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A Guide to Music Licensing

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If you’re a film-maker, then you will be extremely interested to learn how music licensing works. Why you may ask? This is because a good sounding soundtrack or score can make your movie really stand-out. If you’re a musician, then you will want to learn more about music licensing for its residual income.

What are the basics of music licensing? First, know that it is illegal to add copyrighted music into a production just because you have access to the track. It may be a surprise, but practically everything you hear, whether you are in a restaurant or listening to the radio, has been officially licensed for use.

You may also be surprised to know that using the songs of popular entertainers can prove to be a very costly inclusion. Some songs can easily fetch a one million dollar price tag, depending on the use of a song and its overall popularity. Now if you are coming from the standpoint of an artist, then you are probably wondering about copyright. Technically speaking, you already own your copyright because you created the piece. However, if you ever wish to enforce your rights in court it helps to have a registered copyright with the national Copyright Office.

From the standpoint of a filmmaker or advertising producer, you will have to clear the right to use the song with a few departments. You are usually required to get permission from the publisher as well as the label. If you are planning on a broadcast, as in public performance, then you will need public performance rights. However, if you are using a musical piece in a commercial, then you must get a Master Use license from the label, as well as a synchronization license or possibly a transcription license from the publisher.

The Broadcast Music, Inc. website is a good start if you are new to music licensing. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is another site of interest. These sites collect license fees from businesses that use music, which it then distributes to artists and publishers. There are specific forms to fill out that correspond to the type of event you are planning. Prices differ according to your method of use; for example, a very subtle use of a tune in a TV series may only cost $2,000 for a five-year license. However, commercials that use a song to help sell a product may wind up costing a million dollars a year.

Do your homework in this regard and get involved with a website that helps bring artists, filmmakers and advertisers together. We can all work together to make a great show!

Mark Fragnoli is the creator of Soundista, the ultimate guide for electronic music producers. Read more of his tutorials, guides and reviews at Soundista and download sound.

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