We published a series of posts last year ‘Professional Music Buyers Guide‘ that looked at the various aspects of music royalties, the different types of music libraries and how these can affect use of music. Following on from this we have created a video tutorial bringing all these posts together. You can watch this below.
For further details about the voice, music and sfx used in the video please visit http://www.mediamusicnow.co.uk/information/professional-music-buyers-guide.aspx
Please feel free to share this video / audio and ask any questions you may have.
— Video Transcript —
Many professional music buyers are not fully aware of what licenses they are buying and do not always understand how certain aspects may affect them or their clients.
For this reason, we have created this guide for professional music buyers.
It is worth taking the time to read the information as it will help your business avoid potential mistakes when licensing music.
Having a basic grasp of music royalties and how they work
Conventional music royalties can be a complicated subject. However, in order to keep this piece short we are going to generalise and cover the 3 most relevant aspects for a professional music buyer. These are: –
Sync (or Synchronisation)
Sync is the license required to add a piece of music to your audio-visual production. For example, mixing music with your video is classed as synchronising and you have to pay the copyright owner of the recording to do this.
Using the previous example, if you want to make DVDs of your video including the copyrighted music you must cover what is known as mechanical copyright. The mechanical element of the license allows you to make a defined number of copies, in this case, your DVD.
Staying with the same example, you have a sync license to allow you to include the music with your video; you have a mechanical license for your copies, but let’s say you wanted to play it in public you would also need to cover the performance aspect of the license.
It is important that any music license covers all of the music copyright areas for your production or product.
Understanding how the various music libraries work
There are numerous music libraries that sell music licenses on behalf of composers, each with their own proprietary license agreements and procedures. Let’s look at the different types:
Royalty Free Music Libraries, staffed with A&R
These libraries have staff that carefully listen to and select music for their catalogue. It is fair to say that the reputable businesses in this sector are home-grown by people who care about fairness to composers.
Each library’s A&R person will select music suited to their clientele and enters into a contractual agreement with the composer or publisher.
This agreement allows the music library to sell licenses of the composer’s music, and the composer benefits with a percentage split on sales, typically 40 to 60 percent.
Benefits to the music buyer include:
Accessibility to staff
Good quality hand-picked music
Royalty free music licenses are always unique to the company but will typically cover synchronisation, mechanical and in some cases performance royalties.
Many royalty free music libraries request that documentation be completed detailing use on TV and Radio, referred to as cue sheets.
Who would this suit?
This would suit small, medium and large companies looking for quality music that want certain assurances about its origins and access to staff if help is required.
Royalty Free Music Libraries with User-Generated Content
These libraries are typically bigger companies who are mainly concerned with revenue. Most of these user generated libraries have been created on the back of larger businesses or with investment capital.
The model allows anyone to join and upload content hence the user generated term. There is no quality control and no vetting; these libraries are designed for bulk rather than quality.
Music on these sites may contain Content ID, sometimes referred to as digital fingerprinting, that will trigger adverts on YouTube (more about this later).
The composer deals are usually less favourable and can be as low as 20%
Benefits to the music buyer include affordable music and an abundance of user generated content.
Royalty free, always unique to the company but will typically cover synchronisation and mechanical royalties.
Who would this suit?
Students or individuals, who are looking for lower prices and don’t mind ads appearing on their YouTube videos.
Production Music Libraries
Conventional production music libraries have a select group of composers, usually signed to them exclusively. Music can be licensed directly or via third party royalty collecting societies.
Licenses are typically more expensive depending on where and how long the music will be used. Additionally, you may have to deal with external royalty collecting societies.
Benefits to the music buyer include high quality music that is usually exclusive to the library
These are generally long established businesses with staff and although an expensive way to license music, you may get extra assurances and exclusivity that some large clients are prepared to pay a premium for.
Usually you buy a sync license that will be limited by use, project or by time. The performance and mechanical element of the license will usually have to be arranged independently by you with the royalty collecting society in your part of the world.
Who would this suit?
Broadcasters who already have license agreements in place with royalty collecting societies and want strong assurances for their large blue chip clients.
Mainstream Music Licensing
If you wish to use a mainstream track, it is possible but very expensive and much more difficult to arrange.
To arrange this type of license you need to contact the music publisher or deal with a music rights clearance company who will contact the various publishers and royalty collecting societies on your behalf.
Benefits to the music buyer include use of known mainstream music.
Although very expensive, you will get extra assurances that some large clients are prepared to pay a premium for.
The license type will be tailored to the specific requirements of your project.
Who would this suit?
Production companies working with big name clients who want specific assurances included in the music license and have a large budget to facilitate it.
Don’t be thrown by the terminology. Royalty free music, production music, library music, stock music, copyright free music, these are just a few of the terms used to describe the same thing.
Many music libraries use a variety of these terms on their websites.
The real differentiator is the type of music license agreement and what it covers. Make sure you know the different areas of music copyright and that your license covers these for your project.
Understanding Royalty Collection Societies
Royalty Collection Societies were set-up many years ago to collect royalties on behalf of mainstream artists. Each country has their own. They cover and collect royalties for performance of music and mechanical duplications.
There are so many music uses these days that online video, music on hold and shop promos for example can now also be classed as performances. For this reason, royalty collecting societies have an obligation to charge music license fees for these uses. This can cause a conflict of interest when composers allow online libraries to also facilitate licensing of their music.
For example, in the case of on hold music or tradeshow music, a royalty collecting society may try to collect performance royalties that have already been covered by the music library. In my experience, when the collecting society see that the composer has entered into a direct agreement with a library they respect this and clear music use on a case-by-case basis.
After all, the royalty collecting societies are acting in the interests of composers and would not want to harm their income.
Understanding Content ID
Content ID is a technology that some libraries are using to mark content as their own. This is monetised by participating networks. For example, YouTube is a network that displays contextual adverts over videos that contain Content ID in the audio.
This is problematic as it triggers adverts throughout users’ videos usually advertising competitor products and services. For this reason, many royalty free music libraries are only hosting content that is clean of such ID’s. However, there are a few libraries that just see this as another way of generating revenue.
At the time of writing this, some libraries are struggling with content that has been ID’d without their knowledge or consent. It only becomes known to them when a client complains about adverts appearing on their promotional video on YouTube.
To avoid this, use music that is free from Content ID. There are a number of libraries that refuse to host music registered with these types of systems. Alternatively, avoid third party networks such as YouTube that use Content ID detection. The simplest way to do this is to host your own video content.
Working with clients
Ideally, let your client license the music directly. This way they are the license holder and you are using the music in their production as instructed.
This limits your liability as the client has licensed the music directly. It is then their decision on what type of library they use.
If they want you to source the music, you can give them a ‘short-list’ and let them license it. You can add your fee for the ‘music sourcing’ time, after all, finding suitable music for a project can be very time intensive. Many clients will be happy with this arrangement and will appreciate your transparency.
In this scenario you must not use the music in any of your own projects. Your client will be the license holder, not you.
If you are in a position where the client requests that you license the music, you should limit your liability by pointing out that you are relying on the assurances of third parties in regards to licensing the music. You will probably have this as part of your terms of service.
As discussed previously, you or your clients have 4 licensing options. They are:-
1. Royalty free music libraries staffed with A&R, which is affordable, offers good assurances and high quality music.
2. Royalty free music libraries with user generated content, which again is affordable but provides little assurances. Additionally, there may be no quality control.
3. Production music libraries, which are usually expensive, provide good assurances and high quality music.
4. Mainstream music licensing, which is very expensive but provides very good assurances and access to well-known music.
Your client may have limited knowledge about music licensing so feel free to share this information with them.
About the Authors
Originally a musician and composer, Lee Pritchard is the founder of Media Music Now, a royalty free music library, staffed with A&R.
Music A&R is taken care of by Adam Barber who hand-selects music and manages the library.
The principles of the company are to operate with integrity while being fair to the composer and offering value to the customer. There is no user generated content and music that contains Content ID is not accepted.
Media Music Now is also a source of sound effects, voice overs and audio production.
This guide is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice whatsoever. If in doubt about any aspect of this information you should contact a qualified legal practitioner.
Re-use and copyright
© 2012 Lee Pritchard, MediaMusicNow.co.uk. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to share and distribute this information in its entirety.