Music Licensing: Film/TV Deals Explained Part I
(Below the video is a full article on licensing music for film and TV)
Music licensing has always been a very consistent sub-industry in the sometimes unpredictable music industry. From the blockbuster soundtracks of the 1970’s and 1980’s to current micro-licensing for online video content, there will always be a need to license music!
For this post I have asked resident guest blogger/vlogger Winnie Jow to break down this topic since she has been involved in licensing for many years.
Please check out the above video or, if you prefer reading see the full article below.
Take it away Winnie!
Hey Lawyers Rock!
Winnie Jow here.
This is a highly requested topic because licensing your music these days is all the rage. This blog is broken down in to two parts.
Part I covers:
- Song title and basic terms
- Types of licensed media including:
- Web apps
Part II covers:
- Description of use and duration
- Release date
You will need to look up the information on the performing rights organization websites. The performing rights organizations (in the U.S. that is ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) (“PRO(s)”) collect performance royalties on behalf of the songwriters and publishers.
By using the PRO’s website, you can search the song titles that you are seeking. This will tell you whom to contact in order to license the rights. In some cases, you will have to search more than one PRO repertoire to locate all of the songwriters.
This is because you will need to clear 100% of the Composition. The songwriters that collaborate on a song may be affiliated with different PROs so this is part of your due diligence that you have to follow through on in order to license and “clear” the work for your production.
If you are seeking to use music in your production, this makes you a Licensee. If you are the songwriter or the publishing company on behalf of the songwriter, then you are the Licensor.
You are going to have to provide name of the audio/visual production in which you are licensing the rights to the Composition. When the Licensor sends you a contract (AKA license agreement), it will include the name of the production title.
Types of Licensed Media.
This is one of the most requested topics by our viewers about film and TV deals.
You will consider whether the film will have a theatrical release. If you require all-media rights for a film, then this is going to be more expensive.
Additional factors that will affect cost: DVDs, Online-streaming rights, Video-On-Demand (VOD), etc.
You will consider whether you need free and basic cable TV, paid TV such as pay per view, or whether you only need local access rights. Generally, you want to realistically consider the scope of the project and only clear what you need.
This is going to help you stay within the budget of the project, while clearing the songs that you really want.
With commercials, consider whether you require all-media rights for use of the Composition in your production. Also consider if you require exclusivity rights so that at the time the commercial is airing, you will be the only advertiser able to use a new chart-topping single to feature your product during the term of your license agreement.
Exclusivity can be expensive.
For a DVD license, consider how many units will be in the initial run of your production. If you need “rollover” units, then consider if you will be able to license at a lower rate for the next run of your production.
For example, if you license 1,000 units up front at $0.15 per Composition per unit and you will thereafter want rollovers of 500 units, then perhaps you can negotiate a lower rate such as $0.12 per Composition per unit.
Consider the size of the theater. A stage could range from a local high school production to a first class Broadway show.
Consider if there will be a touring aspect to the show.
With web applications, these deals are generally structured based on net revenues so you will want to be familiar with what the standard rates are so that you will know what to pay.
If you can structure your deal similarly to another web app that has already been approved, this will help you move forward more with the license more quickly. Once you have a Licensor on board, you can usually close a Most Favored Nations (“MFN”) deal with the other publishers based on that same rate.
This means that all publishers will receive the same terms. This is a good strategy if you need to just keep the deal moving with the other publishers dragging their feet.
Check back in two weeks for Part 2 of this post!
Also, if you can’t afford an attorney to draft a license agreement (which is always the best approach to any legal matter), we have a good License Agreement template in our Music Agreements Package.
This is called a Master Use/Sync License, and its a FREE Bonus as part of my affordable full package of Music Industry Agreements.
– Winifred C. Jow, J.D.
Want to get instant access to the agreement you need to license your music for Film and TV projects?
Catch part 2 of this article for even more information on Licensing Music for Film and Television.
Disclaimer: Ms. Jow is not a licensed attorney in California and nothing stated within this blog is intended to be, or shall be considered, legal or other professional advice. To properly develop and maintain your career you need to have a competent attorney, accountant, and other professional advisers on your team to assess your specific situation. In addition, note that all of the disclaimers applicable to this site also apply.