Celebrity Marketing: What You Should Know About Music Clearance

music and brands

To remove the mystery, avoid common mistakes, and save time, always use a professional for music clearances.

Music can be used to emotionally connect consumers to a brand. But music clearance is a time-consuming, detail-oriented process. Experienced brand marketers know the value of using a professional to help.

Music clearance consists of five areas:

  1. Determining what permissions are needed to make use of a piece of music
  2. Ascertaining the owner(s) of the music
  3. Contacting rights owners and negotiating an appropriate license
  4. Administrating written agreements
  5. Handling other functions related to use and licensing of music.

Music Clearance obtains permission from the owner of a song (the people who wrote it) or a master recording (the people who recorded it), which you would like to use.

For every song written, any number of artists may have made their own recording. As an example, “White Christmas” has been recorded by Bing Crosby, The Partridge Family, Randy Travis, Tiny Tim, John Tesh, Burl Ives, or perhaps even some guy named Herb that you just hired to make a recording. This means that song rights are separate from recording rights.

You cannot use any master recording without getting permission from the publisher(s) to use the song. Conversely, if you gain permission from the publisher, but are denied use of a particular master recording, you can always use a different master recording or record your own master with the publisher(s) permission.

Clearing a song

Any number of composers can be involved in writing one song. Each of these composers may be represented by their own publisher. A music publisher, to generalize, acts as the representative of the composer for their individual rights in regards to anyone using their song.

In order to clear a song, it is necessary to locate and contact the representative of each composer, confirm their ownership or administration percentage rights (i.e., do they own 50% of the song?), and negotiate a fee for use of their share of the song.

Negotiating a fee for use of a song is based on the type of production you have (such as a film, television show, corporate meeting, trade show, commercial, CD-ROM, web site, compilation record, etc.) Other factors involved in the negotiating process are how much of the song is used, and the manner in which it is used. There are a number of rights within different media, that can include synchronization rights, mechanical rights, performance rights.

Clearing a master recording

If you would rather use the Sid Vicious version of “My Way”, than the Frank Sinatra version, you can locate the proper record label and negotiate a use. Different artists will have different record labels and some artists have recorded on several different record labels during their careers.

Clearance of the master recording has nothing to do with clearance of the song. Publishing companies and record companies are almost always are totally separate entities. “My Way” was recorded by Sid Vicious, Frank Sinatra and many others, but was originally composed by Jacques Revaux, with French words by Gillis Thibault. Subsequently, English words were written by Paul Anka.

This is a perfect example of how complicated an apparently simple music clearance can be.

photo credit: Horia Varlan via photopin cc


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