Licensing and Music

Music is the heart of any film, tv show, commercial and just about any other type of “content” that delivers a message.  Personally, I think that music is equally important to the visuals and dialog, in setting the feel and pace in any of those “products” I just mentioned. Imagine any of those things without music!

While working on the post production of a feature documentary recently, I became aware of just how important music was to the film and that I needed lots of it. In all I think we used over 53 pieces of music in a film that was 76 minutes long. And, I think we still could have used a little more in spots.

It’s amazing to me how many professional photographers don’t consider the licensing process when it comes to music. I’ve seen too many portfolio samples with “main stream” music that I know hasn’t been licensed because it’s prohibitively costly.
When you enter into the world of incorporating music into your creative projects and businesses be prepared to spend money and keep proper documentation. I learned a lot in this process and I’ll share with you some tips:

• Be prepared to spend money, especially if you are looking for broad rights. Even licensing royalty free music adds up if you want a mass market license. That would include everything from TV to a theatrical screenings to DVD’s and VOD, internationally.
• Even royalty free music in some cases comes with different tiers of licensing rights. One company I worked with had two options – Standard Licensing and Mass Market Licensing – the difference was that for TV broadcast, standard was national and mass market was worldwide.
• Make sure you keep all licensing agreements as well as any receipts for  music – both electronically and printed copies. You will need this documentation. If you want to mass duplicate DVD’s – you will be asked for proof of licensing.
• Keep track of the music, the title, the publisher, the recording company, the artist, the songwriter as well as how much of the music was used (time) and where in the film. You’ll need all this info for your “cue sheet”. A cue sheet is basically a list of all the music that is used in a film in the order that it appears – with all the info above listed. If your film is accepted by a film festival they will ask for it.
• Don’t forget that most times you will need two licenses for a song. One is the “synchronization license” which is permission from the publisher to use the song and the other is the “master use license” which is permission from the recording company for a particular recording of that song.
Apple Loops is “free” to use as long as you aren’t reselling just those clips as clips. But you’ll still need to download that license on the Apple website.

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of months in what it really means to be a producer – at least in terms of what is needed to get a film off the ground after the “fun” part of creating it is over. But, while this type of work isn’t “fun” – I’ve grown by the process.


3 Replies to “Licensing and Music”

  1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on the subject. I was unaware of the process involved. Its certainly wise to be proactive with this aspect of the production so that there are no surprises to you and the client in the end.

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