Quick Overview on Music Licensing
When your music appears in a film, even an independent one, it's a great way to increase awareness for your music and elevate your personal brand.
If you have never licensed music, here are a few basics to understand:
1. Songs for film are emotional and general topics and themes. The whole reason a song is selected is to support the scene emotionally. While I adore country music, it is almost always too specific story-wise for film placement (and country isn't requested often anyway). Before you start, please read this blog about writing music for film/TV.
2. Before a song is pitched to anyone, it needs to be 'cleared.' This means that everyone involved in the song (co-writers, publishers) all agree that the song can be pitched.
3. A Sync Rep essentially acts as an agent for your songs to pitch them to people who need your music for film and TV. They have relationships with production houses, music supervisors, directors, and others that impact music decisions. These decision-makers prefer working with reps because we can find the right music quickly and make their lives easier.
4. There are essentially two types of fees for each song that is placed in a film.
The Sync and Master fees - These are one-time payments that can range from a few hundred or thousands depending on the project. These fees that are split with the sync rep:
- A sync fee that is paid to the the copyright owner (usually the publisher or the writer if they own their own publishing).This is the right to synchronize a song or a piece of music with a visual image.
- A master use - This is the right to reproduce a specific recording of a song in a film. This is the person who owns the specific recording that is being used in the film (usually the record label or the artist if they have their own label or fund their own records).
- Performance Royalties - Composition owners (writers and publishers) also receive royalties for when the film is broadcast on TV or is streamed on Amazon, Netflix, etc. This back-end money is collected by ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI. These fees are collected over time in perpetuity.
5. The Sync is collected at the time of license and paid for by the licensee (typically the production company). The Sync Rep typically takes 50 percent of the sync and master fee. For example, if the fee was $500, the Sync Rep fee would be $250- and the master owner and publishers would split the other $250. Many Sync Reps also re-title songs to collect royalties on the back-end. For example, "Beautiful Day" might be re-titled "It's a Beautiful Day" for placement purposes.
Public Domain Christmas Songs
Christmas movies are often looking for recordings of these holiday classics in a different style- pop, rock, singer/songwriter, jazz, etc. Click for a list of PUBLIC DOMAIN CHRISTMAS SONGS. These are songs you can cover for free without publishing permission.
What can you expect working with me as a Sync Rep?
Since I am an artist myself, I will do everything I can to secure a fair deal for each artist I work with. Also, I NEVER retitle songs, so you keep all your publishing royalties on the back-end. I take half of the sync and master use fees.
I will work hard to increase placement fees, but often we are competing with other artists who are willing to have their music in the film for free. I will not do this as I believe we have to set a minimum value for the art we create- and that art takes time, talent, and money to record.
Understand that when I request music, I'm being pushed on a tight deadline. Music is often the last part of the film, and there is always a rush to find the right song. I will be asking for fully recorded, ready-to-place songs that align to the movie needs. Please resist the urge to send songs that aren't what I'm seeking because I don't have time to sort through songs that aren't relevant for each pitch. There is no time for writing something or getting something recorded in the next few days.
My catalog of songs is non-exclusive, which means you can pitch the songs elsewhere or have other licensing companies represent the songs. Note that I don't have a large catalog of songs that just 'sit there' waiting for opportunities- if I ask you for a song it will be pitched.
If your song is selected for the film, I'll encourage you to promote the placement on your social media accounts, and again when the film is released at a minimum. It's a win for everyone, so please take advantage of it!
If I ask you for songs...
1. I will provide as much information as I can about the film and what type of songs they are seeking. Sometimes I just don't know a lot - i.e. it's a Hallmark "Christmas film" looking for original pop songs.
2. I will need an mp3 initially with vocals. I use DISCO if you want to make it easier on all of us, but if not you can send an mp3 via email or Dropbox. If the filmmaker selects the song, I will need a hi-res file- both the vocal and track only versions. This is because sometimes songs are edited to fit a scene better.
3. I will let you know if you send songs I would like to pitch, and then send you a contract to fill out and return. This contract allows me to pitch your songs, secure placements, and then collect and distribute royalties.
4. I'll let you know if your songs are selected, and we can both celebrate! If you don't hear from me, it means the song(s) were not selected for this film. That doesn't mean it's a bad song, just that it didn't fit what they are seeking for this film.