Licensing music is simply the act of giving a third party the right to use your material – three common music licenses are the blanket license, sync license, and master license
Music Licensing can be quite confusing, and while there are different types of licenses, I’d like to focus the three I feel are most vital to us as composers, producers, and artists: blanket license, sync license, and master license. Terms to pay attention to throughout this post:
Licensee – person/client in need of music or who work is licensed to.
Licensor – creator, rights holder of the music/work.
Tracks – music, cues, composition, material.
Now, before we get into these music licenses, let me explain what licensing is. Licensing music is the act of giving a third party the right to use your material. That’s all it is. Whether you do this for free or fee is up to you and whatever you decide to negotiate.
1) Blanket license
A blanket license allows a client to use a catalog of songs for an annual fee. This makes using music easier because there is less paperwork involved and a slew of music for the client to use throughout the year for any number of projects.
Venues that are likely to obtain a blanket license include hotels, bars, restaurants, hospitals, grocery stores, television stations, and just about any business that uses music to set the mood or tone for their establishment. I was surprised when I found out how much my local Marriott was paying for elevator music, as in the music you hear in the elevator or as you walk into the establishment (just throwing that out there). These licenses can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, it just depends on what’s negotiated.
2) Sync license
Of all licenses, the sync license is probably the most popular. It’s basically an agreement between licensee and the copyright owner. Sync licenses are most often used in TV/Film and video games, and anything else media related.
How much can be made from sync fees? A couple pennies, maybe even a few thousand dollars. It depends on how many clients you have as well as the following:
– How the song is used. Background music, stinger, main theme song of show – these all pay differently and are up for negotiation.
– Where the song is being used. You’ll be paid more from a placement in a major motion picture than you would in indie film (typically).
Other things to consider are:
– What type of television show will use the music? Is it a popular drama, simple reality show, growing reality show?
– Experience and brand. Someone like Han Zimmer is going to make a lot more than someone like you or I. The man has tons of experience and is known for writing great jingles and scores. It’s all about the brand name, it doesn’t matter how good the music sounds.
– Project’s budget. Bigger company typically means bigger budget.
– Middle Men. Are you working this deal on your own or is there a middle man? I’m talking about libraries, music supervisors, managers, agents and people that help you land placements. These professionals are going to take a cut from your profits – and they should.
[Ed. note: Having your music signed up and ready to license in a pre-cleared sync catalog, such as CD Baby’s Sync Licensing program, can be a bonus when a music supervisor is looking for the right song and needs it right away.]
3) Master license
Master licenses are made between the person who owns the master recording (company or creator) and the person who wishes to use the material (song). It gives the licensee authorization to use your pre recorded track/song in visual projects.
Having a master license is only half the battle though, in order to use the track in its entirety, a sync license is needed along with the master license. Master & Sync licenses are very similar as they are required for the licensee to use music in media-based projects, but there is a slight difference. The master license grants rights to the “original recording.” The sync allows the client to use the composition and rerecord the song. Normally when a record label signs an act they’ll almost always control or own the master.
Can you imagine what conflicts and disagreements could arise from that’s arrangement? Let’s say an artist like Rhianna is willing to accept a license fee of $9,500, but the record label owning the master and maybe even the copyright says “No, we want $33,000.” If that price range is out of the client’s budget, they’ll walk. I can’t say I’d blame the label, but can you imagine how difficult that must be for the artist? $8k, $5k, $10k… enough of those declined over time is a huge loss.
Image via ShutterStock.com.
Greg Savage is an entrepreneur from California who makes a living producing music and sound designing for various companies without the use of a record label or manager. He started DIY Music Biz because he wanted to create a reliable resource for musicians, producers, composers, and artists that would be useful regardless of their success or skill level. Topics covered on DIY Music Biz include: Marketing Music, Music Licensing, Sound Design, Gear Reviews, Personal Experiences, Income Generation, Case Studies, and much more.
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