Tag Archives: Arts

Buy Music Rights For A Hit Song

We get asked this question all the time. And songs that are immediately recognizable, that evoke through their music and lyrics an emotion that is key to supporting your visual or interactive communication is a powerful way to connect with your audience.

Copyright owners are in business to license their music or the music of their clients; artists, musicians, songwriters, and music producers. When thinking about budgeting for the cost of music rights, it is important to keep a few key factors in mind:
1. Hit Songs, even for use in one market in the U.S. can cost over $10,000. While there is no general rule of cost per song, master owners and publishers often have a minimum threshold below which they are reluctant to license.
2. Have multiple songs to fit your creative needs. There are over 20 million copyrighted songs and it’s always smart to have alternatives so that you can create leverage for your money when negotiating for music rights.
3. Consider the ways in which your use of the song may help create additional sales and direct promotion for the song owners. Cash is not the only factor that music rights owners consider: media, especially for new works or works scheduled for re-released (think digitally remastered classic rock and hip hop songs) are important assets and if properly presented, can help reduce cash expenditures.

In short, hit songs and music rights are acquired for many different types of uses: TV Commercials, Video Games, Films, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter, Social Media and Corporate Presentations but having realistic budgets and options will always get you to a successful result.  More information is available at www.megalv.com.

How Much Do Music Rights Cost

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 5.05.33 PM (Graphic by Leah Garaas/MPR.) 


Do you want to get music rights for your corporate video, TV commercial, Pandora or Spotify radio ad, or perhaps its music for a Reality TV series or new show?

So many people ask us: how much does it cost to purchase music rights?

That is like asking how much a home or car costs. Meaning, it depends. There are mansions like Led Zeppelin , Pharrell, Kanye and then there are new,  up and coming artists, too numerous to mention, that are producing fantastic songs telling very compelling stories. There are “hits” and there are underground “cool” songs from emerging artists or undiscovered artists and of course, many times, more than one version of a particular song exists.

Lets assume you know exactly what song or songs you require. In this post, I’ll break down the major cost drivers for getting music rights and hopefully this will inform you; knowledge sharing and make you and your organizations; advertising agencies, brands, marketing exec’s, non-profit business managers, tv producers, entrepreneurial start-ups, everyone; smarter as to how to think about your needs and how they impact the cost of getting music rights.

The final costs for music rights are determined by a number of important factors. Here is a good sequence of questions to answer.

1. What is the territory your product or service is sold in? That might be a state, region of a country, entire country, continents; for example: Europe, North America, Asia etc or, yes, the entire world. Territory matters and its good to only ask for what you need.

2. The use cases for the music. Is it for your website? a corporate video, in a game, mobile (is it a ringtone?) a commercial for your brand or service that will run on TV and or online, or in the opening sequence of your reality TV show? Think carefully and think hard. Ask for what you need, but for certain, do not ask for “rights” or use cases you think are marginal. The use cases: television, online, at conventions and meetings (which are referred to as “industrial rights”), theatrical, in social media eg; posts on your FB page or Twitter, internet radio like Pandora or Spotify….these are all “use cases” and boiling them down to what you need and matching those use cases to your financial resources, is essential.

3. What’s the amount of time you will be needing to use the music? Assuming you are not creating an original track, which you can do, again assuming you want a song that’s been recorded, how long do you need it for your campaign or embedded entertainment use? It does not matter how long, or how much actual time (the amount of seconds) of the song you actually use. Funny, but think about it. Great songs can convey an emotional feeling in a matter of a few seconds. So rights holders do not price according to the amount of time from the song you select for most licenses. But they do price music rights, in part, according to how long you’ll use the song. Incrementally, its standard to think about the term as: 3 months, 6 months, a year or longer (yes for use cases like TV and or Film you can buy a perpetual license) but for most advertising or promotional campaigns: the time you’ll need the song matters for cost.  You are, in effect, renting the song for your needs. In most cases, I prefer to think about the minimum time you’ll need vs the maximum. It’ll lower your costs. You can always build options that allow you to expand the term, if everything is working great.

4. In most instances, you will need two licenses; a master recording license and a publishing license. If you are unfamiliar with theses terms and most people are, don’t worry! We’ve outlined their meanings in this post on our blog titled: “How To Buy Music Rights”  http://megalv.com/2014/05/05/how-to-buy-music-rights

5. Once you have all the data organized in steps 1-4 above you’ll need to contact the “owners” of the music, the master owner (the label usually that owns the studio recording) and the publishers (those representing the writers) and propose terms for your licenses.

The two words you should never, ever, use are “how much?”. The last bit of advice is: set a budget, be disciplined. And don’t lock yourself to only one song; there are over 20 million songs out there and with discipline; you’ll get the music you need at a cost that is responsible for your business objectives.

Hopefully this gives you a roadmap to think about how much it costs to get music rights. At MEGA, www.megalv.com, you can see examples of how it all comes together, with big songs and small songs, different use cases and length of uses. This is a field where expertise matters. But we love to knowledge share, so if you’ve a question, reach out and contact us via our website. We’ll be very happy to walk you through the landscape. It is a maze for most folks, and having a trusted guide does help:)

Graphic from http://minnesota.publicradio.org

Cashing in Chips at SXSW with Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga and Doritos
Lady Gaga and Doritos

This may be a new low for Music Branding associations.

You might find this article interesting in the New York Times.

The author laments the takeover of SXSW by corporate brands and wonders whether SXSW is a stage for the brands or the artists? More old(r) men lamenting the good old days where Artists were anti-establishment. Get over it. The artists now crave to be the establishment

Few in this new millennium era  care about sponsors and artists cozying up.. The “mega” artists continue to dominate the sponsorships and media attention while amazing new artists who are sleeping on floors and trading their last paychecks for gas money to get to SXSW fight, as they always must, for attention. Bummer? No, Reality check 2014.

No there’s nothing new here. SXSW has just become  a music and technology sponsor-fest….is there something wrong with that? It was inevitable. SXSW is not a 501(c)

What is interesting is the risk reward relationship that unfolded around the Doritos “Bold” sponsorship of Lady Gaga at SXSW with GaGa organizing a performance artist to vomit all over her during the Doritos branded show! That’s Bold.

Its well known that Frito Lay is a world class company and marketing organization. And Lady Gaga is a superstar….one whose running head face into the dark without her long time and also world class manager Troy.

However, this ill fated marketing initiative was bound to bring the wrong kind of attention. Attention, certainly, comes with the GaGa territory. She excels at attention getting. But disgust and laughs? Could not have been the plan.  But does anyone at Doritos believe that this association was good value? Not anymore you can be sure. Having organized some of the largest branded associations with artists in the world, (Pepsi and Beyonce- Led Zeppelin and Cadillac) I must admit to being challenged by artists feeling that they must show their credibility by biting the hand that’s feeding them, but I’ve never, ever seen something  so public and frankly dispensed with such (artistic) contempt….oh in the name of art of course;)

Brands today, more than ever in an instant social media world have to carefully think through the associations they craft they to augment their marketing efforts; especially when the whole point is to drive a conversation. How about this conversation? GaGa has a performance artist barf all over her at a Doritos gig…

Its not easy and I’m not advocating being risk adverse. Just be smart and vet the artist.  Never ever forget that the brighter the star the higher the inner temperature that burns; meaning, artistic genius (and yes even tho I do not care much for her music I do believe GaGa is an artistic genius) comes with a very sharp double edge sword. Is this a case of a smart plan just gone awry or a  plan where you could have seen this freight train coming? IMHO the latter….Meanwhile…Katy Perry and Popchips… much smarter relationship and working!

Transparency: I’m an owner in Popchips but had no hand in its relationship with KP.

Licensing Music: the Basics

Excerpted with permission from an article my good friend Larry Miller wrote in the November/December 2013 “Licensing Journal”…. and I could not think about saying it any better than he did!

The licensing of musical works is unique in that there are two copyrights in every recorded song. The underlying composition by the songwriter(s) usually is controlled by a music publisher. The recorded version of the song by a particular artist usually is controlled by a record label. For example, Darius Rucker recorded a song Bob Dylan wrote, “Wagon Wheel,” for his most recent country album, leading Dylan to be nominated for a 2013 Country Music Award. If someone wants to license Rucker’s recording of this song, a license must be obtained from Rucker’s record label Capitol Records Nashville, which is part of Universal Music Group, and also from Bob Dylan’s publisher. However, there is a second writer on “Wagon Wheel,” Ketch Secor, who wrote verses around Dylan’s original choruses. Both publisher licenses must be obtained to clear 100 percent of the composition.

That is a relatively simple example. In fact, publishing rights often are dramatically complex. The recording “Empire State of Mind” was made famous by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, but there are seven writers on the track: Burt Keyes, Sylvia Robinson, Angela Hunte, Shawn Carter, Jane’t Sewell, Alicia Augello-Cook, and Al Shuckburgh. How is that? Hunte and Sewell wrote the original version of the song; Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter) liked it but changed the words. Alicia Keys contributed to a new bridge. Then a sample of The Moments’ “Love On a Two-Way Street” was added, which was written by Sylvia Robinson and Bert Keyes. Al Shuckburgh, also known as Al Shux, was the recording’s producer, and as is often the case, was also given a writer credit.

All seven writers presumably have, in theory, worked out their ownership percentages (called shares or splits). But why nine publishers, not seven?

Because publishing assets often are treated much like stock in a company, with writers selling part of their shares to another publisher. All must be licensed, and all must then be accounted for in their payment.

Most other countries, including major music markets such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany, have a single Mechanical Rights Organization. The United States, with its free market approach, does not, although the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) administers mechanical royalty licenses for much of the repertoire, but not all. So all of these licenses must be obtained by bulk licensing or directly with the publishers assuming they can all be identified. However, for music licences intended for use as commercials, in fact, a unique publishing and mechanical license(s) must be negotiated for the intended use (digital, television, radio, industrial…..and or more) and for a specific term.

Voluntary and Compulsory Mechanical Licensing

Unlike any other copyrightable work, under U.S. law, there is a provision for compulsory licensing of musical compositions for recording and distribution as long as the work has been previously recorded; first uses are reserved for the songwriter and directly licensed from the publisher. These uses include CDs, downloads (digital phonogram deliveries or DPDs), and on-demand streams. This license of the underlying composition is called a “mechanical,” a term that dates back to player piano rolls, the earliest known mechanical reproduction of a song. While the compulsory mechanical license provision has existed since 1909, there came to be accepted variations to the terms in business practice. To be in compliance with the compulsory license provision, the entity that wants to reproduce and distribute a work must first send all the publishers a Notice of Intent to use the work, as outlined in Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act.



The Dawn of Digital Aura’s

The Beatles, Indianapolis, IN © CURT GUNTHER, 1964
The Beatles, Indianapolis, IN

Ever look at your screen when you are using Pandora, Spotify, or not look at the screen when using the incredible service @ www.soundcloud.com or the lately, un-amazing itunes? Why would you? Its pathetic.

The visual content is boring because its repeated over and over and over again. Of limited range and never curated directly by the artists, it’s usually a static mix of album covers, a narrow band of promotional pictures or legacy bios all served up to us over and over and over again. Until our eyes are numb….tune out and so everyone is kinda like; why look? there’s nothing to see.

The dirty little secret is its a mess and this whole music digital meta data business is ripe for disruption. The images we see on digital streaming services have been aggregated by some of the companies above who literally scrape it off promotional websites of labels or social media sites with zero intent to make it compelling or interesting or cool. They are doing the least possible, paying nothing to the artists or photographers. They are making a fortune, think millions of dollars licensing the meta data they aggregate to music streaming services we all use every day who otherwise would have no practical ability to put any images together for millions of artists.

The result is SUPER BORING….visually

Well now,  consider the notion of artists having an opportunity to curate their own digital aura’s; the composite visual images and stories that make up their “aura” on the www. Think it could get really compelling? I do.

Close your eyes and stoke your brain to recall the photographs of your favorite artists: jazz, classical, rock, pop, hip hop that span their careers taken by gifted pro’s like the ones in residence here at the legendary gallery The Morrison Hotel https://www.morrisonhotelgallery.com/new.aspx or from fans on social media  in whose hands there are now hundreds of millions of powerful cam’s embeeded in smart phones. Tweets and Facebook posts during gigs. Some are really fantastic.

Now imagine that some very clever bloke, serial entrepreneur and music fanatic friend of mine has decided to change the way artist’s digital aura’s are curated and served up to us….to make the experience of marrying dynamic images and music s digital devices, streaming media, simply… magical.

“Open Aura” is going to launch in the next few weeks. I’m beaming with excitement to be helping the founder as an advisor and stoked to see what the f’k happens.

Stay tuned for more updates on Kevin Arnold’s next big idea and hopefully if he and his great team get it right we can wake up our eyes to be in sync with our ears as the digital revolution enters another next bend in this amazing journey for us all.

The Future of Music 2013

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

So, I think we should exit 2013 with some optimism.

Who’s got the time?
Youth. And plenty of it. Like always, like when we were young, remember?
Youth’s got the time and they fall into a couple of distinguishable camps.
First there’s the Popsters. They are the biggest group.  They are gliding through their lives, interested in sports, money, fashion, boys, girls, coding, hiking, biking, and they love about 10-20 “hits” they can hum and sing the chorus, each year. Gimme a GaGa, throw in a Mars, maybe one Macklemore, a Lordes…you know the drift. Beyond that, they don’t really give a shit about the artists, or their rants or anything else beyond ~ten to twenty songs a year. And I may be overestimating.
Second there’s the Musesters. Oh, they LOVE music and musicians and listen to everything from every era, mostly on Spotify (more about that later) and my gosh, they are true FANS. They listen HOURS a day to music, on their phones, streaming, on their laptops, streaming, streaming streaming and could not imagine living without music. They cook to music, make love to to music, walk to classes to music, train in gyms to music and on and on and on. They care about the experience, the sound, the lyrical meaning of the songs and oh yea, just ASK them, they’ll rate and debate you on the fine points of hundreds of artists big and small, established and niche; music helps define who they are like you and me and many of the people who read your stuff.
And then my friend theres the Whocaresters. The third group of up and coming Youth. They really don’t care about music. Oh they may catch on to a few songs a year that kinda like is akin to commercial fishing where you know, the net just grabs anything in its wake; people, dogs, politico’s etc. Can you watch PSY Gangnam Style again (uh…..nope)
Sure. This is a brief note about the NEXT generation. Not us, or people in their 30’s. Those folks are a whole different kettle of fish. I’m talking about the FUTURE. YOUTH
There’s big money from the Popsters. There’s careers engaging the Musesters. And good luck beyond that.
Spotify will rule the Musesters. I mean, holy shit. For $10 a month you can own (yeah I know I said own) over ten million songs, whole albums and listen to them on demand in any order you want wherever you want on any device you want. FOR LESS MONEY THAN A F’N PIZZA a month. Tell me owning music is different than I can listen to whatever I want whenever I want, locally stored if there’s no online connection. Thats ownership man; ownership as its defined to YOUTH in 2013.
Wow, I wish I had all that as a kid growing up. I mean I had to CHOOSE what to buy or trade with friends because, shit man, music was expensive. Now, I can have it ALL for ten bucks a month with no commercials….free if I put up with the crap that is called commercials these days on streaming services but the Musesters; they’ll pay $10 a month for the sheer bliss of listening and dreaming to the MAGIC of what they love in music without the commercials . Musesters may sustain many more careers. And I’m talking about a global group of YOUTH.
Most people won’t care. The album as an art form is practically dead. So its back to the fifties with an explosion of consumer technology now. Smartphones, Beats (and lots of other GREAT headphones) bluetooth everything, synch devices, etc. etc.
So, WRITE GREAT SONGS, learn to PERFORM THEM LIVE like AMAZING (Kanye may define that more than anyone today). And welcome to the new world order. Steaming, playing live, selling merch; its all gonna be just fine. The glass is more than half full. Onward to 2014!


Celebrating Led Zeppelin on Spotify

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] If you are still buying tracks from iTunes you must be over 40. Its no wonder that as my college age son said with glee in his eye, “Dad, I have 20 million songs with no commercials for ten dollars a month! On my phone, on my computer, anywhere.” Well, I’m not sure if 20 million is the right number on Spotify but you get the point. Buying music is a dying behavior when you can instantly, on demand, listen to almost any track in the world with lovely services like Spotify. And now, what great news, that one of my favorite artists of all time and for whom my company, MEGA, had the enormous good fortune to license their only song to a brand, Cadillac, in 2002; now has announced a deal with Spotify to stream all their music.

Congratulations Image

to the Band, to Spotify and its time (again) to “celebrate” this iconic artist’s music.