So, you’re in a band and you wanna sell your music. Or, perhaps you need to get a soundtrack for your new movie. Okay, there’s a few things you should know. First off, music is copyright protected. Unfortunately, copyright is not straightforward. Several different parties may own different rights to a piece of music. So, if you’re selling or purchasing, you need to know what you’re getting and/or giving away.
Cost conscientious producers need to understand the concept of royalties in order to keep down up-front costs. Sometimes, newer and smaller bands will sell royalties to songs performed in movies without a down payment. Of course, no band really wants to give anything away for free, so it’s important to keep royalty streams in mind when negotiating for a price.
Of course, if you’re really cost conscious, then you can just use songs in the public domain for free. Boom. You’re already done. Of course, just because a song is old does not mean that it’s free. If the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs Beethoven’s 9th, you still have to compensate the ASO for the use of their recording. Although the song’s intellectual property rights may have expired, the artists need compensation for their talents.
If price is no object, then feel free to commission a recording. Of course, then you’re negotiating with a recording studio, bands, vocalists, the SAG, and other relevant parties.
If you’re purchasing existing music, then you need to find the Master Use License from the appropriate record company. Fees on these can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, the artists may have to give permission for their music to be distributed, which may be another point of negotiation for the producer. Then you need to determine if there are any payments to union members or other relevant artists. If this music is going onto television, then you’ve got to worry about securing a Television Music Rights License.
In the past I’ve said that basic contracts are straightforward. That is not the case with securing the rights to music. Each of the topics just mentioned is worthy of exploration in and of itself. If you need help with these licenses and contracts, then consider contacting an attorney.