How do I become a Music Contributor?

Shutterstock is always looking for new music producers from all over the world! If you are interested in licensing your music on Shutterstock, please read this FAQ first.

First, an introduction…
The onboarding for a music contributor is different from the experience for a footage or image contributor to Shutterstock. We currently work with a very small number of music contributors, so we are able to provide more individualized support. When onboarded, each music contributor is assigned an individual representative from the music content team who will work with them on producing the best possible tracks for our collection.

The terms of our music contributor agreement and payout scheme are also different than that for other types of media (see below for more details).  

What do I need to submit?
For your initial batch, send us up to 5 tracks. We can only accept mp3 files no larger than 15 MB
Make sure you own and control 100% of the copyright in both the composition and master recording of the music. Ideal track length is 2:30-3:00 minutes.

What sounds or music can I submit?
Make sure your music is exclusively available. We do not accept any music on a non-exclusive basis. You may submit tracks that have already been placed elsewhere as examples of your work, but we will require exclusivity on all tracks added to the library. The tracks submitted must be free of 3rd party rights. 

We do not accept:
  • sound-alikes 
  • uncleared samples (Samples from sound libraries that allow for production music library use are acceptable)
  • sound effects
  • covers and compositions that are not 100% original

How long does it take to review?
We work diligently to review music submissions on a daily basis. However, due to the large number of submissions we receive daily, please keep in mind that the initial review process for music submissions can take up to two months.

How does the review process work? 
All music submitted is reviewed by professionals with significant experience in music production. We base our decisions on different criteria, mainly production quality, song structure, licensing (sales) potential, quality of musical performance and composition quality.

What makes a submission good?
Here are a few key elements of top selling tracks.

Commercial Value
“Commercial value” represents the likelihood that your song will be useful to a creative buyer. Since many songs are licensed for commercial, corporate, marketing, or advertising uses, the more attractive and usable a composition is for a broad number of uses the more it is considered to have “commercial value.” 

Songs that inspire an emotional reaction are more valuable than those that do not. Make sure your track expresses and reflects a genuine emotion. 

Good structure 
Production music does not mean cheesy music. Avoid slow progress and monotony, rather aim for a steady rise and a quick evolution of the song. Our top-seller songs are predictable yet still authentic and original. 

Top-notch production quality 
Unfortunately, poor production quality is often the reason why we deny submissions. We pride ourselves in offering only high-quality music, hence we are very rigorous on this aspect. Make sure you diversify your sounds, i.e. don’t always use the same synth pads or the same plug-ins. 

Most of our clients are looking for mainstream music that is up-to-date and current. Keep that in mind when producing your songs and let go of those 80’s synth pads. Don’t go too niche in terms of genre or era, yet keep an innovative sound. 

What are the technical requirements?
Music submitted to Shutterstock must be of professional quality. All tracks must be uploaded in MP3 format, with a maximum individual file size of 15MB.

Can I submit again if my first submission was declined?
Due to volume restrictions, multiple submissions by the same artist will not be reviewed. Make sure to gather your best 5 tracks and submit once. 

Does the Shutterstock contributor referral program work for music?
The contributor referral program does not currently cover music.

Do I need to upload metadata with my submissions?
Once tracks are approved we handle the front-end metadata, but we do require information from the artist on every track including the title, tempo (BPM), instruments used, and composer information.

Where do I sign up?
Send up to 5 tracks on our artist submission page

How will I know if I got approved?
If your submission is successful you will be contacted via email to set up a Skype interview with our music content team. Just like when hiring a new employee, it’s important for us to get to know our contributors a little better and meet, at least once, via Skype or Google Hangout. During our call, we will go over the details of our music contributor agreement and answer any question that you may have. 

If I am selected as a music contributor, how much will I be paid?
We work on a commission / “work for hire” basis with music contributors and pay a substantial, per track fee upfront for every track acquired. This exclusively buys out the rights to the tracks; contributors will not receive any additional payout from sales. As such, music contributors are guaranteed to receive payment from us even if their music is never licensed by a Shutterstock customer. 

We process payments via Paypal or wire transfer within 1-2 weeks after a delivery of five (5) tracks is fully approved. Further details on payout (including the per track fee) will be provided directly by our music content team if your submission is successful.

What are the terms of the music contributor agreement?
Our music contributor agreement constitutes a full transfer of rights in exchange for upfront payment. This means that tracks acquired for Shutterstock cannot be used or distributed by the contributor for their own personal or professional projects. This is necessary to maintain the exclusivity of our music collection as well as to ensure the wide range of licensing uses available to the Shutterstock music customer.

In addition, PRO-affiliated composers will receive 100% of the writer’s share of public performance royalties generated from any public broadcasts of their music, whilst unaffiliated contributors will receive a significantly higher upfront payment at the time of acquisition.

Do I need to be registered to a Performing Rights Organization in order to become a contributor?
No. Whether you are a member of a PRO (collecting society) or not does not affect your eligibility to work with us. We work with both affiliated and unaffiliated composers.

PRO-affiliated members: Leave the paperwork to us. We take care of registering our composers’ new works with the appropriate PROs; please do not register your works yourself. In addition, our dedicated team actively requests and collects cue sheets from customers for any (terrestrial) TV and radio placements. These documents list the music (‘cues’) played during a project that is publicly broadcast, such as a TV or radio show. Once this information is submitted to the relevant PROs, they will pay out any royalties due directly to the composer (you) and the publisher (us). 
*Note that each PRO has its own royalty distribution schedule, so it can take from three months to one year for the composer to receive their royalty payments. 

Unaffiliated composers: There is an increasing demand for “all rights cleared” music, i.e. music from composers who are not affiliated with any collecting societies. The reality is that some companies prefer to bypass the complexities of music licensing. In order for us to cater to that market, we offer our clients the option of licensing PRO-free music. From a composer’s perspective, that means you won’t receive any royalties related to public performance rights. As publisher, we are also letting go of any royalties owed to us. However, we make up for that by supplying you with a higher upfront payment for every track. 
  • In order to qualify as a PRO-free composer, you must guarantee that:
  • you are not currently a member of any rights organization;
  • you were not a member of any PRO at the time of creation of any work submitted to us;
  • you have not registered your work with any rights organization;
  • neither PremiumBeat nor any licensee will be required to obtain a license from a PRO for the use of your work.

Where can I learn more about Shutterstock Music?
Read more about Shutterstock Music in this blog post
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