Licensing Music To Visual Media… Who? Where? What Was The Question Again?
Yes, yes…it’s a complicated subject. I get it. In my book, The Little Book of Music Licensing, I explain the very basics of what licenses are and how they are used, but the May 6 panel discussion at Sync Up gave some really great insight into how music supervisors find music and how to get yours into the mix. The discussion was moderated by Michael Nieves (Sugaroo) and the panel included PJ Bloom (Music Supervisor for Glee and Partner, Neophonic), Josh Rabinowitz (SVP/Director of Music, The Grey Group) and Danny Exum (Music Supervisor, Herzog & Co.).
If you have original music it can be placed in films, TV shows, advertisements and movie trailers (video games, too…but that’s another blog post). How do they find music for these projects? Most of it comes to them from third party copyright administrators such as publishing houses, record labels…etc. However, music supervisors are really music fans just like you and me. They’ll find music independently and add it to their library in hopes that they might get to use it in a project at some point. It also doesn’t matter if you’re a big name artist or not, have a track record or not. There really is an opportunity for music of any genre. Often, they can use anything that sounds like whatever happens to be charting at the time. Before you start trying to license any songs for anything make sure you have the business part of the songwriting figured out. If you co-write with anyone make sure you have already decided how ownership is split BEFORE you have an offer on the table. If it’s just you…you still need to make sure all your copyrights and BMI (or ASCAP, SESAC) registrations are in order.
The panelists advised avoiding any third parties who do re-titling. Basically, people and/or companies who do this register a new copyright for an already copyrighted song using a different song title in order to bypass exclusivity. So, if you have an exclusive agreement with a particular copyright administrator (meaning they are the only ones allowed to negotiate licenses and such for you) a re-titling person/company may try to convince you that you can make more money by letting them do this for you. Newsflash: IT’S BAD BUSINESS, AND BAD FOR YOU AS AN ARTIST AND SONGWRITER. In most cases, they make money and you do not. So, just don’t do it. To quote the panelists, “Run away!”
Fees for song placement vary depending on the budget, how many songs are being used and how much of the budget is slated for songs by big name artists. For instance, the show Glee is not the place for an emerging artist to try and get placed. They use songs that are already in the top 20 and those fees are in the range of $20,000 to $25,000 per side (each “side” represents one of the two licenses needed to place a song in a visual media project) so a charting song stands to make $40,000 to $50,000 total for being placed in just one episode. That’s a pretty big project budget…most are not that large. The normal fee range for TV shows and advertising is $0 to $5,000 per side. The average emerging artist can expect to make a couple grand on this type of project. They also like to “break” bands in TV shows and advertising though it tends to be more successful for the artist when it’s a show. So, independent artists really do have a fighting chance…who knew?
Most people don’t realize that the trailer for a movie is actually a separate entity from the film itself. Because the musical direction of the trailer may be totally different from the film songs may be placed for the trailer that are never heard in the actual film. A good example of this is the song Semi Charmed Kind of Life, by the band Third Eye Blind. The year that song charted it showed up in almost every romantic comedy and guy comedy movie trailer that followed…but it wasn’t part of the film soundtracks. That song is also a good example of “anthemic” music. While storytelling songs that are really specific can be hard to place in projects, anthem music works very well for synching (think: Sarah Mclaughlan’s Angel, Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping…etc…etc). Movie trailers have a three act structure (lead in, exposition, conclusion) that makes it like a super-mini movie, so sometimes a trailer will have its very own original score. The fees for song placement in a movie trailer vary but the typical range is $10,000 to $20,000 total and can be less depending on the budget. Well-known artists can command as much as $300,000 for a trailer placement.
Cover songs and songs in the public domain shouldn’t be overlooked. The advice from the panel was this: If you do cover songs make sure you do very distinctive versions of them. Don’t do a copycat version that sounds exactly like someone else’s recording…be original with your cover (yes, I did just use original and cover in the same sentence). Be sure to get your new, distinctive version to the publisher of the song as well (and don’t forget to register the copyright for your sound recording), it just might give you a leg up. Many ads and TV shows use big name songs performed in a totally new way by emerging artists. An example of this is Alana Davis performing the song Woodstock (made popular by Crosby Stills and Nash) in a Sony commercial. As for public domain songs (these are songs whose copyright protection is no longer in force…anything published before 1922 usually falls into this category) be sure to register the copyright for your arrangement of the song as well as the sound recording. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on sync fees if it gets placed.
Always remember when submitting music…contact info, contact info, contact info! Did I mention contact info? Put it on EVERYTHING. If it’s a digital submission, make sure the meta data is there so when they look to see the name it doesn’t read track one, unknown album, unknown artist. They’ll be too annoyed to go looking for the title and artist…and they probably won’t have time even if they aren’t annoyed. Unless otherwise indicated, always send lossless file types (WAV or AIFF) instead of mp3 files. This way they can just use what you send instead of having to waste time getting the better file from you later.
Get even more info , interviews and links at www.syncupconference.com