Music rights help – the world of music licensing made simple

If you’re adding music to a promo it’s important to understand what rights, or permissions, you need to clear before making it publicly available. Different types of music require different rights, and a summary of these can be found below, along with contact numbers to assist with clearance.

Usually the broadcaster or production company commissioning the promo will have licences to use particular types of music, and can guide you in what you can and can’t use, but sometimes they’ll give you a budget and ask you to clear the rights yourself. To put music with a promo you need to clear two sets of rights; a synchronisation, or ‘synch’ licence from the publisher of the music, representing the composer (i.e. the melody and words, regardless of who performs them) and a dubbing licence from the sound recording owner (usually the record company).

What different types of music are available to license?

a) Specially composed music: You can commission music for your promo, you can write and record it yourself or if you know someone who writes you can ask them. Commissioning music can be expensive and there are no fixed rates so it’s a question of agreeing a fee. If you commission music you usually won’t need to clear any rights to use music in your film as this will be part of the agreement with the composer.

b) Commercial music: This term covers all kinds of commercially available music, from Abba to ZZ Top, Pavarotti to Prokofiev. Generally speaking the better-known the performer and track, the more it will cost. There are no set fees for commercial music, and all rates are negotiable. To use commercial music you’ll usually need a synch licence from the composer’s publisher and a dubbing licence from the artist’s record company. If the composer(s) died more than 70 years ago, then the musical work is no longer in copyright in the UK, and you don’t need a synch licence. In the UK, sound recording copyright last for 50 years after first release, so if it’s an old original recording you won’t need a dubbing licence.

c) MCPS Library music: Unlike commercial music, library music generally won’t be well-known music, but is composed with film and television in mind. There are over 100 library/production music companies in the UK. Rates vary according to use and a rate card with full details and a list of companies are available from MCPS. The advantage of library music over commercial music is that one licence covers all synch and dubbing rights.

Understanding Music Licensing and different types of Licenses

All music is controlled by copy right law.

1) Print License : Also known as sheet music

2) Mechanical License: Issued from music publisher to record company in order to reproduce a song on that record. A royalty is payed from the record company to the publisher (approximately 35% of overall income world wide for publishers)

3) Publish Performance (represents writer and publishers): Outside the scope of immediate family or friends thus if in a public place (stage, shopping mall, museum or broadcast) and hear music that venue needs licence. This includes
a)Radio stations and television station
b)Webcasting e.g. Stream, Youtube generates royalties distributed to the write and publisher.

4)Synchronisation: Reproduction in audio visual products e.g. TV, DVDs or Games. Right of reproduction given to song writers, publishers and record companies. Production requires a synchronization license.