Guide To Commercial Music Clearance

Get it cleared correctly.

Clearing commercial music - music that is in the charts, music from bands and songwriters - is a complex job, often with little transparency on costs. In this guide, we give you some tips on how to approach this tricky business.

We've split this guide into two sections. First, when you know what track you want to get cleared. Second, when you're stuck for inspiration, but know you need a killer track.

Know The Track 

 So, you’ve been asked to clear the rights for a track in a production.  It should be easy, right? Not always. With all the different rights that you need to clear, it can prove to be a complicated process. Our aim is to make it all as quick and simple for you as possible.

  • First of all you need to find out who the rights holders are.  In music you have two sets of rights to clear:  The ‘recording’ rights and the ‘publishing’ rights.  It is essential that you contact both sets of rights holders, as otherwise you could end up with a lawsuit on your hands. Just because one rights holder says "ok, sure, you're cleared", doesn't mean the other rights holder will! It can sometimes be hard to find out who the rights holders are, especially when a song has been written by more than one person.  At Cinephonix, we're experienced in clearing music, so we can help you out with this. If you want to do it yourself, start by trying to identify the writer. Look for writing credits on an album cover or Itunes. Google the writers and see if they're attached to a publisher or label. If you're new to this area, research is the key. 
  • Once you've identified the rights holders, spend a little time preparing. You need to make sure you have your ‘terms’ correct, in order to save a lot of time, hassle and often, money! The main areas of information you need to be clear on are:
1. How long is the production - and how long is the music featured for within it;
2. Where will the production be played? (the ‘Territory’);
3. How long will it be aired for? (ie 2 weeks, or a year - or do you need it cleared "in perpetuity"); and
4. What media will be covered (online, commercial video, UK broadcast, Europe, Worldwide?).
  • If you're going it alone, you then need to contact the companies involved and give them the ‘terms’ as outlined above. Depending on the nature of the track, it's often best to call the music publisher first, then the label. In large organisations, you'll need to navigate your way to the Synch Department. They should come back to you with a quote, but be warned, it can sometimes take a while!  It can also be difficult to know whether you have a fair price.  Again, we can help out with pricing as we know the what's hot and what's not in the market. But of course, you're free to form your own opinion. 
  • So you’ve got the price, it’s within budget – you’re good to go. Or nearly.  Make sure both the record company and the publisher have quoted and issued you with licenses. Be sure to check the licenses carefully. Also, look out for "MFN" (Most Favoured Nations) clauses as this could have an effect on you deal and the ultimate price you pay!  
  • Ok, so now your really are sorted. A final few tips: Make sure the licenses for all parties are signed before the production goes on air. Also be aware or the re-licensing terms. If you need to re-license the track, you'll need to make sure it is done well before the renewal date on the license.  Publishers and labels keep a keen eye out for ads overdue on their renewal dates, and if this happens, you will be charged accordingly...
What happens if the quote is too high, or the label says no?

Ford sell cars. But you wouldn't phone up Ford in Detroit and ask to buy their latest 2 door hatch back. Music companies can often be similar. Large businesses work in volumes and like dealing with organisations that can shift their product in large volumes and respect their brand while doing so. That's why Ford use car dealerships. Often it's best to sort your music clearances through a company that is clearing music on a day to day basis. They have the relationships, know what's a fair price and crucially, will ask the right questions of you first - so that you get the right license and you don't find yourself in hot water later down the line. 

Looking For Inspiration?

So you need to find the right music for your production, and don’t know where to start? We can help. For a fixed fee, our consultants will work in conjunction with your production team to come up with a selection of songs, all within your allotted budget. By doing things this way round, you'll hopefully not synch "Stairway To Heaven" in your production, only to get a large (and costly!) shock when you phone up the publisher. 

Once you're happy with the selection, we can negotiate the deal and the licensing process on your behalf, so all you have to do is sign off the work when the time comes. 

We work closely with band managers, artists and labels and often have the inside track on up and coming bands and songwriters. If you want to be ahead of the curve, give us a call. We're always happy to have a conversation about your project and how we might be able to help. 

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