Tag Archives: music licensing

How to Buy Music Rights

You grew up loving music. It helped define your first date, your first kiss, your worst day, your best day; the friendships you value and your passion to work out. You can define the defining moments in your life by the music soundtrack you love. So you know music is very powerful. Songs draws attention, tell compelling stories, just like great branded content, advertising and marketing accomplishes. And now you have your own business. Or, you control or work in the marketing department.  And you want to buy music for a YouTube video, or to place on Facebook, or other social media accompanying visuals that promote your business. Maybe you even want to advertise on Pandora, or Spotify, or a local radio station. Perhaps, as our recent client Gatorade just did, you want a global television spot, with just the right music, to highlight your brand’s support for a large event like World Cup. So how do you start to think about how to buy music for a large or very small brand?

It starts here.

Think about the song that best helps you tell the story of your product or service. You’ve got an ad idea in mind. It’ll have visuals. And those visuals will tell a story; so the music you select should compliment those visuals, reinforce them and the “sound” of the music should directly target your intended audience and drive the cadence of the video you likely will be composing. Think hard. Ask people’s opinion around you; it could be that you have an agency recommending a certain song to go with a certain campaign which is great. But do a gut check; ask trusted customers and colleagues who understand your marketing campaign goals and the value proposition that your company is building to get alignment on the song and music you are considering. It’s really important. Great music can propel a campaign virally and make people want to see it over and over again.  Think about how many times you can listen to the same song vs. how many times you watch the same movie. Music is a powerful tool and needs the real understanding to get it right in a marketing campaign.

Can’t decide on a song? Need help? MEGA can help you find a song that will work for your business. We do it for the biggest brands, often in collaboration with their agencies and yes, also for new and emerging companies who cannot yet afford an ad agency. But we  respect your selections and oftentimes, no one knows better than you; the person in charge of building a brand, what particular song  will drive your business to even greater success.

No doubt, unless you are a musician, or your best friends have a great band, you’ll need or want to buy the version of the song that you know and love. Therefore, you’ll need two licenses: what’s called a “master recording license” and a publishing” (often referred to as a sync license)

Think of a master license as intellectual property that is created when musicians and producers go into the studio and create a “master” recording of a song. Very different from publishing, which refers to the actual songwriting; the union of the musical notes to the lyrics; hence the term “sync license” which is synonymous with “publishing”

You can and some clients do actually buy the publishing rights only and then create a version that becomes their ‘original’ master recording. For example only, if you ever hear a Beatles song used in advertising, it’ll always be a recreated master; the Beatles will not allow their original masters to be used in advertising. MEGA created a really cool version of “Paperback Writer” with the legendary Nile Rodgers producing the B-52’s. You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCdHW9tULHM

The song was produced for the Buick Brand with McCann Erickson as the ad agency. Of course the ad was only licensed for a particular one year term so it’s not on YT anymore; but the song lives on in popular culture!

Master licenses and publishing licenses for a song are negotiated on a most favored nation basis; often called an “MFN” meaning; each side, master and publishing receives the same amount.

You will also need to consider, very carefully, the exact needs you have for the use of the song tied to your ad or campaign. Will it run on your website, how about on your social media  sites? What about YouTube, radio; terrestrial (old school FM) and or digital like Spotify or Pandora? And of course there’s television, mobile, or you might also be thinking of using it at trade shows, or running it in movie theaters…..so much to consider but ever so important because the cost of music rights are negotiated based on: intended uses, geographical territories and finally the time (or term) you need the song rights. You are in effect, borrowing the song, renting it if you like, for a particular brand, for certain territories (which can be global) for a length of time. This changes when buying rights to films or TV shows. But for this article, I’ll focus on buying music for advertising a brand or service. You can also build in options to extend the use; say if your campaign blows up successfully or you get more marketing dollars from HQ or you want to add cities, states or countries to expand a campaign focus. It’s all down to how you negotiate and purchase the rights you need and doing so upfront will always save you money.

When considering your requirements be prudent and careful. So many times we see clients who do not think about their requirements as meeting vs. exceeding their real marketing needs and therefore wind up with music rights they pay for and never actually use. Not smart!

You can also negotiate for some exclusivity of the song use during the term you intend to use it. It may be by category, for example only; all beverages, or automobiles, or you can actually negotiate an exclusive use so that no other brand can use the song in a campaign while you are using it. But all of these issues play into the art of negotiation and ultimately cost.

Now, understanding you believe you have the right song in mind and have developed the use case for the song carefully, you’ll need to negotiate the rights to the song or songs you want. There is no universal price list. You need to know the history of each song use, unless of course its brand new which poses even more negotiating opportunities because your campaign can help promote the song! But history is important. Was it used prior by other brands? when and by whom and where.

For us, at MEGA, there are two words we never utter when buying music rights and those two words are “how much”. Sounds silly? Not so much. Those two words uttered at any time in negotiating rights will cost you thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You have to set your own budgets. Be realistic. And know when and where you may have to move on to another song if the pricing you feel works for your campaign is not what the rights holders have in mind. Yes, there are experts on the ownership side of licensing songs. All they do every day all year-long is try to extract the largest fees they can from people just like you. Truthfully, the most valuable folks in these positions do much more. They search out opportunities for new music and often are very creative about pitching songs for TV shows, films and advertising. But don’t let that mask their number one job; to maximise the amount they earn for the songs they control.

We view negotiating and buying music rights as a serious business trade, where expertise can help you optimise your marketing campaign and significantly lower the costs of buying music rights. If you’ve any questions feel free to write me at danny@megalv.com or visit our website and learn even more.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.