Now that you have an understanding of the basics, explained in Part 1 – License Agreements, you are now ready to look at the options for licensing music.
It is possible to use mainstream music, but it is costly and often a convoluted process. The reason for this is that there are many people in the royalty chain wanting a slice of the revenue. Quite often you will have to negotiate a license with publishers, record labels, royalty collecting societies and so on. It is not a trivial task and you will need deep pockets!
Royalty Free Music
This can be the most affordable route by far, however, you will be limited to original music and you will need to find a good source of quality Royalty Free music. This should not be too hard to do on the web but you will find that there is a lot of poor quality music out there.
The biggest issue with Royalty Free music is the license agreement itself. There is no standard agreement and for this reason they vary from company to company.
You need to make sure that the mechanical rights allow you to make the right number of duplications for your project. Many licenses have small print that limits the number of copies you can make before you have to pay additional fees, sometimes known as a ‘mass duplication license’.
Another big issue is the performance royalty. Most Royalty Free music does not cover this and you will be expected to fill in cue sheets for use in broadcast. What many people overlook is the fact that a broadcast is not just TV or Radio. It is many things including podcasts, websites and flash use.
If the small print states that cue sheets need to be filled in for broadcast, this implies that the music is registered with a performance collecting society who collects revenue for broadcast and performances. This can include exhibitions, vending machine music, on hold music and music in power point presentations, websites and flash. Hardly straight forward!
There are some Royalty Free music sellers that claim their music is 100% Royalty Free. This is true when all aspects of royalties are covered in the license agreement. With 100% Royalty Free you should be completely covered by a one-time payment. But do check the small print… any mention of filling in cue sheets means that the music is not 100% cleared for a number of uses, as described above.
Commissioning a Composer
Commissioning a composer to write a custom piece of music for your project can have two advantages. Firstly, the music will be created with your project in mind and should be a tailored fit. Secondly, much if not all of the licensing can be arranged between you and the composer giving you added flexibility.
For example, if you wish to pay a one-time fee you might require synchronisation with a number of different media types. You may also wish to make a specific number of copies and include certain performance / broadcast options within the agreement. This can all be discussed, drawn up and agreed between you and the composer.
On the other hand, you may be creating a TV programme and decide that performance royalties will be paid by the various broadcasters and collected by the collecting society of that territory.
In a digital age where everything can change quickly and where new copyright and royalty policies are constantly being developed, it can be easy to get confused and unsure what to do for the best. For this reason alone, it is best to have a basic knowledge of royalties and licensing.
Another point we have to remember is that music licensing is there to help composers and artists make a living. For an independent composer this can be the difference between making a living from music or having to get a day job.
I hope that these articles have gone someway to clarifying the issues that surround music licensing and have helped you to consider a licensing route that best suits your needs.