pick your images, music and graphics.

Make sure that everything matches the three words on your list and the story of your slideshow. This includes the images and music you pick, to any graphics and even the fonts. Anything that does not match should not be used. Remember, when every element of your slideshow is helping to tell the same story, it will have a much more powerful impact.

4. Choose the slideshow “speed” that best matches your mood and the music.
A great feature of slideshows is that you can adjust the transitions from slow to fast. Experiment with speed to best match the feel of your story, images and music. If the tempo of the music is fast, the images should transition faster, (great for sports, teens, celebrations/receptions and parties). Likewise, a slower transition speed may work best for slower songs (great for romantic slideshows, nature slideshows, newborn/baby slideshows). Spend some time experimenting to see what works best.

As simple as these steps are, I guarantee following them will ensure that your slideshow is more focused, emotional, and effective for you and your clients. When the client feels the powerful, emotional match of music with your images, you’re creating an opportunity to sell more prints, albums and sessions.

Music’s emotional power can help supercharge your business in many ways. Here are a few simple starting places:

1. Marketing videos for social media
Create slideshows showing your very best work for your website, blogs, and social media. This is one of the best ways to find new clients. Always make sure to include an ending slide with your logo and website.

2. In-studio sales presentations
The right music can create the perfect environment to inspire your clients. Creating a “multi-sensory” environment with music + images will help you close more sales of sessions, prints, albums and more. Consider starting every presentation with a two or three minute slideshow with great music to set the mood.

3. Same-day videos or slideshows
Presenting a slideshow or video with music at a wedding reception or live event is a great way to thrill your clients (along with all of their guests!) and build referrals. This approach has proved to work wonders for many successful photographers and event filmmakers.

4. Behind-the-scenes content
Create “behind-the-scenes” slideshows or videos with uplifting music to show potential clients how much fun they will have working with you. Include on-screen testimonials from happy clients. Let your personality and professionalism shine through. Post these on your website or blog.

5. Client slideshows & videos
Are you selling slideshows and videos to your clients? Many photographers include a video or slideshow with music as a perk for their higher-priced packages. This also helps you to sell more prints, albums and photo products. Make sure these projects include an ending credit with your logo and website. Encourage your clients to share them on social media (a great way to build referrals).  These types of projects can benefit from the Pro Photographer or Event Filmmaker music licenses available at:

These days, the top creative companies, photographers and brands set themselves apart with independent music that is unique and captivating. The music should enhance your story and make your images the true star of the show.

I hope this article gets you thinking about the ways music can help you take your art (and your profits) to the next plateau. To your success!

Based in Los Angeles, California, Roy Ashen is the CEO and Cofounder of Triple Scoop Music, the worlds leading music service for professional photographers and event filmmakers.