How One Wedding License Changed Johnny Stimson’s Career
Sync licensing is a powerful tool for artists. But, as Johnny Stimson found out, it can be even more powerful if you pay attention. In this article, he’s going to break down a few things he’s learned about how you can make the most out of any license, no matter how big or how small. But first, let’s get a little backstory from Johnny:
“In 2017, I woke up ready for a studio day, checked my Instagram page, and saw a few comments that said, ‘we heard your music in Raisa’s video.’ After a little researching, I found out Raisa is an Indonesian singer who’s really famous and has like 14 million Instagram followers and she used ‘Honeymoon’ in her wedding video.’”
“I reached out and asked her to add my name in the post and two days later it was the number-two song in the charts in Indonesia. So, now I’m Googling ‘where is Indonesia’ [laughs]. I reached out to the pop radio station and the programmer there helped me get a few gigs. I played live on two TV shows, like The Tonight Show of Indonesia, and that led to me signing with a label for that territory.”
“A few months later, I played in an arena for 8,000 people and they all sang ‘Honeymoon’. Like every word back to me. It was this moment I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid and it was real. The moment was just amazing. Something I will never forget. It was this small thing that turned into this huge, huge moment for me. I think it started as a normal wedding license on Musicbed.”
Of course, we just had to condense a long story into three paragraphs — there was plenty of logistical legwork in between each step. But, either way, this dream experience for Johnny happened for a reason. And by taking a few notes from his story, there are things you can do for your own licenses to increase their value and potential.
Small pay, big rewards.
“I get those smaller licenses and I’m so grateful for that because in bulk when you get a bunch of those, they can really pay the bills, add to a savings account, and help me live my life. But, I was so delighted and surprised that morning to learn that sometimes these smaller licenses can add up to something much larger.”
If we can stress one thing, it’s this: Licenses do not live in a silo. Filmmakers use them and they get heard by an audience — it could be an internal video at Google or it could be an Indonesian singer’s wedding film that’s seen by millions. The point is, sometimes it’s important to look at a license in the bigger picture. Johnny’s license for “Honeymoon” probably wouldn’t even cover a grocery bill, but the implications are going to affect his career for the rest of his life.
“I struggled and toiled to get people to listen to my stuff on Spotify,” he told us. “And then I get this really simple license that’s not even a big dollar amount, but it’s getting people to listen to my music. That’s pretty cool.”
So, instead of just seeing a dollar value for each license, think of it as another opportunity for people to hear your music and fall in love with it.
Don’t fear social media.
“Oh man, I was pretty resistant to social media for a while. I think I had some pride as an artist like I wanted the music to speak for itself and I didn’t need to do Instagram. Over the past year and a half, I’ve decided I’m going to do the very best that I can with social media. I’ve seen massive growth since I’ve done that.”
The truth is, he would’ve never even noticed Raisa’s wedding video if he wasn’t active on social media. By commenting on videos with your music and interacting with fans, you’re not only building a repertoire online, but you’re also opening yourself up to new opportunities — collaborations, gigs, even other filmmakers who may be interested in licensing your music.
One quick tip from Johnny: “One handy trick and this is actually from my mom [laughs], is to just search your name in the Twitter search bar. A lot of people can find you on Spotify or Apple Music, but they don’t always know your Twitter handle. So, they’ll just put your name in the description instead of tagging you — so you can only find your name if your search for it.”
You don’t know if you don’t ask.
“I had a few people telling me, ‘Don’t even worry about this Indonesia thing. It’s just a flash in the pan.’ But I decided to just start reaching out to radio stations and talking to promoters. Just using what’s at your fingertips can make a really big difference. People are kind and if the music is good they’ll respond to you.”
Johnny went from noticing a few comments on Instagram to playing in front of 8,000 Indonesians in a matter of a few months — and all of that happened because he wasn’t afraid to reach out and ask for something. Your ultimate goal may not be playing an arena in Asia, but maybe there are other opportunities just waiting to be taken advantage of? You’ll never know if you’re not willing to put yourself out there.
Do what you do best.
“Part of why you guys love me is because I’m an artist. I go on tour and I’m really trying to get out there and sing these songs for people. I’m not thinking, okay, what is the most calculated way I can make a great background song for a Samsung commercial. I think that in this world where some of that stuff can be oversaturated, just writing something that’s real can work. Maybe just keep in mind some guidelines when writing to make it sync-friendly. But, ultimately, I just try and make what my heart thinks a song should sound like.”
Johnny’s right. He’s one of our artists because he’s Johnny, that’s it. We love his music and we hope our customers will too. It’s why “Honeymoon” was ultimately licensed, at least we think so. So, in the end, bring yourself to whatever project you’re working on. If it’s a sync-only project, make your sync-only project. If it’s a personal project, make it your personal project. There’s a market for good music, no matter what it’s meant for, and it’s our job to find it.
We’ll go ahead and end on this note: Your music is not going to go viral in Indonesia because Raisa licensed it for her wedding video. But, we think the implications behind this story are far greater. There is a huge world out there for your music and the opportunities are endless.
Licensing is just another way for people to hear your music and fall in love with it. So, next time you get a license, big or small, don’t think of it as the end of the opportunity — think of it as the beginning.